Restaurants & Bars
So the other day I went to check out Hukilau, that rather nondescript yet somehow noticeable little restaurant on the corner at the big intersection of Masonic and Geary. I'd been wondering about it for a long time and, as one of its bartenders, Kimmie, has come into Cantina (where I sometimes tend bar), I decided to see what it was all about.
While wandering through Japantown in search of big ice cubes for an upcoming 7x7 column, a friend and I found ourselves in Ikkyu, a lovely little room on the ground floor of the easternmost building of the Japan Center. An oddly festive place, it wasn't open when we first stopped by, so we returned after 7 p.m., and it was open, though mostly empty. This was a good thing, as it allowed us to chat with Kako, the spirited owner, who had come over from Japan to take over the bar (which, it turned out, had been previously owned by a man with a big ice cube machine … must have taken it with him when he left).
I hadn't been to a true happy hour in years, but the other day I stumbled into the one at O Izakaya. Beers, well sake and well drinks were each $3, which seemed like a pretty good deal (I drank Sapporo). What was a great turn on, though, was the food, priced on a special happy-hour $5 list. We sampled the seaweed salad, ultra-fresh hamachi and the tempura/beer-battered onion rings and loved all of it.
This question came up while I was lucky enough to be having dinner with Rajat Parr at his house. Rajat is the wine director for the metastasizing Michael Mina Group, which seems to have a new restaurant going up somewhere in the world about every 15 seconds. Known as a miraculous blind taster and to have a deeply knowledgeable mind about wine, Rajat--and this is unknown to many--is also a world-class chef who graduated from the CIA in Hyde Park before deciding to devote his life to pairing food with wine instead of cooking it.
Going through airports is as bad as it’s ever been. I don't mind taking off my shoes in security--it's the belt that's annoying. One thing that's made flying better, however, is the appearance of local food and beverage vendors in the terminals. I noted this trend a decade ago in my native Austin, TX, as its then-new airport sported such local favorites as Matt's Famous El Rancho (Tex-Mex), Schlotzsky's (sandwiches) and the ever-popular Salt Lick BBQ, whose airport location is closer to the original restaurant (and its pit) than downtown Austin is, so you know the meat is fresh.
San Francisco bartenders were treated to a unique experience a couple of weeks ago: the first (that we know of) SF historical cocktail tour. It was sponsored by Plymouth Gin and Simon Ford (the brand's ambassador; below, at left) and conducted by Dave Wondrich (below, right), the undisputed authority on American cocktail history and author of Imbibe.