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Carolyn Alburger | Photo: Courtesy of MKT, A16 and Trace at the W Hotel | May 21, 2013
A first look at menus for MKT and Roka Akor, A16 number three nears, and more news and scuttlebut from the Bay Area food scene.
The Four Seasons San Francisco is about two weeks away from reopening its restaurant as MKT (pronounced em-kay-tee), a much needed update from its now-closed Seasons. New York’s AvroKO helped come up with the idea and design, and as you can see over on Inside Scoop, it hinges on oodles of bar seating, a large lounge, and communal tables. So, yes, much more hip and happenin’. Executive chef Mark Richardson adds that they are “getting away from the stuffiness of a hotel restaurant.” The white tablecloths are out, wood tabletops are in, and the menu consists mostly of "communal plates" with global influences.
Last week, Richardson and his staff did a menu test run, and shared a lot of pretty pictures and dish descriptions with San Francisco. He’s especially excited to bring in a range of cultural influences. His Korean banquet chef, Jenny Kim, came up with the mussels with kimchee consomme and pork belly ($14), while his own Kentucky roots play out in fried green tomatoes with smoked tomato remoulade ($10), and a barbecue pork short rib served with Brentwood corn ($16/25). The same casual menu will be served in the bar and dining room. Prices range from $7 for sides like curried roasted cauliflower, to $22 for wild king salmon with warm bacon-potato salad and grilled apricots, to $56 for a 10 oz. Five Dot Ranch prime bone-in New York Strip from the "Meat Locker."
Of course, there’s a modern bar program to go along with all of this. They’re making ginger beer, tonic water and bitters on the premises for use in classic cocktails, punch (served in vintage bowls), and “100 mile cocktails” created with a locavore’s mentality. MKT will open on June 3. Until then, you can ogle several of the dishes above.
Japanese in Jackson Square
About a month ago, we shared news that Roka Akor (801 Montgomery Street) brought on local bar master Daniel Hyatt to oversee their booze program. Sources say he’s been told to do “whatever he wants,” which will translate into lots of whisky cocktails and infused shochu.
Since Roka Akor has outposts in Scottsdale and Chicago, the menu will largely resemble what’s happening elsewhere, but executive chef Roman Petry has a few tricks planned for San Francisco—namely making things a touch less steak-heavy and more seasonal. Just today, Petry spilled the beans on a few dishes he’s planning to add: a hot appetizer of robata-grilled shishito peppers with ponzu and bonito flakes, a robata grilled Japanese grade A5+ Wagyu steak from the Saga Prefecture served with artesian salts, and robata-grilled octopus with white asparagus, cucumber and XO sauce. You can check out the full Chicago menu here, to get an idea how all of this will play out. There are little hot plates, soups, cold plates and grilled meats, but Roka Akor’s sushi program has also received accolades all over the country, so it too will be worth looking into when Roka Akor opens in late June.
The decor a la Arcanum Architecture should be a stunner, complete with a 20-foot Monterey Cypress wood bridge that leads from the new entryway into the subterranean bar. The bridge is wrapped with glass guardrails and light poplar slats on one side, giving a "filtered view" into the main dining room as you walk along it.
A16 already has two very successful locations: one in the Marina District and one in Mitsubishi's Marunouchi Park Building in Tokyo. Now they are getting very close to opening number three in Rockridge at 5356 College Ave. Owner Shelley Lindgren, says they’ll open on May 30. This location will also have a VPN-certified pizzaiolo, and an open kitchen. Unlike the SF location, it will also have a full liquor license. Follow A16 Rockrodge on its brand-new Instagram account, and Facebook.
Just a few blocks away, Toast Kitchen + Wine Bar (5900 College Avenue) is expanding into the space next door. They’ll add a gas range and a deep-frier to the kitchen, and create a much larger new dining room. This means chef Rebecca Boice can add house-made jams, pickles, grilled fish, more pastas, and items like fritto misto and deep-fried asparagus to the menu—among other things, I’m sure. There is also talk of a beefier bar program, including a large selection of American whiskys. The current Toast will become a cocktail lounge with a full bar and its own bar snack menu. Meanwhile, the new dining room will seat forty people, many of them in booths that have been repurposed from Fog City Diner (which is in revamp mode). The plan is to wrap up the Toast expansion by May 28.
One Last Thing
Trace at the W Hotel just started up a new happy hour….for brunch. Every Saturday and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. an unusually affordable menu of brunch goodness is offered: $5 mimosas, $7 bloody marys garnished with pork belly and pickles, and $9 “soup of the day” (Bulleit on the rocks with one draft beer). Food options include a $4 “big biscuit” served with sea salt butter and rooftop honey (See image above to get an idea just how honkin’ huge this is.), a $5 chicken and waffle slider, an $8 “crepezilla” (see above), and $8 for bottomless candied bacon. Sounds like a great prelude for a visit to SFMOMA, next door, right? Or is that an awful idea? You decide.