The return of Hollywood glam

Selby's to debut with steak, lobster and 'the coldest martini on the West Coast'

More than 125 vintage and contemporary art pieces from the Lost Art Salon in San Francisco hang throughout Selby's. Photo by Sinead Chang.

Make no bones about it: With white marble floors, custom chandeliers, martinis made tableside and dishes like lobster thermidor and veal marsala, Selby's is a restaurant of opulence.

The latest project from Bacchus Management Group, whose restaurants include The Village Pub in Woodside, Mayfield Bakery & Cafe in Palo Alto and Spruce in San Francisco, Selby's is set to open in Redwood City on Tuesday, July 23.

Bacchus completely gutted and rebuilt the two-story, 10,000-square-foot space at 3001 El Camino Real after Chantilly's, a longtime French and Northern Italian restaurant, closed in 2017.

Selby's seeks to recreate the glamor of 1930s and 1940s Hollywood for Silicon Valley in 2019. Tim Stannard, Bacchus' founding partner, wants the restaurant to fill a niche for the affluent community of Atherton (despite the fact that the restaurant's address is in neighboring Redwood City).

"To a certain extent I think that Atherton lacks a clubhouse. It lacks the third place — if you're not at home and you're not at work, where do you go?" Stannard said. "We want the restaurant to be a reflection of its community."

Inside, the restaurant's walls alternate between black paneling and dark-green mohair, decorated with vintage and contemporary art curated over the last year-plus from the Lost Art Salon in San Francisco, which specializes in work by "forgotten" California artists. Photographs of Audrey Hepburn, Truman Capote, Duke Ellington and Gloria Vanderbilt hang above cocktail tables in the 26-seat bar. Bacchus hired interior designer Stephen Brady, formerly of Ralph Lauren Home, to revamp the space.

There are two dining rooms, one downstairs and one up a winding marble staircase on a second-level mezzanine. Upstairs are also three private dining rooms, including a smaller room where green felt can be pulled over a marble-topped table for private card games. The bathrooms have gold-paneled ceilings and emerald-green tiled walls. A back staircase is for wait staff to travel between the upstairs and downstairs but also doubles as a "VIP entrance" for diners who might prefer to enter more discreetly, Stannard said.

Selby's will serve a cheeseburger, but also caviar, oysters Rockefeller, dry-aged duck, beef Wellington carved tableside and steaks, including the "40 by 40," a 40-ounce porterhouse steak aged for 40 days. Meat and fish will be butchered in a chilled basement room. Most of the produce will come from Bacchus' private farm in Woodside, which supplies all of its restaurants.

The kitchen team, lead by Bacchus Executive Chef Mark Sullivan, spent months cooking its way through recipes by Julia Child, Craig Claiborne and M.F.K. Fisher. They hired Jason Pringle as chef de cuisine; he comes with fine-dining experience, most recently at the Ritz Carlton Half Moon Bay.

"Lobster thermidor, oysters Rockefeller, dover sole — dishes like that that you really don't see anymore, which is kind of a shame because it's actually delicious food but got abandoned because it was really heavy, butter- and cream-based cuisine," Stannard said. "But the dishes themselves, reimagined for a modern, lighter palate, are spectacular."

The Selby's take on chicken vol-au-vent, for example — classically a puff pastry filled with chicken, bacon and vegetables cooked in butter and cream— is instead rabbit loin wrapped in thinly cut bacon, then seared and sliced into coins. It's served with a puff pastry cup stuffed with peas, carrots and spring onions cooked in chicken stock, crème fraîche and lemon.

Ice-cold martinis are at the heart of Selby's cocktail program. The downstairs and upstairs dining rooms will each have two martini carts for the drinks to be made in front of diners. In a quest to serve "the coldest martini on the West Coast," they installed freezers behind the bar to keep gin and vodka bottles cold up until the moment the liquor is poured into vermouth-rinsed, frozen martini glasses, Stannard said.

The cocktail menu will feature a handful of simple, classic drinks.

Selby's will have what Stannard says is one of the largest wine collections in the United States, with separate wine and red wine rooms that will store upwards of 30,000 bottles. The wine list will focus on vintage Italian, Spanish, French and California wines.

All of the 70-plus staff, from bussers and dishwashers to line cooks, started this Monday three weeks of in-depth training, including lectures on wine, spirits and service.

Stannard said they hope to earn "right out the gate" a Michelin star and Wine Spectator Grand Award, the magazine's highest honor. Both Village Pub and Spruce hold these achievements.

The El Camino Real space has been a restaurant since 1937, when the Italian family who still owns the building opened Johnny's, according to Stannard. It later housed Barbarossa for two decades, then Chantilly's for 43 years. With a 40-year lease, they hope to become the next longstanding chapter in that restaurant history — albeit a much swankier one.

Selby's will be open for dinner only from 5-10 p.m.

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