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The Tablehopper

A new year, with plenty of new spots for you to hit

Let’s start the year with some good news for folks who were concerned about the fate of the Big 4 (1075 California Street, 415-771-1140) at the Huntington Hotel: It will be coming back. Hurrah. The new owners, Singapore-based hospitality group Grace International, have brought on the local Puccini Group to consult and oversee the renovation, design, restaurant concept, and management services of the Big 4. Some changes will include fresh carpet, paint, upholstery, and the tables will no longer have tablecloths. Fortunately, the bar will be kept as is, ditto the live piano, and chef Gloria Ciccarone-Nehls will also remain. The Big 4 closes for renovations on Jan. 1, 2014, and reopens in spring 2014.

MARINA
Alvin Garcia, the opening G.M. for Delarosa, Lolinda, and El Techo de Lolinda, is now opening his own place, Hopper’s Place (2346 Chestnut Street), in the former Bechelli’s (no, the Tablehopper is not affiliated with the project). Garcia is partnering with Tom Patella, who has been with the California Wine Merchant for the past six years. They plan to open an American bistro and are currently interviewing chefs; the food will be served family style, with lots of shared plates. The wine list will be focused on California wines, and the beer list will be mostly craft-based, with two taps and lots of bottles. The space will seat 49, and there will be a large library-style bar and sidewalk seating for 16. The Art Deco exterior is going to lend some cues to the interior design — designer Gordana Jordanovska is behind the new look for the space. They just started demolition and are gunning for a February opening.

NORTH BEACH
Meanwhile, Comstock Saloon (155 Columbus Avenue, 415-617-0071) has a new chef and new second bar in the redesigned dining room. Executive chef Ronnie New (Magnolia Pub and Brewery) updated the menu, which now has a raw bar (think Drake’s Bay oysters and peel-and-eat Louisiana Gulf shrimp), and a Comstock burger. The dining room features a gorgeous old-growth redwood and mahogany bar restored by partner Jonny Raglin, and look for the antique tap handle that dates back to 1880. There are also high-top marble tables, so the “dining room” feeling has been tweaked to feel less formal. One thing that is staying put is the Saloon’s Free Lunch Friday (purchase two alcoholic beverages and you receive a free lunch — the offering changes weekly). The kitchen is open Monday–Saturday 4 p.m.–midnight and Sunday 4 p.m.–10 p.m., now serving a full menu (the bar is open daily 4 p.m.–2 a.m.).

LOWER PACIFIC HEIGHTS
Opening any day now in the former Frankie’s Bohemian Café space is Presidio Pizza Company (1862 Divisadero Street). Chef-partner Frank Bumbalo is collaborating with the neighboring Fishbowl owners, Kevin Kynoch and John Miles. Bumbalo, a Brooklyn native, says there will be three kinds of pizza: thin-crust New York (Neapolitan round) style, Sicilian style, and grandma pizza, which is like a hybrid of a thin-crust pizza but square like a Sicilian (and not as thick), with origins in Long Island. Working with Bumbalo is Chris Norton, who was previously a line cook at A16. There will be two entrances: The one off Divis is if you want to sit at a table and enjoy some table service, while an entrance on Pine will be for the slice side, where you can sit on some bar stools or stand at a ledge while you eat your slice. (Or slices. I’m not here to judge.) Hours will be Sunday–Wednesday 11 a.m.–11 p.m., Thursday 11 a.m.–midnight, and Friday–Saturday 11 a.m.–2:30 a.m.

RUSSIAN HILL
I heard through the grapevine that chef and part owner Alexander Alioto has left Seven Hills (1550 Hyde Street, 415-775-1550). Owner (and brother-in-law) Alexis Solomou has bought out Alioto and brought on a new executive chef, Anthony Florian, whose résumé includes Quince, Cotogna, Bar Bambino, Servino, Santi, and, most recently, Pizzalina. Solomou tells me pasta is his thing, and Florian will continue to build upon the restaurant’s reputation for pasta. The new menu is already up and is in a similar format. And yes, the raviolo is still on there, although it will probably be revised a bit. Florian’s sous chef is Daniel Maragoudakis, who has been at Cotogna for two years, and they reportedly work really well together. I am looking forward to seeing how the new crew develops the menu.

MID-MARKET
A new opening to check out: Alta CA (1420 Market Street, 415-590-2585), the latest project from the Daniel Patterson Group. The restaurant’s location is kitty-corner to the new Twitter building and just a few doors down from the groovy Ma’velous cafe. When you walk into the 65-seat restaurant, the first thing you’ll notice is the completely innovative floor-to-ceiling open shelving along the entire back wall that separates the kitchen from the dining room, but still allows for an open kitchen experience. The 17-foot shelves are stocked with vintage pottery, books, and other objets. The overall feeling is warm and Californian.

You can start with a cocktail (the bar manager is Ashley Miller, most recently at Hakkasan), some dill-pickled deviled eggs ($5), and there’s chef Yoni Levy’s pastrami ($13) and bialys ($6). You can ramp up with bigger plates, like a prettily (but not fussily) composed warm root vegetable salad, with a medley of vegetables like kohlrabi, parsnips, carrots, and more ($13). There’s a stunning cracked wheat porridge with hen of the woods mushrooms, so rich with earthy flavor ($19). Additional plates include confit chicken leg ($18), a spot-on Pacific black cod with broccolini and the punch of Meyer lemon ($25), and a fully loaded burger with thick slices of bacon and cheddar cheese ($16). Everything we tried tasted so well prepared and balanced, with a nourishing sensibility. It’s food to admire for a split second before you want to dig in.

SOMA
The Hotel Palomar’s Fifth Floor (12 Fourth Street, 415-348-1555) is getting ready to close after service on Friday, Jan. 17, and will reopen in spring 2014 with a new, more casual concept. The new space will include a patio and fire pit, and the bar menu will be revamped to emphasize craft cocktails. Chef David Bazirgan is staying on as executive chef, and bar manager Brian Means is also staying put. The food will stay focused on quality ingredients, but will shift toward small plates to accompany the cocktails.

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Marcia Gagliardi is the founder of the weekly Tablehopper e-column; subscribe and get more food news and gossip at www.tablehopper.com. Follow her on Twitter: @tablehopper

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