Plus, the local effort to save Red Berry Coffee, the Basuku Cheesecakes pop-up (via Vina Enoteca) and more!
Lots happening in the world of 6–5–0 eats these days. And this edition of our monthly round-up sees openings AND closures of local ramen outlets, plus a suspension of your favorite $50 burger…and a grassroots lifeline for a favorite Peninsula coffee shop.
So take a look and have a bite….
Palo Alto’s Vina Enoteca reopens with Italian market and Basuku Cheesecakes pop-up
Three months after pressing pause on dine-in service at Vina Enoteca, the Palo Alto Italian restaurant is reopening with a new market, pop-ups and a more casual pizza and pasta concept.
Vina Mercato, an Italian market with imported and housemade specialty items, will open Thursday, Nov. 5, inside the 700 Welch Road restaurant. Look for imported goods from small producers in Italy — fresh prosciutto, guanciale from Tuscany, a pecorino cheese from Sardinia that Scordella said is outstanding, a wood-aged balsamic vinegar produced by Michelin-starred Italian chef Massimo Bottura — as well as wine, housemade sauces, fresh pastas and frozen pizzas. Vina Mercato will be open Tuesday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
The restaurant will also resume serving fresh pizzas for takeout. They’re available for pickup or delivery Thursday-Saturday, 5–8:30 p.m.
Starting this Friday, Nov. 6, Charles Chen of Basuku Cheesecakes will sell his wildly popular and hard-to-get Japanese-inspired Basque cheesecakes at Vina Enoteca. Every Friday at 10 a.m., 10 cheesecakes will be available on a first-come, first-serve basis in person at Vina Enoteca (no pre-ordering on Instagram). Chen is now based out of the Vina Enoteca kitchen and hopes to increase production, he wrote in a recent Instagram post.
Another popular pop-up will also be moving to Vina Enoteca: Local baker John Shelsta of Love For Butter will now sell his pastries and breads there on Saturdays. (He will no longer be baking out of Zola in Palo Alto, where customers have been able to pick up his baked goods the last few months.) Shelsta has also taken over the Vina Enoteca baking program and is making the fresh focaccia, baguettes and loaves that will be sold at the market.
In a couple of weeks, Vina Enoteca will reopen with indoor and outdoor seating to serve pastas and pizzas, keeping the menu casual, “accessible” and “family friendly,” Scordella said. This is also driven by COVID economics: It’s no longer financially feasible to run a 200-seat restaurant with 68 employees and serve entrees with tight margins, he said.
Vina Enoteca will continue to offer virtual wine tastings and cooking classes, which Scordella hopes to host in person when safe to do so.
“It’s about building different revenue streams,” Scordella said.
When the restaurant reopens, he’s making another notable but less visible change: a 20% service charge that will be shared equally between front- and back-of-house workers. The goal is to address the inequity of tipping, which allows waiters and bartenders to earn more than kitchen staff.
“I think it’s time for a change,” Scordella said about tipping.
Tokyo ramen favorite Afuri headed to downtown Mountain View
Tokyo’s Afuri Ramen + Dumpling, famed in Japan for its yuzu shio ramen, is opening a new location in downtown Mountain View.
A sign for Afuri is now hanging above the entrance to 124 Castro St. This space has seen numerous restaurants turn over in recent years, including Crawfish Bros, Chop & Pub, East Street Tapas, East Street Tacos and Shell Shock.
Afuri started in 2003 as a single ramen shop at the base of Mount Afuri in Japan. Founder Hiroto Nakamura took inspiration from the pristine water that flowed down the mountain (it was considered a sacred place where people prayed for a good harvest) and served a light, clear broth, rather than the rich and cloudy tonkotsu style. Afuri’s chicken broth is slow cooked, never boiled, with “natural” umami (no MSG) from niboshi (dried sardines), bonito flakes, kombu and vegetables.
Afuri eventually expanded throughout Japan and arrived in the United States in 2016 with a location in Portland, Oregon.
The Afuri Ramen + Dumpling menu centers around the yuzu shio ramen but also includes several other kinds of ramen (including a vegan broth made from hazelnuts), gyoza, gohan (rice with toppings like karaage, chashu pork, bamboo shoots, slow-cooked egg and togarashi) and small plates. During the coronavirus shutdown, the Cupertino restaurant also started offering meal kits with all the ingredients necessary to make Afuri’s ramen at home as well as cocktail kits.
There’s no opening date set yet for Afuri Mountain View, according to the company.
Local resident steps in to keep Los Altos’ Red Berry Coffee Bar open
When the Los Altos community heard that Red Berry Coffee Bar would be closing in August, customers rallied to keep the much-loved cafe alive.
Their efforts resulted in Stacy Savides Sullivan, Los Altos resident and owner of Los Altos candy store Sweet Shop, taking over the business. Red Berry’s original owner, Jeff Hanson, will be staying on through the end of the year to help with the transition.
