NO MORE MOXY Six years after it opened in South Berkeley’s Lorin District, Moxy Beer Garden has closed. About a week ago, Nosh began receiving emails from readers who said the restaurant was being “forced out.” Our initial emails and phone calls to Moxy were unanswered, and last Tuesday, when Nosh contributor Cirrus Wood went on site to investigate, he reported back that the place was “almost completely stripped down and cleared out.” As of this week, an eviction notice hangs at 3136 Sacramento St.
This morning we received an email from Moxy’s owner Phyllis Voisenat, who ran the business with her brother Mike until he died in 2018. “Moxy Beer Garden is no longer brick and mortar as the landlord refused to extend the lease or sell,” she wrote. Voisenat said her brother gave notice of the lease extension “literally on his death bed,” but claims the landlord now refuses to recognize Moxy as a tenant. She added that the landlord did offer new lease terms, but that they “were not commercially viable.” (Nosh has reached out to the landlord for comment, but has not yet heard a response at time of publication.) Voisenat said she’ll soon sell Moxy merch online (as “Moxy Untapped”) as a way to raise funds to help pay off the restaurant’s expenses and give Moxy regulars a chance to have a souvenir from the beer garden that once was.
FILIPPO’S CHANGES COURSE, BUT HOLDS ON Twenty-eight-year-old Rockridge Italian restaurant Filippo’s is temporarily open for dinner only. According to co-owner Geovanni Vicente, who has run the restaurant with his wife Cynthia Lall-Vicente for the past three years, the change of schedule was due to a staff shortage. “We don’t have the cooks in the morning,” he told Nosh in a phone conversation, adding that he’s currently in the process of searching for cooks and hopes to bring back lunch service by April.
Vicente said that it’s been harder to retain staff in the past few years. “No one wants to work Friday, Saturday and Sunday,” he said. On top of that, he cited the increase in minimum wage and an impending rent hike as “making it harder and harder to stay in business.” The restaurant’s building was sold to a new owner last year, and when Vicente’s current lease ends in four years, the new owner told him rent will increase by 30%. Despite this, Vicente said they’ll persist and will continue to keep prices at Filippo’s affordable and quality high, including continuing to use organic chicken, grass-fed beef and sustainable seafood. But he admitted staying afloat to “pay bills, pay employees and make a penny too” will be difficult with the abbreviated schedule; he will need to bring back lunch sooner than later to make ends meet. “We don’t have investors,” Vicente said about the business, “It’s just my wife and I.”
Filippo’s was founded by restaurateur Philip Raskin, who opened a second location in Berkeley in 2002 (it closed in 2013). Although the couple are relatively new owners of Filippo’s, they have a long history with the restaurant. Both are longtime employees. Vicente started as a dishwasher 20 years ago and “worked his way up.” Although things are in constant flux, the Vicentes are still moving forward, hoping for the best and in the meantime are grateful to the customers who’ve continued to support this mom-and-pop business. Filippo’s, 5400 College Ave. (at Manila Avenue), Oakland
PORQUE NO? TEMPORARILY CLOSED Nearby, Rockridge taqueria Porque No? Tacos seems to no longer be sharing the space at Pucquio Peruvian restaurant on College Avenue. Porque No? opened last summer as a permanent pop-up, open for breakfast and lunch while the dinner-only anchor restaurant was closed. The taqueria gained a quick following for its American and Mexican morning menu, but especially for its burritos, tortas and tacos.
Early this month, Nosh noticed the signs for Porque No? Tacos that once were prominently displayed on the awning and in the windows at Pucquio were no longer up, and the business has been listed as “temporarily closed” on Yelp, initially with a note that it would reopen Jan. 21. However, with that date now passed, the Yelp listing now shows a Feb. 21 reopening date. Nosh has reached out to co-owner Omar Lopez for comment, and in the meantime, we are crossing our fingers for Porque No?’s speedy return.
HOT & COLD Medheads will not love this one, but the new restaurant called Boileroom, which takes over the former Caffè Mediterraneum space, has finally opened. Boileroom specializes in Chinese hot pot and rolled ice cream, but when Nosh tipster Ted Friedman stopped in over the weekend, he found the two-story eatery was only serving ice cream, as the hot pot set-up was not yet functional. Still, a crowd had gathered to try the made-to-order frozen treat, created by pouring a thin layer of liquid ice cream base onto a frozen surface and scraping it into coils.
