Dish dropped by a to-remain-unnamed SOMA restaurant last week and found a waiter badly in need of some training. Not that he wasn't trying, but his puppy-dog eagerness to please wore a bit thin after he returned for the fourth time to ask if everything was OK. And he was clueless about the food preparation. (A simple question about the presence of curry powder in the chicken required a consultation with the chef.) Some would say there's no such thing as a professional waiter, that they're all wannabe actors or novelists or software titans. Dish begs to differ. There are restaurants in town that train their staff beautifully … Flying Saucer and Laghi come to mind. In addition to in-restaurant training, for those who can shell out $25,000 for the 16-month course of study at the California Culinary Academy, the curriculum includes three courses for waiters-in-training: introduction to table service, advanced table service, and classical table service. City College also has waitstaff training as part of its two-year hotel and restaurant department program. The cost is $650 for students without a B.A.; $2,500 for those with a college degree.
Bill Kimpton added another jewel to his crown last month with the opening of the Grand Cafe at Geary and Taylor. That brings to 16 the number of Kimpton restaurants in the city (among them Masa's, Postrio, and Scala's), most of them attached to hotels he also owns. The Grand Cafe is located next to Kimpton's new Hotel Monaco, formerly the Bellevue. The Grand Cafe, in the Bellevue's old ballroom, is drop-dead stunning: 30-foot-high ceiling, art nouveau and deco touches everywhere, dramatic tiered chandeliers. And the first tastes were very encouraging: truffled ricotta gnocchi on warm spinach ($6.95) to start, and grilled Delmonico steak poivre vert with pommes frites ($16.95).
What a Mess
They're burying all the power lines out on Sacramento Street in Presidio Heights, which will ultimately be a big plus for the tony neighborhood. At the moment, however, the scarcity of parking (a big problem even pre-construction) and constant drilling are making life miserable for lots of local businesses, including area restaurants. John Hurley of Garibaldi's on Presidio says lunch business has really suffered during the past two months. And Robert Merryman of Ella's says he got really steamed watching city workers drive their private vehicles into “no parking” spaces. Not only that, adds Merryman, but parking spaces were cordoned off even during weeks when no work was taking place.
By Barbara Lane