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.
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.
The ahi trio at the new Bosc & Bartlett.
The Santa Clara Marriott, a hop, skip and a jump away from Levi’s Stadium, is undergoing a massive $30 million-plus renovation that will be completed this fall.
Step inside and you’ll already notice big changes — from the new gift shop, redesigned lobby, updated guestrooms, and a new restaurant and bar.
Fine-dining Parcel 104 is still there going strong, with Executive Chef Sergio Morales and Pastry Chef Carlos Sanchez, so don’t fret. But the Marriott has added another more casual concept, Bosc & Bartlett, that’s been quietly open since October.
Like Parcel 104, which takes its name for the land designation for the former pear orchard property, the new eatery’s name also pays homage to that fall favorite fruit.
Chef Jason Kina helms the new restaurant, a sister establishment to the hotel’s Parcel 104.
Walk toward the lobby and you can’t miss Bosc & Bartlett because it’s wide open with an expansive square-sided bar at its center that seats 32. High bar-height tables ring it. To the side is also more lounge-y seating with couches and tables, all done up in calming, sandy tones. The restaurant also now services a newly redone pool-side patio just out back.
This is what a chicken nugget looks like at Gibson in San Francisco.
There are restaurants where cocktails and hearth cooking are strong supporting players.
At Gibson in San Francisco, though, they are center-stage stars.
Located in the Hotel Bijou on the edge of Union Square, it offers up a unique dining experience, as I found out recently when I was invited in as a guest of the restaurant. It’s a place that does some mind-blowing things with live-fire cooking. And it’s where you can enjoy not just a prix fixe dinner with wine pairings, but cocktail pairings instead if you are so inclined. That latter is what we went with.
With an al fresco ceiling, lots of brass and Art Deco touches, it’s a little like walking into a bustling Eastern European cafe in feel. Yet it’s all modern and whimsical in its approach.
Operation Director Adam Chapman (right) mixes up specialty drinks at the bar.
Sit at the chef’s table just inches outside the kitchen to see and hear all the action.
We were seated at the chef’s table, a four-seat banquette that is right in front of the wide-open kitchen. How open? I literally could have gotten up from my seat, taken two steps and been right beside the cooks. From that vantage point, it’s almost like watching live theater before you.
Behold the signature bacon chop at Cockscomb.
Cockscomb is a place you come for outright fun.
Chef Chris Cosentino‘s South of Market restaurant in San Francisco is all excess, abandon and liberation. Well, with an invisible layer of deft control over it all because it is by a “Top Chef Masters” victor who is one of the most skilled and versatile chefs around.
Inside the soaring two-story space, there’s a bit of a medieval lair feel to it. There are flames spewing from the grill where ginormous cuts of meat get seared, a buffalo head stuffed and mounted on the wall, and an eclectic assortment of items arranged on shelves such as a plastic pig sticking out of a vintage meat grinder. If Jon Snow walked in, it probably wouldn’t take him long to feel right at home.
On a recent Saturday night, when I was invited in as a guest of the restaurant, the place was packed with seats filled at tables and the counter by the open kitchen, along with a parade of folks filing upstairs to the second dining room (with its own Juliet-like iron balcony no less), where groups are usually seated.
A sign above the open kitchen.
The eclectic collection decorating the walls.
Cosentino wasn’t there that evening. He may have been in Houston, where just days before news broke about his new restaurant planned there, Rosalie Italian Soul, with a menu inspired by his Italian grandmother. Located inside the C. Baldwin Hotel, it is expected to open this fall. It will join his mini empire of hotel-based restaurants that includes Jackrabbit in Portland’s The Duniway, and Acacia House in the Las Alcobas resort in St. Helena.
Wide ribbons of pasta enrobed in a pork-lamb ragu at East End.
There are many pizza places where you go for pizza and nothing but pizza. Oh sure, there might be appetizers on the menu, and a few salads to consider. But really, the main attraction that overshadows everything else is the pizza. Anything beyond is just filler to bide your time while you wait for your pie to emerge.
East End in Alameda is as far from that as it gets. In many ways, it reminds me of fabled Roberta’s in Brooklyn. You brave the lines there because you’ve heard the pizza is all that and more. But then you discover every single other thing on the menu is worth shouting about, too.
Such is the case at East End, where everything from the cocktails to desserts stands as tall and proud as the incredible pizzas.
Co-owner and co-chef Jacob Alioto manning the pizza oven.
East End was founded by co-owners and co-chefs Jacob Alioto and Paul Manousos. (You can find out more about them in my new cookbook, “East Bay Cooks” (Figure 1), which will publish in September and include two recipes from East End.)
Paul’s wife, Michelle, designed the laid-back, light-filled spot that’s full of reclaimed wood and interesting touches like old player-piano music rolls repurposed as wallpaper.