L et’s start with a splashy one. Now open in Jackson Square is Roka Akor (801 Montgomery Street, 415-362-8887), a new modern Japanese robata restaurant in the former Cypress Club (for you fellow old-timers). The menu features a wide range of Japanese-inspired dishes with local ingredients. I’m looking forward to dishes from chef Roman Petry, like Mendocino uni with chicharrones; lobster and abalone miso soup; Wagyu beef and kimchi dumplings; and Madagascan tiger prawn (er, not local, heh) with yuzu koshu chile and lemon. There are also prime steaks, plus nigiri sushi and maki rolls, and the lunch menu has some specials, too. There is a robata-driven bar menu served late, with dishes like Japanese-style fried chicken with smoked aioli. You’ll also find a creative beverage program (including infused shochus, top-notch whiskeys, and one-of-a-kind cocktails) from the talented Daniel Hyatt, desserts from pastry chef Alexander Ruiz (Redd and Redd Wood); Kiet Le (Luce) is the general manager. Design firm Arcanum Architecture is behind the modern look, including the robata grill encircled by a shou-sugi-ban counter made of charred birch wood finished by hand, and Concrete Works created the concrete art wall in the dining room inspired by the bamboo forests of Kyoto.
Not far away, North Beach now has a Tacolicious (1548 Stockton Street, 415-433-1800). The newest member of the family is complete with their signature touches, including dramatic tile, a long bar, and outdoor seating. The bar is warm wood, and the walls are brightly painted, giving the whole place a welcoming vibe. There’s seating for 49, and all the tables are bistro height, including the banquettes along one wall, which lends to the casual, bar-like atmosphere. The menu is similar to the other locations, with seasonal and well-prepared tacos with their house-made salsas, plus lots of appetizers and side dishes. They also have their full array of cocktails available by the glass or pitcher, including a Paloma and the delicious margarita picante. That said, this location is just as kid-friendly as the others, so bring the little ones, too. They’re open straight through lunch and dinner, so it’s an easy spot to stop midafternoon for a beverage and a taco snack, plus they’ve got a television at the bar if you need a stylish place to park it during the baseball game.
Another family-friendly space that just opened is Artesano (3415 California Street, 415-221-5500) in Laurel Heights. This casual South American concept — offering Latin American comfort food ranging from Brazil to Peru to Argentina — is from Jeff Gambardella and Douglas Mathieux of Rigolo Café. The menu features dishes like ceviche, salads, sandwiches, some larger plates like braised or oven-roasted chicken, and more at a wallet-friendly price point. Open for both lunch and dinner.
ACT-goers will be bummed with this news: Dennis Leary will close Canteen (817 Sutter Street, 415-928-8870) at some point in late August or early September. With Leary’s upcoming projects (Cafe Terminus at 10 California Street and the Trocadero Club in the former RJ’s on Geary), it seems something had to give. So make your reservation for a farewell meal. I will miss those Parker House rolls. (But since Leary has one year left on his lease, some one-off dinners are still possible in the space after it closes.) Stand by for confirmed details on Canteen’s closure, and more on the new projects (which Leary is doing with business partner Eric Passetti) in coming weeks.
More un-fabulous news: After 12 years at Betelnut, chef Alex Ong has left his post. He is looking forward to spending more time with his family while figuring out his next move (potentially doing some consulting in the meantime). The restaurant recently hired a new chef de cuisine, Mario Tolentino, who had been working with Ong on modernizing some of the dishes on the menu (Tolentino was working five years ago at Aqua, and was recently a Food Network Chopped champion).
Let’s end on a high note: French-inspired Le Marais Bakery (2066 Chestnut Street, 415-359-9801; see New and Notable, page 14) is now open in the Marina. The new venture comes from Paris native Patrick Ascaso, and is a tribute to the boulangeries he grew up with in France. They’re serving French-style levain breads fed daily with natural starter from boulanger Justin Brown (who previously worked at Bien Cuit and Roberta’s in Brooklyn). He’ll also be making croissants and other traditional baked goods. They’ve got a separate pastry program, helmed by Phil Ogiela (formerly of Aziza and Presidio Social Club), with desserts like gâteau Basque with cream and apricots, fresh fruit tarts, and madeleines. The fine folks at Paxton Gate designed the space with warm reclaimed woods, vintage baking trays functioning as cabinets, and light fixtures made from Bundt pans. The floor tiles are from the north of France, and the space is designed to make use of natural light — all the better to admire the croissants.