These restaurants have been around for a while and are better than ever, with new changes and reasons to visit.
Nightbird, Hayes Valley
Recently launching her newest seasonal menu, chef Kim Alter confirms why she remains a truly gifted fine dining chef. Nightbird’s vibe is relaxed and the crowd made up of insider industry, while her tasting menus are exquisitely marked by Parker house rolls in miso butter, yuba skin puree with white truffles or a Hokkaido scallop layered in paper-thin matsutake mushrooms over turnip puree with pickled baby spruce tips.
Pabu, Financial District
Chef Ken Tominaga’s pristine nigiri (sushi) tasting menus at Pabu remain a draw, as does Stuart Morris’ stellar sake selection—one of the best in the country from a rare master of sake. Morris just released a special house sake he worked on in Japan himself with Shindo Sake Brewery. Full of fruit and subtle hazelnut notes, its rounded goodness and a bowl of chilled somen noodles topped with Santa Barbara uni, caviar, quail egg and citrus rind can brighten up any night.
Foxsister, Mission District
Foxsister, one of my top 12 new restaurants of the year last year, just completely revamped the menu. The restaurant still operates with heavy Korean influence—and thankfully offer that stellar bulgogi pork as a weekly special—but chef/owner Brandon Kirksey now travels across Asia with his new housemade noodle menu. Journey from China—with savory-sweet Sichuan short rib egg noodles—to Thailand with squid ink "bow-Thai" noodles laden with Monterey squid, tamarind, garlic and peanuts. Anna Twee Nguyen, previously from Liholiho Yacht Club, Robin also just came on board bringing her sake expertise—heavy on offerings from female sake brewers—alongside thoughtful, fun wines.
Corridor, Civic Center/Mid-Market
Since opening in 2016 from the always quality Hi Neighbor Hospitality Group (behind the excellent Trestle, Fat Angel, The Vault opening in spring 2019), Corridor has delivered all-day quality at a value with comfortable ease, located near theaters, concert halls and company headquarters like Twitter and Uber. The restaurant just gained a liquor license, crafting simple but well-balanced cocktails (like Rumble in the Jungle: mezcal, passionfruit, orgeat, lime), refreshing paired with comfort food like burrata tortellini or vegetable pot pie.
With their 1800s-esque London feel and one of largest gin selections in the world (over 600 and counting, including vintage gins), Whitechapel’s new winter cocktail menu—from bar manager Megan Daniel—is a beauty of unique winter sippers like States of Mind 1, The Farewells (Spring 44 Dry Gin, Jameson Black Barrel Irish Whiskey, maple oat syrup, hazelnut cream, stout ale, lemon). Chef Michelle Matthews (also of the group’s new Kaiyo) keeps the bar food fun and gourmet. I’ve been hard-pressed to find a more gratifying, flavor-packed winter salad than her fennel berry salad packed with candied walnuts, cranberries, mint, jalapeno and fried onions in a tart tamarind vinaigrette.