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Weekly Dish: Chow to Oakland?

Chow's East Bay expansion plans; Havana gets a new chef; Umami Burger and Star pizza openings near in Oakland; Father's Day eats; and more in this week's Dish!


That’s right Chow fans, looks like the popular elevated comfort food restaurant could be coming to Oakland. Owner Tony Gulisano, who has opened Chow locations in Lafayette and Danville after launching the original two in San Francisco, is in negotiations to purchase a new space on Piedmont Avenue. The deal isn’t quite finalized, but according to operations manager David Speyer, the goal is to take over the new location and open by the summer of 2014. The preliminary plan is for a concept similar to that of Lafayette in that it will include a small market section (actually slightly bigger than the one in Lafayette) with fresh produce and pre-made meals to-go, along with a regular restaurant. As for where it’ll be, well Chow was mum on the exact location, but rumor is that it’ll be on the western end of the avenue closer to Commis than to Adesso. There just happens to be a shuttered Blockbuster location right across from James Syhabout’s Michelin-starred restaurant, but that’s pure conjecture on my part so we shall see. chowfoodbar.com

Homestead's Fred and Elizabeth SassenNearby, new details have emerged about Homestead restaurant, which is replacing Zatis in a Julia Morgan designed building at 4029 Piedmont Ave. Offering an “upscale farm-to-table menu prepared with seasonal, often locally sourced, organic ingredients,” Homestead comes courtesy of owner-executive chef Fred Sassen, previously the executive sous chef at San Francisco’s excellent Farallon, and his wife Elizabeth, a former sous chef at Farallon and Water Bar in the city. Abigail Reser, led waiter and co-manager at nearby Bay Wolf will also be on the team, so sounds like the restaurant is in capable hands. To whet your appetite: starters ($9–$14) will include baked ricotta with bitter greens and red walnuts and grilled asparagus with spicy coppa and preserved Meyer lemon. Mains ($18–$24) include spit roasted leg of lamb with spiced baby fava beans, green garlic and Strauss’ yogurt and petrale sole with morels and grilled pea tendrils. The Sassens will be making bread, charcuterie and pasta in-house, as well as select vinegars, cheeses, ice cream, and savory and sweet preserves. Sounds pretty good… Homestead will be opening in early July. homesteadoakland.com

Father’s Day coming up! A few not-too-thoroughly-researched foodie ideas for pops. Not surprisingly, several of these are pig-themed…

BBQ at Martinez's King of the CountyMartinez’s seventh annual King of the County BBQ Challenge and Music Festival is happening this Saturday and Sunday at the city’s waterfront Park Marina. I’ve been in the past and it’s a fun time, filled with great local bands and some serious barbecue (and it’s actually a bit of a BBQ hotbed up in that part of Contra Costa County). Go to www.CountyBBQ.com for all the details.

Tomahawk Pork Chop & Scotch Pairing at Hopscotch Executive chef Kyle Itani is bringing in whole pigs to offer this unique cut—a pork loin chop with the baby back rib and St. Louis Rib attached in one piece, and which is then brined in soy and sake with ginger, thyme, rosemary, and charred red onions before being grilled. You can pair it with one of the restaurant’s single malt Japanese scotches (or beers). Offered on Sunday, June 16 for dinner, 5–10 p.m. hopscotchoakland.com

Keep it classy with a Father’s Day twist at Lafayette’s always elegant French restaurant Chevalier. Executive chef-owner Philippe Chevalier will be offering Cochon à la Broche dans le Jardin, aka suckling pig, which will be spit-roasted in the garden and accompanied by live jazz (with a French twist) from duo Gadjo. chevalierrestaurant.com

Multiple Diablo Food Award winner Esin Restaurant in Danville is offering a couple Father’s Day specials this Sunday, including crab cake and eggs Benedict and New York steak and cheddar scrambled eggs for lunch, and a Prime Rib dinner with garlic mashed potatoes, fresh horseradish cream and au jus and a grilled local king salmon special for dinner. esinrestaurant.com

And over at Gianni’s Italian Bistro in San Ramon, all dads will receive a complimentary glass of wine with their meal, while weekly specials include Spaghetti all' Amatriciana with tomato sauce, chili peppers, and yes, pancetta, and pan-roasted filet of Corvina sea bass with capers, onions, green olives and eggplant tapenade. giannissanramon.com

That’s all I’ve got, the rest is up to you…

Breaking burger news as, contrary to prior reports (actually my own, read here), Oakland’s Umami Burger looks like it’ll be opening within “the next month or two” according to a representative at the well-liked Los Angeles-based burger chain. That’s backed up by Craigslist postings in late May advertising hiring for employees for the new Oakland outpost, located at 2100 Franklin Street a couple doors down from Ike’s and Plum in Uptown. I’d previously reported (that’s what they told me, I swear!) that the Oakland Umami wouldn’t be opening until the end of the year, but obviously something changed for the better. In the meantime, the quickly expanding Umami burger just opened a new spot in Palo Alto and announced plans for new locations in Miami and San Francisco, joining the already-open Marina district restaurant. Check out that location’s menu HERE for a pretty good idea of what Oakland’s will look like.

