10 NEW JANUARY OPENINGS: Which Ones To Visit… and Why

This article was first published here at Table8 where I am national editor.

The year has been off to an intense start in the ever-dynamic Bay Area. There have been no less than a few openings a week, many of note, some downright exciting. The 10 most notable openings of January are: Volta, Nojo Ramen Tavern, Teleferic Barcelona in Walnut Creek, Cadence, Bywater, Black Bark BBQ, Okane, The Perennial, Fiorella,and Leo’s Oyster Bar. All 10 are worth visiting but here are the top 5 and why they stand out.

The Perennial's buckwheat financier

The Perennial’s buckwheat financier

1. The Perennial, SF

The Perennial's gnocchi

The Perennial’s gnocchi

Opening January 20, the long-awaited Perennial has been worth the wait. It’s forward-thinking, unparalleled eco-conscious format focuses on everything from the bar program to aquaponics, garnering national and local press well before it opened, making you wish ALL restaurants lived by such practices.

Why You Should Visit: Thanks to head chef Chris Kiyuna — with chefs Richard Lee & Nicola Carey — the food is also delicious and shockingly affordable for the quality (generally $11-12 for starters and topping out around $23 for entrees). Carey’s desserts wow, like a buckwheat financier, rolled up like a thick crepe, filled with parsnip ice cream and accents of fresh winter citrus. In addition, Small Hand Foods & The Interval’s Jennifer Colliau has created a unique cocktail program heavy on lowballs and highballs — and water conservation-savvy with no ice cube machine.

hand-cut fettuccine, turnip beurre fondue persillade, rye bread crumbs, dill

Cadence’s hand-cut fettuccine in turnip beurre fondue persillade with rye bread crumbs and dill

2. Cadence, SF

Cadence soup amuse bouche

Cadence soup amuse bouche

Opened January 13 with ticketed prix fixe dinners ($49 each) or a la carte menus available for walk-ins, Cadence’s unusually-designed, spacious dining room is big enough to accommodate all of the above.

Why You Should Visit:  At four courses plus an amuse bouche, chef Joey Elenterio‘s menus are a STEAL. He’s doing fine dining quality with artful precision and deliciousness that exceeds other menus in this price range. While there was not a slouch on either the meat/seafood or vegetarian tasting menu, Elenterio’s pastas immediately delight, especially plump rabbit agnolotti in roasted garlic jus and celery root milk dotted with apple oil, over smoky brussels sprouts leaves.



3. The Bywater, Los Gatos

Gulf Coast Louisiana crab toast with hollandaise marked by asparagus on house levain

Gulf Coast Louisiana crab toast with hollandaise marked by asparagus on house levain

The fact that this is a casual, New Orleans-centric restaurant from 3 Michelin-starred Manresa chef/owner David Kinch and Partner Andrew Burnham (just opened January 12) makes The Bywater a major Bay Area opening in the laid back-chic Silicon Valley town of Los Gatos. But there are a number of draws to the festive restaurant that is drawing daily lines and waits (with no reservations, a just-launched lunch on 2/6 offers more dining times).

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Leo's Oyster Bar

Leo’s Oyster Bar

4. Leo’s Oyster Bar

Leo's Oyster Bar beet blini with caviar

Leo’s Oyster Bar beet blini with caviar

With a 1930’s-40’s romance, from pink and green foliage wallpaper to vintage table and glassware, Leo’s Oyster Bar opened 1/28 in FiDi, recalling elements of NY’s ZZ Clam Bar or The Happiest Hour’s ode to the Beverly Hills Hotel.

Why You Should Visit: Intimate and noisy though it is, the romance of the space screams “date night”, while the servers do their best to ease cramped quarters. Though portions are small and prices add up quickly, there are downright exquisite tastes on the inspired seafood menu, paired well with tropical cocktails, especially Mendocino sea urchin toast layered with soy and cultured uni butter or oestra caviar and creme fraiche on a blini-esque truffled beet pancake.

Fiorella's clam pie

Fiorella’s clam pie

5. Fiorella, SF

Fiorella's Bay Area-themed wallpaper

Fiorella’s Bay Area-themed wallpaper

There is no end to excellent Neapolitan pizza (or excellent pizza. Period.) in SF but the Outer Richmond is a neighborhood with few options other than longtime great, the pioneering Pizzetta 211. Fiorella opened on 1/25 turning out wood-fired Neapolitan pies, antipasti and an Italian-centric wine list in a buzzy space with Victoriana-inspired wallpaper sporting drawings of Bay Area locals like Alice Waters and rapper E-40.

Why You Should Visit: But for those not in the neighborhood, there is a specific reason to cross town: New Haven pies. Hailing from New Haven, Connecticut, this popular style of pizza (“apizza” to CT natives) is purist tomato sauce, shaved pecorino and oregano on a classic New Haven pie, served here, with crust akin to but a bit thicker than NY pizza. Another CT classic is a clam pie, here an excellent version with chopped, fresh clams, a little heat from chilies, brightened by a generous squeeze of lemon.

Okane's salmon chazuke

Okane’s salmon chazuke

6. Okane, SF

Okane maki

Okane maki

Okane opened this month from the owners of neighboring Michelin-starred Omakase. With a strong sushi selection, it’s also a modern Japanese izakaya complete with choice bottles of sake, friendly service and a playful, ‘90’s hip-hop soundtrack.

Why You Should Visit: This is an elevated izakaya, casual and drink-centric as an izakaya should be, but with high quality food, whether sushi featuring fish flown in from Tokyo’s Tsukiji Fish Market, or dishes like chawanmushi with a jidori egg, a silky sake lees-cured Alaskan cod and comforting salmon chazuke (green tea dashi poured over cooked rice), topped with nori and salmon roe.