Appetite: Steak, pork, Victoria Lamb and an El Carajo cocktail or two

Welcome to Appetite, a new column on food and drink. A long-time San Francisco resident and writer, Virginia Miller is passionate about this incomparable city, obsessed with finding and exploring its best spots, deals, events and news. She started with her own service and monthly food/drink/travel newsletter, The Perfect Spot , and plans to pass along up-to-the minute news to us. View her last installment here.

New openings

FiDi’s A5 Steak Lounge for the urban-chic carnivore

Frisson was one of the coolest restaurant spaces I’ve seen: a modern-day-chic meets the ’60’s vibe with orange couches, a round room and striking dotted-lighting ceiling. Though closed awhile, the space is now reincarnated. The same round, dome ceiling remains, though this time the room is redone in softer, sleeker hues with faux-alligator chairs and cream-colored booths. Steve Chen and Albert Chen (not related), are the new owners, creating a current-day steakhouse for the urban carnivore, A5 Steak Lounge. A5 refers to the highest grade of Japanese Wagyu beef, which, yes, will be served along with some choice US Prime beef. Chef Marc Vogel helms the menu, which refreshingly offers a range of sizes and prices in steak cuts – even those who just want a taste can order, let’s say a 4 oz. rib-eye (around $12), an 8 oz. slab (low $20’s), on upwards. You can have your steak and eat it (all), too.

A5 is in the middle of a soft opening until the official launch date of March 10. Be the first to try it out (with reduced prices) during the limited, four-nights reservations, with the caveat that you provide feedback as the staff hones the menu and service prior to opening.

244 Jackson Street
415-989-2539
Email for reservations: rsvp@a5steakhouse.com

Tipsy Pig gastrotavern debuts in the Marina on Feb. 24

The Marina restaurant take-over of Nate Valentine, Sam Josi and Stryker Scales (behind Mamacita, Umami and Blue Barn Gourmet) continues with The Tipsy Pig, opening today in the former Bistro Yoffi space. The Tipsy Pig will start out only with dinner, but will eventually serve brunch and lunch as well, and the bar will be open till 2 a.m. I hear it’s a rustic, wood space separated comfortably into a Living Room (with bar, leather booths, wood tables), the Library, and an inviting back patio pleasantly aromatic with citrus trees, seating up to 50 people at communal picnic tables. Produce will, by-and-large, be sourced from Sonoma’s Oak Hill Farm for a locavore nod, while over 50 artisanal beers are available on tap or by the bottle along with — what else? — classic american cocktails. Menu items include a Spinach Salad with kabocha squash, plenty of pig dishes and a Brussel Sprout/Apple Hash. Whether or not we need another gastropub, the Marina doesn’t have one and I think all things combined (patio, beers, yummy-sounding menu, open all day…), it sounds well worth checking out.

2231 Chestnut Street
415-292-2300
www.thetipsypigsf.com

Special events

Tuesday, 2/24: South Fundraiser for Australia’s bushfire victims

Dine for a cause tonight at our local Australian/New Zealand gem, South. Aussie chef Luke Mangan wanted to help his homeland and is doing so with a special, four-course dinner benefiting victims of the Victorian bushfires. For $125, there’s dinner, wine pairings (from South sommelier Gerard O’Bryan) and a live auction with proceeds donated to the Australian Red Cross Bushfire Relief Fund. The menu is listed on the website with Down Under-influenced dishes like Victorian Lamb with rhubarb, nettles and parsley puree, or for dessert, Creme Fraiche Panna Cotta with kumquats and caraway. Seating is limited, so RSVP — and note a credit card is needed to hold your place.

7pm

330 Townsend Street, Suite 101
415-974-5599
RSVP to: info@southfwb.com

Dungeness Crab Week runs through March 1st

So it’s been a lackluster crab season, but what’s there is sweet and succulent as ever… and 44 SF chefs from 54 restaurants (do the math?) are featuring signature crab dishes on their menus this week. Visa is a sponsor, so if you pay with a Visa Signature card, you’ll get a complimentary cookbook featuring a slew of crab recipes from some of the chefs and restaurants involved. Some of my faves are participating (like Incanto, 1300 on Fillmore, Bix, Jardiniere, Pesce, Shanghai 1930, etc… and there’s no meat I’m more crazy about than crab, particularly our West Coast Dungeness.

For added fun, there’s the annual Crab Cracking Contest in Union Square on Saturday, 2/28, from noon-3pm. It’s free, though you’ll need to purchase tickets for food, beer and wine tastings. There’ll be Union Square chefs (like Jen Biesty of Scala’s and Adam Carpenter of Ponzu) and San Francisco 49ers (yeah, you heard right) crackin’ crabs together, with live music from Diego’s Umbrella, who myspace lists as Experimental-Flamenco-Rock, booths for kids, and plenty to drink.

Details and list of participating restaurants here.

Make reservations here.

Bar news

Get sultry with Brazilian Wednesday Nights at Pisco Latin Lounge

In these rainy days, one of the best ways to warm things up is a well-crafted drink and lively music. Pisco Latin Lounge offers you both in weekly Brazilian-themed Wednesdays. I recently enjoyed an ideal end to a long day here, sipping the El Carajo cocktail ($12, made of Veev Acai Liquor, St. Germain and Aji amarillo pepper), while watching spicy Brazilian music videos on the flat screens. DJ Anjo Avesso spins while you sip a specially-priced $7 Caramelized Caiparinha and chow down on Latin small plates. This Wednesday, 2/25, bring your business card or email address to possibly win a magnum (double-sized) bottle of Cachaca. Lindo maravilhoso!

Wednesdays, 7-11:45pm
1817 Market Street
415-874-9551
www.piscosf.com

Deals

Foreign Cinema’s three-course prix-fixe honors 10th anniversary

Foreign Cinema may not be the latest hotspot anymore, but it still packs ’em in with the mystique of being located on a dodgy Mission block, down a candlelit hallway, into an oasis of foreign film, a roaring fireplace and quite tasty food (I’ve long been partial to the pot de cremes for dessert). In honor of the restaurant’s 10th anniversary, a special prix-fixe menu is available every night of 2009 (!) for $36 per person ($55 with wine pairings, including a dessert wine pour), though menu items and wine flights change daily (I hear so far the Pot de Creme has been seen on the prix fixe menu, along with dishes like Fried Oysters with spinach, smoked bacon and preserved lemon).

2534 Mission Street
415-648-7600
www.foreigncinema.com

Mission Beach Cafe ushers in Pot Pie Sundays and Let Them Eat Cake!

One of my favorite cafes for its eclectic decor, friendly service, and, best of all, Blue Bottle coffee and amazing house-made pastries, Mission Beach Cafe further sweetens the ‘hood with two new specials. Pastry chef Alan Carter is already known at MBC for his flakey pot pies – that’s what baking and living in Paris did for him. Lucky us, he’s sharing his pot pie magic skills every Sunday night creating pies filled with rabbit, beef, duck or veggies. Sounds like a perfect winter dinner to me. On Sunday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday nights, you can further rack up the calories (happily so) with a Let Them Eat Cake offer from 5:30–6:30 pm: a free slice of cake with each entrée ordered. Knowing how decadent the pastries and pies are, I’ve no doubt the cakes will give you sweet dreams, too.

198 Guerrero Street
415-861-0198