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Week in Reviews: Clueless Brody Gets Gifts at Sens, Bauer Goes Plumpjackin' and MORE!

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Kesler Archives, 9/27/07

Leading off, Meredith Brody is one of the first major reviewers to take a look at Sens, the ambitious, semi-upscale Mediterranean restaurant housed in the Embarcadero Center. Despite VIP treatment from the so-called "phantom pastry chef"—sidenote: shouldn't semi-celebrity pastry chef Shuna Fish Lydon be known by every major food writer?—Brody still doesn't seem impressed with the dinner fare:

We turned away an unordered dish of grilled octopus, but it was returned to us with the unexpected information that it was a gift from the pastry chef, an acquaintance of one of my two companions. The octopus, at least the tentacles that I tried, were clumsily grilled, rubbery, and overcooked, unworthy of the mint sharmula (a Moroccan dressing), Rancho Gordo beans, and fennel they were paired with ...The dessert menu is one of the most intriguing, unusual, and inventive I've ever seen. We ordered three sweets, and were served four — the fourth one not only a gift from the phantom pastry chef, but also named "pistachio gift." The recurring theme was that these sweets were not really sweet at all, but subtly exciting in their sophisticated pairings of texture and flavor.
While it's true that Brody's take on Sens is by no means completely glowing, we ask you this: just how seriously can the average diner take a review of two meals littered with special treatment and complimentary gifts? [SFW]

Michael Bauer sees plenty of hope—and more importantly, direction—for Jack Falstaff, now under chef Jonnatan Leiva's command for 18 months: "It's a wide-ranging menu, but it comes together nicely. There seems to be something for everyone, which is appropriate what with the lounge area and large enclosed patio overlooking Second and Brannan streets. It's the type of mix-and-match approach that allows for appetizers to stand in for main courses, such as the hickory-smoked beef short ribs ($15) ... Both pastas come in two sizes; tender house-made egg fettuccine ($12/$21) tossed with herbs and melted onions comes with three thin slices of foie gras on top that slowly and seductively melt into the noodles below. It's a brilliant dish." [Chron]

Paul Reidinger ventures out to Glen Park for a near-Parisian experience at Le P'tit Laurent, where it's all about the cassoulet and the cassoulet only: "The only flaw in Le P'tit Laurent's cassoulet ($19) is that it can't be ordered as part of the three-course, $19.95 prix fixe menu (available Monday to Thursday, from 5:30 to 7 p.m.). Otherwise, the dish is flawless: an earthenware crock of white beans in a sauce thickened by a long, slow simmer with duck-leg confit, chunks of pork, and oblong coins of Toulouse sausage." [SFBG]

ELSEWHERE: the Guardian's Amber Peckham rolls through Potrero Hill to find a "proverbial needle in the haystack" at Live Sushi Bar, the Chronicle's Carey Sweet pinch-hits at Petaluma's Vino Grigio, the CC Times unearths an underground find in Berkeley's Digs Bistro and Aleta Watson is all the way in Santa Cruz for regional Italian at La Posta Vecchia.