It’s been about three months since 300 Precita Avenue went dark following the messy dissolution of Michelin-starred Marlena in July. But as of October 4, the lights are back on, and there’s a new restaurant operating in the corner space just across from Precita Park. Foliage comes from husband-and-wife owners Stephane Roulland and Julia Indovina, who tapped new-to-San Francisco chef Mo Bejar to head up the kitchen. Similarly to Marlena before it, Foliage offers a relatively affordable $75 prix fixe menu of four courses that will change every week.
Foliage emulates an old-school French bouillon-style restaurant, Roulland explains. Similar to French bistros except even more casual, the style of restaurant experienced a revival in Paris during recent years — though Roulland, who is originally from Paris, says there’s nothing quite like them in San Francisco. Unlike a bistro, where diners might be able to order more luxurious items like a seafood tower or steak frites, bouillons tend to serve simpler, smaller menus that rotate frequently, which allows them to achieve lower price points.
The owners and chef also say the restaurant will focus on seasonality and sustainability. In addition to working with local vendors such as Dirty Girl Farms, Bejar owns and operates a ranch in Salinas where he grew up; having a finger on the pulse of Northern California’s growing seasons will influence the weekly menu changes, he says. The owners also hope to start a rooftop garden where they’ll be able to grow microgreens to use at the restaurant. Down the line, they plan to funnel a portion of Foliage’s profits to a foundation that will support “soil regeneration, reforestation, and other climate change mitigation and carbon-sequestration projects,” they say. “Guests will have visibility into projects being supported through their dining, and have the opportunity to engage with projects and even further the impact we are seeking to make,” the couple says in an email statement.
The opening menu, which will flip at the end of this week, features dishes such as four-day dry-aged amberjack with black turnips, compressed persimmons, and horseradish cream, and ricotta gnocchi with foraged matsutake and maitake mushrooms. Diners will have a choice of main course: either local petrale sole with Manila clams and chrysanthemum greens, or a Flannery ribeye that’s been both wet- and dry-aged and comes with charred eggplant and onion tatin. Dessert means a spiced autumn cake with parsnip cream and anise hyssop.
There’s a tight beverage list with a couple of beers and ciders, plus about 15 wines by the glass. The selections include a mix of local and Old World options such as Jolie-Laide’s Trousseau Gris from Sebastapol, Hammerling Wines’ sparkling Sunset Debris, and Domaine Brun Avril Chateauneuf-du-Pape.
The owners say they’re excited Foliage’s opening marks a fresh state for them and the restaurant team. Fans may remember that Marlena, which was one of the San Francisco dining scene’s biggest breakout stars over the past couple of years, shuttered suddenly this summer after the departure of its husband-and-wife chef team David Fisher and Serena Chow Fisher. The chef couple and Marlena consultant Ryan Cole told Eater SF in July that they decided to leave due to a “months-long struggle” with Roulland, who owns not only the business but also the building that Marlena — and now Foliage — called home.
As Foliage begins its run, the former Marlena chefs continue to work toward their own opening. Having partnered with San Francisco-based Hi Neighbor Hospitality (where Cole is a founding partner), they plan to debut a much-anticipated new restaurant called 7 Adams in the coming weeks. Earlier this month they also launched an ice cream company called Jack & Remi; pints are already available to order online.