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Four New Restaurants to Try Right Now

Crisp-skinned Filipino lechon and wood-fired pizza in Oakland, Japanese-Peruvian in Cow Hollow, and Georgian cheesy bread in Palo Alto.


Shrimp gambas at the Jeepney Guy food counter at 7th West.

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Elote with garlic-chili aioli at the Jeepney Guy food counter.

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Grilled chicken in garlic-adobo gravy at the Jeepney Guy food counter.

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Lobster Paella at Kaiyo.

Photo: Anthony Parks

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Pork ragu on frassinetto rigatoni at Benchmark Oakland.

Photo: Megan Parrish

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Jeepney Guy at 7th West
Known for serving Filipino-inspired meals on the festival circuit from his Jeepney Guy roving food stall, Dennis Villafranca has now parked himself permanently at a counter-service window in a mixed-use warehouse near the West Oakland BART station. In this sprawling space, which also makes room for a bar, a dance floor, and a pinball arcade, Villafranca riffs on staples from his childhood, whipping up a vegan version of the ubiquitous stir-fry dish sisig by swapping the usual crispy bits of pig head for walnuts, squash, and edamame, all slung together in a gently spicy hash. Other items in the chef’s repertoire, such as fried spring rolls and roasted pork belly with crackling skin, hew more closely to tradition—but are also likely prepared with more heart than most lumpia and lechon you’ve had. 1255 7th St. (at Union St.) —Josh Sens

Cow Hollow
Don’t call it fusion. That’s decades out of fashion. What chef Michelle Mathews (Whitechapel) wants to introduce the Bay Area to is Nikkei cuisine, a long-lived style of dining born of the Japanese diaspora in Peru. What that means at Kaiyo, in part, is an emphasis on raw and flash-cured seafood dishes, like chili-spiked bigeye tuna ceviche with puffed quinoa, and scallop tiradito dressed with passion fruit leche de tigre and butternut squash purée. Eclectic share plates, large and small, range from rich stone-pot lobster rice to an errant uni toast so stingy on sea urchin that it’s pretty much just toast. Pisco and sake cocktails are tasteful and trendy, but for better or worse, as throwback hip-hop plays and a shrimp-tempura-and-tuna roll arrives at your table, it feels like the late ’90s all over again. 1838 Union St. (near Octavia St.), 415-525-4804 —J.S.

Benchmark Oakland
If you’re looking for an Italian joint that cooks every dish exactly the way someone’s nonna in Italy did five or six decades ago, you may want to pick a different restaurant. If, however, you can dig a place that pumps Springsteen from its speakers and serves some of the best wood-fired pizza in the East Bay, albeit thicker and chewier than anything you’d find in Naples, Benchmark Oakland might be right up your alley. Sister to the original Benchmark Pizzeria in Kensington, the Old Oakland outpost will please eaters of straight-ahead Caesar salad and margherita pizza, and those who order the squiggly strozzapreti Bolognese will be rewarded with classic Italian comfort food at its finest. Nontraditionalists will appreciate the (very loosely) Italian-inspired take on fish and chips, which should be the envy of many British pubs in town. 499 9th St. (at Washington St.), 510-488-6677 —Luke Tsai

Palo Alto
Georgian food—which is to say, the rib-sticking, richly spiced cuisine of the country Georgia—might be the last thing you expect to find among the posh boutiques and bland eateries that populate downtown Palo Alto. Lucky for us, Bevri, whose name means “a lot,” is the real deal. You’ll see Georgian cuisine’s trademark abundance in the oversize soup dumplings known as khinkali, and in the tapaka, a garlicky, spatchcocked whole chicken. Even more intriguing is the kharcho, a hearty beef stew that, curiously, blurs culinary borders with a tongue-numbing effect reminiscent of Sichuan peppercorn. Don’t miss the adjaruli khachapuri, a canoe-shaped bread whose soft center is topped with oozy melted cheese, a raw egg yolk, and a knob of butter. 530 Bryant St. (near University Ave.), 650-384-6500 —L.T.


Originally published in the December issue of San Francisco 

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