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Week in Reviews: A Trio of Stars For Zarzuela

Coming in the wake of his trips to Cafe Majestic and Gitane, Senor Bauer files his third consecutive three-star review in an update visit to Zarzuela. The Russian Hill tapas gem has aged quite nicely, hits all the proper notes and pleases The Big MB:

Fifteen years in the restaurant business is a long time, but at Zarzuela, the experience is about as fresh as the day it opened. No, I take that back - it's even better. At a time when people are watching their pennies and dining out less, Zarzuela remains one of the best values in town ... it's a restaurant that's comfortable and nonthreatening and treats patrons like special guests.
For its part, Zarzuela is exactly the type of neighborhood restaurant that San Francisco—not to mention Bauer—loves: the owner greets patrons at the door, the space has a "clean, lived-in feel," and above all, cheap/good food. And thus Zarzuela keeps its three-star status. [Chron]

Carol Ness sings backup in the food section this week, and she's got a straight deuce for Albany's latest all-day cafe, Bistro 1491: "The menu seems designed to hit all the popular Euro and Asian flavors du jour, sometimes on the same plate. It's wholesome, but it is shy on soul ... At dinner, crowds were sparse on the nights I was there, and only one server worked the room, but she kept up ably and very pleasantly." [Chron]

Paul Reidinger revisits the great Nopa, and muses on the ways in which runaway hits evolve into their roles as new classics: "But the basic question remains: how does a young restaurant handle instant and massive acclaim, and what happens when the circus leaves town? ... Nopa, like Firefly, has survived its passage through this crucible. The restaurant's proprietors, Laurence Jossel and Jeff Hanak, have kept a steady hand on the tiller..." [SFBG]

Meredith Brody waxes poetic on the glories of Clement Street before heading into B Star Bar, which, she notes, is in fact not a bar: "It looks nothing like a bar, despite its name, and the cocktails are made with nothing harder than soju or sparkling wine ... my favorite dish was the fragrant biryani, served in a little round casserole ... It was one of the best I'd ever eaten." [SFW]

The SacBee is the first major (ok, "major") publication to take a look at Michael Chiarello's month-old Bottega. It's not so much a formal restaurant review as a state-of-affairs spot check in Yountville: "I still say when you're roaming Napa Valley looking for a meal, this is somewhere where you'll get terrific food for a not-insane price. My advice is to make a meal out of the appetizers and pastas – – that way you can try more dishes." Expect the usual voices to weigh in in a month or two. [SacBee]

THE ELSEWHERE: The EBX thinks Banyan14 needs to up the spice factor for its street food fare, the MIJ is at West Marin's Osteria Stellina, the venerable GraceAnn Walden joins the cult of the Supreme Master at Loving Hut, Mapplr goes bargain hunting at Mehfil, and as mentioned earlier, the Sunday Chron review bestowed the tres upon Gitane.


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