Category Archives: Restaurants

You’re In Good Hands At San Francisco’s Omakase

Chef Justin Yu behind the bar at Omakase.

Chef Justin Yu behind the bar at Omakase.

 

Chef Jackson Yu hails from Beijing. As such, he knows how to cook Chinese food. But he decided long ago to ply his skills in a much different cuisine: sushi.

“I like to do Japanese food,” he explains. “It’s more of an art.”

Indeed it is, especially at his two-month-old Omakase in San Francisco’s South of Market neighborhood, not far from AT&T Park.

The restaurant’s name refers to the Japanese phrase “to entrust yourself to the chef,” meaning, just sit back and allow the chef to feed you whatever he/she deems is best that day.

At Omakase, you are definitely in fine hands when you do that, as I found out when I was invited in as a guest of the restaurant recently.

You enter into a small foyer. On the right is Origami Market (set to open this week). Just like Omakase, it’s owned by restaurateur Kash Feng, who started up Live Sushi Bar in San Francisco. It will feature more casual fare such as poke, steamed dumplings and noodle bowls — all highlighting local, organic and sustainable when possible.

Chef  Ingi Son preps fish just as the first diners sit down for the evening.

Chef Ingi Son preps fish just as the first diners sit down for the evening.

Chef Yu forming nigiri.

Chef Yu forming nigiri.

Adding a smoky touch before serving.

Adding a smoky touch before serving.

But you are there for Omakase, so you are are escorted to the sushi bar on the left side, which is all of 14 seats. Behind the bar is Yu, who trained in the Bay Area and in Ginza, Japan; along with two other sushi chefs, Ingi Son, who has worked in Japanese restaurants from New York to Las Vegas to Napa; and Yoshihito Yoshimoto, a native of Osaka with more than 37 years of restaurant experience.

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Sacramento — America’s Farm-To-Fork-Capital

Chef Ravin Patel holds cute little mason jars of baby root veggies in edible "soil.''

Chef Ravin Patel holds cute little mason jars of baby root veggies in edible “soil.”

 

When one thinks of California’s top food cities, San Francisco and Los Angeles come to mind immediately.

As for Sacramento? Not nearly so readily.

In fact, a publicist for the Sacramento Convention & Visitors Bureau told me that when arranging a tour recently for an out-of-state food writer, the visiting scribe’s first question was, “Is there an airport there?”

Why, yes, there is. It is the Golden State’s capitol, after all.

Indeed, Sacramento is home to nearly half a million people, as well as 1.5 million acres of farmland. With a year-round growing season, it produces more than 120 different crops that are enjoyed not only locally but abroad.

It grows more sushi rice than any other place. In fact, chances are if you eat any sushi in California, the rice was grown in Sacramento. The city produces 80 percent of the nation’s caviar. The breadth of the bounty includes everything from almonds to Kobe beef to wine grapes.

The fork in Farm-To-Fork.

The fork in Farm-To-Fork.

Even the table was decorated with freshly grown provisions from Sacramento.

Even the table was decorated with freshly grown provisions from Sacramento.

I was reminded of just how crucial Sacramento is to our plates when I attended a special private dinner last week in San Francisco that spotlighted the city’s culinary treasures. It was a Sacramento roadshow, as Executive Chef Oliver Ridgeway of Grange Restaurant & Bar and Chef Ravin Patel, chief culinary officer of Selland Family Restaurants, trekked down from Sacramento to EatWith’s South of Market event space in San Francisco to prepare a multi-course feast for a dozen food journalists and bloggers. All of it featured fruits, vegetables, meats and seafood sourced from Sacramento.

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Trou Normand — A Carnivore’s Delight

The "small'' beef chop at Trou Normand.

The “small” beef chop at Trou Normand.

 

Sure, you can choose a salad or veggie sides at Trou Normand in San Francisco’s South of Market district.

But really, this restaurant is all about the meat.

Local heritage breeds, whole-animal butchery, and up to 40 different kinds of house-made charcuterie and salumi offered daily are its hallmarks.

It is the younger sister restaurant to Bar Agricole, both founded by Thad Vogler. Executive Chef Salvatore Cracco, who heads the kitchen and butchery program, was the former butcher and sous chef at Bar Agricole.

They’ve turned the historic Art Deco Pacific Telephone Building space into an airy, industrial-hip environment with an unfinished ceiling, marble tables, over-sized tufted leather banquettes, and cool cafe artwork.

The light fixtures.

The light fixtures.

The bar with its iconic artwork.

The bar with its iconic artwork.

A couple weeks ago, I was invited in as a guest of the restaurant. Naturally, my husband, aka Meat Boy, tagged along. After all, this carnivore’s paradise is right up its alley.

The restaurant is named for the northern French tradition of enjoying a small glass of brandy, usually Calvados, between courses to settle the stomach and awaken the palate. Gotta love the French, right?

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Bourbon Steak Scores at Levi’s Stadium

The bourbon cart at Bourbon Steak at Levi's Stadium.

The bourbon cart at Bourbon Steak at Levi’s Stadium.

 

There is no pussyfooting around this.

Michael Mina’s Bourbon Steak at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara is not inexpensive. It’s a special-occasion place. It’s where you go when you’re dining on an expense account to sink your teeth into an 8-ounce Snake River Farms rib cap for $110 or a Japanese A-5 Kagoshima rib eye for $34 per ounce (with a 3-ounce minimum required).

It’s not a place you’d head to every night. But then again, you couldn’t anyway. Because the restaurant is situated right on the ground level of the 49ers’ stadium, you can’t get into either Bourbon Steak or Bourbon Pub (the contiguous casual eatery) when the Niners are playing home games — unless you are a game ticket holder. In fact, the whole restaurant and pub becomes the ultimate gourmet tailgating extravaganza on game days — but only for season ticket-holders who pony up $5,000 each for the 10-game season. After the game ends, the restaurant and pub are open to any ticket holder.

Similarly, if One Direction, Taylor Swift or any other concert or special event is holding court at the stadium, you can’t get into the restaurant or pub, either, unless you have a ticket to said event.

Got all that?

I think you can guess whose autograph this is.

I think you can guess whose autograph this is.

How many other famous signatures can you spot?

How many other famous signatures can you spot?

The stadium field.

The stadium field.

When dining there, it pays to call for a reservation or to at least check the Levi’s Web site beforehand to make sure no events are happening the night you want to visit. Be mindful that the restaurant is open only for dinner; the pub is open for lunch and dinner.

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Thrice-Changing Spot Morphs Into New Lark Creek Kitchen

Salmon tartare at the new Lark Creek Kitchen.

Salmon tartare at the new Lark Creek Kitchen.

 

It was once Yankee Pier. Next, it transformed into Lark Creek Blue. Now, this spot on the main drag of San Jose’s Santana Row reopened just weeks ago as the new Lark Creek Kitchen.

It’s the first such new concept by the Moana Restaurant Group since it took over operations of Lark Creek Restaurant Group’s stable in January with the exception of One Market restaurant in San Francisco, which remains independently run.

Not that the other two concepts lacked for diners, but Lark Creek Kitchen is Moana’s first action to refresh the brand. Other plans are in the works to redo Lark Creek Steak in the San Francisco Centre and to reopen the now-shuttered Fish Story in Napa as something else.

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