With spring menus beginning to pop up at restaurants, it’s a great time to visit some of your favorite spots to see what the chefs have got up their sleeves. Case in point: Ame (689 Mission at Third St., in the St. Regis Hotel), whose new menu is chock-full of surprises. The brainchild of Hiro Sone and Lissa Doumani (of Terra fame), Ame has been snapping up critical acclaim since it opened in 2005, with a recent booster shot of national recognition in the form of a gushing Wall Street Journal column. But enough about the press — it’s food we want, and executive chef Greg Dunmore is happy to oblige. “We’re really proud of our new green-tea soba noodle dish,” he says. “It’s got sea urchin sauce, pickled wasabi leaves, and purple shiso.” He raves about an abalone dish: “We’re the only place in town doing it. We’ve got these baby abalones from Hawaii. They’re just beautiful. We’re sautéing them with shimeji mushrooms, asparagus, and sansho pepper sauce.”
With its enormous, adventurous, Japanese-drenched menu and an elegantly dramatic Zen-like interior to match — not to mention its dual role as a world-famous jazz venue — Yoshi’s SF (1330 Fillmore at Eddy) is larger than life, and shows no signs of flagging. SF Weekly’s Meredith Brody returned from a reconnaissance mission with hefty praise for Yoshi’s spin on the classic battera box-pressed sushi, presented with saba, gari shoga, and shaved bonito ($15). The shiso shrimp tempura ($15) and a selection of nine-vegetable tempura ($14) also garnered a big thumbs up. But dessert is the true star of the meal. Don’t miss the key lime mochi cake with yuzu lime curd, homemade marshmallows, roasted pineapple, and coconut sorbet ($8).
To many Chinese-food hounds across the Bay Area, dinner at San Francisco’s somewhat elusive Shanghai-styleJai Yun (680 Clay at Kearny) is nothing less than an adventure (it’s prix-fixe, with no printed menu), a challenge (it’s open three hours a day, by reservation only), and a notch on the belt, because it’s almost universally heralded for its refined, one-of-a-kind dishes. Monday, March 24, presents a unique opportunity to dine there — or come back for more — at the Chinese Banquet at Jai Yun Restaurant hosted by the American Institute of Wine and Food (AIWF) and featuring New York Times reporter Jennifer 8. Lee, author of The Fortune Cookie Chronicles, an exploration of the Chinese-American experience told through food. The banquet starts at 6:30 p.m. and costs $110 per person, $200 per couple. BYOB, no corkage fee. For reservations, call Book Passage at 927-0960, ext. 239 (ask for the AIWF discount).
For all you secular heathens out there who don’t know, Sunday, March 23, is Easter. Besides all the good church-going and egg-hunting activities, there are plenty of places in town to celebrate that other religious ceremony: Easter brunch. A few notables include the inaugural gospel brunch at Farmerbrown’s (25 Mason at Market), which promises an all-you-can-eat buffet and live entertainment. For something a little more extravagant, Bushi-Tei (1638 Post at Laguna) is offering an expanded brunch menu, including a poached quail egg and smoked-chicken salad as well as a cocotte of organic egg, spinach, and mushroom duxelle with creamy potato. Follow all that with a honey-custard cake. Eat, drink, and repent!
This Tuesday, March 25, the master mixologists at the Alembic Bar (1725 Haight at Cole) are hitting the bottle for round two of their successful Savoy Cocktail Night, held the last Tuesday of every month. Based on the famous 1930 Savoy Cocktail Book, the idea is for customers to do their damnedest to confound Alembic barkeeps by requesting any of the book’s 750 recipes, from classic to downright strange. Meanwhile, the bartenders have been hard at work re-creating these drinks behind the scenes, so give it your best shot.
It's time again to make the rounds of new joints, starting in the Inner Richmond at the newly revamped French eatery Clementine (126 Clement at Second Ave.). Next, we’re off to the Castro’s addition to French bistro cuisine, L’Ardoise (151 Noe at Henry). Rounding out our French threesome (not that kind, perv) is Nob Hill’s Le Club (1250 Jones at Clay), where opulent decor, classic dishes, and cocktails are the name of the game.