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Adventures in Shilling: Basso's, Fifth Floor, uWink

Join us for another edition of Adventures in Shilling, wherein we celebrate the grossest shills from around the world wide web. As always, you too can help fight shills.

2008_07_bassos.jpgIt's been far too long since we've revisited the best shills from around the city, and leading off the party today we have a review/mini-press release that would like to tell you all about the daily specials and hours of operations at Basso's in Noe Valley:

I eat here regularly (I live right next door) and I can highly recommend everything on the menu. The steaks are outstanding. The thin crust pizzas are authentic. Daily Specials, too! Weekends feature brunch with such delights as a Salmon Scrambler and Crabcakes Benedict. And they stay open late!

Shill Probability: a modest 51%

Truth be told, the biggest tell might be the use of the "regular" term, because as our Noe Valley correspondent says, "for a new place, that place is always empty." Still, not a sure thing; fortunately, there's much bigger shilling to be had.

Finally, after a thread on the Fifth Floor brings up the subpar Bauer review it got a few weeks ago, not one, not two but three first-time posters defend the restaurant and bash Bauer's "hatchet job" (heh). Note: we've cut down the thread for length at some points:

Whiner, Bauer has killed so many restaurants with his back-handed compliments and mean-spirited reviews that I will not be surprised to hear of his knee-capping by a posse of fed up restauranteurs!
His latest hatchet job on Fifth Floor is exactly that. Bauer seems not to like their new executive chef, Laurent Manrique. In fact, his latest review reads as if it was lifted line by line from the equally unfriendly review he wrote when Manrique debuted at Campton Place years ago. Check it out!
Fifth Floor (I dined there for my husband's birthday) is still a great place for a special dinner, although we saw plenty of businessmen also, tucking into their new menu of savory Gascon treats. The new decor is cleaner, fresher. The armchairs are comfortable, with arms yet, for relaxed dining. The dining room seems larger. I think they removed some tables from what was not a large restaurant in the first place. The zebra rug is gone but the amazing Wine Spectator Grand Award-winning wine list is there, slightly clarified by their Master Sommelier Emily Wines.
We loved the food! I wanted to try everything, but common sense won out. We shared several appetisers and the fabulous steak for two (it was a romantic evening, after all). The service was outstanding! My husband caused the bread card to visit us several times (goats milk butter in addition to cows milk butter!). We loved the cheese course (chosen from the cart with the smiling guidance of Molly, our server).
All in all, I would not hesitate to recommend Fifth Floor for a special evening. It's expensive, but not when you consider the exquisite ingredients of the dishes and all the labor. Sorry I didn't take photos of the food, but I think that's naff.
So, whiner, please take Bauer's reviews with a grain of fleur de sel and don't be leery of Fifth Floor. We had a great dinner (preceded by killer cocktails) and don't feel you have to dress up. "Nice casual" is the norm.
Shill Probability: on its own, 75%
Part Two:
I actually like to read read Michael Bauer's pieces, but he has a certain obligation to be cutting or bitchy for literary and artistic flair. I try to keep that in mind, when I read his reviews and I end up agreeing with his assessments about half the time. In the case of the Fifth Floor, I actually couldn't disagree with him more. I ate at the Fifth Floor about a month ago for a Friend's 35th Birthday and we had a very nice experience ... Everything we had was really good. We shared a bottle of Pinot from the Central Coast that the som helped us select. It was a nice pair with our dishes. I say go check the place out for yourself. It was a great experience for me.
Shill Probability: on its own, 62%
And the completion of the shilly trinity:
To be forthright, I've never put much stock into Bauer because I feel as though his reviews are half written and based on predispositions before he ever sets foot in new restaurants. I also find that his snide remarks which can certainly crush a restaurant are matters of his own opinion and rarely reflect the true nature of the INTENDED dining experience ... I've dined at this establishment both before and after their recent remodel. The general feel of the new Fifth Floor is softer and more relaxed. With warmer tones of ivory and and rich mahogony, I find the new dining room to have a certain relaxed yet ultra-posh feel. A new wine room (for lack of better words) displays rows and columns of certain wines from their high-profile wine list managed by Emily Wines, a licensed Master in her field. Ranging from about $40 to upwards of a grand and higher there are selections on her list for every budget and from all corners of the world ... Manrique has captured the essence of refined country French. The dishes reflect the comfort of southern France enhanced by racey technique and execution by Chef de Cuisine, Jenny Lorenzo. With all dishes requiring table-side preparation, the smells, colors, and movement is as spectacular as it is delicious. On our first visit we enjoyed the tasting menu which highlights the culinary finesse of the chef and sommelier ... I dine out in the Bay Area quite often and fine-dining establishments are becoming a dime-a-dozen. It is rare to find a gem like this place where so much care is taken to provide a dining experience you will remember.
Shill Probability: as a complete trilogy, 94%
Finally, from our own backyard of the comment section, several anonymous commenters defend the gimmickery that is uWink:
Gimmick?? Oh please, is it a gimmick to use an ATM, slide your card at the grocery store & gas station?? This is the next generation of self service...dining & it is fantastic! For those who love technology, great casual food & a lively atmosphere, uWInk is your destination. Don't miss out on this innovative concept.

i agree with comment #2. ordering by a touch screen is more accurate and quicker, and will allow restaurants to do much more business.

I took my family there twice and both of my daughters love it. It's a perfect place for a nice night out. Have anyone ever been to a restaurant and have to wait 10-15 minutes for a waiter or waitress? Well, you'll never have this problem in UWINK.
Shill Probability: 99%

Adventures in Shilling: The Complete Collection [~ESF~]

Fifth Floor

12 4th Street, San Francisco, CA 94103 415 348 1555