San Francisco is a city of appetites - for life, for politics, and above all for food. And perhaps no other person has had more influence on shaping those appetites than Pat Kuleto. Like a restaurant renaissance man, Kuleto has fashioned a reputation as an entrepreneur, a restaurant designer, a vintner and a creator of trends. He has designed and built more than 175 restaurants worldwide, but has his firmest foothold in San Francisco and the Bay Area, where some of the most popular establishments bear his inimitable stamp.
Kuleto is both co-owner and designer of such highly acclaimed restaurants as Boulevard, Jardinière in San Francisco, as well as St Helena's Martini House in the Napa Valley and Nick's Cove on Tomales Bay. He is also the proprietor of the Kuleto Estate Winery in the Napa Valley and had a hand in the design and concept of Fog City Diner and McCormick & Kuleto's on Ghirardhelli Square. But while Kuleto has been an influential force in Bay Area dining over the last 20 years, his reputation has taken a significant upwards turn.
Kuleto opened two of the most high-profile new restaurants San Francisco has seen in the past decade: Waterbar and EPIC Roasthouse, side-by-side destination restaurants in Rincon Park. They are the first privately owned buildings to break ground on the San Francisco waterfront in nearly a century.
Waterbar is a seafood restaurant, while EPIC offers a menu centred on meats, game and poultry. It's a new approach to surf-and-turf, and another indication that Kuleto remains at the top of this game.
The two restaurants share an outdoor piazza (with seating) offering panoramic views of the Bay Bridge, Treasure Island and the San Francisco skyline. Both showcase the kind of interior styling for which Kuleto has become known: bold, innovative and eye-popping, but never distracting too much from the food. To that end, Kuleto also has a reputation of partnering with capable kitchen veterans. Waterbar is operated and co-owned by acclaimed chef Mark Franz of Farallon fame, while EPIC will be headed and co-owned by renowned chef Jan Birnbaum, who enjoyed a rabid following at the highly acclaimed Catahoula restaurant in Calistoga. Kuleto's design for Waterbar includes floor-to-ceiling aquariums and a cascading raw bar. For EPIC, he drew in a custom wood-fired grill and a large wood-burning oven, along with an enormous fireplace.
It's not often that new restaurants generate as much anticipation among jaded, food-savvy locals as this duo of waterfront eateries has done. But when Pat Kuleto is involved, it's usually a safe bet that the hype is worth it. At this guide went to press, the restaurants has just opened, and local mouths were already starting to water.