Pastry superstars Belinda Leong and Michel Suas have dominated a small stretch of California Street since 2013, when the duo opened B. Patisserie; it was soon followed by b. on the Go, a fast casual restaurant serving lunchtime fare. Now, they’ll create a trifecta, as the duo joins forces with chef John Paul Carmona to open a full-service restaurant called Routier at 2801 California Street.
Carmona and Leong met and became friends during their years at Manresa, while Carmona served as chef de cuisine and Leong headed up the pastry program. Most recently, the chef had been helping out with B. Patisserie’s outpost in Seoul, working closely with the business partners abroad. They had long discussed the possibility of opening a restaurant together — when the space occupied by the Wild Hare (just steps away from Leong’s other two restaurants) became available, it was fate.
The menu will be “Franco-American,” according to Carmona, who says that though dishes will be based on the classics, it will be a bit more chef-driven and fun for the kitchen. “We want to have dishes that evoke those [classic French dishes] and become mainstays that people come back for, but not a menu that is a copy/paste from other brasseries and bistros.”
“I compare it to b. patisserie because Belinda has such a big foundation on the classics but plays around with the flavors and makes everything her own. That’s what the three of us want it to be,” says Carmona.
Backing that sentiment up is the name, Routier. In France, a routier is a roadside restaurant, the French version of a roadhouse or a better version of a truck stop. “When you’re driving in France you stop at a roadside restaurant probably because you see the cars outside or you’ve heard its a good restaurant,” says Carmona. “You go for a good meal but not because you saw it on the [Michelin] guide and you’re making it the final destination.”
That idea will fit snugly into the residential neighborhood, which bumps into the edges of Lower Pac Heights, the Fillmore, and Divisadero. A small bar will welcome guests, though the bar scene won’t be a focal point. All together around 60 seats will create a cozy neighborhood vibe, with cocktails and a list of local and old world wines.
Of course, fans of Leong can anticipate a strong dessert list as well, a collaboration with Carmona who also spent a year as the pastry chef at Manresa. “We have agreed to collaborate on desserts,” says Carmona. “I think we work really well together and it wouldn’t be a smart thing for me to not have a James Beard Award-winning pastry chef helping out with desserts.”
When it opens — potentially in late spring — the restaurant will start with dinner service, and hopefully expand to some daytime hours like weekend brunch.
“We both have pretty similar views about food and restaurants,” says Carmona. “I think that’s what we want to put forward into this and have it be a place we would enjoy eating at, not once a year but multiple times a month or every few months.”
Stay tuned for more details.