The Tablehopper

Get a taste of New Zealand at Waiheke Island Yacht Club

During my recent trip to New Zealand, I had the pleasure of making my way through all the appetizers at Clooney in Auckland, a chic and contemporary restaurant from restaurateur Tony Stewart (also behind The Hamptons in Auckland). He told me he had a pop-up, New Zealand-inspired restaurant and bar project that was going to open in San Francisco for the America’s Cup. After waiting on some finalized details, I can finally spill the beans on Waiheke Island Yacht Club, due to open Thursday, July 4 on Pier 29.

First, I need to explain Waiheke Island a bit, if you’re not familiar. It’s a short ferry ride from Auckland. And let me tell you, it’s the picture of dreamy. It has wineries, gorgeous beaches, winding roads, delicious food, and a wonderful easy-breezy vibe. I was so sorry I was only there for the day. I was ready to just show up with my toothbrush and move there.

Tony Stewart will be re-creating the relaxed, unpretentious and comfortable feeling of Waiheke here in San Francisco, along with bringing the progressive New Zealand-style cuisine (and some ingredients, including Silver Fern Farm’s Silere merino lamb) that his projects are known for. There will be a four-course menu with choices each evening, plus two-, three-, and four-course menus at lunch. Many of these dishes will also be available on the bar menu, so you can just swing by for a drink and a bite as well. Look for brunch to launch in August.

Waiheke Island is the picture of dreamy. It has wineries, gorgeous beaches, delicious food.

Stewart’s culinary team includes head chef Hayden McMillen (TriBeCa, Vinnie’s, Huka Lodge, Meredith’s, The French Café), who is known for an innovative style built around seasonality and purity of flavor. His sous chef is local boy Nicholas Patchen (Boulevard, Ritz-Carlton Half Moon Bay, Spruce, Campton Place, and All Spice in San Mateo). The specialized menu will have a modern/contemporary sensibility, intersecting with local ingredients.

The stylish yet laid-back space will feature many design elements from New Zealand, including hand-polished slabs of macrocarpa cypress, American white oak furniture handcrafted by Douglas and Bec, and even pottery. The restaurant seats 85, plus 12 at the chef’s counter and 20 at the bar. There will be craft beer from brewer Moa, and sommelier Geeling Ng will be handling the wines and pairings (though don’t expect New Zealand wines — due to some contractual obligations with America’s Cup, the wines will be from Napa Valley). Also, look for a cocktail list conceived by Clooney’s bar manager, Needham Woodward.

Even though the America’s Cup 2013 finals will wrap in late September, Waiheke Island Yacht Club will stay open through December 31. I am very much looking forward to experiencing this unique Kiwi import!

There’s a new bar and restaurant at the Four Seasons called MKT Restaurant – Bar (757 Market Street, 415-633-3838). After a revamp by New York-based design firm AvroKO (the first since the bar opened in 2001), the space now has dark oak floors, hunter green and black leather accents, and recycled newsprint wallpaper. The bar area seats 83 and flows into the dining room, which seats 74. There are also three private dining rooms to accommodate different-sized groups. The menu has been adjusted to be more fun and playful, and the bar program has been updated to reflect San Francisco’s quality cocktail culture.

The focus will be on high-quality, hyper-local cocktails (all of the ingredients for the signature cocktails were sourced from within 100 miles of San Francisco), plus small plates and steaks. The place is intended for groups, with punch served in vintage bowl sets and small plates for sharing.

On the small plates menu by executive chef Mark Richardson and restaurant chef Chris Aguirre, there are dishes like soft scrambled egg topped with Fort Bragg uni, or handmade pastas like duck confit agnolotti with braised pistachios and pickled leeks. Steaks include Five Dot Ranch’s 10-ounce prime bone-in New York strip and Brandt Farms’ 16-ounce rib eye. They’ve also got two versions of their burger: the classic with sirloin, cheddar, and fries or the duck-fat burger with American Kobe and, duh, duck fat. The menu will be available both in the dining room and at the bar. Open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner daily 6:30 a.m.–midnight.

The former Fourth Wave Coffee location on Polk has a new taker: none other than the fine folks of Kasa Indian Eatery (1356 Polk Street). Owners Anamika and Suresh Khanna hope to have the new spot up and running any day now. The new outpost will have the same menu as their Castro location, with some more colorful design elements. They may also stay open later on weekends to accommodate the Polk Street crowds. For now, hours will be 11 a.m.–10 p.m.

Some new projects to add to your radar: first, Pesce will be swimming downstream from its Russian Hill location on Polk Street to the former 2223 Market Street/Jake’s on Market location in the Castro. Owners Ruggero Gadaldi and Adriano Paganini hope to reopen as soon as August, and the Polk Street Pesce will stay open until the new location is close to opening. The menu will stay the same, though the number of seats will double. As for the Polk Street location (2227 Polk Street, 415-928-8025), stand by for what the duo plans to do in that space.

Owner Berk Kinalilar of Troya and Troya Fillmore has hired a new chef for Troya Fillmore (2125 Fillmore Street, 415-563-1000): Kevin Davidson, who was a chef de cuisine at Foreign Cinema and most recently was enjoying some travel with his wife. Troya Fillmore’s previous chef, Philip Busacco, is taking some time off to pursue photography and travel for a bit. (The chef at Troya on Clement remains in place.)

Good news: Padrecito (901 Cole Street, 415-742-5505) in Cole Valley is now open on Sunday nights for dinner; look for Mondays and weekend brunch soon!

Pete Mrabe of Don Pisto’s in North Beach has opened a new 35-seat space called Pisto’s (1310 Grant Avenue). Look for ceviche, oysters, and some cured and smoked fish. He is also going to offer a half-pound burger (to-go only) for $6 and has a few tacos on the menu (like suadero). Walk-ins only, Thursday–Sunday 6 p.m.–10 p.m.

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