Hot on the heels of the long, long-awaited reopening of Kin Khao at the Parc55 Hotel and the debut of La Société at Hyatt Regency San Francisco Downtown SOMA comes the rise of yet another downtown San Francisco dinner hotspot. On September 30, Tenderheart begins pushing out plates of sweet and sour quail, corn agnolotti, and lionhead meatballs on the ground floor of the new LINE SF hotel, perched on the tip of the wedge where Market and Turk streets meet. The menu comes from chef Joe Hou, who’s overseeing the food across all the hotel’s outlets. For Tenderheart, the chef says he drew inspiration from both Northern California’s bountiful local ingredients and his identity as a first-generation Chinese American.
Tenderheart will begin serving breakfast, happy hour, and dinner Friday and is one of the hotel’s first food and beverage outlets to open. The all-day restaurant offers both indoor and outdoor seating on a small patio off Turk Street. Later this year downtowners should also be able to belly up to Dark Bar in the hotel lobby and a new rooftop bar and restaurant Rise Over Run, opening October 14, among their dining and drinking options. The first Bay Area outpost of LA-based Alfred Coffee also opens at the hotel today.
Hou, an East Coast native who previously cooked at Angler and Le Fantastique here in San Francisco, says the Tenderheart menu represents an eclectic mashup of “things that I enjoy in my life.” The son of two Taiwanese American immigrants, Hou says dishes reference ingredients he grew up eating — but with an elegant and at times playful twist. A kampachi crudo, for example, pulls in the flavors of fermented black beans and sudachi to mirror a steamed fish dish he ate with his parents as a kid. He also applies French technique to Chinese lionhead meatballs, reinterpreting the dish as an enormous pork crepenette delivered to diners on the bone “because why not.” A smattering of Jimmy Nardello peppers gives the whole thing a distinctly Northern California sensibility.
Hou expects the sweet and sour quail could become a menu staple. He wanted to do a refined version of the neon red-orange Chinese American classic, substituting local quail for chicken and pairing the sticky sauce-covered bird with slices of fermented pineapple. “Who doesn't like a fried bird that’s basically all dark meat?” the chef jokes. “If you don't like that, I'm sorry, I can't help you.”
The food comes alongside a cocktail menu from experienced barman Danny Louie, a San Francisco native who was born and raised in the Richmond District. On top of launching canned cocktail company Gāmsāān Cocktail Co. in 2019, Louie also spent more than a decade behind the stick at the Alembic on Haight before helping launch the cocktail program at Mister Jiu’s. For Tenderheart, Louie infuses drinks with global flavors including bitter melon, rau ram (also called Vietnamese coriander), and white truffle. The Take Oaxaca, for example, marries agave spirits with sherry, passion fruit, black pepper, and cilantro, while the New Fashioned riffs on the classic with a rye-bourbon base over banana, winter melon, smoky Sfumato amaro.
Hou says when Dark Bar opens in “a few months” there will be a small food menu for that outlet as well, though the team’s still working on what the selection of light bites will encompass. “I would love to use that as a place for all the chefs here to try things out to take chances,” he says. There will also be an entirely separate menu for the rooftop bar and restaurant Rise Over Run, the chef says, an effort to ensure that even if guests never want to step foot outside of the hotel, they’ll have access to a range of food and beverage options. Hou, who lives just a few blocks from the hotel (close to late-night Korean food destination Cocobang, to be exact), says he wants to take chances with all three of the LINE hotel’s restaurant menus. “We’re not trying to change the world,” he says. “But this neighborhood deserves to have great food.”
Tenderheart at the LINE SF (33 Turk Street in San Francisco) opens September 30 and will be open daily for breakfast from 7 to 11 a.m. Happy hour will be from 3 to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday, and dinner will be served Tuesday through Saturday from 5 to 10 p.m. Reservations are available through OpenTable.