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Foodie Updates: Verbena Debuts, 25 Lusk Plots a Mall Spinoff, and More

The bar at Verbena, now open on Polk. 

A flurry of food news arrives as we near the end of the year, and it all pertains to 2014. And while we haven't heard of any more new-year closings besides Bottle Cap, Andalu, and Fifth Floor, we're still watching and waiting. Sadly, 'tis the season for abrupt closings, as well as celebrations.

First up, some more details have emerged via the Chronicle with regard to Corey Lee's previously announced casual concept in Hayes Valley. The name will be Monsieur Benjamin (451 Gough Street), and Lee says it will be his and executive chef Jason Berthold's take on the modern French bistro, with a large menu, traditional bistro fare, and late-night dining. Lee took the name from a name he overheard while in Paris, and he feels like it embodies the combination of French and American influences that the restaurant will have. Berthold was previously executive chef at RN74, where he had been from its 2008 opening until earlier this year. [Chron]

Thursday marked the opening of Verbena (2323 Polk Street), the new West Bay spinoff of popular downtown Berkeley spot Gather. It opens in the space formerly occupied by Rex Cafe and briefly by Marbella, and the chef is the same as at Gather, Sean Baker. As Eater notes, Baker has created a menu that, like Gather's, is meant to appeal to vegans, vegetarians, and omnivores alike, with small plates like a pork trotter terrine with red and green padron peppers and apricot mustards; a dish of turnips and sunchokes with black trumpet mushrooms and red hummus; and a seafood sausage with mussels, radish, and split-pea miso sauce. Also, there's a solid cocktail program, and a wine list focusing on sustainable producers. It looks like they've done a bang-up job remodeling the space, adding some high, back-lit shelves of mason jars filled with brightly colored pickled vegetables, as well as some requisite reclaimed wood. They're open for dinner only, for now, but look for brunch to start in the spring. [Eater]

Twenty Five Lusk partners Matthew Dolan and Chad Bourdon are working on a spinoff on the fourth floor of the Westfield Centre, under the dome between M.Y. China and Straits. It will be a casual concept, likely focusing on lunch, and would be due to open, at the earliest, in late 2014. [Inside Scoop]

And in Mission pizzeria news, the acclaimed Pizzahacker Jason Krupman, who in addition to doing pop-ups with his hacked Weber Grill-based pizza oven consulted on the dough used at The Forge in Oakland, is finally opening his own spot. As Inside Scoop reports, Krupman is taking over the Inka's space at Mission and 29th and will ultimately open a spot named Pizzahacker there in the new year. It might be a while, though. Opening date: TBA. [Inside Scoop]