Fresh Eats

The Muscle Behind Masa's

Movers and ShakersExecutive Chef Ron Siegel skipped out on Charles Nob Hill to reopen Masa's, which just underwent a makeover from famed designer Orlando Diaz-Azcuy, who also designed glamour spots the Quail Lodge in Carmel and the Peninsula Hotel in Hong Kong. Word is part of Siegel's package was a custom-designed kitchen built to his requirements. But flexing culinary muscle is nothing new to the 34-year-old chef: Previously, he snatched the title at Japan's "Iron Chef" competition, an international event wherein top cooks are given random ingredients and asked to create culinary masterpieces out of them -- within a minuscule time frame. Still, he's not strong-arming the vibe of the veteran romantic restaurant. Siegel and Maitre d'Hotel Michael Judge are on board with the vision of original Masa's chef Masataka Kobayashi, which Siegel says is "to provide a truly amazing dining experience where contemporary French food, gracious service, and an elegant setting are all in sync." On a recent visit, Harry was impressed with the tasting menu -- and with the new interi-or, though it is slightly reminiscent of N.Y./L.A. hot spot Asia de Cuba. (The Guibara centerpiece sculpture of three women isn't bad, either.) Harry hopes that, as in the good old days, there's still room at Masa's to slip into the bar before closing on Saturday nights for an a la carte dessert.

Speaking of slipping, chef James Ormsby may have misstepped when he left Bruno's and stumbled through a short-lived stint at Red Herring. But Harry expects he'll stand tall with his return to the groovy Mission District dining room, which Ormsby had reopened to great acclaim after its renovation three years ago. Harry stopped by Bruno's in early February to find Ormsby re-creating the signature dishes that put the place on the culinary map.

Batter UpJust when we were ready to write off Second Street's Paragon as a modernized version of the original Marina District singles spot, they go and try to improve the menu. Spencer O'Meara (Scala's and Philadelphia's Striped Bass) has been brought in to head up the American Brasserie menu, which has been burned by a low public opinion since the restaurant's opening a year ago. Could Paragon be making a play for some of MoMo's business, which includes lines down the block during baseball season and a loyal cocktail crowd? With a cramped cocktail area and a tiny patio, it's no wonder Paragon is making a pitch for better food.

Big Red Want to know what a 27-liter bottle of wine looks like? Stop by Restaurant LuLu, which is showcasing the gigantic jug given to LuLu's wine buyer, Booth McKinney. One of only three of its kind in the United States, the bottle was a thank you gift from South African winery Rust en Vrede for introducing customers to the wines of the Southern Hemisphere.

Fuzz and Buzz Harry felt much safer at Bix last week: While he was dining downstairs, in came three members of the Secret Service, one of whom checked out the scene before escorting Chelsea Clinton and three girlfriends to an upstairs booth. Bix staff and clientele were nonchalant; hey, this happens all the time in San Francisco.

 
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