Weekly Dish: New Chef at Corners Tavern
Chef transition at Corners; Sunol Ridge opens in Walnut Creek; new high-end Chinese in Pleasanton; and more!
Corners Tavern in Walnut Creek has a new executive chef and they didn’t have to look too far to find him. Replacing opening day chef Esteban Escobar, Gavin Schmidt has been at Corners since its debut more than two years ago, helping to shape and evolve the upscale gastropub’s contemporary American menu. Before that, Schmidt has experience in multiple high-end San Francisco kitchens, including Coi, Campton Place, Fifth Floor, and Aqua.
As for changes to that menu, don’t expect anything too drastic. Rather, Schmidt says he’ll try to make the food a bit simpler and more approachable by placing a focus on quality local ingredients. That includes shopping at farmers' markets three to four times a week, as well as working with local ranches to source meat: Schmidt is an avid butcher and practices whole animal butchery in which he breaks down the whole animal, incorporating it into various dishes on the menu.
That was also the inspiration for his new Weeknight Suppers menu, which will showcase some of these meats at the restaurant with hearty dishes such as slow roasted pork shoulder, smoked coffee-rubbed brisket, grilled leg of lamb, or buttermilk fried chicken. The menu, which includes a starter and dessert, is available Monday through Thursday and costs $30 per person. Schmidt also launched a new Happy Hour menu, featuring such items as oysters, house-made sausages, and tacos of the day, available 2–5:30 p.m. daily.
As for Escobar, Corners' opening chef? He left to take a position with Mitchell and Steven Rosenthal’s Stock & Bones group, which originally hired him at Corners and run San Francisco restaurants Anchor & Hope, Town Hall, and Salt House.
Corners Tavern: 1342 Broadway Plaza, Walnut Creek, (925) 948-8711, cornerstavern.com.
Speaking of upscale gastropubs, it’s official: Sunol Ridge is now open in downtown Walnut Creek. If you’re a Dish reader you’ll know the story, and you can CLICK HERE for last week’s preview of their menu. But to recap, the restaurant replacing Cypress on Locust Street is the product of friends and avid home brewers Mark Flaherty and Christopher George, who wanted to open a dining spot that showcases California’s craft beer scene (George, by the way, is founder and CEO of San Ramon–based mortgage giant CMG Financial).
To that end Sunol Ridge serves 30 California craft beers on tap in addition to various other sours and Belgian varieties (they also offer wine on tap). To complement the beer, executive chef Frank Jordan has created a menu of gourmet comfort food, including items such as duck confit spring rolls, bone marrow, rabbit ravioli, and a 35-ounce espresso chile-rubbed Buffalo rib eye steak with blue cheese crust for two.
The restaurant is open for dinner only to start with plans to phase in lunch service in a few weeks.
Sunol Ridge: 1388 Locust Street, Walnut Creek, sunolridgerestaurantandbar.com.
Allen Shi, who runs popular restaurants Yiping in San Ramon and Sichuan Fortune House in Pleasant Hill, is opening a new high-end Chinese concept in Pleasanton. China Lounge will be located 4220 Rosewood Drive in the Rose Pavilion shopping center next to the Ethan Allen furniture store. Shi, who hopes to open by the end of the month, says China Lounge will serve authentic Sichuan-style fare, which emphasizes spicy and bold flavors. Shi says this project is the most high end concept he’s ever done: he invested more than $1 million into renovating the interior, he’s importing a well-known chef from China to train his staff, and the food will showcase quality ingredients, including heritage breed Hampshire pork and cage free chicken. The 4,500-square-foot restaurant will seat around 100 in the dining room and another 30 or so at the bar, which has a full liquor license and eventually its own small plates menu.
“We’ll make everything on the spot, fresh to order,” Shi says. “Everything will be very high quality, because I think we need a good Chinese restaurant in that area.”
Some news from the (510)...
► East Bay Express reports that Oakland's maestro of mini pies Jaynelle St. Jean has locked up a new location for her PieTisserie business. She'll be opening up in her own brick-and-mortar pie shop located at 1605 2nd Avenue next to Portal beer garden just off of Lake Merritt. Look for an August opening. pietisserie.com
► There is a new Taiwanese concept coming to Uptown Oakland after all. Months after the plans for Taiwanese noodle house Pi Dan were abandoned following the passing of owner Allison Chen, new owners have taken over the space at 412 22nd Street. Taiwan native Stacy Tang is planning a fast-casual lunch-only concept serving Taiwanese fare such as minced braised pork rice and beef noodle soup served bento box-style with side dishes. Look for Taiwan Bento to open as soon as mid-July.
► Perdition Smokehouse, the latest project from East Bay craft beer entrepreneur Chuck Stilphen, is set to open this Friday. From the same man who founded OL Beer Cafe in Walnut Creek and The Trappist in Oakland, Perdition offers a streamlined menu of Texas-style barbecue sold by the pound, along with a few sides and desserts. The food is complemented by lighter, BBQ-friendly California craft beers (43 available on tap). The space located in downtown Berkeley also has an outdoor beergarden patio that will seat around 50 at communal tables. Perdition Smokehouse: 2050 University Avenue, Berkeley, (510) 900-5858, perditionbbq.com.