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Week in Reviews: Michael Mina Gets the Coveted Four Stars

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[Photo: Official Site]

After several weeks of lying low with quiet 2.5-star reviews, Michael Bauer goes big this week and drops the perfect four stars upon Michael Mina, making the restaurant by San Francisco's ever-expanding chef the seventh member of the Chronicle four-star club (Cyrus, Chez Panisse, the French Laundry, Manresa, La Folie and the Ritz are the others). Interestingly enough, Bauer's review isn't so much a glowing rant so much as a simple acknowledgment of the restaurant's proven maturity:

Sitting in the magnificent Barbara Barry-designed room, with soaring columns and scrim windows that overlookings Union Square, affords a view that is at once romantic and urbane. You feel isolated from the conventioneers running through the Westin St. Francis lobby and the panhandlers outside the door; it's a rarefied vision of what we want San Francisco to be.
With the help of chef de cuisine Chris L'Hommedieu, who was executive sous chef at Thomas Keller's Per Se in New York and also worked with Mina at Aqua, Mina's vision has been fully realized. He still cooks most weeks in San Francisco; when he travels to his other properties he talks to L'Hommedieu at least once a day to plan the menus ... Each tableau is fully realized; together they create a "wow" experience.
In the end, everything from Rajat Parr to the service—except, curiously, the alternative options (they "don't showcase the kitchen's talents as much as the basic menu")—is flawless. And just like that, the four-star club is back to a magnificent seven. [Chron]

Paul Reidinger ventures out to the Sunset's new star, Pacific Catch, where he muses on the evolution of the art gallery turned respectable restaurant with "accordingly mainstream" fare: "There's one element of the mix that hasn't changed much in the metamorphosis, and that's the crowd. It remains young and collegiate- or postcollegiate-looking, although the noise level has risen noticeably. In the old art-café days, people tended to keep even their more intense conversations at murmur level; now, without the elevating presence of art beyond some paintings of fish on the walls, there is a tendency to hoot and bray, if you catch my drift." [SFBG]

The Merc's Aleta Watson has three stars for Red Lantern, the restaurant from Betelnut veterans that has suddenly given diners reason to go south: "A decade ago, the idea of a destination restaurant in downtown Redwood City would have been all but unthinkable ... Then Red Lantern opened last November, and suddenly one of the hottest restaurants on the Peninsula was located in the commercial district brought back to life by the city's multi-million dollar revitalization project. The hip new restaurant, serving vibrant Southeast Asian fare in a theatrical setting, was an instant hit. Four months later, reservations are a must, even on a weeknight." [SJMN]

ELSEWHERE: Earlier, we touched on Bauer's Sunday 2.5-star review of Conduit. Robert Lauriston pinch-hits for Meredith Brody at SF Weekly this week and hits a trio of Korean restaurants: Zazang, My Tofu House, and Toyose. And finally, the CCT is at Livermore's Movida, a small plates restaurant that "dares the women of Livermore to bust out their slinky dresses." Some things you just can't make up.