Top New Openings of the Month: January 2019

In my latest Time Out column, my top openings of the month join other standout newcomers for a top 15 on where to eat now (article here).

Merchant Roots’ Fire course in the Elements dinner: a delicious dry-aged ribeye, sunchoke coals, red wine reduction, horseradish cream and leek ash
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Merchant Roots’ Water course: jasmine lychee clarification, aloe

Table at Merchant Roots — 5 stars

1365 Fillmore St., 530-574-7365. Dinners Thursday-Saturday nights at one communal table here.

Merchant Roots grocery/cafe opened May 2018 but the excitement has just begun with the January 2019 launch of their tasting menu-only Table at Merchant Roots. The intimate, 8-seat only table takes over the shop after-hours, feeling like a private dinner party with partners Madison Michael and chef Ryan Shelton, festive and inviting with wine pairings from their thoughtful shop selection. It’s also one of the most exciting new tasting menus in town where dishes in Elements menu (themes change quarterly) represent earth, fire, stars or in the case of salt, is a nori-buttered octopus, fluffy squid ink bread and cured trout roe on a custom plate oozing dashi bubbles from a volcano opening. You haven’t seen anything like this yet.

Palio’s pesto gnocchi
Palio’s Siciliana pizza: pork fennel sausage, red peppers, red onions, San Marzano tomato sauce, caciocavallo cheese

Palio — 4 stars
640 Sacramento St.; 415-395-9800. Monday-Friday 11:30am-9:30pm; Saturday 5:30-9:30pm.

Palio D’Asti, a FiDi staple since 1990, closed for a whole half year in 2018, recently reborn as Palio. The spacious, industrial dining room is completely revamped, warmed by a dramatic center bar and artwork in bold reds and blacks. Pasta-making station and pizza oven are in full view of diners filling up on handmade pastas (try the wild boar ragu) and pizzas, alongside Matt Grippo and Shirley Brooks’ (Bottom of the Barrel cocktail consulting) quality aperitivo cocktails. Save room for a dessert of classic cannoli.

Breadbelly’s kaya toast

Breadbelly — 5 stars
1408 Clement St.; 415-395-9800. Monday, Thursday Friday 7am-4pm; Saturday-Sunday 8am-4pm.

Imagine the quality of a Tartine Bakery with Asian ingredients. Clement Hsu, Katherine Campecino and James Wong’s (who all met working in the kitchen at Atelier Crenn) new Breadbelly is just such a place — and lucky Inner Richmond gets it. They range from Filipino influences (a ham-and-cheese ensaymada) to must-order Malaysian kaya toast (one of our top dishes now). Don’t miss their killer char siu sandwich on milk toast if you see it on the short, rotating menu.

Pizzeria Delfina Downtown — 3 stars
688 Mission St.; 415-286-9426. Monday, Thursday Friday 7am-4pm; Saturday-Sunday 8am-4pm.

You may not think we needed another Pizzeria Delfina, but the legendary local chain has not yet had a downtown spot and this Mission Street locale is not only convenient for nearby workers, shoppers and museum-goers, but is the is the loftiest, sunniest Delfina yet, with plenty of counter and outdoor seating space. You could always do pizza, but standouts are their seasonal salads and vegetable dishes as well as pork-beef-veal meatballs in a robust tomato sauce.

Merchant Roots’ “Salt” course of nori-buttered octopus, charcoal lava rock (squid ink bread), cured trout roe, dashi bubbles