Michael "Lev" Leviton, 29, chef de cuisine at YOYO restaurant in San Francisco, puts a French twist on Japanese cuisine with "tsumami bistro" fare. He learned his craft from some of San Francisco's most celebrated chefs: Joyce Goldstein, Alain Rondelli, and Elka Gilmore.
In 1989 Leviton entered the kitchen of the highly acclaimed Square One under Goldstein's inspirational guidance. "Joyce gave me a place to grow and offered me every opportunity to do so," he says. "With the menu changing every day, she taught me about a rainbow of flavors."
Alain Rondelli recruited Leviton to Ernie's in 1991, then recommended him to fellow Frenchman Daniel Boulud of Le Cirque in New York. In 1993 he returned to San Francisco as sous chef at the new Rondelli.
"Cooking side-by-side with Alain taught me how to work really hard," says Leviton. "From Daniel I learned classic French technique, and how to turn out hundreds of perfect dishes every day under non-stop stress."
Cooking as a profession came upon Leviton as a complete surprise. While studying Psychology at Wesleyan University, he took a break to earn some money at a Boston salad bar. The next thing he knew he had become a sous chef at a Mexican restaurant in Connecticut. "I loved being able to express my creativity," he says. "Unexpectedly, I had found my art."
He finished his degree, planning to pursue a masters program in California, but as luck had it he landed a job with Derek Burns at a cafe in San Francisco. When Burns moved on to Square One, Leviton followed "I made a serious connection with Derek, as both a friend and a chef," he says. "When you find someone like that, you want to stick with him."
In 1994 Leviton joined up with Elka Gilmore as sous chef at Liberte. Gilmore then asked him to be sous chef at ELKA, where he was delighted to work again with Chef de Cuisine Derek Burns.
In August 1995, Leviton became chef de cuisine of YOYO, continuing to develop menus with Collaborating Chef Burns. Says Leviton, "I'm incorporating my training in French technique together with a broad palette of ingredients to create food that is exciting and intriguing yet balanced with the comfort of tradition."
|What:||YOYO Tsumami Bistro
1611 Post Street at Laguna
Opens August 1, 1995
|Who:||Michael Leviton, Chef de Cuisine
Kathy King, Restaurant Manager
Vera Za'arour, Interior Designer
John Banta, Creator & General Manager
Cuisine: In addition to the dining room menu, the tsumami bar menu will feature a variety of small Japanese tasting plates (tsumami).
Tsumami Menu—Ginger Pickled Salmon with Wasabi Creme Fraiche ($4.50); Oysters on the Half Shell with Wasabi Tobiko Mignonette ($1.50 each); Petite Asian Duck Confit and Black Lentil Galette ($4.00); Wild Turkey Chicken Wings with Grilled Pineapple Salsa ($4.00); Braised Fennel with Star Anise and Olives ($3.50).
Lunch Menu—Poached Chicken Salad with Ruby Grapefruit, Sansho Cashews and a Citrus-Soy Vinaigrette ($8.00); Seared Cured Tuna Sandwich with Cucumbers, Daikon Sprouts and Wasabi Aioli ($10.00).
Dinner Menu—Fresh and Smoked Salmon Cakes with Romaine and Pickled Ginger Salad and Wasabi Creme Fraiche ($7.00); Tempura Salad with Roasted Peppers, Soy Beans and Tatsoi ($8.00); Roasted Cod with Summer Succotash and Truffle-Herb Dressing ($17.00); Braised Lamb Shank with Azuki Bean Ragout and Nicoise Olives ($17.00).
Wine/Liquor/Beer: Extensive French and California wines; full bar; wide selection of beer and ale.
Decor/Ambiance: Upstairs a visually playful tsumami bar greets patrons with an exhibition counter and full bar, while downstairs opens to a dining room composed of simple Japanese lines and saturated color. Cool slate floors and warm umber walls complement each other in this sensual space that is both refined and casual. Subtle geometric shapes in rich colors and textures appear throughout, lit dramatically by oversized Japanese lanterns and sconces shaped in sweeping curves.
|Seating:||Dining Room: 100
|Hours:||Breakfast Daily 6:30 a.m.—11:00 a.m.
Lunch Daily 11:30 a.m.—2:00 p.m.
Dinner Nightly 5:30 p.m.—10:00 p.m.
Tsumami Bar Daily 11:30 a.m.—11:00 p.m.
Bar Daily 11:30 a.m.—12:00 midnight
|Average Check:||Breakfast: $9
Dinner: small dishes (tsumami) $3.50—$4.50
All major credit cards accepted.
Valet parking available
Yoyo \yoyo\ n [Japanese]: a wide expanse of ocean
Tsumami \ (t)su-man-e [Japanese]: a small dishes of food to accompany cocktails
Tsumami Tower of 4 $15.00
Tsumami Tower of 6 $22.00
|Ginger Pickled Salmon with Wasabi Creme Fraiche||4.50|
|Ahi Tuna Tartare with cucumbers, Daikon and Pickled Plum Vinaigrette||5.00|
|Crab Salad with Mandarins and Galangal Vinegar||5.50|
|Shrimp Salad with Beet, Orange and Shiso||4.50|
|2 Oysters on the half Shell with Wasabi Tobiko Mignonette or "Cocktail Sauce" Granita||3.00|
|Oyster Shooter with Tomato Lemongrass Gelee and Caviar||3.00|
|sautéed Burdock Salad with Carrots and Soy||3.50|
|Sesame Spinach Salad||3.00|
|Wild Turkey and Soy Chicken Wings||3.75|
|Red Curry Spiced Beef with green Papaya Salad and Coconut Creme Fraiche||5.00|
|Pork Ribs with Black Bean and Hoisin Sauce||4.50|
Split bonito fillets down the mid-line. Remove skin, bones and blood line. Pat dry. Rub fillet with halved garlic. Season with salt, pepper and sansho.
Heat a large sauté pan to smoking. Add canola oil and sear fillets on all sides (approximately 30-45 seconds per side). Remove and chill immediately. When cool, rub again with garlic.
Combine chopped garlic, scallions, ginger and lemon zest. Use as garnish with the daikon sprout tops and the tosa soy.
Combine sake and mirin. Bring to a boil and bum off the alcohol, and cool. Combine sake and mirin with all other ingredients. Let mixture infuse for 24 to 48 hours, then strain.
This page originally published as a FoodDay article in 1997.
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This page modified January 2007
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