Fit for a King

The ancient Romans may have conquered the world over two thousand years ago, but Italians still reign supreme when it comes to culinary prowess. No cuisine is more ubiquitous nor beloved, influencing modern culture near and far to this day. That said, given the overwhelming abundance of options already out there, does the world really need yet another Italian restaurant?

The King’s Feet, brand new on the scene in downtown Berkeley, would like to think so. Despite the wealth of preexisting options, there are surprisingly few establishments offering high-end vegan Italian food at any price. The King’s Feet takes aim at a more savvy, well-traveled, and voracious demographic, unsatisfied by the average red sauce joint that only offers doughy pizza crusts and plain pasta. That’s why the menu is a refreshing change of pace, even if appears familiar at first glance.

They’re not noodling around with their gut-busting pasta dishes, stacking up lofty layers of roasted summer squash, marinara, and dairy-free ricotta in their lasagna. The cheese is really the best part, so soft and savory, impossibly creamy, which is why the spinach-stuffed manicotti really shine. Those tender pasta tubes, cooked to an ideal al dente consistency, could rival anything made by your Nonna.

That said, I do believe that their biggest claim to fame will be the pizza. Super chewy, lightly blistered crusts with a range of seasonal vegetables and homemade meatless proteins and cheeses combine in the perfect proportion, demonstrating attention to detail that most places lack. Quite frankly, if you don’t order the maitake “clam” pie, you’re doing it wrong. Intensely garlicky, richly oiled, absurdly umami, the overall experience is almost too much. Treading the fine line between decadent and greasy, well-seasoned and salty, it manages to land on the side of satisfaction that makes you eat yourself to ruin. Granted, the overall effect strikes me more as a white sauce mushroom pizza than anything with seafood, but that’s probably a positive thing for people less enthralled with eating sea critters.

Speaking of which, the “calamari” made of fried mushrooms is not to be missed. Crispy, juicy, more addictive than fried chicken, it comes with a spicy aioli that is equally good for dipping pizza crusts in at the end of the meal, as you mull over the empty boxes. Ask for an extra portion; you won’t be the first.

Brought to you by the same masterminds from The Butcher’s Son, it’s no surprised that the cooks at The King’s Feet throw down the same gut-busting, no-holds-barred approach to nostalgic comfort food, dietary restrictions be dammed.

*Reviewed while sheltering in place due to the COVID-19 pandemic, thus all food was ordered to go.

Wordless Wednesday: Wildly Delicious

Ceviche of King Trumpet Mushrooms; leche de tigre, avocado, mango and seeded chips

Beet Poke; macadamia, baby cucumbers, ponzu, seaweed garlic crackers

Curried Cauliflower; with muhammara and toasted almonds

Mexican Corn Cakes; cherry tomatoes salad, lime, chili and queso

Mezze Plate; falafel, smoked white bean hummus, baba ghanoush, cucumber, marinated feta, pomegranate-tomato and parsley tabouli, seeded flatbread

Neatball Masala; warm super grains, lentil and mushroom neatballs, coconut masala, pickled carrots, tzatziki

Donburi; warm super grains, kimchi, avocado, roasted yam, shiitake mushroom, chard, roasted cauliflower

Peruvian Hodo Soy Tofu Skewer; with King Oysters mushrooms, yam, aji amarillo, quinoa salad, and cucumber yogurt

Impossible Burger; grilled onion, chipotle aioli, tomatoes, gem lettuce

Warm Chocolate Cake; beet and chaga, Gio’s chocolate gelato, coco nibs

Wildseed
2000 Union Street
San Francisco, CA 94123

Front and Center

Pizza parlors are a dime a dozen in any city worth its rent. Sold by the slice or full pie, the combination of crisp, slightly charred blistered crust with gooey cheese, still bubbling from the oven’s scalding hot breath, no one can resist such simple pleasures. Cybelle’s Front Room in San Francisco was founded upon that basic premise, like countless others, but rapidly evolved into an outpost for far more complex, diverse comfort food delights.

Not just catering to the sporadic herbivorous visitor, an entirely vegan menu pulls out all the stops, with old-school Italian-Fusion fare, paying no mind to misguided naysayers. Leave your diet at the door, because this is no rabbit food.

Despite her blisteringly hectic schedule, I had the great fortune of sitting down with chef Christa Yan (in our respective apartments during shelter in place mandates) to get the inside scoop of how this classic red sauce joint transitioned into a meatless dining destination.

Buffalo Chick’n Mac & Cheese

Hannah Kaminsky: When was Cybelle’s Front Room originally established?
Christa Yan: So CyBelle’s Pizza used to be a pizza chain with 28 CyBelle’s Pizza locations throughout the Bay Area. It was one of my dad’s first “real” American jobs when he came here from Hong Kong as a teenager. He worked his way up and became manager of all 28 CyBelle’s Pizza locations. In the early ’90s the entire chain split up and all the stores became independently owned. My dad ended up independently owning one CyBelle’s Pizza location on Parnassus near UCSF here in San Francisco.

In 2004, the original Front Room, where we are now on 9th Avenue, went up for sale by the original owners, who had been running the Front Room since the ’70s. My dad ended up buying it from them and decided to combine the two names and menus, hence CyBelle’s Front Room was born and it’s been this way since 2004. It’s been 16 years now as CyBelle’s Front Room and owned and operated by my parents!

Caesar Salad

HK: When did you start serving a vegan menu?
CY: I started the Vegan Menu in August 2017. It started out as a few simple items. I had just moved back to the Bay after a 10-year stint in Chicago. I didn’t know what the vegan community in SF was like at all. Had no idea it was such a supportive community!

