Tag Archives: San Francisco restaurant

AL’s Deli Is A Little Bit of This, A Little Bit of That

Chef-Owner Aaron London at his new AL's Deli during opening week.

Chef-Owner Aaron London at his new AL’s Deli during opening week.

Chef-Owner Aaron London describes his new AL’s Deli in San Francisco as East Coast Jewish deli meets Israeli street food.

It is a little bit of this, a little bit of that, and a whole lot of what London likes to eat on his downtime, well, when he has any, that is.

After all, when you also run a Michelin-starred restaurant, AL’s Place, just a few blocks away, which was named Bon Appetit magazine’s top new restaurant in American in 2015, there are few moments to spare.

So it’s lucky for the rest of us that his new fast-casual concept fits the bill when time is short, cash is precious, and you’re craving big flavors in a carefree spot done up in Miami Art Deco hues.

Just follow the pink sign.

Just follow the pink sign.

The bright, sunny interior.

The bright, sunny interior.

If last week’s opening was any indication, he has another hit on his hands. When I was invited in as a guest of the restaurant in only its fifth day of operation, the place was mobbed on a Saturday night, with a few folks lined up to get in the door.

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Gabriela Cámara’s Fabulous Tinga De Pollo

Chef Gabriela Cámara take on a home-style chicken-onion filling for tacos or enchiladas.

Chef Gabriela Cámara take on a home-style chicken-onion filling for tacos or enchiladas.

 

It may be less than 30 minutes long, but “A Tale of Two Kitchens,” the Netflix documentary about Chef Gabriela Cámara, will stay with you far longer.

Of course, it will make you very, very hungry, too.

The film recounts how Cámara opened her first restaurant Contramar in Mexico City in 1998, just after graduating from college and with no professional restaurant experience, herself. She just wanted to create a beach cafe with food that would make people happy. It was such a smashing success that 17 years later, she came to San Francisco to open her second restaurant, Cala, along with its sidekick, Tacos Cala, to great acclaim.

“A Tale of Two Kitchens” is a look at both restaurants, one in the United States, the other in Mexico, and the culture they share. Cámara doesn’t shy away from talking about the dichotomy that now exists, as Mexican immigrants are being vilified in the United States  yet the popularity of Mexican food in this country has never been higher.

Cámara has notably taken the chance to hire convicts to work at Cala, giving them not only new skills, but a second chance. At Contramar, her staff is so loyal that many have worked for her for more than a decade, and a few are even second-generation, as a son is shown in the film excited to work alongside his father as a server.

My Mexico City Kitchen

She has no intention of slowing down anytime soon, either. She’s currently working on a new restaurant, Onda in Santa Monica, with Chef Jessica Koslow of the wildly popular Sqirl in Los Angeles. And she was recently named a cultural advisor to the Mexican president.

This year, Cámara also debuted her first cookbook, “My Mexico City Kitchen: Recipes and Convictions” (Lorena Jones/Ten Speed Press), of which I received a review copy.

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Inside the Cockscomb Cosmos

Behold the signature bacon chop at Cockscomb.

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.

A sign above the open kitchen.

The eclectic collection decorating the walls.

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.

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Rich Table’s Spaghetti with Peas, Goat Cheese — And A Most Unexpected Ingredient

A pasta dish that will thrill with surprise.

A pasta dish that will thrill with surprise.

 

As I set this brimming bowl of pasta in front of my husband, he twirled in his fork, then took a bite.

“This is so weird,” he exclaimed with growing glee. “But it’s really good!”

That might just be your reaction, as well, to this eyebrow-raising spaghetti tossed with peas, lime, goat cheese — and are you ready for it — duck fat.

Yes, “Spaghetti with Peas, Lime, Goat Cheese, and Duck Fat” is from the cookbook, “Rich Table” (Chronicle Books, 2018), of which I received a review copy. It’s by husband-and-wife chef-owners Evan and Sarah Rich with assist from Eater Cities Director Carolyn Alburger.

Rich Table cookbook

If you’ve ever had the pleasure of dining at San Francisco’s Rich Table — where scoring a table is never an easy feat — you know that this type of dish is part and parcel for this Michelin-starred restaurant that has a knack for creating winning dishes with rather unexpected, and often mind-boggling combinations of ingredients.

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Head Over Heels — And Doing Cartwheels — Over RT Rotisserie

In my happy place at RT Rotisserie.

In my happy place at RT Rotisserie.

 

Dear Chefs Evan and Sarah Rich:

Please open an outpost of your RT Rotisserie in the South Bay or Peninsula. Pretty please.

Signed,

Your Number One Fan, aka the Food Gal

 

If you have tried the roast chicken and fixings at RT Rotisserie in San Francisco’s Hayes Valley, you’ll be tempted to implore chef-owners Evan and Sarah to open a branch in your hood, too. One taste is all it takes to find yourself swooning over what is the most glorious roasted chicken you’ll ever experience.

After all, these are the same chefs who own the newly minted Michelin-starred Rich Table in San Francisco.

Chef Evan Rich manning the rotisserie.

Chef Evan Rich manning the rotisserie.

My husband and I ordered a veritable feast — and paid our tab though Chef Evan threw in a few extra dishes gratis — when we visited this more casual establishment recently. You order at the counter, then take a seat to have your food brought out to you when it’s ready.

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