The space formerly home to the Fenouil and Jamison restaurants at 900 NW 11th Ave. won't stay empty long: David and Mellisa Root tell Eater they're opening The Hairy Lobster, a casual small plates restaurant tentatively scheduled to premiere February 2016. Combined, the Roots have serious cooking experience.
Mellisa is "the famous one in the family," David tells Eater by phone. A pastry chef, she's worked at Thomas Keller's Per Se and Madera (a Palo Alto restaurant with one Michelin star until this October), and she also represented the United States at the 2008 International Culinary Art Competition, aka World Culinary Olympics, where she won three gold medals.
David Root also has lots of experience. "This coming year will actually be my forty-fifth year cooking," says the chef, who has cooked at Todd English's bluezoo and served as executive chef of Green Valley Ranch Luxury Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas. Most recently, he cooked at the Palo Alto Hills Golf and Country Club in Silicon Valley.
Taking over 900 NW 11th comes with challenges, with Jamison listing the costs for operating in the space as one of the leading factors for closing. "There's some risk involved with the size of this property," says David, "but we're going to make it really fun and casual. No more white tablecloths." In fact, David mentioned sourcing "funky" vintage English-style china from up and down the West Coast for dinnerware.
The Roots are currently remodeling the space, and while The Hairy Lobster's menus are still undergoing development, some details are firming up. The menu will be vegetable-forward, and David says to prepare for big flavors and updated comfort foods with some nods to Asian and Southwestern influences. Because everything is small plates, nothing "should cost more than $20." In terms of meat dishes, the restaurant intends to do snout-to-tail whole-animal butchery to make things like banh mi with head cheese in place of pâté. There'll be lots of braising, too, and David's working on a project to transform braised pig tails into pig-tail fritters for the bar area. For seafood, David says, "Of course, we'll have some sort of crazy lobster dish on the menu, like a lobster cubano on chili cornbread."
And pastry? Pastry will be huge, of course. In addition to a complete dessert menu, The Hairy Lobster even intends to have a designated pastry bar near the front of the restaurant for those wanting to hop in and out for just dessert and coffee. Or Sauternes, perhaps?