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Diablo Dish—March 2010

Walnut Creek is bursting at the seams with new places to chow down, the restaurant at Wente Vineyards is tweaking their eats and In n' Out comes to Pleasant Hill. All that and more in the Dish!


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These days, you couldn’t swing a doggie bag in Walnut Creek without whacking a new restaurant. On the heels of the new Modern China Café and Vanessa’s Bistro 2 on North Main, the upscale Vietnamese restaurant Élevé started serving in late January. Set to open soon after was Vesu, a casual but stylish small plates restaurant on Locust. Vesu chef Robert Sapirman, formerly top chef at Bradley Ogden's Parcel 104 in Santa Clara and Michael Mina’s Arcadia in San Jose, plans a menu of globally inspired seasonal cuisine such as Spanish-style bacalao (salted cod fish) and Colombian-style arepas (stuffed corn cakes).

Finally, Sasa, the Japanese restaurant from Blue Ginko owner Philip Yang, was shooting to open early this month—but without ex–Va de Vi chef Kelly Degala, who had been announced as the new executive chef. “He just didn’t fit the project, personality-wise and overall,” was all Yang would say about the sudden parting. “I wish him luck.” Degala’s take? “We had our creative differences, and we parted ways,” he says. “[Philip] is a chef, and the bottom line is it’s hard for two chefs to coexist in one kitchen. I hope they do well.” The Izakaya-style (Japanese pub food) menu will feature sashimi, sushi, noodles, and traditional dishes, plus a comprehensive selection of fish imported from Tokyo’s famous Tsukiji Fish Market.

Speaking of chefs, the Restaurant at Wente Vineyards didn’t need to look far to replace the departed Arthur Wall: Longtime sous chef and Livermore resident Eric Berg was promoted in January. Berg tweaked the menu to add more small plates, appetizers, and sides to share, while focusing on local, organic ingredients, including produce from Wente’s onsite garden. Wall resurfaced across the Bay, as chef of Garcon, a French bistro in San Francisco’s Mission district.

Downtown Pleasant Hill is getting some brotherly love as local boys John, David, and Chris Marcovici open Jack’s Pleasant Hill in the old Left Bank space this spring. The Clayton-raised Marcovicis plan a value-oriented menu packed with contemporary American classics—everything from burgers to seafood to pasta. The restaurant has a full bar and will serve breakfast, lunch, and dinner. “We want to make it a place that’s really accessible to everyone, all the time,” says David.

Vinoteca is no longer Vinoteca. The popular Danville wine bar is securing a liquor license and moving its tapas menu toward more California cuisine–style dishes, in addition to changing the name. The restaurant is holding a contest to come up with the best moniker. The winner will receive a $150 gift card.

Dubliners can break out their dancing shoes: The city OK’d a dance floor addition to Karma, the restaurant set to open this spring in Grafton Station. Founding partner Timothy Carlos says it will cater to “a more upscale lounge crowd.”

It’s burger-mania in Pleasant Hill: In n’ Out got the go-ahead for a new location on the corner of Contra Costa Boulevard and Chilpancingo, while Five Guys Burgers heads into the old Fatburger spot. For something more gourmet, check out Oakland’s Trueburger, where former Metro Lafayette chef Jason Low and Bay Wolf alum Greg Eng grind their Angus beef in house daily. “We’re just taking our fine dining roots, and putting all that energy into the burger,” Low says.

Got Dish? E-mail us at dish@maildiablo.com.

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