Smack dab between the teeming Westfield San Francisco shopping center and a soon-to-be-reimagined block is a site experiencing a renaissance of its own. With the reopening of San Francisco’s Old Mint by the San Francisco Museum and Historical Society closer to reality than a fantasy, the tiny block just north of the Mint has been transformed into a pleasant pedestrian walkway, replete with outdoor seating and several enticing restaurants and bars, including the European-inspired Chez Papa Resto, where the worldly Sophia Mauchly Ho Sing Loy tends bar. Chez Papa Resto is at 4 Mint Plaza, San Francisco, (415) 546-4031.
What can you tell me about this place? We’ve been here 3½ years. It’s a contemporary French restaurant with American influences.
What are your cocktails like? We are in the process of changing our cocktail menu. We want to make it more simple and refine it. We had our classic cocktails on the menu and now we are just listing the ingredients for them. For example, for our St. George cocktail, rather than listing just a random name, we want to be more informative and list the ingredients instead.
How do you come up with the cocktails? Adam [Chapman], our beverage director, me and the other bartenders are always coming up with seasonal cocktails. We are excited about making seasonal cocktails with a little twist, and we throw around ideas.
How long have you been here? I came to San Francisco from Florence. I’ve been working here for 2½ years. I was hosting and about six months ago, I decided to branch out. I trained with the bartender before me for two or three shifts. She got into a car accident and they needed someone to come in to work. So I had to sink or swim. It was really a matter of timing and it was lucky I had started to train.
How would you describe the decor? When I started, it was a little more gothic. Now we bring a little more elegance and we are lightening it up. We are changing it in small ways.
What’s your clientele like? We are located around a lot of hotels and the concierges know us. Plus, we got a lot of regulars and people who live in the lofts. There are three restaurants in this plaza: Italian, American and French. It’s sort of a European thing. This used to be a dark alley, but now the plaza has chairs, trees and cafes.
What do you like about bartending? It’s fun, fast-paced and you never get bored. You are always preparing things — not just mixing things up.
What’s the history of this place? The restaurant next door used to be a fire station and where we are now used to be a bar for the employees of the building.
Have you done anything with the Old Mint? They use it for tours and host events there. We’ve catered there.
What are the popular drinks here? We have a really extensive bourbon selection.
What do you recommend on the menu here? The hamachi sashimi. I like it because it has a little spice to it and it awakens the palate.
Serve in a jar with red tea smoke.