The Tablehopper

New Marina spots; more big openings keep coming (Pabu, The Ramen Bar)

MARINA

Causwells (2346 Chestnut Street, 415-447-6081) has opened in the former Bechelli’s. Business partners Alvin Garcia and Tom Patella have brought on chef Adam Rosenblum (previously a sous at Flour + Water), who serves a menu of “eclectic American cuisine with European influences.” Sample menu items include deviled eggs with smoked trout; a kale Caesar; grilled octopus with garbanzos, fennel, watercress, and chile; and smoked brisket with onion jam, rye crumbles, and spicy mustard. There are a number of house-made items, from the ricotta cheese to cultured butter to salumi. For dessert, get ready for this one: a doughnut “crack” bread pudding, using doughnuts from Marina shop Allstar Donuts. Whoa.

With wine director Tom Patella (previously California Wine Merchant) overseeing the list, expect a lot of attention paid to the selections (and there will be plenty of snacks to go along with them). There are 20 wines by the glass, featuring small-production, family-owned, and good-value wines, primarily from California, plus some quality European bottles. Bartender Erin Vogel, who is studying for her cicerone certification, will be selecting an esoteric craft beer list, has selected an esoteric craft beer list to represent the best beer varieties.

The 1930s Art Deco space was designed by the Bon Vivants Design+Build (they also did Trick Dog, Shakewell, and the new Chubby Noodle), and will keep some vintage details, including repurposing the old cast-iron barstools. Bonus: they’re open nightly (starting at 5 p.m.) and serve food until 1 a.m. Lunch (11 a.m.–2:30 p.m.) is also available.

North Beach favorite Chubby Noodle has opened a second location, Chubby Noodle Marina (2205 Lombard Street, 415-655-3335). Chef-owner Pete Mrabe keeps fine-tuning and tweaking the 12-item menu, which has a few dishes in each section (noodles, seafood, meat, and dim sum). The dim sum picks include chicken buns and pork and shrimp shu mai, and the seafood section features hot fried wild snapper (with arbol chile, garlic, ginger, and onion). You can order the chicken noodle soup, which is more like a ramen with fried chicken, and I can’t wait to try the hickory-smoked bacon jook with a fried egg.

Bon Vivants Design+Build has remodeled the former Gatip Thai — it’s a 49-seater, with high-top communal tables (which you can also reserve for large groups) next to the open kitchen, a stand-up bar, and wood booths with bench-style seating.

Co-owner Nick Floulis (Pushback Wines) is behind the wine and beer list, and clever wine-based cocktails, plus there’s sake on tap — one of the first places in the United States to offer it. Open 5 p.m.–12:30 a.m. nightly, but they are pondering closing on Mondays, so just double-check before you head over.

NOB HILL

Ladies who lunch and businessmen who broker, you should know that lunch has returned to the Big 4 (1075 California Street, 415-771-1140) Monday–Friday 11:30 a.m.–2 p.m. The menu highlights classic dishes, including deviled eggs ($7), chicken liver mousse ($7), a burger ($14), and Cobb salad ($10/$18).

JACKSON SQUARE

Mark your calendars: Quince (470 Pacific Avenue, 415-775-8500) is closing temporarily from July 25 until Sept. 19 for renovations. The new space, which is being designed by Douglas Durkin, will increase the comfort of the restaurant, with a new entrance, custom lighting, and additional exposed brick. The warmth of the space will also be enhanced with new, curved leather banquettes and arched openings throughout. In addition to these decorative changes, there will also be some new spaces within the restaurant. Two seats will be added to the chef’s counter, offering more opportunities for diners to watch the kitchen action. There will also be two additional private dining rooms, each with seating for 12, in addition to the existing 18. A new private dining room, the Octavia Room, can be reserved for up to 12 people in the kitchen at the neighboring Cotogna as well.

Perhaps the most fabulous (and definitely bubbliest) addition is the new Champagne bar and lounge. It will be situated at the restaurant entrance, and will encourage walk-ins. At the bar, you’ll find cocktails, wine, and, of course, lots of Champagne, much of it available by the glass (selected by wine director Jai Wilson). As for bar food, there will be à la carte dishes from the main dining room’s tasting menus, as well as special daily appetizers.

During the renovation, the Quince team will be popping up at the nearby Hedge Gallery with an amazing series called curATE (sfcurate.com) from July 30 through Aug. 30.

FINANCIAL DISTRICT

Ending with the largest endeavor, there are two big openings to note at 101 California Street: Pabu and The Ramen Bar from Ken Tominaga (of Hana in Rohnert Park) and Michael Mina. Let’s start with The Ramen Bar (101 California, 415-684-1570), the more casual of the two. Tominaga’s ramen is inspired by Tokyo-style ramen, which features a lighter broth, and a lot of attention will be paid to each of the top-notch ingredients, from the proteins to the fresh vegetables (I’m looking forward to finally having a soy-cured egg that isn’t cold). There are four ramens, like Tokyo roast chicken ($12) with soy-cured egg, bamboo, spinach, and yuzu kosho; and shrimp and crab dumpling ($16) in a ginger clam broth, with sweet corn and mizuna. Gluten-free noodles are available as well.

There was already a line out the door on opening day, so expect to be waiting with fellow ramen obsessives during these opening weeks. Fortunately it’s open Monday–Friday 8 a.m.–9 p.m., with food service starting at 11 a.m.

As for Pabu (101 California, 415-668-7228), upon entering, you’ll notice the bar area to your right, with a notably elevated ceiling, and softly glowing lanterns above with cranes on them. There are tall windows, and comfortable booths along the back wall upholstered in a burnt orange, sure to be filled during happy hour (Monday–Friday 3 p.m.–6 p.m.). Mina Group head bartender Carlo Splendorini and lead bartender Nick Jones are at the helm, creating house-carbonated beverages, fizzes, highballs, and more, with some Japanese ingredients making appearances.

To the left is the warm-feeling dining room that’s full of wood (including oak-paneled floors), with a long, 22-seat sushi counter, seating in the center, and booths enclosed with wood slats along the side with sea foam green seats that create an even more intimate experience. There are also some beautiful private dining rooms. Tominaga’s menu features both izakaya dishes and sushi, ranging from cold to hot small plates (there’s a wonderful ankimo dish, and don’t miss the Happy Spoon with uni, ikura, tobiko, ponzu, and crème fraîche), robatayaki (eight kinds), shabu-shabu, and some larger plates, including tempura, seafood, and A4 and A5 Japanese Wagyu—look for a contemporary approach to these dishes, and they’re designed to share.

But anyone who loves sushi is going to want to beeline for the spectacular nigiri menu, and particularly Ken’s Nigiri Tasting Menu, which brings eight courses of beautiful Edo-style nigiri served two pieces at a time. The quality of the seafood is spectacular, from kohada to shima aji to a maguro pairing that will make you look at the fish in a different light. The sushi bar is at the hands of Yoji Harada, who started his culinary career at 18 in Japan, and when he eventually came to the United States, Ken got him to come to Hana from Gonpachi in Torrance, and then recruited him for Pabu Baltimore, which recently closed. All I can say is lucky us that we now have Yoji at Pabu San Francisco, because the omakase experience I had at a test dinner was fantastic.

The other component to the omakase menu you don’t want to miss is the sake pairing from sake master Stuart Morris. You’ll learn more about sake in one meal than you probably have in a year, and the range of flavor profiles is very exciting. Even if you don’t opt for a sake pairing, you’ll still be steered to some excellent selections, and some are very rare.

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

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