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Eastern Mediterranean gets real. The Absinthe Group goes Spanish. And art collides with food at SFMOMA. It’s all happening now, so it’s time you start tasting. Here’s our official list of the six places you should probably check out, stat.

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Nothing says Spanish like a piping-hot skillet of paella, and that’s exactly what you can expect from the latest venture by the Absinthe Group. Legs of jamón ibérico de bellota (after which the restaurant is named) dangle from the ceiling next to the pristine open kitchen, calling you to order a meat-and-cheese plate for an appetizer. Then, because when in Spain (or a Spanish restaurant), you must indulge in a hearty entrée of paella (shown here with wood-oven-roasted morel mushrooms, snow peas, rhubarb and green garlic sofrito).

888 Brannan St.; 415-430-6580 or



Expect more than just the standard Mediterranean staples we’ve come to know and love (sorry, no hummus here) at this gorgeous new modern medina . The daily-changing menu at Tawla is replete with lesser-known delicacies that are traditionally prepared at homes in Turkey, Greece, the Levant (Palestine, Israel, Jordan, Syria) and Iran. And we guarantee you’ll be ready to jump right in. Let us suggest the musakhan (a wood-roasted chicken slathered in allspice and sumac); whole rock cod with spicy walnut stuffing and tahini; and a handful of mezes to start.

206 Valencia St.; 415-814-2704 or

Liz Hafalia/The Chronicle


Art and food intersect at SFMOMA’s new restaurant helmed by three-Michelin-star chef Corey Lee. A rotating menu of 15 dishes reads like a best-of collection of famous plates from around the world. The French Laundry’s Liberty duck breast, Momofuku Ssäm Bar’s spicy pork sausage rice cakes and Noma’s wood sorrel with sheep’s-milk yogurt are just a few of the all-star appearances. Let us suggest Mission Street Food’s “apocalypse” burger--a cheeky, deconstructed interpretation of an American junk-food classic with a patty meant to resemble a charcoal briquette. Edgy.

151 Third St.; 415-941-6050 or



The first Bay Area location of Roy Choi and Daniel Patterson’s highly anticipated healthy-ish fast-food joint just opened shop in Oakland, and hungry nine-to-fivers have been lining up for the cheap bites ever since. Think green juice, French toast holes and egg-and-cheese breakfast sandwiches in the morning, plus lunchtime favorites like fried chicken sammies and spicy noodle bowls. 

2214 Broadway, Oakland;

Patrick Chin


Looking for a place to eat before your next theater date? Union Square’s notorious food wasteland just got less depressing with the opening of Tratto on the ground floor of the Marker hotel. Rustic Italian fare is the name of the game, with enough house-made pasta, pizza and small-plate antipasti--like prosciutto with figs and aged balsamic--to make you swear off your no-carb diet for good.

501 Geary St.; 415-292-0101 or



Thanks to a recent influx of Asian restaurants, wine country has no shortage of go-to spots when you’re hankering for Chinese or Japanese. Add this California-inspired yakitori restaurant to your list--for when nothing but grilled chicken skewers will satisfy the urge.

3020 St. Helena Hwy North., St. Helena; 707-302-3777 or

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