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An Elegant Taste of Sri Lankan Food in San Francisco

Wednesday, 16. October 2013 5:25

The squab is not to be missed at 1601 Bar & Kitchen.

The squab is not to be missed at 1601 Bar & Kitchen.


1601 Bar & Kitchen resides in a transitional part of San Francisco.

It’s right near a major freeway on-ramp to Highway 101. And as you sit at a table by the window, you might spy a homeless person or two rifling through nearby dumpsters.

But none of that should dissuade you from trying Executive Chef-Owner Brian Fernando’s captivating take on Sri Lankan food.

Fernando is of Sri Lankan heritage, so he knows the warm, earthy, sometimes fiery flavors of this Indian Ocean island well. His French training shows through, too, as the presentations are beautiful, from what I evidenced on a recent visit when I was invited in a guest of the restaurant. Fernandez honed his skills in tapas bars in Spain, followed by a stint at Chez Panisse in Berkeley before going on to Le Papillon in San Jose.

The bright space with soaring ceilings is done up in shabby-chic with weathered bar stools and a large, striking mixed-media art piece of Abraham Lincoln hanging on one wall.

The dining room.

The dining room.

The restaurant offers up small plates to share, with lighter ones listed at the top of the menu and heavier ones at the bottom.

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Category:Chefs, General, Restaurants | Comments (8) | Author:

Two Chefs and 12 Courses at Saison, San Francisco’s Most Expensive Restaurant

Friday, 11. October 2013 5:26

Chef Josh Skenes' Sungold tomato stunner at Saison.

Chef Josh Skenes’ Sungold tomato stunner at Saison.

San Francisco’s Saison might just be the ultimate pop-up success story ever.

In 2009, it started humbly enough as a once-a-week pop-up in the rear part of the casual Stable Cafe in the Mission District. It featured the uncanny juxtaposition of Chef Josh Skenes’ high-concept food and Sommelier Mark Bright’s exceptional wines in proper Riedel stemware contrasted with jeans-clad servers attending to guests seated in slat-style garden-variety chairs at bare-bones wooden tables.

Fast forward to 2013, where it’s has not only been transported to a different part of town, but now holds the distinction of being the priciest restaurant in the city. Its tasting menu will set you back $248 per person. If you want wine pairings, that”ll be another $148 per person.

Perhaps you saw Bon Appetit magazine’s September edition, in which it named Saison as one of “America’s Best New Restaurants.” The insightful story broke out why the restaurant costs run so high: The custom build-out of the kitchen and dining room? $2.8 million. Food costs per week? $15,000. The four tanks that hold live seafood? Also $15,000. The meat aging room? $40,000. The wood-burning hearth? $50,000. That hand-made dinner plate you’re eating off of? $300. The Levi’s-designed cook’s uniforms? $500 each. And that cashmere throw provided if you get chilly? You guessed it — $500.

And the place seats only 32.


Skenes just before the start of service.

Skenes just before the start of service.

Chef Gabriel Kreuther of The Modern in New York City.

Chef Gabriel Kreuther of The Modern in New York City.

This week, Saison added even more luster — if that’s possible — by hosting five renowned chefs, each cooking alongside Skenes on a different night to create a 12-course tasting menu for a spendy $500 per person.

Tuesday, it was Chef Laurent Gras, formerly of L20 in Chicago and the Fifth Floor in San Francisco. Thursday, it was Chef Matthew Lightner of Atera in New York City. Tonight, it’ll be Chef Guenter Seeger, who owned Seeger’s in Atlanta. Saturday will wrap up with Chef John Shields, previously of Town House in Virgina.

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The Food Gal in Conversation with Joyce Goldstein, Gott’s Roadside Opens in Palo Alto and More

Monday, 7. October 2013 5:26

Chef Joyce Goldstein. (Photo courtesy of the IACP and Goldstein)

Chef Joyce Goldstein. (Photo courtesy of the IACP and Goldstein)

Join the Food Gal and Joyce Goldstein For a Berkeley Event

I couldn’t be more honored to have been asked to help host an upcoming event with legendary cookbook author and chef, Joyce Goldstein.

Join us for a conversation, 6:30 p.m. Oct. 17, at the Marsh Arts Center in Berkeley. It’s all part of Litquake, San Francisco’s Literary Festival.

I’ll be talking to Goldstein about her insightful new book, “Inside the California Food Revolution: Thirty Years that Changed Our Culinary Consciousness” (University of California Press).


Sure, the food scene in the Bay Area is incomparable. But imagine a time when there wasn’t arugula available everywhere, where almost all fine-dining restaurants served only continental cuisine, and when farmers markets didn’t exist. That was California in the 1960s. Learn about the factors that went into transforming this region into a culinary mecca.

The event is free, but a $10 donation is suggested. Hope to see you all there!

Palo Alto Welcomes Gott’s Roadside

Lucky Palo Alto last week welcomed the fourth Gott’s Roadside in the Bay Area.

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Category:Chefs, Enticing Events, General, More Food Gal -- In Person, Restaurants | Comments (4) | Author:

Gluten-Free Pizza and More Noshes at Pizza Antica Santana Row

Wednesday, 2. October 2013 5:25

A gluten-free pizza at Pizza Antica at Santana Row.

A gluten-free pizza at Pizza Antica at Santana Row.


After hosting a cooking demo in August at Santana Row in San Jose with Chef Bradley Cenyowa of Pizza Antica, he had me intrigued.

Responding to customers’ needs, Pizza Antica — which has four locations — had begun to offer a gluten-free pizza crust.

It can quite challenging to get the texture just right in gluten-free bread and other baked goods. But Cenyowa is such a fan of the gluten-free crust at the restaurant that he eats it, himself, even though he does not suffer from celiac disease.

He invited me in as a guest of the restaurant to try it for, myself.

If you’re gluten-intolerant, the server will hand you a separate gluten-free menu to peruse — a nice touch. My husband and I — neither of us have issues with gluten — got both menus just to check them out.

The always busy restaurant.

The always busy restaurant.

We started off with the bacon, lettuce, tomato chopped salad ($10.25), which the kitchen thoughtfully split onto two plates for us. The salad is a tumble of textures in every fork-full. You get crunchy romaine, crisp bacon and fluffy bits of hard-cooked egg. There’s just enough Dijon dressing to coat everything, but not drown it.

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Category:Chefs, General, Health/Nutrition, Pizza, Restaurants | Comments (13) | Author:

Ramen Burger (Oh, Yes!), Beringer and Scharffen Berger Team Up, and More

Wednesday, 25. September 2013 5:25

Ramen Burger. (Photo courtesy of the San Francisco Grand Hyatt)

The one and only Ramen Burger. (Photo courtesy of the San Francisco Grand Hyatt)

Ramen Burger in San Francisco

Yes, it sounds crazy. But you know you want it.

The Ramen Burger, the trend that got its start in Los Angeles, is now in San Francisco — but only for a limited time.

The Grand Hyatt San Francisco’s OneUP Restaurant & Lounge is serving this mash-up for lunch and dinner, but only through the end of September.

The bun is indeed made out of fresh ramen from a local noodle house. It holds a beef patty topped with mustard greens, cheddar cheese, smoked bacon and sriracha mayo.

The Ramen Burger is $18 and comes with fries.

Cook St. Helena Debuts Brunch Offerings

A favorite of locals and visitors alike, Cook St. Helena has debuted a Sunday brunch with Italian influences.

The nine-year-old restaurant waited this long to serve brunch because it wanted to get its liquor license first in order to offer Bloody Marys and other brunch cocktails.

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