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What's Up with Melissa Perello's New Restaurant?

This is the time of year when I start thinking about all the bests of the year—my favorite meals, the chefs I hope to see more of in the New Year, the best newcomers, restaurants I’m sad to see close. Melissa Perello is one of the young chefs I’m keeping my fingers crossed for in 2009. I finally got over to Sebo last Monday, where Perello’s been guest-cheffing periodically (her boyfriend, Danny Dunham, is one of Sebo’s chef-owners and was in the kitchen to help). The $45 four-course meal was a well-executed Cal-French mid-winter treat, featuring a caramelized scallop salad with celery root puree, kale-and-chanterelle risotto, and fork-tender Cabernet-braised pork cheeks. To finish, we enjoyed slivers of a chèvre tart with candied kumquats.

Of course, I had to ask the chef the obvious question—what of Frances, the restaurant (named for her grandmother) that she keeps promising to open? Well, it seems that Perello is a glass-half-full kind of girl. She’s waiting until after the New Year, because she knows (as we do, too, sadly) that many restaurants will likely be closing, so many more restaurant spaces will become available. She’s also prudent, waiting for exactly right space before she takes the plunge. I’ll be happy when she finally does open her own place, though I’ll miss the renegade spirit of these Monday night fixed-menu meals. In other words, get in while the getting is good—email monday_night@me.com for all of the dates in January when she'll be cooking up a storm as Sebo's guest.