In the Tao Restaurant kitchen, chefs labor over stoves during the three-day process of crafting housemade noodles and broth for their authentic Japanese ramen dishes. Iron grills sizzle with the meats and seafood of Japanese teppanyaki and teriyaki entrees, and sushi chefs slice up colorful maki rolls, adorning them with flourishes of cucumber flowers, slivers of radish, and intricately sculpted dollops of wasabi. Servers bear plates out into the dining room, where sunlight pours in through towering windows onto sleek tabletops. Nearby, pots of bamboo shake gently as though they were caught in a ge
For Avi and Michaella Ben-Ari, opening a restaurant was an obvious step to take together. Avi's keen mind for business and his entrepreneurial experience, coupled with chef Michaella's degree from Tadmor Culinary Arts school in Tel-Aviv, made for a natural partnership. With the goal of introducing area diners to the warmth and hospitality inherent to Middle Eastern dining rooms, the Ben-Aris and their staff fill the restaurant with the aromas of handmade dishes and photos of each diner's grandmother. They make all of their Levantine staples from scratch, crafting them only with organic vegetables and meats. In the bustling kitchen, chefs eschew canned and frozen ingredients for healthful ones such as fire-grilled eggplant, antibiotic- and hormone-free chicken, and freshly diced tomatoes and cucumbers.
Known for their successful takeover of Hudson Bay Café, I Squared proprietors Sadri Madjlessi and Tanya Anderson partner with executive chef Nory Madjlessi to combine traditional Iranian and Italian fare into one bold menu. Chef Nory honed his Italian culinary skills under Giovanni LoCoco at LoCoco's and absorbed knowledge of traditional Iranian recipes and cooking techniques from his mother. Rather than attempting traditional fusion fare, Chef Nory aims to stay true to the flavors of both countries, filling I Squared's ever-changing menu with Iranian staples such as fesenjoon—a stew of chicken, walnuts, and saffron served over basmati rice—as well as Italian classics, such as eggplant parmigiana. Using local and sustainable ingredients when possible, Chef Nory preps his signature lamb-stuffed cabbage wraps as patrons peek in the open kitchen from their places at minimalist butcher-block-topped tables. A stainless-steel-topped bar holds a beginner's alchemy kit and the makings of specialty and dessert cocktails along with extensive wine and beer offerings.
India Sweets & Catering subscribes to the idea that many hands make light work. Since opening in 1992, it has tried to help make get-togethers easy by shouldering a portion, if not all, of the workload with its catering services. At its restaurant, the chefs take care of the cooking. They serve platefuls of halal Indian and Pakistani cuisine that are made with meats including lamb, goat, and tandoori chicken. India Sweets & Catering’s event managers take care of pretty much everything else. Their Flamingo banquet halls in Vallejo and Sacramento host events in large rooms with chandeliers and enough space for 500–600 people, or one breakdancing Paul Bunyan. For on-location events, customers can rent plates and silverware; the services of bartenders or tandoori chefs; or decorations such as backdrops, centerpieces, mandaps, and dulha or dulhan chairs.
The same year it launched its airy Telegraph Avenue outpost, Pasta Bene jumped onto the Bargain Bites 2010 list in the San Francisco Chronicle, which also praised its "friendly" service. Its family of owners, however, arrived with 20 years of experience behind the scenes of area Italian restaurants, meaning that its menu of stone-fired pizzas and hearty entrees leavened with California freshness came together naturally. In 13 pasta dishes, noodles entwine with slow-photosynthesized seasonal vegetables and rich tomato and cream sauces, while the dessert menu may suggest an easier choice with its house-made tiramisu, a customer favorite. Wooden rafters and iron chandeliers vault over the casual, sunlit dining room overlooking a street-side patio.
Sunrise Deli pleases palates with award-winning Middle Eastern cuisine, concocting falafels lauded by SF Weekly and San Francisco Chronicle. For more than a quarter century, chefs have grilled kebabs, stuffed pita envelopes with love letters, and loaded dishes with hummus, fresh yogurt, and olives. Sunrise Deli acquires its meat from local ranches and picks its vegetables from local farms to ensure fresh, earth-friendly sustenance. Every day, round loaves of sesame bread pop out of the oven alongside piping-hot armenian pizzas and spinach pies. Sunrise Deli also caters platters laden with baba ghanouj and meat kebabs to family gatherings or teddy-bear picnics.