Nosh stopped in last night to find out more details. The ice cream part of the business comes from Roll Ice Cream Mixology. Customers order at the counter, where staff prepares the frozen rolls before their eyes. Roll Ice Cream Mixology offers 10 flavors, including Golden Bear (mango and blueberry), Dark Matter (black sesame) and O.G. (classic vanilla). Each serving comes with three toppings for $6.95, additional toppings can be added for 50-cents each.
As for hot pot, service starts Thursday (Jan. 23). For those who aren’t familiar, hot pot is a popular Chinese dish, where diners dip slices of meat, vegetables, tofu and other ingredients into boiling (and often spicy) broth. Boileroom will offer 10 kinds of hot pot — including Taiwanese stinky tofu, beef, lamb and a large Taiwanese spicy hot pot. Prices for each range from $13.50-$16.50 for lunch (free tea, at lunch only); $14.50-$21.99 for dinner. Diners choose the spice level of their broth and between a side of rice or vermicelli. Boileroom, 2475 Telegraph Ave. (between Dwight Way and Haste Street), Berkeley
NEW IN RICHMOND On Jan. 15, a new waterfront restaurant opened in Richmond’s Marina Bay neighborhood. Taking over the space last occupied by 25-year-old Italian restaurant, Salute e Vita Ristorante, which closed in July 2018, is Lara’s Fine Dining. According to the Richmond Standard, the Lara behind the restaurant is Lara Choe, who also owns Hotel Mac in Point Richmond.
The Richmond Standard reports that under Choe, the space has undergone major renovation costing over $1 million. Lara’s Fine Dining boasts a new bar and bathrooms, an updated dining room and upgrades to the kitchen, including a new pizza oven. But, Choe retained a couple of things from Salute e Vita — its chef, Fernando Aguayo, and manager, Gon Vilayphanh.
Lara’s specialties include housemade pasta and pizza, but the menu also offers seafood, steaks and chops, salads, sandwiches and burgers. Prices hover around $20 for small plates, sandwiches and pastas, and about $40 for heartier entrees. Lara’s Fine Dining, 1900 Esplanade Dr., Richmond
LAND & SEA As noted in Nosh’s recent Berkeley Restaurant Week picks, Fish & Bird Souzaka Izakaya, a Berkeley restaurant specializing in modern Japanese cuisine, opened this week. According to the restaurant’s co-owner Yoshika Hedberg, Fish & Bird will be in soft-open mode through February, as staff continues to learn the ropes (Jumping head first into Restaurant Week is one way to accelerate that learning curve!).
Over the weekend, we got a taste of the menu, which offers mostly shareable small plates, priced at $8-$24, including seared duck tataki topped with quail egg, a seaweed salad with Kyushu octopus, and a decadent chawanmushi (steamed egg custard) with uni, caviar and black truffle. Our favorite dishes from the night were the hearty and comforting Berkshire pork belly nabe ($16), which had a rich, smoky dashi and was chock full of mushrooms and pork belly slices and the homemade soft tofu ($7), which had a fluffy texture and a delicate flavor of Chinese-style soy milk. Fish & Bird Souzaka Izakaya, 2451 Shattuck Ave. (at Haste Street), Berkeley
CRAB SUNDAY RETURNS Homestead’s annual pre-Thanksgiving crab dinners took a hit this year, due to the delay of Dungeness crab season. But as promised, the Piedmont Avenue restaurant has found new dates for its Crab Sunday dinner now that the crustacean is readily available. The prix-fixe meal comes with soup (crab bisque) and salad; grilled Dungeness crab served with garlicky marble potatoes, charred escarole, roasted baby carrots and Parker rolls; and salted caramel cheesecake for dessert, all for $68 (service included). The Homestead crab dinners happen this Sunday (Jan. 26) and Feb. 2, between 4:30-8:30 p.m. Call (510) 420-6962 or go online to make a reservation. Homestead, 4029 Piedmont Ave. (between 40th and 41st streets), Oakland
YEAR OF THE MOCHI Berkeley’s Third Culture Bakery is offering a limited-edition black sesame mochi muffin in celebration of Lunar New Year. The muffins get their dark hue from Japanese black sesame seeds, which are ground into a paste. Third Culture says the grinding process takes 72 hours “for the purest taste and flavor.” The muffins made their debut at a Third Culture pop-up in Japan, and co-founders Wenter Shyu and Sam Butarbutar decided that Lunar New Year was a perfect time to offer them stateside. The black sesame mochi muffins are available now until Feb. 8 (or until supplies last) at Third Culture’s West Berkeley showroom. Third Culture Bakery, 2701 Eighth St. (at Carleton Street), Berkeley