An Inside Look at a New San Francisco Restaurant Cooking Over Live Fire

An Inside Look at a New San Francisco Restaurant Cooking Over Live Fire
Courtesy of The Bold Italic

Here's an exclusive sneak peek at the Osito by chef Seth Stowaway.

Before the chef opened his first restaurant, Seth Stowaway wasn't sleeping a week before he was supposed to open it. After a down-to-the-studs renovation, he chose to stay up all night and tile the kitchen himself in order to complete the construction on time. After finishing the task the next day, he walked home from the Mission District, took a shower, and then returned to the restaurant to meet his team.

A special project of Stowaway is known by the name Osito, which is a one-of-a-kind restaurant in San Francisco that focuses exclusively on live fire. There are no burners or microwaves in the kitchen, only a wood-burning oven and hearth. It will be a 100 percent live fire restaurant. In order to prepare a 24 plate tasting menu for a few dozen diners seated around a single communal table every night, the chef and his team will use just that heat source. The dishes will change on a daily basis.

In the week beginning Friday, Dec. 17, Osito will open its doors for dinner service on a ticketed basis with seatings for 26 diners at 5pm and 8:30pm. Tickets can be purchased by clicking on this link.

A sister bar to Osito, Liliana, will also open on Friday in the same building where Osito is located. It is located under the same roof as Osito and offers a smaller (non-communal) cocktail bar, snacks, and a pull-apart bar.

As a chef, Stowaway has been a fixture in Bay Area kitchens for 15 years, even though Osito is his first solo restaurant. Osito, or "little bear" in Spanish, comes from the nickname Stowaway's colleagues gave him. He worked as sous chef to Brandon Jew at Mister Jiu's in Chinatown and executive chef at Bar Agricole, which won the James Beard Award. 

He began doing pop-ups around the Bay Area when he got the idea of running a live-fire restaurant a few years ago when he got the idea. In 2020, despite all odds, he signed a lease for a permanent location in the Mission District, against all odds. Taking his concept to life, he assembled his kitchen team and tapped into his extensive network of makers, farmers, ranchers, artisans, foragers, purveyors and friends. 

In the Osito dining room, you'll find a 29-foot oak table, handmade in Oakland by Yvonne Mouser, that stretches across the length of the space, clad in light gray Douglas fir. Designed by Studio Terpeluk, the walls are finished with light gray Douglas fir. In this room, custom chandeliers, created by Kurtis Major, consisting of brass tubes, act as a lighting source and art installation, bouncing yellow and orange hues throughout the room as well as a light source. Reclaimed redwood details accent the space and even the cutlery is made here.

Courtesy of San Francisco Chronicle

The chef stands in the open kitchen a few feet away from the communal table. In there is a dark and moody atmosphere. Everything is made of steel and brick, and everything is custom-built by Jorgen Harle. The centerpiece is a large steel and brick hearth and oven, built by the blacksmith Jorgen Harle. Almonds and oak are the main fuels used in it.

In order to cook the food at Stowaway, a variety of equipment and outdoor cooking techniques are employed in addition to fire, which is the sole source of heat for the kitchen. The chef, for example, enjoys the challenge of barbecuing, hanging over coals on an asado cross, roasting in the oven, or even sandwiching things between two planchas.

In addition to the nine rounds of plates that will be served, the meal will also include snacks, proteins carved on the spot, banchan-style sides, desserts, cocktails and wines. Every component of the meal has been picked, fermented or preserved right there on the spot.

A singular inspiration will be the focus of every menu that Stowaway creates, and the menu will change throughout the year in order to give him even more boundaries. In February, for example, a dinner will be dedicated to the bounty of the ocean, so it might revolve around one animal such as a whole pig, or it may revolve around a group of things or microclimates, "a specific part of the ecosystem that is really great at the moment." There will be no meat on the menu during the spring and late summer months.

Courtesy of Osito

During the first few months of the restaurant's existence, game birds will be the focus of the menu. He has envisioned a dish of smoked pheasant breast salumi, which will be served with a fig jam garnish dipped in hazelnut oil. The bird will be cured, sliced thin, and marinated in hazelnut oil. As well as that, he intends to make “fowl floss,” just like he made “pork floss” at Mister Jiu’s. Protein is steams, cooked in a pan with spices and sugar, and paddled until it becomes fluffy and light.

The dish at Osito will include fermented brassicas, garlic confit, and anchovies.

As Stowaway hopes to invest in his neighborhood and his supporters as he has invested in him, he plans to offer free tickets for these future menus to people in the Mission. The journey has involved his staff, guests, farmers, investors, even his landlord, all of whom have been intimately involved in it. During opening night, for example, Stowaway partnered with SBMX, a platform that issues bonds for small businesses that are available to the general public in order to help sustain the team. For just $10, believers can obtain bonds that will be repaid over time, with interest, and investors will be able to invest in Osito.

Welcome to the New Rich. Rich Report is a Global Media Company, Focusing on Business, Investing, Technology, Entrepreneurship, Luxury Lifestyle, and Education.