I checked out the new California Street Deli & Cafe, which is now open, and the 415 Asian Restaurant and Lounge (fusion), which will open soon - both in the SF JCC. Thursday, when I was there for a class, was the JCC anniversary and to celebrate there was a free fruit and bagels & cream cheese nosh, so I wasn't hungry enough to eat a restaurant meal afterward. But next week I intend to remedy that, barring the intervention of any more free food between me and the new restaurant.
It's really great to see a real Jewish nosheteria in the JCC. I've talked to a number of people who have already eaten there and all the reports are very positive - the woman who runs the gift store raved about the pastrami and blintzes and the big portions and fair prices - just the kind of talk I like to hear.
I went into the restaurant to talk to the manager and check out the menu. Apparently, they do all their baking on-site - another good sign. They have my absolute favorite dessert that I've been unable to find anywhere at all in SF - linzer torte! And I'm pleased to report that the prices are generally very fair. $6 seems high for a piece of that linzer torte, but then again, I've already commited to making my own, so no big deal. But I am definitely getting some of that $7 # chopped chicken liver next week. They also feature lots of soups, salads, Big Jewish deli style combo sandwiches, Niman Ranch corned beef, brisket (many deli items sold by the pound), knishes (God, I'm praying they're the real thing!) and really, all the Jewish soul food items I could ask for. Actually, I'm not sure whether or not I saw kishkes on the menu - stuffed beef intestines - don't ask. But delicious, really - I swear... All the sandwiches are served in small - "nosher", medium - "fresser", and huge "super-fresser" sizes for commensurate prices. (I wonder, do other languages besides Yiddish distinguish linguistically between mild every-day overeating and really impressive, gross overeating?)
The entrance to the California Street Deli and Cafe is inside the lobby of the JCC. I can't say I really like the decor of the place. All white and black and kind of hard edged with black and white linoleum tile. A few too many small, square, uniform tables and chairs in a space that seems a bit too tight to hold them - a little claustrophobic feeling despite the fact that they weren't even open yet that day and nobody was inside except the staff. It's a very small space. But so what. If the food is really good I'll forswear my desire for comfyness.
But the two-restaurant rationale is very curious to me. It's like somebody must have wanted to hedge their bets by opening up both restaurants in the space that formerly held the one (Sydney's - with its weird menu). Wouldn't it have made more sense to launch what I, and a lot of other people, really want - and what they seem to actually be doing - a really good, not really expensive, really Hamish (home-style) Jewish restaurant and just use the whole of Sydney's space to do it? I mean, what's with the Asian karaoke lounge taking up more than half the space and leaving the Jewish restaurant to squeeze into that tiny cramped space off the lobby? The success of an Asian Fusion restaurant (entrance on Presidio) seems very questionable, but good luck to them - I just hope the food is good and the prices fair. But if the Jewish restaurant turns out to be a success I think it would easily have been able to fill the whole of the former Sydney's space itself. The menu of the Jewish restaurant has all the right bells and whistles going to get my personal salivary glands on high alert already, and the prices are pretty fair - my own criteria being that if I can get a good lunch for $10 or under I'm very happy.
So, "Mazel Tov!" to the new California Street Cafe and Deli. Review to follow...