All the town is abuzz about the new digs of beloved Tosca Cafe (242 Columbus Avenue, 415-986-9651). Fortunately, new owners Ken Friedman and April Bloomfield were exceedingly careful about not changing much and kept the update more on the enhancement side. The patina on the walls, paintings, and the checkered floor remains, although the paintings have a bit more light for you to admire them. The jukebox is just as you left it, but now there’s a better sound system for you to hear Johnny Cash and Un Bel Dì. White-jacketed bartenders are still in effect (Isaac Shumway is leading the show), now serving drinks off a cocktail list (11 drinks in all), and they also did a nice update to the house “cappuccino,” which will still get steamed from one of the remaining espresso machines on the bar. The capp now has better spirits in it, and ganache from local Dandelion Chocolate.
So, the changes. The Back Room is no longer a place where you can traipse in and huddle with your friends at a table for drinks — it’s now a dining room, with the booths newly outfitted in red leather, and tables full of hungry diners. You’ll note a brand-new, open kitchen to the left, with plans to serve food until 1 a.m. nightly (Bloomfield is working with chef de cuisine Josh Even). The menu includes antipasti, from roasted Treviso to the rugged bites that we look for from Bloomfield, like oxtail terrine and crispy pig tails; first courses of chicken liver spiedini and a couple of salads; pasta like gemelli (but instead of saying cacio e pepe, the menu says black pepper and young pecorino) and bucatini (with tomato, guanciale and chile — yup, that’s all’amatriciana, but you can see the team isn’t making this a facsimile of an Italian ristorante). Hefty meat courses include grilled short rib and roasted chicken for two or trout. Cannoli for dessert, natch. I enjoyed looking over Ceri Smith and Randall Grahm’s wine list (and the glowing wine wall in the dining room), and saw that Ceri is even securing Monteraponi in classic straw-covered fiaschi for the restaurant. There’s also a Tosca ale on the menu from Fort Point, with four taps in all. And you can finally pay with a credit card, how novel. Open Tuesday–Sunday 5 p.m.–2 a.m.
After closing for a remodel and expansion, State Bird Provisions (1529 Fillmore Street, 415-795-1272) has reopened. Not only will they now serve Sunday dinner and take reservations, but also there are some additional design touches, plus two tables for large groups (dubbed the alcove tables). They each accommodate six to eight people, or can be reserved together for a group of sixteen at 5:30–6 p.m. or 8–8:30 p.m. Groups can choose a tasting menu of small plates, or everything on the menu.
Chef-owner Rob Lam of Butterfly has created a new lunchtime pop-up concept called Pan Grill Sandwich Shop (Pier 33, 415-864-8999) — pan is the Japanese word for bread. Swing by the takeout window on the south side of the restaurant from Wednesday–Sunday (11 a.m.–3 p.m.) for a menu of affordable and flavor-packed bites with Japanese influences. Sandwiches are made on a milk bun (think of your favorite bao bun and then multiply it by 10 — Lam worked with a baker to perfect the bun, and they are crazy good). Sandwiches include pork katsu with yuzu slaw and pickled white onion, kimchi pulled pork with mizuna, tsukune chicken meatball, and hanger steak with a scallion-chimichurri sauce (all $7). Of course Lam is already plotting more combos. The three salads (ahi tuna, shichimi chicken, or miso garlic Caesar) have ingredients like furikake rice strips. Looking for something extra hearty? There are three donburi options — ahi tuna poke, curry pork katsu, and that hanger steak ($8–$9). Lam is also a fan of ikura, so he has some ikura yaki onigiri on the menu, too.
Over in the Presidio, Traci Des Jardins (working with Bon Appétit Management Company) will open a restaurant and retail shop. The restaurant will be Californian with Spanish influences, and one of her previous chefs at Jardinière, Robbie Lewis, will be leading the kitchen. The 112-seat space is opening in Building 101, one of the Montgomery Street Barracks in the Main Post. It will be open for breakfast and lunch, offering espresso, takeout meals (great for picnics), and the lunch option to dine in; evenings will have more of a bistro vibe. Look for an opening around Valentine’s Day 2014. There will also be a mercantile and larder retail shop featuring handcrafted, artisan local foods: jams, breads, local cheeses, charcuterie, and other items. Additionally, culinary classes will be offered, and catering options will launch in time for the holidays for those holding events in the Presidio.
Cool news, Thai food lovers: Pim Techamuanvivit, of Chez Pim fame, will be opening a restaurant called Kin Khao (55 Cyril Magnin Street) in the Parc 55 Hotel on Union Square. She will take over the 70-seat Smooth Thai location, and is working on the venture with the owner, Chupot Janlaor. Michael Gaines (Central Kitchen, Manresa) will join her in the kitchen. Look for authentic dishes featuring numerous house-made, local, and sustainable ingredients. Marc Glassberg will assemble the wine list; there’s also full liquor, and the Bon Vivants (Trick Dog) will be consulting on the cocktail menu. Additional details: There will be “Thai” iced coffee that Verve will custom roast for them. Late hours are also in the works: Hello 2 a.m. nightly. November is the targeted opening month.