Starting October 13, there’s a sunny new lunch, dinner, and brunch spot coming to the Design District courtesy of the team behind elegant steakhouse Niku and hit dumpling destination Dumpling Time. Called Rosemary and Pine, the more casual restaurant isn’t exactly an expected outgrowth of the Michelin-starred Niku, where chefs roast giant steaks over live fire. But executive chef Dustin Falcon, who will split his time between the two restaurants, says Rosemary and Pine has been in the works for almost a decade. It’s a personal project for the chef, taking its name from a very specific and humbling cooking memory and borrowing menu inspiration from Falcon’s East Coast roots and Florida upbringing.
First, the name. It comes from when Falcon had just started cooking at the Thomas Keller Group and was asked to cut some fresh rosemary for the kitchen from one of two bushes growing outside the restaurant. He came back and gave the herbs to the cooks, only to be told he’d collected a mix of rosemary and pine instead of just the former. Needless to say, it took a long time to live down the mistake, Falcon laughs.
The menu also offers a peek into Falcon’s personal history. The chef was born in New Jersey and raised in southern Florida and incorporated touches from both places on the Rosemary and Pine menu. For example, there’s an East-Coast-meets-West-Coast preparation in play on the shigoku oysters from Washington, which are served with golden passionfruit from south Florida; Falcon says the Florida fruit is sweeter than passionfruit from California. The crispy burrata small plate is a nod to New Jersey, offered up in a fra diavolo sauce and intended as a nod to an Italian American classic. “I love fried mozzarella sticks,” Falcon says with a smile.
Larger plates similarly hint at Falcon’s personal history. Roasted red gulf snapper, served with corno di toro pepper ragu and a single lobster raviolo, is what he used to fish for as a kid. And the crispy bone-in veal chop, buried under a layer of tomatoes and crushed garlic under melted mozzarella cheese, is just the kind of classic dish he appreciates thanks to his East Coast roots. “I don’t feel like I’m in a box here,” Falcon says. “I feel like I can just do whatever I want.” But even as he pulls in ingredients and flavors from his lived experiences, Falcon also tries to root the food in California — like with Falcon’s play on liniguni and clam sauce, done as squid ink tonnarelli and clams in a white sauce prepared like San Francisco clam chowder.
Beverages also focus on California with a wine list intended to showcase some of the state's less-common varietals. So while diners can sip chardonnay and pinot noir, there’s also picpoul from Healdsburg’s Unti Vineyards, dolcetto grown in Mendocino, and grenache gris coming up from Santa Barbara. Notably, there’s the option for a 3- or 5-ounce pour, so lunch diners can imbibe in a smaller glass or so guests can sample a few of the selections. Cocktails pull local ingredients into approachable combos. The Chalk & Cheese stands to become a menu staple, combining the restaurant’s namesake ingredients rosemary and pine with St. George gin, mezcal, Jimmy Nardello pepper, and lemon. For the brunch crowds, there are large format options including a full pitcher of Pimm’s cups.
To start, the dining room and patio, tucked off a quiet street just a two-minute walk from Niku, will be open for dinner only. But Falcon and the team expect to add brunch service on Saturday, October 22, and lunch service on Monday, October 24.
Rosemary and Pine (1725 Alameda Street, San Francisco) opens on October 13 and will serve dinner seven days a week starting at 5 p.m. nightly, lunch from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Friday, and brunch Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.