Feature

10 Hottest New Restaurants in San Francisco

By Virginia Miller
October 13, 2014
By Virginia Miller  |  October 13, 2014

It's been another fine season of new restaurant openings with a wide range of notable newcomers. From a sister restaurant of State Bird Provisions to the long-awaited SF outpost of Hawker Fare, here are 10 of the most exciting openings of recent weeks.

  • Photo by: Virginia Miller

    Mourad

    Why It's Hot: The long-awaited project from chef Mourad Lahlou and chef de cuisine Chris Kajioka (formerly of Honolulu's Vintage Cave) opened at the end of January in the PacBell Building next door to Trou Normand. As with his beloved Aziza across the city (opened in 2001), the cuisine of Lahlou's native Morocco and Northern California bounty play together beautifully. But this isn't merely Aziza No. 2. While you'll find similar ethos in the plates at Mourad, it's a bit more upscale, refined. 
    Must-Order: The ultimate way to go may just be the tasting menu. It's a pricey $150 (plus $75 with wine pairings), but the ever-evolving menu best reflects Lahlou's innovative style and the direction he and Kajioka are going with this new restaurant. Other highlights include Melissa Chou's desserts (the celebrated Aziza pastry chef) and master sommelier Alan Murray's wine list (Murray came from Australia and worked at the legendary Rubicon under the direction of master sommelier great Larry Stone).
    Insider Tip: Cocktails were created by Christ Aivaliotis and Troy Bayless of Wizard Oil Co. and the new Hawker Fare and Holy Mountain.

    140 New Montgomery St.; 415-660-2500

  • Photo by: Virginia Miller

    Les Clos

    Why It's Hot: Lucky SoMa workers and residents now have the idyllic, Parisian-inspired, all-day wine bar/cafe/retail shop that opened late September. Multi-award-winning sommelier Mark Bright of neighboring Saison opened the kind of place he'd want to hang out in, the kind he felt was missing from the neighborhood. He brought on Saison cohorts chef Shawn Gawle (Saison's pastry chef) and cellar master/sommelier Cara Patricia Higgins to oversee the kitchen and for-purchase wine list, respectively.
    Must-Order: Frisée aux lardons ($8/$12) salad, perfect French omelet ($12), croque monsieur ($12) on a croissant.
    Insider Tip: Order a glass of fantastic Txomin Etxaniz rosé, crisp and lively with a welcome hint of funk, or a superb red Burgundy, a 2011 T&P Matrot Bourgone Rouge that exemplifies affordable Burgundian Pinot Noir at its best.

    234 Townsend St.; 415-795-1422

  • Photo by: Virginia Miller

    Al's Place

    Why It's Hot: Those of us who were fans of Aaron London's ahead-of-the-curve, innovative cooking at Ubuntu in Napa (which closed in 2012) are thrilled he's back, now in SF with Al's Place. He's turned the former South End Grill ‘n’ Bar on Valencia at 26th into a cheery space with clean lines, while knowledgeable staff pour quality wines and beers, low-proof cocktails or nonalcoholic sodas (like tangerine vanilla cream) that bring out rounds of visually striking, delicious plates that remind us just how much we missed London's cooking. 
    Must-Order: Black cod, tonarelli pasta in a green-garlic sauce, Dungeness crab with miso-garlic dip and Meyer lemon tart.
    Insider Tip: The restaurant is closed on Monday and Tuesday.

