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Side Dish 

Wednesday, Jan 13 1999
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Splish Splash, Takin' a Bath
Rumor is that simultaneously flashy and soft-spoken Sam Conti is pulling out his money clip again.The founding partner of high-concept shops like Centerfolds (he got out before the table dancers fell into patrons' laps) and Coconut Grove (he got out before the all-you-can-eat-seniors'-buffet) is looking at the Capitol Grill space at Rincon Center. You may remember that you read it here first: The Grill was going down faster than Richard Branson's hot air balloon. And hey, Sam, howzabout a seminude all-aquatic Ziegfeld Follies 24-hour surf 'n' turf supper club? That one hasn't been tried here yet.

Make Mine Maki
Soy Toy 301, the Cal-Asian cousin of Boulder Concepts' Elroy's restaurant, never quite found its niche. It opened as a high-end dining room. That didn't really take off. So management decided to focus on the beverage end -- always a sign of low cash flow -- and jumped on the oh-so-hot (though it's good cold too) sake bandwagon.

But man cannot survive on rice wine alone. Besides, the whole Cal-Asian thing is a bit out of hand. A few spots really did it right -- Eos, Blowfish, and the Waterfront come to mind -- but the latecomers -- Shanghai 1930, Loongbar, and the aforementioned 301 -- may have bitten off more sesame seared ahi tuna than they could fit on a chopstick. So look for the new signage next time you tool down Folsom Street -- 301 is soon to become a sushi bar.

Oh, and here's a hint, guys: Hold a few less fund-raisers. You don't make squat if you give it away.

Mover ...
The old new Vanessi's space in the Gramercy Towers at California and Jones has an old new tenant. Don Figoni -- of the famous Figoni clan, and former proprietor of the lamented-though-not-really-gone Lefty O'Doul's -- is moving in. No word about a prime rib carving station yet.

... and Shaker
It was like one of those early morning tremors: It barely wakes you up, and you're not quite sure it really happened.

So even though it never actually opened, Harry got a riff off the name: Faultline Brewery, slated to load its hops into the Marina Central/Marina Joe's location. Sadly, the proposed pub never even made it onto the Richter scale. Couldn't settle on details of the lease, it seems ... San Francisco is not a renter's market.

Shore Leave
Restaurant work sucks. Yeah, you get free food and the occasional glass of wine, but what about the holidays? Normal people's days off are a restaurant worker's busiest, and that goes triple during the Christmas season. But while most owners are whipping their employees into a frenzy, trying vainly to catch sight of their year-end budget goals, a few loners are taking the high road -- the one out of town. James Moffat over at 42 Degrees has, for the past three years, made a tradition of closing down shop for two weeks over the holidays and heading to France. That's the best bonus any of his employees could ask for. Meanwhile, the Mecca crew hung out the closed sign for a three-day weekend so they could catch up on their sleep -- or their carousing, knowing those hellions. Harry remembers when Zuni used to close for a whole month. Guess those belts are getting tighter.

Dante's Waiting Room
Ali Monroe, the impresario behind the North Beach Jazz Fest, has done the booking for many a dining establishment: His tasty live music nights at Pier 23 first turned me on to the talents of the Blues Fuse. Well, Ali's introducing something new at the Velvet Lounge, called "Purgatory." I usually hate to wait around, especially for a hard-to-get table in Heaven, but if there are cold libations and groovy pulsations, Harry'll give it a whirl.

See you there next Tuesday.

By Harry Coverte

Know something Harry doesn't? E-mail Coverte@aol.com and sweep the dirt out from under the rug.

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Harry Coverte

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