How does one create a restaurant that is green and sustainable on every level and even helps reduce our carbon footprint? It only seems natural that such an ambitious movement should start in San Francisco with a new breed of restaurant called The Perennial. From there we move from the future to an oasis in the Tenderloin and a true shrine to gin. Meet Whitechapel and be transported to a Victorian-era distillery inside an abandoned London Underground station.
After two years in the making The Perennial opened earlier this year in the bustling Mid-Market corridor at 59 9th Street. Owners Anthony Myint and Karen Leibowitz (Mission Chinese Food, Commonwealth) have embraced the lofty goal of creating a restaurant that has minimal impact on the planet, adheres to sustainable practices for every component of food and beverage service—including sourcing meats and produce from growers who engage in carbon farming—to create a platform for others to follow that could ultimately reverse climate change. A 2,000 square-foot aquaponic greenhouse is underway in the East Bay that will provide the restaurant with most of its produce.
Photo by Alanna Hale
The 105-seat industrial space was designed by master woodworker Paul Discoe (Ippuku, Greens) and features many reclaimed elements such as the two long slabs of Douglas Fir that make up the L-shaped bar and the woven redwood ceiling tiles from a tunnel in Marin County. In the dining room a rug made of 100 percent recycled fibers lies beneath a sea of poplar chairs and cypress tables with views of the expansive open kitchen. Head chef Chris Kiyuna (Mission Chinese, Noma in Copenhagen) has created a “progressive agrarian” menu and has shifted the focus of meats and other proteins to more the role of accompaniment. Start off with the delicious Kernza—a new perennial grain that counteracts climate change—bread with house-made butter and lamb ciccioli with pickles. Perhaps the most emblematic dish is the potato confit with clams, aquaponic radishes and their greens and a flavorful bagna cauda made with the clam’s generally unused abductor mussels. The Perennial is open for dinner Monday through Saturday.
Photo by Helynn Ospina
Owners Martin Gate (Smuggler’s Cove) and John Park (Novela) wish to transport gin and spirit lovers to a Victorian-era distillery. The stunning interior has a barrel-vaulted ceiling that feels like a London tube station. To the right of the long bar are crimson banquettes that provide cozy seating and marble-topped tables. Toward the back is the Gin Palace with its own bar and ornate wallpaper in the style of the public houses in the 1820s that created different brands of gin. All said Whitechapel has the largest collection of gin in North America. Go early before the crowds arrive and ask for a brief and fun education and tasting. There are over 100 cocktails showcasing the history of gin and the bar regularly offers special classes.
Photo by Kelly Puleio
Inside the kitchen is chef David Murphy (Austin’s Uchi) who has crafted a menu of British, Dutch, and Bangladeshi influences. Start off with the Welsh rarebit served over pumpernickel with tickler cheddar and beetroot chutney or the steak and oyster pie with confit carrots and royal trumpets. If you are with friends and hungry go big and order the Haunch and Flagon, a 36-ounce dry-aged tomahawk steak with Yorkshire pudding, potatoes and blackberry. Whitechapel is open daily for dinner.
Photo by Kelly Puleio
James is a food writer and Bay Area chef who owns and runs a private dinner party and cooking class business specializing in regional Italian and Spanish cuisine. See CookWithJames.com