The Dining Depression

The latest tidbits of restaurant news about Jardinière, Ozumo, and Eastside West

Denton Days Aren't Here AgainGone are the wild hook-up nights at Harry Denton's on Steuart Street, where the 6,000-square-foot dine-and-dance pickup joint once packed in the off-duty secretaries and suits. In its place is Ozumo, featuring contemporary Japanese cuisine, which has sprung into less lascivious action. Harry has a hunch this isn't just another sushi restaurant: Its new and more tranquil layout of stone, wood, and metal is backed by sweeping bay views as well as an Omakase-style menu (an eight-plate "chef's choice" that changes daily), robata (Japanese-style) charcoal grill, and sexy sake lounge. Harry also commends the restaurant's creators for designing a place to wait for a table that's not on the sidewalk (resulting in a fog-infused hairdo). The late set can enjoy dinner daily until midnight, while the business crowd can saunter in for lunch Monday through Friday.

Taking the TitleAfter two years as chef de cuisine at Jardinière, Douglas Keane has been promoted to executive chef -- but this doesn't mean Traci Des Jardins has left the building. She's still collaborating seasonally with Keane, and is also starting an employee management program with Director of Operations Larry Bain. Meanwhile, Fifth Floor sweetens its upscale offerings with new pastry chef Tim Grable. After teaching at the California Culinary Academy and Sur La Table, Grable recently returned with whisk in hand to the Floor, where he had been pastry consultant for the restaurant's opening. Harry thinks the proof of Grable's talents is in the butterscotch pudding (and suggests you taste for yourself). Up north, at St. Helena's Tra Vigne, Carmen Quagliata may have broken an industry record: He worked for founding chef Michael Chiarello for 10 yearsbefore stepping into the executive chef/partner role -- and into the new renovation of the 13-year-old kitchen.

Winds of Change Although Eastside West is the local sales leader for Fernet-Branca, Harry knew it wasn't hallucination brought on by the bitters liqueur that made him think he saw a raw bar at the Marina restaurant. In fact, the raw bar is still there, but somewhat hidden. Owner Scott Dammann and General Manager Michael Iglesias disassembled the crustacean counter that flanked the front lounge and moved it into the kitchen. "We just needed more room to accommodate our guests in the bar area, and since I felt I could make it work in the back of the house, my guests' comfort came first," says Dammann. On another front, despite rave reviews, the Richmond District's Nasturtium is a wilted flower as of June 9. Owners Alison and Michael Hart are closing after a year and half because, they say, business has dried up. The abrupt closure of Noe Valley's Cafe J was explained with a sign on the door that reads, "We are closed until further notice. We decided that we need a break." But one reader who had reserved tables for a large party in June informed Harry that a restaurant employee recently called to say it would not reopen. Is the dining depression about to begin?

 
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