Mid-Week Menu: Chez Panisse Rebuilds, a New Owner for Ann’s Kitchen, and the Best Food Neighborhood in Oakland

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Welcome to the Mid-Week Menu, our weekly roundup of East Bay food news.

1) As reported earlier, a fire broke out at Chez Panisse (1517 Shattuck Ave.) early Friday morning, causing significant damage to the restaurant’s front porch, which is part of the downstairs dining room. According to Berkeleyside, Berkeley firefighters believe the fire started in the eight-by-twelve-foot area underneath the porch — although it appears likely that the cause of the fire was electrical in nature, as of this posting the case is still under investigation. Owner Alice Waters had originally estimated that the upstairs cafe section of the restaurant would be able to open in a little over a week — by March 23 — but that appears to have been pushed back until at least March 30, the Contra Costa Times reports. No timetable has been set for reopening the more formal downstairs dining room, which took the brunt of the damage.

2) This Saturday, from noon to 5 p.m., former-Express-critic-turned-artisan-food-market-organizer Jesse Hirsch will host his second New Taste Marketplace (500 De Haro St., San Francisco). A full slate of 35 vendors will be on hand to hawk everything from smoked brisket to small-batch salsa to gluten-free cupcakes. As was the case with Hirsch’s earlier holiday market, there will be a sizable contingent of East Bay chefs and food artisans on hand: chef Jesse Branstetter of Alameda’s Cafe Q, I Love Stroopies (maker of stroopwafels, a Dutch treat), Green and Go Meals (purveyor of portable salads), Santipapas (creator of the aforementioned salsa), Karinto Krisps (for a Japanese-inspired snack), and Barbarian Gourmet (an Oakland-based caterer).

Joshu-yas Jason Kwon (via Facebook)
  • Joshu-ya's Jason Kwon (via Facebook)
3) As reported yesterday, Jason Kwon, chef-owner of Berkeley’s Joshu-ya Brasserie, has taken over Ann’s Kitchen (2498 Telegraph Ave.). He plans to reopen the restaurant as the Bleecker Street Bistro sometime this summer. The exact concept is still in the works, but general plan is for something casual and “community-based” — not fine dining.

In the meantime, Kwon is writing a cookbook memoir, which will be in the same vein as Anthony Bourdain’s Kitchen Confidential or David Chang’s Momofuku cookbook, except from the perspective of a small business owner. Working title? F’n Animal in the Kitchen. He expects the book to be published around October.

4) Eater SF has an update on Tribune Tavern (409 13th St.), the latest restaurant project from Chop Bar’s Chris Pastena and Grand Tavern’s Temoor Noor, located on the first floor of downtown Oakland's iconic Tribune Tower. The ownership team has announced a new targeted opening date: April 10. Huw Thornton (who most recently cooked at the short-lived Locanda de Eva) will helm the kitchen.

5) We noted, in a previous edition of the Mid-Week Menu, that Bocanova (55 Webster St.) recently lost its executive chef, John Ledbetter. The Jack London Square restaurant has now named Ledbetter’s replacement: John Jackson, whose recent gigs include serving as executive chef at Michael’s in Redwood City and also at The Toll House, a luxury hotel in Los Gatos.

6) Last week, we pointed you toward Tablehopper’s scoop on Next Door Restaurant (3290 Adeline St.), a comfort food eatery coming to the old Addie’s Pizza Pie space in Berkeley. Well, it turns out the new venture isn’t without its share of controversy: Diablo Dish identified the owner as the embattled San Francisco Housing Authority director Henry Alvarez, who is currently on medical leave. That initial Diablo Dish report caused a firestorm among San Francisco city officials, who up until that point had been unaware of Alvarez’s restaurant venture and questioned whether setting up a new business was an appropriate use of paid leave time, according to a follow-up story in The Chronicle.

Soleil Banguid (right) and his wife TJ, circa 2010 (via Facebook).
  • Soleil Banguid (right) and his wife TJ, circa 2010 (via Facebook).
7) Very sad news out of Alameda: Chef Soleil Banguid of Soleil’s African Cuisine — which I reviewed over the summer, and loved — passed away last week after suffering a severe stroke. He was only 45. The Alamedan has posted a nice remembrance. If there’s a public memorial service or formal fundraiser to benefit Banguid’s family, I’ll pass along the details.

8) There’s an interesting discussion on Chowhound right now about which neighborhood in Oakland is the best in terms of food and restaurants. Is it Temescal, with its vibrant mix of high and low? Uptown with its hipster cafes and ambitious gastropubs? Rockridge with its sudden influx of big-name restaurateurs? One of the lesser-known ’hoods? As one poster put it, “Frankly, it’s all good and we’re lucky.” That said, go ahead and cast a vote in the poll below or leave a comment making your case.

9) Finally, in case you missed it, check out this week’s batch of What the Fork posts: a preview of Kingston 11 (a Jamaican restaurant coming soon to Uptown Oakland) and a look at INNA Jam’s new line of shrubs.

Got tips or suggestions? Email me at Luke (dot) Tsai (at) EastBayExpress (dot) com. Otherwise, keep in touch by following me on Twitter @theluketsai, or simply by posting a comment. I'll read ‘em all.

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