Impressively on schedule, Baker & Banker (1701 Octavia Street, 415-351-2500) is now open in the former Quince space (and before that, Meetinghouse). Owners and couple, pastry Lori Baker and chef Jeff Banker, are offering a New American menu with delicious-sounding items like cauliflower soup with vadouvan curry and toasted local almonds; house-smoked trout with celery root latke, horseradish crème fraîche, pickled beets, and shaved fennel; Paine squab and crushed liver crostini with arugula, apples and Villa Manadori balsamic; striped bass and Spanish chorizo with cockles, bouillabaisse broth and Meyer lemon aioli; and braised Ponzi Farm lamb stew with crunchy lamb sweetbreads, Anson Mills polenta and salsa verde (main courses are $17–$25).
More stomach rumbling: Baker’s opening dessert menu includes pumpkin cobbler with cinnamon brittle ice cream; huckleberry brown butter tart with whipped crème fraîche; and peanut butter caramel fudge brownie with roasted banana ice cream and salted peanut brittle (she is known for her ice creams, so get ready). There are also house-made breads, like soft potato rolls and buttermilk herb. Wine director Collin Casey (most recently the onsite sommelier at La Mar under master sommelier Emmanuel Kemiji) has put together an initial list of 60 bottles; most will be old world, priced between $40 and $60. The 49-seat restaurant used to be an apothecary, which inspired designer Michael Brennan to highlight details like the molding and woodwork. There are light caramel walls, Edison bulbs in the light fixtures, a visible ceiling pipe system, and banquettes upholstered in espresso leather. The room also sports a bar with six stools and a back bar with woodwork from the 1940s.
Meanwhile, the new Quince (470 Pacific Avenue, 415-775-8500) location over in Jackson Square is going to have a neighbor. A wine bar coming to Pacific Avenue, directly across from Quince, and sure enough, a recent permit reveals the project is called the Barrel Cellar (461 Pacific Avenue). I learned the partners are local-ish: one is in the wine business in Sonoma, and the other is from the City. They’re keeping a tight lid on it for now, but the projected opening is early 2010. Will share more details as they’re revealed …
The Marina has a couple of new projects in the neighborhood: Delarosa (2175 Chestnut Street, 415-673-7100), the latest project from the Beretta and Starbelly team (Ruggero Gadaldi, Adriano Paganini and Deborah Blum) has opened in the former Fuzio space on Chestnut. The all-day eatery is open continuously, plus there’s late-night dining. The menu has a strong focus on the item of the year (yes, pizza), but these will be Roman style, very thin and 14 inches (there are 10 to choose from). There are also a variety of antipasti, like meatballs or arancini, plus panini, salads, pastas (like cannelloni or the interesting-sounding olive gnocchi), and bomboloni for dessert.
While Beretta is cocktail-focused, Delarosa is primarily a birreria, with a list of over 14 beers on tap and 15 in bottle chosen by Rich Higgins — he designed the beer menu at Starbelly. Ten seasonal and handcrafted cocktails are also available. Jim Zack of Zack/de Vito Architecture (Starbelly, Bacar, Globe, Manresa) is behind the modern tangerine and dark grey space, which has diners tucked in at communal tables and a 12-seat bar. Delarosa is open daily (and continuously) from 11:30 a.m. to 1 a.m.
Just down the street, the Cal-Spanish Laïola (2031 Chestnut Street, 415-346-5641) is going to be morphing into Tacolicious in the new year. After a month-long closure (starting January 1), it will be getting a new look, and the menu will include tacos, ceviches, pozole, and cocktails.
The Financial District has a new restaurant slated to open in January called Credo (360 Pine Street). Owner Clint Reilly is opening what’s being called an urban trattoria in an old Chinese bank. The name comes from the Italian and Latin phrase "I believe," which will be transformed into a design element in the space: large panels on the walls will feature quotes from famous people (ranging from John F. Kennedy to Howard Stern), that begin with "I believe." There will be 79 seats, with a spacious private dining room below with room for 50, and an upstairs bar with 8 seats. The design is modern, with treated cement floors, and special tables handmade from scrap wood by Dutch designer Piet Hein Eek. Richardson Architects of Mill Valley is behind the design.
Chef Mario Maggi, who hails from Florence and trained in Milan, has worked in 31 restaurants around the world, and this will be his first opening in San Francisco. His menu of rustic Italian fare will feature baked pastas, including a dish called sedanini al credo, a type of pasta that he bakes covered with a lid of pizza dough, almost like an Italian potpie. And reportedly the Emperor of Japan is crazy for Maggi's tiramisu. Lunch and dinner will be served Monday through Friday, and dinner on Saturdays.
There are also some new places to pick up lunch downtown: first is Urban Picnic (125 Kearny Street, 415-413-1233), which launched in the former Chill dessert cafe. Owner Trang Nguyen hired Poleng Lounge's Tim Luym to develop a new menu of healthful and ethnically inspired salads, sandwiches and soups, ranging from turkey with honey guacamole on a baguette, to a house salad with additions like lemongrass chicken, to a chicken-coconut-lime soup. The location's original dessert concept means there are desserts and beverages as well, including all natural frozen yogurt, frozen custard, gelato, and coffee. Open Monday through Friday, 10:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Warm up with some kimchee at Stone Korean Kitchen (4 Embarcadero Center, Street Level, 415-839-4070) in the old Oishii Sushi space. Three best friends have come together to offer a menu featuring Korean dishes from their families. You’ll be able to check it out for lunch during the week, happy hour (Thursday and Friday), and dinner Monday through Friday. Gi Paoletti Design Lab designed the 75-seat space, and there’s also a patio planned that will be quite nice in less-chilly weather.
A third The Plant Cafe Organic, is now open at 101 California, in the old Palapas Mexican joint. Hours are Monday through Friday for light breakfasts and full lunches (and catering). It has a similar menu to the Marina location, such as create-your-own salads, fresh juices, smoothies, grain bowls, sandwiches, the plant burger, all-organic house-made baked goods, Blue Bottle coffee, and more. They’ll also be adding rotisserie chicken to this location, a more-extensive grab-and-go selection, and some new items such as a fish sandwich and a breakfast burrito. Every ingredient is 100 percent organic and almost exclusively locally sourced, only sustainable seafood is served, and poultry is free range. Cass Calder Smith also designed this location, so you’ll see similarities to other Plant locations with the hickory slatted ceiling, tables, and many of the same fixtures are used.
Here’s wishing all of you a very lovely kickoff to the new year! I will be traveling in South India for most of January and will miss my February deadline, so my column will return in March. Cheers!
Marcia Gagliardi writes a popular weekly e-column about the S.F. dining scene; subscribe for free at www.tablehopper.com. She also writes for San Francisco magazine, Edible San Francisco, and the weekly San Francisco Convention and Visitors Bureau blog, Foodie 411. Got a hot tip?