Northside SF  

October '09

The Tablehopper
Chef and menu changes, new restaurants and wine bars
By Marcia Gagliardi

Chotto (3317 Steiner Street, 415-441-2223), a modern izakaya, has opened in the former Three Seasons space in the Marina, and it’s getting lots of buzz from diners and chefs alike. The 66-seat izakaya serves a very authentic menu of small dishes (chotto means a “small unit of measure” in Japanese). Items include sushi (weekends only) using fish flown straight from Tokyo’s Tsukiji Market; kushiyaki (skewers grilled over charcoal); fried dishes; ramen; and sunomono (pickled) house-cured vegetables. The space, designed by Erin Altman, features elements like glossy white tile juxtaposed against rough, reclaimed barnyard wood walls. The two private dining spaces feature intricate, handcrafted Japanese paper art in the form of tiny kites and lanterns.

Also in the Marina, there’s a new chef at Circa (2001 Chestnut Street, 415-351-0175): Daniel Sudar, a former chef de cuisine at Betelnut (also the Red Lantern in Redwood City and Door in Walnut Creek). Sudar replaces consulting chef Amy Glaze, who is now at Citizen Cake on Fillmore Street.

And over at Café des Amis (2000 Union Street, 415-563-7700), executive chef Ed Carew has left and is considering opening his own place again. Based on the delicious inzimino di calamari stew he made at a recent holiday party, I hope he sticks with Italian.

Big news in North Beach: Anna Weinberg and Jennifer Puccio of Marlowe in SOMA will partner with Dave Stanton to take over the former Moose’s (1652 Stockton Street). The deal is really fresh, so the restaurant doesn’t have a name yet, but it will be a more casual cafe with sidewalk seating. Look for a mid-2011 opening.

More North Beach changes are afoot at Rose Pistola (532 Columbus Avenue, 415-399-0499). Mark Gordon (Terzo, Rose’s Café) will take on executive chef responsibilities. (All three restaurants are in the Nice Ventures group.) Chef de cuisine of several years, Pablo Estrada, will handle the day-to-day menu and back-of-the-house operations. After a two-week closure from Jan. 31 to Feb. 16 for some kitchen repairs and a remodel by Cass Calder Smith, there will be new upholstery, carpet, updated lighting, and more, including a slightly modified menu that will keep old favorites while allowing Gordon to put his stamp on Rose Pistola.

Jackson Square has some new offerings: Cotogna (490 Pacific Avenue, 415-775-8508), the casual offshoot of Quince, now serves lunch. The menu includes a three-course prix fixe lunch ($24); a variety of antipasti for $10 (like a spinach sformato with Grana Padano fonduta); pastas ($16, including gnocchi with wild nettles and pappardelle of lamb cooked in the wood oven); pizzas ($15 – try the uni and cauliflower!); and some grilled numbers, like spit-roasted pork with wild fennel and satsumas ($20). Service is now continuous Monday–Thursday 11:30 a.m.–11 p.m. and Friday–Saturday 11:30 a.m.–midnight, with the same menu for lunch and dinner and a limited midday menu from 2:30 p.m.–5:30 p.m.

Across the street, there’s a new kind of wine bar open: Barrique (461 Pacific Avenue, 415-421-9200). It’s America’s first private-label wine establishment dedicated to serving wine via its proprietary Cask Delivery System. Guests taste directly from the barrel, or barrique, in what’s almost a blind tasting: you learn the varietal and appellation, but not the producer. There are currently nine wines available, with another nine barriques coming soon. All wines are high quality Californian, primarily from Napa and Sonoma (for now). There are also 100 international wines available by the bottle, ranging from cult classics to small, family-owned wineries. You’ll also find four beers on tap, rotating after a couple kegs. And you can snack on artisanal salumi, cheese, and other light fare as well.

The 49-seat, 100-plus-year-old space has original redwood beams, beautiful masonry work, and brick walls uncovered during renovation. Designed by Gi Paoletti, there are contemporary red chairs and cocktail tables, and white chairs with two-tops and four-tops with loveseats. A small back patio is coming soon. Hours are Tuesday–Saturday 3 p.m.–10 p.m.

More wine: The owner of Wine Jar on Fillmore Street in Pac Heights, Kamran Shirazi, plans to open Pe Yale, down the hill at 3131 Fillmore Street in Cow Hollow, next door to the upcoming Atelier Crenn in the former Plumpjack space. Pe yale is Farsi for “a glass of wine”; there will be around 60 available, focusing on smaller-production vineyards, with about 65 percent domestic. Look for appetizers, ranging from cold cuts to cheeses with local honeys and seasonal compotes and some chocolate desserts. Shirazi sees the 49-seat space of couches and high and low tables as an ideal place to hang out before or after dinner. He’s aiming for a mid-January opening date.

Marcia Gagliardi also writes a popular weekly e-column about the S.F. dining scene; subscribe for free at where you can also find her book. Got a hot tip? E-mail

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