This article was first published here at Table8 where I am national editor.
The key restaurant and bar openings of August are Buffalo Theory, Barzotto, Bon, Nene, Nightbird, Tartine Manufactory, Limewood Bar & Restaurant in Berkeley. Ill be visiting Nightbird soon and Tartine, being the bakery that changed the US baking game, is certainly a special opening with their new bakery/cafe/bread temple.
Barzotto and Bon, Nene are both delightful new neighborhood restaurants: casual, welcoming, offering quality and warmth on two different sides of the Mission. But there is a standout this month… and heres why.
BUFFALO THEORY, Russian Hill
Cliff Clavin once said in Cheers: A herd of buffalo can only move as fast as the slowest buffalo… In much the same way, the human brain can only operate as fast as the slowest brain cells. Excessive intake of alcohol, as we all know, kills brain cells, but naturally it attacks the slowest and weakest brain cells first. In this way, regular consumption of beer eliminates the weaker brain cells, making the brain a faster and more efficient machine!
Or so the premise of newcomer Buffalo Theory (open August 8th) goes. The craft beer-focused restaurant and bar located in Russian Hill is a beer lovers destination with 30 craft beers on tap (15 rotating, 15 house staples, including 2 nitro beers and 2 wines), already drawing beer drinking crowds in opening weeks. But the TVs and beer hall vibe threaten to mask the strength of executive chef Tim Luyms (who impressed me years back at Poleng Lounge) Asian-inspired pub fare, pulling influence from the Philippines to Japan, Italy to Ireland.
Who: Whether or not you appreciate the lofty, TV-heavy space, the gracious team of owner Ted Kim (who also owns Steins Beer Garden & Restaurant in Mountain View), GM Hal Russek (formerly Abbots Cellar, Fenix, Roka Akor), owners Quinn Wong and Gil Hoh (Hoh is a historian who has collected photos of the neighborhood through the decades, lining the back wall) all instill a friendly, welcoming vibe and they truly know and love craft beer.
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Eat This: After two visits, tasting basically the entire menu, there are numerous memorable dishes, including grilled meats that arent tired or typical as they may read, whether juicy BBQ pork belly ($11) tenderized in Sprite, soy and sugar or Yakiniku shortrib (thinly-sliced marble beef) in crushed sesame, brightened by kalamansi limes. And, yes, the Korean chuck and bison burger ($15) is killer.
But Lyum especially shines in his inspired fusing of cuisines, whether playful aran-chino aka Chinese arancini ($6.50 for 2), a twist on the Italian fried rice balls, here packed with short grain sticky rice, mushroom, shrimp, lap cheong Chinese sausage and dipped in XO (dried scallop, chili oil) aioli, or buffalo meatballs (3 for $8) that surprise with kaffir lime-laced tomato sauce and fried Thai basil leaves, imparting a playful Asian slant to Italian dishes. Sheer comfort and inventiveness come together in his beef braised shortrib shepherds pie ($14), a melange of Japanese curry and English peas with a Japanese yam and potato mash on top. Its a hearty meeting of Japan and Ireland.
Drink This: Obviously, its all about the beer. There are draft staples from local Almanac Beer Co. to Japans Hitachino Nest Beer, while flights are served in custom library card catalog drawers in keeping with the brain cells smart factor. But those 15 rotating taps hold a range of gems and rarities, often one-offs or special projects from beloved breweries. Recent joys included the hefty, dark sour red ale, Allagash Nancy ($11 for 10 oz.), a bright, tart Modern Times Passionfruit Guava Fruitlands Gose ($8 for 10 oz) or a smooth, nitro Altamont Blood Orange Undersized IPA ($7 for 13 oz.).