(Koi Garden, Dublin. Photo: Ah Hman/Eater SF Flikr Pool) At SFWeekly, Jonathan Kauffman states that the food at Alice Poon's Chinatown branch of Enjoy Vegetarian is "universally fascinating but irregularly appealing." In a place where strict Buddhist beliefs mandate that there be an absence of meat and fish, scarce dairy or eggs, and no onions or garlic, hits and misses come as no surprise. Here, he talks about one of the successes:
Enjoy's spareribs ($8.50), braised with daikon and carrot, were a remarkable facsimile of beef. The chunks of dark-brown wheat gluten broke down into long, chewy strands seemingly held together with filaments of fat and gristle. But it wasn't the illusion of meat that most intrigued me about the dish — it was the sauce, which hinted at black mushroom, a little cinnamon, a pinch of sugar. It had richness and more depth than I expected.
Kauffman acknowledges that while some of the flavors may have been off, the variety of textures was pleasing, as in this excerpt about some of the less successful dishes he tried.
And so a number of the dishes I tried at Enjoy came off thin and dull: The tofu-corn soup that showed up with lunch tasted like water thickened with cornstarch. A rich-sounding coconut sauce with gluten puff, taro, and pumpkin ($8.50) had all the appeal of a bottle of Elmer's glue. Pea sprouts ($13.95) stir-fried with misolike fu yu (preserved tofu) and ginger threads had too little of both seasonings to give the vegetables any dimension. And a stir-fry of lotus root, gingko nuts, lily bulb, and snap peas ($9) had little flavor, though its mix of textures sparkled in the mouth: the porous crunch of the lacy lotus root, the egg-yolk creaminess of the gingko nuts, and the delicate snap of the peas and lily bulbs, which resemble onions (they're related) but have a turniplike sweetness.[SFWeekly]Over at the Bay Guardian, Paul Reidinger notes that in the Mission, Specchio's "Euro-modern" and "glam" feel belie the traditional style of Gino Assaf's Northern Italian menu. He reflects,
It has been many years, for instance, since I last tasted vitello al tonno — veal topped with tuna sauce, as classic an Italian dish in its way as spaghetti with meat balls — and that version had been made (with scaloppini-style cutlets) by a home-schooled Italian friend. [SFBG]
The Chron talks about the mixed bag at Koi Garden in Dublin, suggesting that the simple dishes shine the most in this place that serves upwards of 1,000 people for dim sum on weekends. Nicholas Boer writes:
It's puzzling why the kitchen would want to mask chef Ben Leung's ingredients - they're consistently fresh and first-rate. Order his sweet, just-crisp Chinese broccoli ($6.90), pea tendrils with roasted garlic ($18), or the savory, sesame-laced Shanghai dumplings ($3.60) made with hand-minced pork. [SFChronicle]
For more of the week's reviews, see: the East Bay Express' profile on Oakland's Hibiscus; the Contra Costa Times review of three pizzerias - Boot & Shoe Service, Rotten City Pizza and Tavo's Pizzeria; and of course, don't forget Mr. Bauerific's Sunday review of Baker and Banker which was covered earlier this week.