In the meantime, another Oakland Umami (confusing, I know), the Japanese bar- and tea-ware store Umami Mart is expanding into food items. According to the East Bay Express via Inside Scoop, the unique Old Oakland store will soon be carrying “a variety of Japanese snacks, candies, condiments, dried goods, cold beverages, and prepared foods.” And if you’ve ever been to a Japanese market, you’ll know that they have some wild & unique products, so it should be a fun place to check out. The so-called U Mart will be located in the back of the current Umamimart store at 9th and Broadway, and owners Kayoko Akabori and Yoko Kumano hope to be fully stocked by June 25. umamimart.com

It’s all burgers all the time here in the East Bay, as Chris Kronner of San Francisco’s Kronnerburger is this close to securing a lease to open a new spot in Uptown Oakland near the Fox Theater—stay tuned for details. Trueburger is expanding to Broadway, Roam Artisan Burger is headed for Lafayette, and The Habit Burger sounds quite close to opening its newest East Bay eatery in San Ramon. Also, in downtown Walnut Creek, rumor is that Islands fine burgers & drinks is eyeing a location in the Plaza Escuela building across the street from, of course, The Habit Burger. Featuring burgers like the Hawaiian (pineapple and Teriyaki sauce), the Maui (guacamole), and the Kilauea (jalapeño and black pepper crust with chipotle aioli), Islands has around ten locations scattered around Arizona, Hawaii, Nevada, and California, including a new one in Cupertino.  

Also in Walnut Creek, Havana has a brand new executive chef. According to co-owner Joelle Scott, the Cuban-themed hotspot is bringing in Mark Mayo to helm the kitchen starting July 1. Mayo brings some nice culinary experience, most recently working at Sacramento’s lauded farm-to-table restaurant Mulvaney’s B&L in Midtown.  Havana is planning a little refresh of the décor and menu to time with Mayo’s arrival and the restaurant’s 11th anniversary.

Also, word is that CU Sushi at 1690 Locust Street is closing this week and will become a sake bar. More info on that as I get it…

Over in Pleasanton, The Corner Creperie is taking over the closed Bebione Bakery space at 349 Main Street, Acadia health food store opened at 608 Main, and Mangia Mi’s second location is still looking at a July launch. 

There's another Dish Crawl event (think pub crawl but with food) happening in hopping Old Oakland next Wednesday, July 19. CLICK HERE for details and tix.

Back to Oakland, as I touched base with the folks at Little Star Pizza, who told me that owner John Guhl—he recently split from original partner Brian Sadigursky, taking the Mission and Albany restaurants while Sadigursky retained the Divisadero original—plans to launch The Star sometime this month, and as soon as within a week. Taking over the former Milano space at 3425 Grand Avenue, The Star will have a similar selection of deep-dish and thin crust pizzas with Little Star’s signature cornmeal crust... but with some added perks. An expanded menu (CLICK HERE to check it out) will also offer additional appetizers and salads, as well as a new selection of sandwiches made on sourdough rolls and a full bar.

Couple quick mentions on some places I checked out in the last week…

I got a bite at the new A16 Rockridge, and it should come as no surprise that it was… quite good. I actually didn’t try the pizza (which looked delicious), but had a very tasty Cavatelli pasta with Sacramento crawfish, beautiful side of roasted fennel topped with bottarga, and a couple of top-notch cocktails (definitely try the “Pluot and “Seventh Circle”). Even more than the food though, I was impressed by the service, which was firing on all cylinders even on the opening week. Waitstaff was friendly and knowledgeable, and you just got the sense that you were in good hands. They did a nice job with the remodel too, opening and lightening up a previously darker and more segmented space. Check ’em out! a16rockridge.com

Croissants at Fournée BakeryAlso swung by Fournée, the new French-themed bakery at 2912 Domingo Ave across from the Claremont Hotel in Berkeley. Owner-baker Frank Sally worked for a spell as pastry chef three Michelin-starred Meadowood Restaurant under Christopher Kostow, consulted at the San Francisco Baking Institute, and won a gold medal for organic baking at France's Mondial du Pain baking competition. So he’s got that going for him. But most importantly, from what I tried the Oakland-native’s baked goods are off the hook. A traditional croissant was satisfyingly flaky and buttery, the sticky bun pillowy soft and just the right amount of sweet, and a gorgeous lemon-praline mousseline perfectly layered in taste and texture. I would have tried more, but they were closed on Monday when I came back (damn!). Anyway, Sally is cranking out plenty more items (fresh-baked breads, pizza, quiches, cakes, and tarts), and I recommend anyone to check it out. I know I’ll be back—just not on a Monday… fourneebakery.com


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