8 of San Francisco’s Hottest New Restaurants

That new new.

China Live – Chinatown, Chinese

This is a big one. China Live opened up this month in a 30,000 square foot building in Chinatown. With a cafe, restaurant, bar, and retail store all in the building, this place is HUGE, and people are calling this San Francisco’s Chinese take on New York’s Eataly. If you like Chinese food/dim sum even in the slightest, come here. If you don’t like Chinese food, just go get a tea and coffee from the cafe, but still come here.

What you need to know:

1. Oolong Cafe: tea and pastries taken to go with seating if you want to sit and enjoy it.

2. Market Restaurant: If you are looking for a sit down meal come here. This restaurant takes up a good amount of the space on the ground floor, here the menu changes daily but you can expect Dim Sum (yes! they have Xiao Long Bao), Chinese BBQ, soups, stir fry, rice bowls, noodles, and much more.

3. Retail Market: think Sur La Table with a Chinese flair. They have kitchenware – bowls, plates, silverware, etc, pantry items like fancy olive oil and spices, and much much more. 4. Eight Tables: They are working on a more upscale restaurant, but it is not open yet.

No reservations at the restaurant. Walk in only.

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Flores – Marina, Trendy Mexican

Flores is a trendy new Mexican spot in the Marina/Cow Hollow area, located right next door to Belga on Union Street. The executive chef comes from Lolinda (which we love) and this place is just as great.

The food is delicious, and the decor/ambiance is even better. They pride themselves on making their tortillas by hand daily from fresh Masa – the dough used to make corn tortillas. I’ve tried them, they are prettyyy dang good.

They have a few smaller tables out on the patio, which are perfect when the weather is nice to grab a margarita (or a pitcher), some guacamole, and people watch on Union St. Perfect spot to hang out if you have a dog, for those like me who don’t have a dog, it is the perfect place to walk by and pet all the dogs. 🙂

Also – the back area is huge, good place for a larger group…which is hard to find in SF these days.

Good for: Mexican food, sitting out on the patio with your dog, trendy meal, brunch, nice lunch, large group, walk in, trendy meal, hotspot.

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Photo Credit: Aubrie Pick

Contrada – Marina, Trendy Italian

New neighborhood Italian spot in the Marina/Cow Hollow area (right next to Brixton). Leans more towards the trendier side vs. the traditional Italian route. So what’s on the menu? Pizza and pasta. Pizza and pasta. Amazing Neapolitan-style pizzas, a more modern take on traditional pastas (think wild boar rigatoni and squid ink bucatini with crab), plus a few appetizers and main courses. It’s a really fun spot to grab a drink and sit and hang out with friends over pizza.

The bar area is also really nice – good spot for a date to grab a nice glass of wine and hang out. On top of this they have a back deck!!! Which seats about 40 people and is the perfect spot to sit out and enjoy some sunshine, pizza, and wine…sounds like my ideal day.

Good for: Italian, nice dinner, date spot, wine bar, social dinner, nice lunch, no reservations, larger group.

Closed Tuesdays. Open for lunch: Wednesday – Friday. Weekend Brunch: 11:30 – 3 pm. They take reservations but I didn’t have any trouble walking in.

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contrada pizza

August 1 Five – City Center, Modern Indian

New Indian spot. Woo hooo. I love Indian, so I am excited about this one. August 1 Five is right by City Hall on Van Ness. Think upscale Indian – great food, fun decor/ambiance (they have these really cool looking blue booths), and good drinks.

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Alba Ray’s – Mission, Rustic Cajun

Gotta give the Mission some love. Alba Ray’s is a new Cajun spot in the Mission, located right on Mission Street, brought to you from the team behind Popson’s and Causwell’s. If you need more of a reason to trust that this place has good food – the executive chef, Adam Rosenblum, was a sous chef at Flour+Water before going out on his own.

If you like Louisiana/Cajun food, but want a trendier/more upscale place to enjoy your gumbo, this is your spot. Menu is traditional Cajun with a modern flare – smoked eggplant and carrot Jambalaya, gumbo, blue crab salad, shrimp and grits, and much more. This is a fun spot to try out if you are feeling like you want come Cajun spice in your life!

Delivery coming soon!

Good for: fun dinner, nice dinner, sit at the bar, Cajun food, walk in.