HK: What was the inspiration?
CY: Inspiration was honestly seeing the lack of vegan food in our immediate area in the Inner Sunset District here in San Francisco. I’m a comfort food type of gal. I love eating “naughty” food! I wanted some real naughty vegan food!

Impossible Nacho Fries

HK: How often do you change the menu?
CY: So we do have an 8-page permanent plant-based menu now. It’s grown definitely. We keep adding “specials” pretty much all the time that interchange every month or so. We have a little table menu that we call our mini “specials board” and that’s where we keep all our specials that change all the time, in addition to the 8-page permanent plant-based menu.

Zucchini Noodle Carbonara

HK: How have the vegan dishes been received? Was there any push back from regulars?
CY: No push back from regulars that I can recall right now honestly! I think plant-based comfort food is new to a lot of people who aren’t familiar with faux meats etc. Our regulars that have been coming for 13+ plus years are wowed by everything honestly and they try stuff from the vegan menu all the time!

Chicken Parm

HK: What’s the most popular order?
CY: It’s a tie between the beignets with cookie butter and the mac n cheese pizza right now.

Beignets with Chocolate Sauce and Cookie Butter

HK: Do you have a personal favorite?
CY: My personal favorite is our Vegan Mozz Stuffed Garlic Knots. They are super naughty. Loaded with garlic and butter and olive oil and more garlic and then more butter. Not for the faint of heart. Or anyone on a caloric deficit. But it is right up my alley and it’s been a huge hit.

HK: Is there anything you’re particularly excited about coming soon?
CY: OH YESSSS. We are debuting housemade vegan pepperoni. Working on Vegan Mozzarella sticks as well. Lots of cool vegan pizza combos. More types of different vegan wings as well. Possibly a super crispy ridiculous fried chik’n sandwich. Lots of things in my brain!

Mac & Cheese Calzone

HK: Any other background information or stories you’d like to share?
CY: My parents have been in this business 30+ years now. They are high school sweethearts. They are true San Franciscan locals. They met at George Washington High School here in SF. They compare their love story to The Notebook, it’s ridiculous and sweet and hilarious. I feel lucky to have such a solid support system that came from so much love like that. It’s almost not real but it is.

My father is at the restaurant from open till close, every single day, and has held our family and business together for decades. That to me is the definition of a dedicated father, great husband, honorable businessman. He has helped so many businesses on our block. I could go into detail but he’s so humble about it he doesn’t want me advertising. He came here from Hong Kong as a teenager with very little. This is a true American Dream story.

Cybelle’s Front Room
1385 9th Ave.
San Francisco, CA 94122

 
 

 

 

Dine Out at Home

Jamaican – Brown stew jackfruit, curry, rice and peas, calaloo, hot sauce, and sorrel

Separated by physical distance, against all odds, communities have drawn closer together in the face of extreme adversity. This is how we survive; together, collectively, this is how we win.

Early Spring – Stewed red lentils with berbere, roasted beets with poppyseed dressing, rice pilaf, and potato chowder

Deftly shifting gears from in-person dinner events and cooking lessons, chef Philip Gelb of Sound & Savor began offering takeout and delivery without missing a beat. Now those same world-class meals arrive direct to diners’ doors, with new menus offered twice a week. Critics are raving not just about the food, but the service itself. At a time when the world is shutting down, the fact that such a service can continue without any perceptible decline in quality is a testament to the chef himself.

Sichuan – Mapo tofu, hot and sour soup, kung pao cauliflower, garlic choy sum, pickled daikon, mung bean sprouts, and chili oil

Generous donors have gone above and beyond the order form to afford those less fortunate with free meals, too, myself now included. Just being able to mark the calendar with the event, looking forward to this gift, has given me a reason endure another interminable, grueling week.⁣

Ital – Roots soup, rice and peas, jerk cauliflower, stewed black eyed peas, sorrel, and oatmeal cookies


Receiving a warm bundle of homemade of Jamaican jerk cauliflower, or fiery Sichuan mapo tofu, or Ital coconut stew is absolutely life-affirming. Nothing lifts the spirits like a staycation in a spoon. Tasting the world without leaving home is a true luxury, especially when you may or may not even find plain dry rice on grocery store shelves.

Cantonese – Tofu with choy sum soup, black bean asparagus, ginger gai lan, pickled daikon, mung bean sprouts, and chocolate chip cookies

No matter the culinary destination, it’s impossible to go wrong with Phil’s food. Pitch-perfect every time, for a comforting dinner at home, with all the finesse of a chef’s touch.



Indian-Jamaican Fusion – Roasted asparagus with cumin, dal, stewed jackfruit, rice and peas, and oatmeal cookies

Fresh menus are posted regularly on Facebook. Don’t check DoorDash or UberEats or GrubHub or whathaveyou; it’s one-stop shopping with dedicated, unaffiliated delivery to Oakland, Berkeley, El Cerrito, Richmond, Walnut Creek, Concord, and Danville Alamo. Send Phil an email to give yourself, someone you love, or someone that’s struggling the same delicious gift today.

Sichuan – Mapo tofu, ginger gai lan, pickled daikon and lotus roots

[Almost] Wordless Wednesday: Bet the Ranch

Rancho Compasión provides a home to former farm animals that have been neglected, exploited, and abused. Founded by Miyoko and Michael Schinner, this sanctuary is hidden away in Nicasio, California, surrounded by redwood trees, thriving wildlife, and longstanding farming culture. These efforts are all made possible with the support of compassionate donors. It all began with just two goats, and has since blossomed to provide a place of refuge for over 70 animals, including chickens, pigs, cows, and many more.

Their overall mission is to provide shelter and care for rescued farm animals for their entire natural lifespans, while educating visitors and students to help them rethink how they view animals typically categorized as “food”. Rancho Compasión promotes and advocates for a vegan lifestyle for the animals, for our planet and for our health.