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Week in Reviews: Auberge du Soleil Keeps Its Tres

[Photo: Flickr/svelte718]

M-Beezy gets a seat on the prized veranda at Auberge du Soleil, Rutherford's pricey restaurant last seen housing the talent of departed chef Richard Reddington. As in the '02 review, the place isn't quite ready to play with the big boys in Wine Country, but it's still strong enough to maintain its three stars:

In the past Auberge rose to the occasion at times, and fell short at others. A recent Update visit showed that under chef Robert Curry, the kitchen is up to the scrutiny. It may not be the caliber of the French Laundry, but when you add in the magnificent view from the veranda and the well-honed service, it's a fine way to feel privileged...

The staff kept things moving at a fast, though not rushed, pace. Get up, and the napkin is changed. Place your soiled utensils on the edge of the plate, and it's all whisked away. Drink a few sips of wine, and someone cruises by and adds some more, being careful not to overpour so the bottle will last through the night. Servers remembered our names throughout (not our real ones, of course) and they were not at all intimidating.

Auberge's main slip-ups come in the form of the "slightly disappointing" desserts, one whose presentation outweighed everything else, and the other which showcased underripe peaches. Nonetheless, paced by excellent service, Auberge manages to stay above the fine dining Mendoza Line of three stars. [Chron]

Before we get into the Orson doubleshot, Amanda Gold has a pair of stars for dessert lounge Candybar, its slightly confused identity and new chef Boris Portnoy: "It remains to be seen whether Candybar will take off - the crowds are still small and the ever-changing menu somewhat confusing. Fortunately, an unsolicited e-mail from owner [Tan] Truong echoed my concerns, and diners can expect to see further changes. Still, I can't complain about the desserts - I'd be happy to have them at the conclusion of any meal. If Portnoy continues to showcase his talent, I'd be surprised if the customers didn't follow." [Chron]

Meredith Brody goes to Elizabeth Falkner's Orson, wavering on a decision throughout the up-and-down review, until the conclusion: "Of all we'd sampled, I only would have wanted to eat the tempura egg, the trotter patty, and the dessert sampler again. The ambitious menu reminded me a little of the film projected on the back wall: Yes, stylistically diverse and creative, but distracting and not cohesive, with too many unrelated bits and pieces, and ultimately rather unsatisfying." [SFW]

Meanwhile, Paul Reidinger only finds one true flop dish, and we're not sure if that says more about inconsistencies at Orson, the reviewers themselves or some combination thereof: "The wonder is not that a few of these gambits fail — they do, spectacularly, like some of those early space shots in which the rocket collapses in flames or whizzes off in the wrong direction — but that so many of them so sensationally succeed. The parmesan pudding is only one such success. The only dish on Orson's rather complex menu I would describe as a total flop is the foie bonbon ($5), a chocolate truffle filled with a buttery pâté de foie gras." [SFBG]

THE ELSEWHERE: Two great American cuisines (soul food and vegan, if you were wondering) meet at Souley Vegan claims the EBX, Miss Marcia says "helllllllo sailor" at Anchor & Hope, The MIJ stopped by Sausalito's Le Garage last week, the Daily Feed does rib tips at Memphis Minnie's, the Single Guy is at Oakland Chinatown's Binh Minh Quan, and the Sunday Chron review had 2.5 stars for Bin 38.