The Tablehopper

Bonjour to Le Marais Bakery and Bistro, Monsieur Benjamin and new lunch spots

MARINA

Le Marais Bakery (2066 Chestnut Street, 415-359-9801) has added a bistro to its name and concept: It expanded into a space next door to include a kitchen and additional seating, and will be serving a bistro-style dinner menu starting Sept. 1.

The new Le Marais Bakery and Bistro team includes Nicolette Manescalchi as executive chef, Emily Riddell on pastry, and Ty Mecozzi as head baker. Manescalchi is taking inspiration from the many different food traditions along the Mediterranean. She previously worked at A16, and will offer a seasonal menu that will shift continually. There’s an oak wood grill in the kitchen, and they are butchering most of their meat in-house from whole animals (look for a fair amount of seafood too). Almost everything on the menu will be made in-house, including the pastas, cured fish, and, of course, the bread. Dinner service will also include wine; the bakery side is open daily 7 a.m.–7 p.m., but will begin closing earlier once dinner service begins.

Vegetarians and fans of Indian food will want to note that Udupi Palace (3242 Scott Street) has opened a new location in the former Cedar Hill Kitchen + Smokehouse space for you to enjoy their affordable meals of dosas and thali plates.

RUSSIAN HILL

Looking for a new lunch spot? Belcampo Meat Co. (1998 Polk Street, 415-660-5573) is now open for lunch from 11:30 a.m.–3 p.m. daily. The menu includes sandwich choices like the fried chicken sandwich with slaw or a French dip with jus, a chopped salad, and of course, their cheeseburger.

NORTH BEACH

Lovers of seafood will be happy to know Ferry Plaza Seafood (653 Union Street, 415-274-2561) has opened its new location, practically kitty corner to Washington Square Park. The space seats 49, with room for 11 at the bar, and there are some outside tables. It has a minimalist look, with elements of the previous location incorporated throughout: The tables are made with marble salvaged from the bar, and the taxidermy marlin and salmon still grace the walls, although now there’s a new salmon mural (by local artist Letty Samonte), too.

Many classics remain on executive chef Joey Ng’s menu, along with some new choices, because there is a kitchen at this location. There is a larger oyster selection, with six current varieties and an additional six to nine coming soon (depending on availability). There will also be a rotating meat dish on the menu, and a house-ground burger will make an appearance. There’s a new wine list, with white, rosé, bubbly, and red options, plus six beers on tap, and four by the bottle. There are plans to offer lunch and happy hour in September, too. Dinner is served Monday through Saturday from 5:30 p.m.

UNION SQUARE

Another spot for lunch is Farallon (450 Post Street, 415-956-6969), which just started lunch service in the Jellyfish Lounge and Oyster Bar. Whether you’re looking for a spot for a leisurely ladies-who-lunch kind of vibe, a lunch date, a birthday lunch, or even a nicer business lunch, this should do nicely. The lunch menu includes small bites ($6), like Dungeness crab toast with a piquillo aioli, and of course, there is a variety of oysters from the oyster bar ($2 each), including Coromandels from New Zealand and Fanny Bays from British Colombia. Caviar service, check. My lunch date and I enjoyed the little gems Caesar salad and the smoked sturgeon with brioche toast (both $10), but the winner was the lobster roll ($18) on a soft house-made brioche roll. The tuna panino ($18) was also very good — it’s a bit like a tuna melt with a layer of Parmigiano-Reggiano inside. And whatever you do, be sure to have some Champagne. Lunch is served Tuesday–Saturday 11:30 a.m.–3 p.m. You can stick around and seamlessly slide into happy hour, which begins at 3 p.m., with $6 specials on small bites, cocktails, beer, and wine.

HAYES VALLEY

Corey Lee (Benu) has opened Monsieur Benjamin (451 Gough Street, 415-403-2233), and is working with chef Jason Berthold (RN74) — both share extensive French Laundry and Per Se training and experience. With Monsieur Benjamin, they are offering a modern bistro experience, which means they have updated the cooking methods and ingredients used with a modern sensibility, while making references to classic French flavor profiles. For example, the steak tartare (which Lee notes is a dish that has been done to death) is made with hand-cut beef, and there’s a pudding of yolk that is seasoned and piped onto the plate. You’ll also find a pissaladière that is sheeted (it has a crisp, lavash-like texture) with the flavors of anchovy and olive, and on the plate there are pulverized dried capers (which Lee says are more delicate) — when you take a bite with your eyes closed, you taste a delicious (but updated) tartare. Lee says: “We know the playbook of French flavors well, and have stayed connected to them.”

It’s an extensive menu with many small plates (from deviled eggs to oysters gratinées), a list of appetizers I want to try each and every one of (the sweetbreads and marrow bones “Blue Ribbon” with Della Fattoria bread were outstanding), plus 13 entrées that average around $28 — you’ll find steak frites ($36) and a burger ($18.50), as well as roast chicken and Arctic char amandine. These à la carte dishes are not compositions: You have a sauce, a garnish, and voilà. Dessert includes a palmier ice cream with Calvados caramel; mon dieu was that good.

Aidlin Darling Design (Bar Agricole, Bar Bambino) is behind the handsome urban 90-seat space. The dining rooms are in charcoal hues (including the hex-tiled floor), with deep brown wood panels around the center bar island, and chestnut banquettes along the walls, with glowing filament bulbs suspended from the ceiling. The tables are topped with paper, and the wood chairs are in a classic shape. There’s definitely an urban aesthetic in play — especially noted in the custom metal shelving and the table legs of the communal table — mixing with references to classic Parisian style. Seamless windows surround the space with no breaks in the panels, creating a light-filled indoor-outdoor feeling; there will be outdoor seating added, too.

A big deal is that this modern bistro is serving until 1 a.m. nightly. Lee has longed for a late-night bistro since he moved here in late 2009. It will definitely be the spot to go after the symphony and opera. Hours for now are 5 p.m.–1 a.m. Brunch will also be added soon.

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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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