The kind redolent of star anise plus a pop of chili. The kind with an aroma that tantalizes with warm spices from the first whiff. And the kind that soothes, satisfies, and lingers on the mind and palate long after the last slurp.
What was formerly Le Meridien hotel has undergone a multi-million-dollar renovation that includes a sleek contemporary yet soothing pale earth-tone interior design by AvroKO, which also did SingleThread Farms in Healdsburg. The look was inspired by the organic and natural sculptural style of the late-great Ruth Asawa.
After a 7-month renovation, the venerable, 20-year-old Izzy’s on the Peninsula has reopened this month with an clubby, sophisticated look befitting a beloved steakhouse, plus a more expansive menu to satisfy wide-ranging appetites, and a new outdoor dining patio (set to open sometime in February).
When I was invited to dine as a guest of the restaurant last week, it had been open less than two weeks, and was already packed with diners — on a Tuesday night no less.
The family-owned, 7,500-square-foot restaurant, not far from the San Carlos Airport, is an institution that was opened by restaurateur Sam Duvall after he opened the original Izzy’s Steakhouse in San Francisco in 1987. That flagship is also undergoing renovations, including the addition of a new parklet, and is expected to reopen this summer.
Daughter Samantha Duvall Bechtel became the CEO of the restaurant group after her father passed away in 2020. He had named the restaurant for the bootlegger Isadore “Izzy” Gomez, a Portuguese immigrant, chef, and San Francisco North Beach restaurateur who infamously was jailed for 30 days after violating Prohibition, but was later pardoned.
For those of us who live on the Peninsula and South Bay, we couldn’t be happier that it’s been a boom time of late for new restaurants opening in this region, including outposts by celebrated San Francisco chefs.
Among the latest is Chef David Nayfeld of San Francisco’s wildly popular Che Fico who opened a sister-restaurant, Che Fico Parco Menlo, in November in Menlo Park.
It debuted at Springline, the splashy new residential-restaurant mixed-use development off El Camino Real.
Last Thursday night, when I was invited in as a guest of the restaurant, the place was buzzing. Nearly every table was filled in the well-appointed, covered and heated outdoor patio that sports tufted banquettes and cozy pillows.
Same with the main dining room, where it was standing-room-only at the bar as patrons waited for tables to open up. A retro soundtrack of Earth, Wind & Fire, Al Green, and the Clash played in the background.
Illuminated in neon, the lucky number “7” can’t be missed, indicating that you’ve not only found your destination but are fortunate to be in for a real dining treat.
That marks the spot of 7 Adams, the new restaurant by a former Michelin-starred power couple, that’s actually located at 1963 Sutter St. in San Francisco. Chef-Owner David Fisher, who opened it in November with his wife, Pastry Chef Serena Chow Fisher, named the restaurant for the street that he grew up on in upstate New York. Peninsula diners may also recognize the duo from their stints at Bird Dog in Palo Alto.
The couple previously operated Marlena in San Francisco, which earned a Michelin star in 2021 just a year after opening. But they decided to leave that restaurant last summer when a dispute with the owner came to a head.
Carmel-by-the-Sea may be all of 1 square mile, but this tiny seaside town now boasts two Michelin one-starred restaurants.
In fact in July, when Chez Noir became the second restaurant to receive that coveted honor less than a year after opening, the entire crew from long-time star-holder Aubergine walked over, toting a hefty Jerobaum to offer hearty congratulations.
This family-owned, fine-dining jewel of a spot may seat only 36 in a dining room not much larger than some folks’ living rooms, but it’s long been held in high esteem. In fact, when a friend dined there months ago, she spotted none other than Eric Ripert, chef-owner of New York City’s Michelin three-starred Le Bernardin, ensconced in a corner banquet with his family, savoring the fabulous Monterey coastal cuisine.
The accolades are not surprising when you consider that Chez Noir is helmed by Executive Chef-Owner Jonny Black, whose impressive credentials include cooking at Michelin powerhouses Per Se in New York; Quince in San Francisco; and Atelier Crenn in San Francisco, where as Dominique Crenn’s first executive chef, he oversaw all her restaurants. Most recently, he was the executive chef of Post Ranch Inn in Big Sur. His wife, Monique Black, worked in the front of house at Quince, and at Coi in San Francisco.
The cozy, romantic, French bistro-styled restaurant is in a former Craftsman house, where the couple and their kids live upstairs. Out front is a 22-seat brick patio, but it is not covered, meaning if it rains, you’re out of luck as outdoor reservations are cancelled and refunded.