Category Archives: Restaurants

Tony’s Seafood Is SO Worth The Drive

Sublime fish and chips at Tony's Seafood.

Sublime fish and chips at Tony’s Seafood.

 

Marshall, on the northeast shore of Tomales Bay, is not a quick hop, skip and a jump for most of us to get to. But if you make the trek, often along a narrow, twisty road, depending upon the route you take, you will be deliciously rewarded. Much like the end of a rainbow, what awaits is gold.

Or Tony’s Seafood to be exact.

The throwback seafood shack on Highway 1 founded in 1948 by a local fisherman. Last year, the venerable Hog Island Oyster Company, just up the road, took it over, embarking on a massive renovation that shored it up yet kept its seafaring spirit.

The old-school seafood shack has new owners.

The old-school seafood shack has new owners.

How's that for a view?

How’s that for a view?

It reopened earlier this spring. I had a chance to check it out at a media luncheon held on a warm, sunny day — the kind this place was made for.

Tony’s Seafood sits on pilings, jutting out into the blue water. When you dine here, you feel like you’re floating in the sea.

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La Calenda Proves Naysayers Wrong

Pork jowl in mole verde at La Calenda.

Pork jowl in mole verde at La Calenda.

 

When Thomas Keller first let wind that he was going to open a Mexican restaurant in Yountville, the response was immediate: lots of eye rolling and sarcastic remarks.

But like Rick Bayless in Chicago, Keller soon proved this gringo knew exactly what he was doing. Keller may not have made exhaustive trips to Mexico to immerse himself in the intricacies of the cuisine. But he did the next best thing; he hired a chef de cuisine with impeccable credentials and know-how, Kaelin Ulrich Trilling, who was raised in Oaxaca by his mother, Susana Trilling, the noted culinary teacher who owns the cooking school, Seasons of My Heart in Mexico.

As a result, Keller’s La Calenda, which opened in January, is a triumph.

I finally had a chance to check it out a month ago, when I dined at lunch, paying my own tab at the end.

Housed in the former Hurley's.

Housed in the former Hurley’s.

La Calenda is mere steps away on Washington Street from Keller’s other establishments: The French Laundry, Bouchon Bistro, Bouchon Bakery, Ad Hoc, Ad Hoc Addendum, and the group’s lush culinary garden.

The former Hurley’s has been transformed into an airy, colorful space reminiscent of a Mexican hacienda.

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Fried Chicken Debuts At Duende

Fried chicken with corn on the cobb -- Basque-Japanese-style at Duende.

Fried chicken with corn on the cobb — Basque-Japanese-style at Duende.

 

When you hear that Duende in Oakland just put fried chicken on the menu, you might scratch your head for a moment, thinking how is that a Spanish dish?

Turns out it is.

In the land of paella, gazpacho and croquettes, fried chicken definitely has its place. That’s what I learned last week, when I was invited as a guest of the restaurant with other media to try the new offering.

As Chef-Owner Paul Canales explains, his father, who is of Basque heritage, would often fry chicken in olive oil in the morning, then let it sit out to cool to room temperature before the family ate it, garnished with a squeeze of lemon, for an early dinner, hours later.

Chef-Owner Paul Canales in the kitchen.

Chef-Owner Paul Canales in the kitchen.

Canales was inspired to put his version of fried chicken on the menu when an employee brought in some take-out Japanese karaage for staff meal. Canales considers the Japanese-style fried chicken the gold standard for fried chicken because of its light yet shatteringly crisp exterior.

After experimenting, he came up with a rendition that marries Japanese and Spanish sensibilities in one superlative crunchy bite.

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Sneak Peak Taste of Midsummer At Plaj

"Wine & Flowers'' cocktail on the new midsummer menu at Plaj.

“Wine & Flowers” cocktail on the new midsummer menu at Plaj.

 

In Scandinavia, midsummer begins June 22. And it’s a very big deal.

After a long, harsh winter of darkness with a mere four hours of light per day if you’re lucky, Scandinavian residents get rather giddy when summer approaches. Can you blame them?

Swedish-born Chef-Owner Roberth Sundell offers up a taste of that exuberance from his home country by presenting a special midsummer menu at his Plaj restaurant in San Francisco.

Located inside the boutique Inn at the Opera hotel, Sundell opened the restaurant in 2012 with his wife Andrea to showcase modern Scandinavian cuisine with California influences. They followed that up in 2017 with the fast-casual Stockhome in Petaluma.

Plaj is a phonetic spelling of the word “play.” And that’s just what the couple wants you to do when you visit this intimate dining room.

The bar.

The bar.

The dining area beside it.

The dining area beside it.

Recently, I was invited along with other media to try some of the offerings on the new midsummer menu, which will be available June 19-25.

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Step Inside The Vault

The seafood sampler at The Vault.

The seafood sampler at The Vault.

 

The iconic Bank of America skyscraper in San Francisco’s Financial District holds a special place in my heart.

It’s where my Mom worked for years at a brokerage firm. And it’s where I’d work high school and college summers in her office for her boss, sorting and filing papers. The company was located on the 32nd floor, high up enough that when the Blue Angels were in town, you could gawk at the planes — and feel a rumble — as they whizzed by the windows practically at eye level. Now, that was something.

It’s been many years since I’ve been back inside that building. But recently, I had the chance, when I was invited in to dine as a guest at the new The Vault, located on the concourse level.

The newest concept by the Hi Neighbor Hospitality Group, it is also quite something to behold. The restaurant group may be known for its relaxed, neighborhood spots — Trestle, Corridor, and Fat Angel — but The Vault, which really is in the bank’s old vault area, is total swank.

As Hi Neighbor partner Ryan Cole told me, “It’s a different crowd than SOMA.”

The place where power people imbibe.

The place where power people imbibe.

Private liquor lockers for patrons.

Private liquor lockers for patrons.

That meant a different vibe was in order. After all, the building still houses some of the top financial services firms around. While one could easily still walk in here wearing the usual skinny jeans uniform, you will see far more suit jackets and blazers than you ever would in the South of Market area.

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