Union Square’s Hotel G just announced the new restaurant going into its former 398 Brasserie space: Ayala. The seafood-oriented restaurant comes from chef-partner Bill Montagne, a former sous chef at Le Bernardin and most recently the chef at Chicago’s Nico Osteria. And the executive chef will be Melissa Perfit, former chef at Bar Crudo and a contestant on the most recent season of Top Chef. It’s expected to open in November at 398 Geary Boulevard.
“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,” says Montagne, “the philosophy that the fish is the star of the plate.”
That said, the family-style menu will offer far more flexibility than Le Bernardin, with a mix of dining styles on offer. There’s a raw bar — offering up to 10 different kinds of oysters, large shellfish platters, purple uni, and more — and plenty of crudos, as expected given Perfit’s background. There will also be pastas, like a riff on tortellini en brodo with lobster consommé, and large-format entrees aimed at satisfying both seafood- and steak-lovers.
“In my mind, this restaurant should be a restaurant of its time and place: in San Francisco, in 2018. Naturally it will lean a little more on seafood, more vegetal, but I don’t want it to be exclusively that,” Montagne says.
He also emphasizes that he wants Ayala to be a “neighborhood restaurant,” not just for the expense account crowd. It helps that the 1,400-square-foot space, which sports a contemporary Mediterranean look with plastered walls, arches, and tiled floors, will be divided into three separate areas. The main dining room will be the most intimate and high-end space with wooden banquets and sandblasted glass creating private nooks; the oysterette will feel open and laid-back with its floor-to-ceiling windows, prime for enjoying oysters and champagne; and the raw bar will allow guests to actually watch cooks plating shellfish and crudo dishes.
On the drinks side, wine directors Nick Tilly and Essam Kardosh will highlight California winemakers showcasing heritage varietals as well as natural processes. James Beard Award-nominated bar director Julian Cox (Tartine Manufactory) will run the bar with a focus on traditional Navy strength gin and rums, east India sherry, port, and madeira.
Previous reports suggested that the Tartine team would be taking over the space, but it’s actually Cast Iron Partners LLC, the Los Angeles-based group led by Carl Shuster, the CEO of Wolfgang Puck Catering.