Photo courtesy: Shawn E. Hall Designs
It's a very wine bar week for the Chron reviews, and first up we have Los Bauer handing out an enthusiastic—if a bit surprising, though not undeserved—three stars to Willi's Wine Bar in Santa Rosa:
The eclectic menu at Willi's isn't for a reluctant palate. The small-plates menu is far from exotic, but the flavors are bold and wide ranging, divided into four categories: Asian, Locally Grown, Mediterranean and French.The upgrade is a glowing one overall; even the only miss on the menu (the sliders) gets points for the attempt. And any small plates restaurant that actually paces the dinner to not have ten dishes on the table at once is fine by us. [Chron]
... Every dish, while somewhat familiar, has an ingredient or technique that elevated it from the ordinary and made me want to order it ... Just about every dish at Willi's can become a conversation piece, and the staff knows how to sell it. They like to recommend dishes, and they've learned the art of pacing the arrivals; on my Update visit I never had more than two items on the table at the same time.
Over in Berkeley, Karola Saekel visits newly-revamped Indian wine bar Mint Leaf, and the overhauled Taste merits an inoffensive two stars: "From menu to staff, the venue is now all-Indian. They also adjusted the price level. Dinner entrees now range from the mid- to high teens rather than the 20s, and lunch and late-night prices are delightfully anti-inflationary. Now, business is brisk as diners enjoy a distinct option to the fare of neighboring Gourmet Ghetto eating meccas (Cesar and Chez Panisse are next door) ... Don't look for beef on this menu, but Mint Leaf is a haven for vegetarian." [Chron]
Meredith Brody, perhaps inspired by the past weekend's US Open, discovers Ironwood BBQ, a "hidden" restaurant on Golden Gate Park's golf course, and is just tickled pink about it: "We lingered, picking at our food, as we idly watched the golfers slowly working their way around the idyllic course. Never before had we felt an urge to bash away at a golf ball, but with buckets going for $4 or $10 at the driving range, it seemed an attractive possibility. But we didn't need golf to bring us back to Ironwood BBQ. The combination of its hidden setting and its barbecue were completely unforgettable." [SFW]
Paul Reidinger goes well outside of his element—Divis, the Mission et al.—to feast on local oysters at the Olema Inn, in this faraway place called Marin: "The Olema Inn has been a fine restaurant for nearly a decade ... When you step onto the Victorian veranda, you have a momentary vision of Mark Twain standing there, gazing out, maybe waiting for a stagecoach or looking for a spittoon — and then you see the 'Marin Organic' sign and, for better or worse, you're right back in the early 21st century." [SFBG]
THE ELSEWHERE: The Merc's Aleta Watson is at Nazca Peruvian Cuisine in San Jose, The East Bay Express does Jamaican at Sweet Fingers, The MIJ loves a restaurant that changed from CJ's Chinese to DJ's Chinese, No Salad checks out brunch at Mission Beach Cafe, there's Bunrabbin' at Orson's bar, and you'll recall that Michael Bauer's Sunday review was a two-star affair at Oakland's Mono.