Downscaling The economy might be looking up, but don't tell that to San Francisco chefs: The Bay Area trend is toward more modest projects. This summer, Jardinière's Traci Des Jardins is opening Mijita, a taqueria serving dishes like Oaxacan tamales. Piperade's Gerald Hirigoyen is launching Bocadillos, a tapas and sandwich bar that will serve items like gratinéed scrambled eggs with bacon and toast. And Craig Stoll's pizzeria will open next to his Mission restaurant, Delfina.

New Asian Influences Umeboshi (small, salty preserved plums) are one of the new ingredients appearing on menus—they're spiking cocktails at Riingo in New York City and flavoring a sauce for salmon at Restaurant L in Boston. In Austin, Texas, Uchi serves sawagani (deep-fried tiny river crabs), as does Moto in Chicago. Elsewhere chefs are putting interesting spins on more familiar Eastern ingredients. In Boston, Thomas John of Mantra recently unveiled The Spice Bizarre, a lounge menu that includes items such as pulled-lamb samosas. Rene Michelena will serve a mix of Indonesian and Malaysian street food when his yet-to-be-named restaurant opens this summer. In Manhattan, Laurent Tourondel of BLT Steak will offer dishes such as five-spice pork sandwiches at Viet Café, scheduled to open this month. In San Francisco, Charles Phan is opening a yet-to-be-named casual version of the Slanted Door, his vaunted Vietnamese restaurant.

Late-Night Menus San Francisco is known as a town that goes to bed early. Now, at Frisson, chef Daniel Patterson will serve dinner until 1 a.m., and restaurateur Jocelyn Bulow plans to keep his yet-to-be-named Embarcadero restaurant open until the same hour. New York City has new late-night options too. Mas is serving small French-American plates until 4 a.m. Landmarc offers a bistro menu until 2 a.m.

Hydraulic Tables So many Manhattan restaurants are doubling as lounges, they're installing tables that rise up for dinner and lower for drinks. Sumile has them in its bar area, while Vela uses them throughout the restaurant. David Sarner, Vela's owner, sees mood lighting and adjustable sound for each table as future trends.

Star-Chef Trades It's the culinary equivalent of Yankee owner George Steinbrenner acquiring star infielder Alex Rodriguez. First, restaurateur and star chef Alain Ducasse recruited another star chef, Christian Delouvrier, formerly at Lespinasse in Manhattan, to cook at Ducasse's eponymous New York City restaurant. Then restaurateur Drew Nieporent tapped Stuart Brioza, formerly of Michigan's Tapawingo, to work in San Francisco at his restaurant Rubicon. Danny Meyer, another top New York restaurateur, snagged Gabriel Kreuther, formerly of New York City's Atelier, to work at The Modern, which will open at the end of the year at the remodeled Museum of Modern Art in Manhattan.

    By Carla RanickiKate Krader and Ratha Tep