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Calistoga's Solbar Upgraded to the Three-Star Plateau

A few months after garnering a Michelin star, Solbar gets the re-review treatment in today's Datebook. The restaurant in Calistoga's Solage resort first nabbed 2.5 stars in August '08, but a year and a half later, Senor Bauer finds that chef Brandon Sharp has the place firing on all cylinders, which is no small feat for a hotel restaurant:

It's much more of a challenge than at free-standing restaurants, yet Sharp is up to the task. He's made the menu interesting by dividing the appetizer and entrees into two rows - 'healthy, lighter dishes to nourish your soul' and 'hearty cuisine to comfort your body.' That allows him to present the menu in a new way and mix in familiar dishes.
Along those same lines, Sharp gets recognition for what he's done under the necessary constraints of his setting, with the acknowledgement Solbar "may be in the country, but Sharp embraces big-city techniques." Overall, it's a tidy ratings bump up to three stars for Solbar to go along with its still-shiny Michelin star, capping off a fine four-month stretch of critical success. [Chron]

Paul Reidinger is the latest reviewer to file a rave on Pac Heights' Quince replacement, Baker & Banker: "As we might expect at a place where one of the principals is a baker named Baker, the baked goods are superlative ... The core of Banker's menu is seasonal and eclectic — more like that of the Meetinghouse than Quince ... You might start with a rather Italianish white-bean soup ($8.75) deepened by bits of pancetta, shreds of kale, and a creamy green-garlic sofrito. From there you could move on to a filet of seared black bass ($25.50), a pad of flaky white flesh plated atop a Thai-style shellfish risotto ringed with crispy shallots. Banker's is a world without borders." [SFBG]

The Kauff Drop goes divey this week at Taste of Formosa, the Outer Richmond's gem of a Taiwanese restaurant: "There have long been Taiwanese restaurants in San Francisco, most serving a mix of Cantonese, Mandarin (i.e., Chinese-American), and Taiwanese fare. The three-year-old Taste of Formosa is part of a newer wave of Bay Area restaurants serving Taiwanese street snacks and xiao chi, or 'small eats,' and aimed at diners who've grown up on both sides of the Pacific." [SFW]

THE ELSEWHERE: The CoCo Times gets an education in food and wine pairing at Meritage in Berkeley, the EBX goes Nepali at Berkeley's Everest Cafe, the MIJ's Tanya Henry files on Marin's Cafe Gratitude outpost, Bargain Bites heads to Potrero's Goat Hill Pizza, Bar Bites is at Emeryville Townhouse, Traci Des Jardins' Tahoe outpost Manzanita took 2.5 stars over the weekend.

Baker & Banker

1701 Octavia Street, San Francisco, CA 94109 (415) 351-2500 Visit Website

Solbar

755 Silverado Trail, Calistoga, CA

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