Opens everyday at 5:30 pm for dinner only. Lunch is coming soon.

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alba ray bar

Babu Ji – Mission, Modern Indian

Babu Ji has opened their second location here in SF, the original Babu Ji is in NYC and has been rated as one of the Top 10 Restaurants in NYC by Eater SF and Infatuation…aka this place is worth the hype.

I would describe this spot as modern/trendy with vibrant colors, bold flavors, and a laid-back vibe. They call their offerings “Indian Street Food” – and the menu changes frequently but all a modern take on traditional Indian dishes. If you are smart you will order the Colonel Tso’s Cauliflower.

If you like tasting menus – come here!! They offer a tasting menu for $62/person and it has been written up as one of the best tasting menu experiences (for the NYC location), but I am sure that quality transfers over here to the West Coast.

Good for: nice dinner, social meal, Indian food, tasting menu, hot spot, sitting at bar.

Open for dinner only starting at 5:30 pm. Closed Sundays. Save room for walk ins. Making reservations via Resy: Wednesday-Saturday they only accept reservations for the Chef’s Tasting menu (but you can walk in to order a la carte). Monday-Tuesday you can make reservations for tasting menu or normal a la carte menu.

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BabuJiSF.112016.2598

Photo Credit: Katie Newburn

Khai Restaurant – SoMa, High-End Vietnamese

Chef Khai Duong is not new to SF, In 2000 he opened Ana Mandara, a restaurant in San Francisco’s Ghiradelli Square. Ana Mandara was considered one of the top Vietnamese restaurants in San Francisco, but closed in 2012 due to rising rent costs for the space (unfortunately I made the move up to SF post-Ana Mandara so I wasn’t able to try it). For the few SF natives who haven’t been run out of the city themselves from high rent costs, Chef Khai has returned!

Khai Restaurant is a high-end Vietnamese restaurant in SoMa, offering a 10 course tasting menu for $95/person.

Renting out out Bonjour Patisserie space at night, this is quite the Cinderella story. Duong transforms the space at night into what he calls a “very elegant, intimate” atmosphere. “It’s like Cinderella,” he joked. “It’s a sharing economy, and restaurants are so expensive right now, so I cannot open by my own.” (Eater SF)

Khai Executive Chef and owner Khai Duong image 3

Photo credit Michael Le

I had dinner here last weekend (read that post here) and fell in love with not only the food, but the person behind it – Chef Khai. *fireworks* He was so freaking adorable! He came out to welcome and thank each table for coming, and then with every course he would come out and give an in depth description along with an explanation of his personal connection to the dish.

Fun Fact: He was the principal judge on Iron Chef: Vietnam

The space itself is very small – sits about 10-16 people. Perfect spot to come for a nice, special occasion meal, where you are looking to have a more unique high-end dining experience.

What’s on the menu: fresh seaweed salad, wild matsutake mushroom pate, crab sausage, salmon ceviche, smoked beef tartate, baked butter fish (hands down the best cooked fish I’ve ever had, so good), crispy quail with garlic and mashed potato, rack of lamb, coconut rolls filled with Durian.

Open Tuesday – Saturday, 5:30 and 8:30 pm seatings. Need a reservation.

butter fish

Photo credit Michael Le

Bellota – SoMa, Chic Spanish

Those who know me know I love Spanish Tapas (Coqueta is still #bae, but it’s hard to get a reservation), so I am very, very excited about Bellota. Yes, it has been open for a few months now, but I am still calling it new because it’s my blog and I can haha.

Bellota is a part of The Absinthe Group, which is known for creating amazing food experiences. Plus, the executive chef, Ryan Mcilwraith, has worked at two of my favorite places – Bottega in Napa Valley and Coqueta (both Michael Chiarello restaurants). Therefore we know the food is up to par with the best.

Ambiance: The space gives off an upscale Mediterranean feel and is a blend of industrial and rustic design pieces. There is a 30 seat full bar and lounge, a private dining area to host events, and the 140-seat main dining area.

Menu is Tapas style: charcuterie, jamon, patatas bravas, paella’s, croqueta, garlic shrimp, whole roasted fish, T-bone steak, and much, much more.

Good for: nice lunch/dinner, tapas, eating at a bar, hotspot, trendy dinner, Spanish tapas, social meal, drinks and small plates.

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