With its chef Anthony Paone now on hand full-time instead of splitting time elsewhere, Berkeley's Sea Salt gets a nice upgrade from 2.5 to three stars, even though traditional restaurant logic says that expansion is usually a bad thing:
When Sea Salt opened in 2005, it had just 85 seats. Now there are nearly 200, the interior has been spiffed up with fresh flowers and a full-service bar, and the menu has grown ... The service, like the food, has an eclectic friendly quality. It supports the neighborhood vibe, but not at the expense of professionalism. Rarely does a restaurant that gets larger actually improve the food, but with Paone watching the line, that's exactly what's happened.Though we're still trying to decipher Bauer's two references to the Jolly Green Giant, the message at Sea Salt is fairly simple: they've been doing a good thing, and it's only getting better with age. [Chron]
Meredith Brody indulges in a bit of history regarding the Dogpatch—or as she puts it, "an alluring gastronomic colony on the east side of Third"—before adding to the chorus of critics singing the praises of a "thoughtful" Serpentine: "But happily, Kronner's seasonal comfort-food menu is much like what he's been serving at Slow Club. It's delicious modern American cooking, carefully prepared meats, fish, and fowl, paired with well-thought-out combinations of starch and vegetables." [SFW]
Down in the SoMa trendy restaurant/club Prana, Paul Reidinger weathers the strange setting to find overproduction: "Chef James Jardine's cooking, pan-Indochinese with a dash of Filipino, is elegant, stylish, and imaginative. It also tries harder than it needs to; it's overachiever food, determined to be stimulating at all times. Perhaps the kitchen feels it's in competition with the relentlessly antic setting. Prana starts tugging at your sleeve and winking at you before you even get inside; the main doors are a set of funhouse mirrors that make you look skinny going in and fat going out. Once inside, you'll find the music thumps steadily and rather loudly from clusters of huge speakers mounted overhead. As if that weren't enough, there's a huge display screen mounted behind the bar. The whole experience seems to be tuned for restless young people with short attention spans who might panic at any interruption in the stream of external sensation." [SFBG]
ELSEWHERE: The MIJ gives Cottage Eatery "a rave," Mandy Erickson has an encouraging Chron deuce for Redwood City's Flaming Fresco, the Merc's Aleta Watson is at Menlo Park's Flea Street Cafe, and of course, The Bauer's Sunday review was a biggie, as he dropped three stars on Pat Kuleto's Epic Roasthouse.