Hanson opened Red Berry at 145 Main St. in 2014, bringing a multi-roaster coffee concept to downtown Los Altos. This summer, he said his lease was close to expiring and the financial losses of the pandemic made it difficult to renew.
“We were 10 days away from possibly shutting down the shop and liquidating but I had a bunch of customers who really, really love the place,” he said.
They found Sullivan, who has spent many hours drinking coffee with friends and family at Red Berry and working in the cafe’s upstairs space so much it became like a second office.
“We love Red Berry,” Sullivan said. “We really do want to keep the essence of it.”
Things will mostly look the same at Red Berry, with some updates. The current employees will stay on, Sullivan said, and continue to serve the same coffee drinks and food, though she wants to add savory pastries, more specials and possible collaborations with Sweet Shop. She plans to add online ordering and make the cafe’s hours more consistent. The cafe is operating outdoors only right now, with a new parklet, but she looks forward to safely reopening inside, which has been a gathering space for many in the community.
“I really enjoy anything I can do to build community and connection, fun and people getting together. This has always been one of those places — it’s a social, interactive cafe,” Sullivan said.
Like at Sweet Shop, Sullivan will donate the cafe’s proceeds to local schools or educational programs.
Sullivan is asking the community to give feedback on any improvements or additions they’d like to see at Red Berry by emailing [email protected].
The swanky Selby’s opened to much fanfare last year. It will now close temporarily.
Since March, the Selby’s dining room — with mohair walls, custom chandeliers and table-side martini service — has remained dark, while the kitchen focused instead on translating that experience into takeout and delivery.
The upscale restaurant, opened by Bacchus Management Group last summer on the border of Atherton and Redwood City, will now go on temporary hiatus until next year. The restaurant’s last service at 3001 El Camino Real was Sunday, Oct. 25.
“Selby’s restaurant was designed and built for the purpose of gathering people together to celebrate and enjoy a delicious meal in each other’s company,” Bacchus said in a statement. “With winter approaching and the ongoing shelter-in-place orders limiting indoor dining, we have made the thoughtful decision to temporarily pause service until spring 2021.”
Bacchus billed Selby’s as a return to the food and glamour of 1930s and 1940s Hollywood, with dishes like lobster thermidor and a $50 truffle-topped burger. The restaurant group completely gutted and rebuilt the two-story, 10,000-square-foot space. They hoped to win a Michelin star and Wine Spectator Grand Award, the magazine’s highest honor.
On Tuesday, Selby’s was included in a new category issued by the Michelin guide called “discoveries,” described as “inspector-approved restaurants showcasing new and inspiring culinary talent. Selby’s was one of 25 California restaurants on the list.
Selby’s had all the bells and whistles — martini carts, two kitchens, private dining rooms, a back staircase for VIP diners — but lacked outdoor dining, which has become a lifeline for many restaurants. The location doesn’t allow for outdoor dining, Bacchus said, and the 25% cap on indoor capacity in San Mateo County wouldn’t be sustainable.
In July, Bacchus Management Group permanently closed one of its other local restaurants, Mayfield Bakery & Cafe in Palo Alto. The group also operates The Village Pub and The Village Bakery in Woodside and Spruce in San Francisco.
After Selby’s closes, the staff will be “supporting” The Village Pub and Spruce, Bacchus said.
Selby’s will still offer special holiday menus for Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Eve and is taking inquiries for private events.
After 10 years, Shalala Ramen to leave downtown Mountain View
After a decade of serving tonkotsu and spicy miso ramen in Mountain View, Shalala Ramen is permanently closing. Owner Nobu Iwahashi is opening a new, takeout-only concept in San Jose.
Shalala Ramen’s last day at 698 W. Dana St. was Monday, Oct. 26.
Iwahashi said he had thought about leaving Mountain View before but the decision was accelerated by the impact of the pandemic. Shalala’s sales are still down 50%. With only two outdoor tables, he’s had to sustain the business mostly on takeout while competing with other downtown restaurants that have more outdoor seating. He said his landlord deferred rent for two months, but staying afloat was still a challenge,
“I’m looking at the future, that the coronavirus is going to be (here for) a couple more years. That’s why I want to do something new,” Iwahashi said.
His new venture, called Fugetsu, will sell packaged Japanese food, such as bento boxes, onigiri, okonomiyaki and kushikatsu. There will be no restaurant service; it will instead operate as a pickup operation.
Fugetsu is opening at the Saratoga Avenue shopping center that also houses the Japanese Mitsuwa Marketplace. Iwahashi hopes to open in November.
Shalala is not the only closure in downtown Mountain View. Flights on Castro Street has closed permanently, owner Alex Hult confirmed. The closure followed Hult’s Mountain View landlord suing him this summer for back-rent payments. The lawsuit has since been settled, Hult said.
HeyOEats, which served vegan fare inside Ava’s Downtown Market & Deli, is also no more, a market employee confirmed.
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