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The four hottest new restaurants to try right now, including Berkeley's Great China and Russian Hill's Verbena.

Verbena

The main dining room of Verbena

Great China
Berkeley
New digs, same great duck for this respected outfit, which reopened two years after it was scorched by fire. These days, a bar eases the wait, and the notoriously curt service seems kinder. The kitchen still serves crowd-pleasers such as kung pao chicken and “ant climbed the tree”—and then there’s the Peking duck. The piled-high platter of moist meat and crisp, malty skin remains the reason that this place has die-hard regulars. 2190 Bancroft Way (at Fulton St.), 510-843-7996 J.S.

Pizzeria Delfina
Burlingame
Wait, Burlingame? When the original location of this beloved pizzeria opened in the Mission in 2005, no one could have seen suburbia coming, but here it is. Much of this third incarnation of the restaurant feels the same: long lines, great wine, magnificent pizza. In case you’re worried about owners Craig and Annie Stoll taking the Delfina brand strip mall, don’t be: A menu featuring chilled tripe and fennel with bottarga shows that they’re not the pandering type. 1444 Burlingame Ave. (near Primrose Rd.), 650-288-1041 S.D. 

Verbena
Russian Hill
The second restaurant from the owners of Gather in Berkeley, this handsome, modern space with a dramatically lit brick bar has a menu that leans toward hippie chic. Chef Sean Baker treats vegetables like royalty, displaying them artfully and adding quirky touches like pumpkin-seed milk. But a bowl of beef rib, braised in a broth spiked with garum, mint, and a bit of bok choy, could warm the heart of any carnivore. 2323 Polk St. (near Union St.), 415-441-2323 S.D.

Libby Jane Café
Tenderloin
Fans of Brenda’s French Soul Food now have a cute little waiting room next door called Libby Jane. More of a coffee shop than a full-on restaurant, it offers carb-centric treats including cheddar-bacon biscuits to tide you over. The coffee selection includes the requisite Ritual, but you can also get a cup of Community Coffee, the choice of New Orleans javaphiles. Have a little bowl of gumbo and take a jar of okra pickles to go. 644 Polk St. (near Eddy St.), 415-926-2540 S.D.

 

Originally published in the March 2014 issue of San Francisco 

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