Ten Restaurants We're Still Mourning
By Jonathan Kauffman
With the great scything-down of 2008 well past us, San Francisco's restaurant industry sent up hundreds of new blooms in 2010, some of them quite brilliant. Yet competition, normal restaurant-world pressures, and the lingering malaise afflicting the economy killed off a number of significant restaurants in 2010. Here are 10 that still hurt.
1. 1550 Hyde. SF Weekly called this Russian Hill wine bar and bistro a charming blend of Paris and classic San Francisco when it opened in 2004.
2. Bacar. "Bacar isn't just a restaurant; it's an extravaganza," SF Weekly wrote in 2001; the restaurant changed directions rather radically after that, but the epic scale of the place remained.
3. Bruno's. The Mission bar hasn't closed, but after contracting out food service to Katharine Zacher and Ryan Ostler for a spell, it stopped serving dinner (again). Dammit, this one hurt bad.
4. Le Cheval. How could a successful, much-loved Vietnamese restaurant, one of the anchors of the downtown Oakland food scene, close down? We wish the owners luck finding a new location.
5. Locanda da Eva. SFoodie editor John Birdsall praised this South Berkeley restaurant for "tweaking the Cal-Ital formula in interesting ways." However, it closed after only five months.
6. Mi Lindo Yucatan. San Francisco's second-most successful Yucatecan restaurant to date (the first being Tommy's in the Richmond), Mi Lindo Yucatan opened in 2004, spawned a Noe Valley branch, and then folded.
7. Mission Burger. SFoodie loved Danny Bowien's burger stand in the Duc Loi Market. Loved it lots. Then Bowien moved on to start up Mission Chinese Food with Anthony Myint. We all seem to have moved on.
8. Poleng Lounge. When this pan-Asian supperclub closed in January, co-owner Desi Danganan told SFoodie, "We inadvertently became the standard-bearers of Filipino cuisine." Chef Tim Luym moved on to be the opening chef at San Mateo's the Attic, while Danganan opened the Summit this fall in the Mission.
9. RNM. "It's been a while since a restaurant made as dazzling a first impression on me," Weekly critic Greg Hugunin wrote in 2002, just after Justine Miner's Lower Haight bistro opened.
10. Roland's Bakery. Philip Roland's bagels were amazing. But the Lower Haight bakery closed after only six months. Where are you, Roland?
EAT THIS: Dumpling Kitchen's XLB
By Jonathan Kauffman
Located near Kingdom of Dumpling in the Outer Sunset, Rebecca Yu's Dumpling Kitchen is only a few months old. It serves a simple menu of dumplings, noodles, home-style Shanghai dishes, and xiaolongbao (XLB), Shanghai-style soup dumplings. What drew me in recently were the ridiculous prices.
Yu brought on dumpling chef Hong Kuang, a veteran of Koi Palace and Shanghai Dumpling King. His XLB (item No. 1 on the menu, listed on the menu as "Shanghai-style steamed pork dumplings," $6 for 10) are easy to like. The wrappers are stupendous — thinner and silkier than SDK's and never gummy — and the forcemeat inside is nicely seasoned. I dipped each dumpling in a bowl of sweet, gingery vinegar; nibbled a hole in the side; and sucked out a good half-teaspoon of juice and fat. The juice wasn't as robustly flavored as the dumplings at Kuang's previous employers, but $6 for 10 soup dumplings, in a restaurant with no line — not bad!
Dumpling Kitchen: 1935 Taraval (at 30th Ave.), 682-8938. Open for lunch and dinner Thu.-Tue.