    1499 Valencia St.; 415-416-6136

  • The Progress

    Why It's Hot: Located next door to a "little" phenomenon known as State Bird Provisions is this long-awaited sister restaurant run by married team Stuart Brioza and Nicole Krasinski. State Bird comparisons aside, The Progress is a more refined, tasting-menu-only offshoot where Stuart and Nicole's innovative cooking will feel familiar to fans, while the format allows for lingering. The imaginative menu, with boxes you check off next to selected dishes, is $65 per person, and the owners are still testing out the number of family-style courses the whole table must choose.
    Must-Order: "Treasure Chest" with fermented Thai sausage, tofu-pumpkin rice dumplings and Santa Barbara prawn heads; roti with shaved, smoked cured egg, rosemary and raw sunchokes in a buttermilk ranch dressing; and spicy Dungeness crab cavatelli.
    Insider Tip: The restaurant is booked up for weeks, but you can order food at the bar (open at 5 PM), though you'll eat it standing up unless you snag one of the three cozy little tables lining the front window. There's also a back mezzanine with an eight-seat chef's table, a front mezzanine with two tables and a custom wood-fired grill in the kitchen.

    1525 Fillmore St.; 415-673-1294

  • Photo by: Virginia Miller

    Liholiho Yacht Club

    Why It's Hot: This Sutter Street eatery is a nightly home for the cooking of  chef Ravi Kapur (formerly of Boulevard and Prospect) in partnership with Nopa's Allyson Jossel and Jeff Hanak and chef de cuisine Nana Guardia. Kapur's Liholiho pop-up dinners in recent years worked as a preview, but it's a delight to experience his dishes amid the light woods, long lines and breezy-but-sophisticated casualness the space imparts (thanks to architect Brett Terpeluk). Bright-yellow tiles in the open kitchen and cool blue and white tiles in the bar area set the stage for Hawaiian-influenced cuisine (Kapur's heritage) with nods to China and India under a California ethos. 
    Must-Order: Marinated squid, poppy seed buns with beef tongue, fried game hen and baked Hawaii.
    Insider Tip: Nopa bartender Yanni Kehagiaras crafted a cocktail menu ($10-$11) where presentation is straightforward, generally ungarnished and, in the case of the three we tried in the first week, all the same clear-ish white color. There are also craft beers on draft or by the bottle, along with sake and Japanese whiskey.

    871 Sutter St.; 415-440-5446

  • Hawker Fare

    Why It's Hot: Devotees of the spicy-funky-fishy delight that is Thai cuisine can rejoice. The Oakland hot spot rolled out a San Francisco outpost boasting an expanded menu of both food and drink from James Syhabout, chef de cuisine Supasit "O" Puttkaew (who hails from Bangkok) and Manuel Bonilla of the original Hawker Fare. The large, two-level setting has a laid-back air, taking a cue from Bangkok's street stands and markets with tables covered in multicolored oilcloths and walls decorated with vintage record sleeves, movie posters and Lationa-Thai floor mats. 
    Must-Order: Hawker Fare SF, like its Oakland counterpart, specializes in no-holds-barred Laotian and Isan (Northern) Thai cuisine, with a dedication to deeply authentic flavors. Expect pungent dips made from fermented shrimp and chiles; beef and pork laab salad tossed with tripe and liver, respectively; and gorgeously grilled meats, the kind that emerge from smoky street stands. You’re meant to eat it all with sticky rice, and with your hands — Syhabout has envisioned his menu to be eaten family-style, so prepare to order a spread from the extensive offerings and share.
    Insider Tip: Grab drinks at Holy Mountain, the upstairs bar run by Christ Aivaliotis and Troy Bayless, who are pouring Mardi Gras- and Carnivale-themed cocktails upon opening, with influences from New Orleans, Haiti and Brazil.

    680 Valencia St.; 415-932-6193

  • Photo by: Virginia Miller

    Urchin Bistrot

    Why It's Hot: From the owners of St. Helena's Terra and Bar Terra and Ame in SoMa, Hiro Sone and Lissa Doumani opened the more casual Urchin Bistrot in the former Wo Hing General Store space in the Mission on August 4. Chef Michael Morrison and GM Susan Naderi Johnston are running the restaurant, having worked with Hiro and Lissa at Ame.
    Must-Order: It's dinner only for now (note the reasonable $50, five-course prix fixe option — $38 for wine pairings — in addition to the à la carte menu), but we'd love to see this as an all-day bistro. Don't miss the mussels treated like escargot in butter and herbs and served in an escargot dish. Here are some other dishes to watch for.
    Insider Tip: The cocktails, some heavy on French spirits, are a highlight, as is the reasonable French-centric wine list.

