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Outside Japan, it’s rare to find a restaurant like Ijji. Think minimalist. Serenity. Ritual. Understatement. Precision.

On a busy block on a busy San Francisco street, Ijji is almost invisible. Even if you’re looking for it, you could still miss it. No sign, no grand entrance, only a discrete iii on the Japanese curtains that face the street.

Once inside, it’s tiny. Just 15 seats, seven of them at the counter. If you can, sit at the counter. You’ll not only watch your chef — one of three — prepare each item of your 19-course meal, you’ll talk to him about the meal, about the special ginger, the house-prepared soy sauce, which items to eat with chopsticks and which to use your fingers.

Seafood is the big item here, much of it flown in from Japan. Oyster, mackerel, eel, octopus, tuna, sea urchin, snow crab and more. Each just a bite or two; each a different taste and texture from the ones before and after.

You’ll notice the minimalism in the design, the décor, in your chef’s economy of motion and words. From the Japanese greeting to the sidewalk farewell and thank you, you’ll experience the ritual. In the whispered words between chefs and the silky silent service from the waiters, you’ll understand the understatement. And from watching your chef make exacting cuts with his impossibly sharp knife in a ribbon of tuna, the precision will quietly announce itself.

Dinner at Ijji is much more than just a meal; it’s a rich experience. The cost is $135 for 19 courses. Reservations are expected. There are two seatings a night: 6:00 and 8:30. Get there early for each; parking is iffy and traffic, dense.

Ijji Sushi  www.ijjisf.com; 252 Divisadero St, San Francisco, CA 94117; (415) 658-7388;

Closed Monday and Tuesday.

 

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On the way to the Frank Stella retrospective at the de Young Museum, we wondered why this exhibition is so important. Is Stella that influential in the art world beyond abstract expressionism?
 
The short answer is yes.
Over the past six decades, the very-much-alive Stella has done more to innovate, disrupt and re-invent art than just about anyone on the planet. What’s more, he’s done all that to his own work, as well.
The current exhibit, which runs through February 26, shows it all: Stella as minimalist, maximalist, abstract expressionist, painter, sculptor, printmaker, photographer and 3D printer. He’s the breaker of molds, the creator of artistic lawlessness, the shape-shifting artist who’s still open, after six decades, to the tenor and technical advances of his times.
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Tamarind Hall Thai Street Food & Bar

New in 2016, Tamarind Hall is just the kind of restaurant that sets San Francisco apart and above.

Here, in no particular order, are the key ingredients:

  • Simply delicious food
  • A welcoming atmosphere
  • A neighborhood favorite
  • Reasonable prices
  • Asian ethnic.

Tamarind Hall is the loving obsession of Bangkok-born Salisa Skinner, who studied law on the Peninsula, practiced IT law in Silicon Valley, and gave all that up to become the unschooled chef and no-experience owner of a northern Thai restaurant in San Francisco’s North Beach. And, through a work ethic bordering on all-consuming, led it into instant success.

Tamarind Hall is a loudish, family-friendly, date-impressing room with a sports bar catering to cheering fans at one end and romantic tables for two (and four, and six) at the other. Patrons tend toward young, good-looking and multi-ethnic. Presentation tends toward beautiful, and service — by rather adorable Thai waitresses — is swift and cheerful.

Oh, and drinks are among the best I’ve had in San Francisco; the Thai Collins ($11) is the best I’ve had in San Francisco.

Some outstanding dishes: Curry + Roti Dip ($8), a four-dip sampler of Tamarind Hall curries. Sai Ua + Namprik Noom ($13), spicy chicken sausage, sticky rice and pepper relish. Yam Makua Yao ($12), grilled eggplant, duck eggs and house-cured bacon. Pumpkin Curry ($14), with coconut milk and Thai spices. The ice cream desserts make a cool close to a hot — but not burning hot — meal.

The restaurant is across the street from Caffe Trieste, half a block from the Shrine of St. Francis Assisi, and down the hill from Coit Tower.

Tamarind Hall is an instant Older Fave; try it — we think you’ll love it.

Tamarind Hall Thai Street Food & Bar: 1268 Grant Street, corner of Vallejo. Parking’s a challenge. Open daily for lunch and dinner: Monday through Wednesday from 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. and 5 to 10 p.m.; Thursday and Friday from 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. and 5 p.m. to midnight; Saturday from 11 a.m. to midnight, and on Sunday from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. www.tamarindhall.com. For more information or reservations, also available through OpenTable.com and YelpReservations.com, call (628) 444-3158 or (415) 866-6337

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NEWS! NEWS! NEWS!

Hey! Want an app that makes you smarter and helps you not make silly grammar goofs?

I’ve just the thing.

It’s Grammar In Your Pocket, a fun-filled, interactive grammar guide. Through current events, popular culture, and humor, Grammar In Your Pocket painlessly sharpens your grammar wits.

How do you get it?

If you’re a teacher, student or parent with an Edmodo account at your school, you can demo a sample of Grammar In Your Pocket. You can get the whole app for a mere $5 … for a lifelong membership. And as I add more entries, they’ll automatically be yours, too. No extra $$$.

MORE NEWS!

Grammar In Your Pocket will soon be available at Apple’s App Store.  I’ll keep you posted.

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Band of Brothers

Somewhere around 1600, in a remote French town, three brothers were born. They grew up strange; not only did they live together all their lives (none of them married), they worked together every day. And they were staggeringly gifted artists whose paintings often depicted poor peasants in a sympathetic way.

Meet the Brothers Le Nain—Mathieu, Louis, and Antoine—whose work is shown in a major exhibition at San Francisco’s Legion of Honor. Between now and January 29, one can witness a rare display of the paintings that influenced artists from Courbet to van Gough, and (IMHO) Diego Rivera and the WPA social realism painters of the 1930s Depression.

For years, art historians and restoration experts have pored over paintings by the Le Nain brothers, trying to decide which brother created which painting. There seems to now be a consensus that the brothers worked together on the same painting, and experts no longer try to attribute a particular work to Antoine, Louis, or Mathieu. For the purpose of attribution, paintings are simply by the brothers Le Nain—one very talented artist.

Because most of the works are on loan from the great institutions of Europe, this is an opportunity most rare.

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