Michael Bauer has the Wednesday off, but Amanda Gold pinch-hits at cozy, family-run 26-seater Olea, where she discovers that a fancy lineage isn't always required for local ingredient goodness:
Sourcing ingredients this way takes effort, knowledge, and often more funds, and at Olea, on the edge of San Francisco's Nob Hill, chef Gabriel Amaya proves that you needn't be a disciple of a Chez Panisse-type caliber restaurant to craft a menu with a similar philosophy.Though the two-person wait team can be slow between courses and there are several misses on the ever-changing menu—flavorless chicken and tough hanger steak are among the chief offenders—Amaya's food is still good enough for a very respectable 2.5 stars. And as for that "dreary" corner, have no fear, Luisa is a-coming. [Chron]
Amaya and co-owner Glen Bolosan were essentially unknown in the restaurant world before opening their 3-month-old restaurant in the tiny space that used to house the Red Door. It quickly has become a beacon of warmth on an otherwise dreary street corner.
Following a trip to the corrections department to start her review, Meredith Brody takes aim at Laiola, and she certainly has many, many good things to say about the Chestnut Street hotspot: "We both felt we'd assembled a perfect meal, pausing between satisfying bites to congratulate each other on our selections ... We were replete, but lingered happily over a rich crema catalana flavored with orange, almond, and cinnamon, whose sugar crust was a bit burnt for my taste, and an exciting invention: a ball of soft, puddinglike chocolate sprinkled with sea salt, meant to be scooped onto slices of grilled bread, but also delightful eaten with a spoon ... I loved our full-flavored repast." [SFW]
At the Guardian, Paul Reidinger tackles the cursed space of 2101 Sutter, now home to Cassis. Gone are "Winterland's droves of 30-year-old, gelled-hair, tech billionaires"; instead, local folk dominate: "Cassis doesn't seem to have generated the buzz of its most recent predecessors, and maybe this offers us a clue to its prospects. Although it's a nice destination, it's not a destination restaurant but a neighborhood one, and the neighbors, having reclaimed the space after a long struggle, seem to be pleased. Everybody likes a new chapter." [SFBG]
ELSEWHERE: The Contra Costa Times has a very impressive 3.5 stars for Travese in Los Gatos, the Trib declares The Trappist to be "THE hottest spot in Oaktown," the Merc's BellyFull blog goes to Geary's Pot de Pho, Aleta Watson is at Saratoga's La Fondue, and Ms. Sam of Becks & Posh shares her first impressions at a quartet of relative newbies: Local, Bar Jules, Fish & Farm and Spork.