    584 Valencia St.; 415-861-1844

  • Photo by: Virginia Miller

    Lazy Bear

    Why It's Hot: Its initial opening weeks sold out immediately from their unique ticketing system akin to Alinea and Next in Chicago. Lawyer-turned-chef David Barzelay launched his underground pop-up, Lazy Bear, hosting imaginative tasting-menu dinners that gained a huge cult following (and had long waiting lists), but he takes it to the next level in his new brick-and-mortar location in the Mission's former Hi Lo space, which opened at the end of September. Start upstairs with punch cocktails and fine-dining-quality bites in the midcentury-meets-modern loft, then head downstairs to two long communal tables for a unique, shared dining experience.
    Must-Order: It's an ever-changing prix fixe menu of 12-18 courses at $120 per person, with the bread course one of the many highlights (a sample dinner experience here).
    Insider Tip: Tickets are nonrefundable (but transferable) and are released monthly — purchase tickets here.

    3416 19th St.; 415-874-9921

  • Photo by: Virginia Miller

    Quince

    Why It's Hot: Fresh off the heels of a summer-long closure, the mighty Quince reopened at the end of September with a complete remodel by local designer Douglas Durkin. Along with a renovated kitchen — now boasting a chef's counter — the revamped space includes two new private dining rooms, an intimate champagne bar and lounge, plus a warmer color scheme and romantic tone. In addition, chef Michael Tusk has launched several new menus, including two prix fixe dinners as well a salon option that offers à la carte dishes priced between $14 and $38 for walk-in guests (an early look at the new space and menus here).
    Must-Order: Caviar service or dishes from the caviar menu; any of Tusk's rightly famed pastas, like a recent fluffy ricotta gnudi with slivers of beets, Sicilian pistachio and horseradish.
    Insider Tip: Don't miss a pour of amaro or Maidera chosen from a cart post-dinner.

    470 Pacific Ave.; 415-775-8500

  • Photo by: Virginia Miller

    Loló Cevicheria

    Why It's Hot: When Loló relocated to a larger space on Valencia Street, Loló​'s owners took their months-vacant space and opened Loló​ Cevicheria, complete with vibrant, tropical-bird-tinged decor and a Mexico-meets-Peru food theme. It's now a mellower alternative to their bustling Loló​ around the corner. A few of the classic dishes are available at the Cevicheria, namely the taco tropical and tuna tacon, while the rest of the menu is a mix between Mexican and Peruvian dishes, the latter thanks to assistant general manager Roberto Bocanegra, whose mother shared her ceviche recipes.
    Must-Order: Tacos de chicharrón are heartwarming, made with fresh corn tortillas cradling slow-cooked pork belly in tart, roasted tomatillo salsa over mashed black beans. All three versions of causas — crab, shredded chicken and panko-crusted shrimp — each on a whipped mound of potatoes of different flavors and colors, are a Peruvian standout.
    Insider Tip: Don't miss agave wine "margarita slushies" in changing flavors like tamarind with a salt rim.

    3230 22nd St.; 415-913-7898

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Places Mentioned

Lolo Cevicheria

Mexican • The Mission

Food- Decor- Service- CostI
 
 
 
Urchin Bistrot

French • The Mission

Food- Decor- Service- CostM
 
 
 
Lazy Bear

New American • The Mission

Food- Decor- Service- CostE
 
 
 
Quince

Italian • Downtown

Food28 Decor27 Service26 Cost$247
 
 
 
Al's Place

Seafood • The Mission

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Mourad

Moroccan • SoMa

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Food- Decor- Service- CostM
 
 
 
Hawker Fare

Asian • The Mission

Food- Decor- Service- Cost 
 
 
 
The Progress

Californian • Fillmore District/Western Addition

Food- Decor- Service- CostE
 
 
 
 
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