Ayala, a sizable new seafood restaurant from chef-partner Bill Montagne (formerly Le Bernardin, Nico Osteria) and executive chef Melissa Perfit (previously executive chef at Bar Crudo and a Top Chef contestant) is ready to make its debut on Tuesday, December 4. The well-seasoned duo arrives in the Hotel G (398 Geary at the corner of Mason), a 1,400-square-foot space (formerly 398 Brasserie) which they’ve divided into a lounge, dining room, and communal raw bar — the better to celebrate seafood cooked, cured, and raw.
Ayala is named for seafarer Juan de Ayala, a Spanish Naval officer who lead the first European ship into San Francisco Bay (and gave Alcatraz Island its name). And for Montagne and Perfit, inspiration is in the water.
“For me, it’s almost an extension of what I as a cook have been doing for a lot of years and really going back philosophically to my time at Le Bernardin,” Montagne said earlier this year, “the philosophy that the fish is the star of the plate.”
Ayala seats 94 people in its three sections: The “oysterette,” a lounge and bar space, offers seating at stools, marble top tables, and banquettes. That’s separated by a glass partition from the main dining room, where chandeliers hang from high ceilings above wood tables. Finally, diners can gather at a the raw bar, a standing, communal space, to watch Ayala’s team prepare shellfish and crudo dishes.
Ayala’s menu includes a cured fish board with selections like black cod with kombu and chartreuse, halibut with grapefruit and fennel, and trout with citrus. Small plates include delicata squash with dandelion greens, toasted seeds and goat cheese and Louie salads with Dungeness crab, prawns, soft egg, and avocado. Larger dishes, meanwhile, include a cioppino verde (as opposed to the usual red) with mussels, prawns, squid, Dungeness crab, and tomatillo-poblano broth, plus dry aged New York Strip steaks and roast chicken from Full Tilt farm.
Raw Tomales Bay, Pacific Baja, and Washington oysters are all available, along with some composed raw dishes like cherrystone clams with jicama, cucumber and black tobiko lobster oil and Santa Barbara uni with cucumber and Yuzu tobiko.
Ayala’s coastal focus continues to its beverages, with wine director Nick Tilly and Essam Kardosh emphasizing small coastal vineyards in their selections. Bar star Julian Cox (who recently joined the team at Tartine Manufactory) is promoting a “nautical-themed” list of cocktails at the restaurant: Think briny martinis, cocktails with seasonal ingredients, and large format drinks with Navy strength gins and rums.
Starting December 4, Ayala will serve dinner nightly from 5:30 p.m. to 10 p.m., with a “martini hour” from 4:30 to 5:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 4 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Reservations are online now.