After a Sunday hiatus, The Bauer Platoon hits Ana Mandara amidst its 10th Anniversary, making it clear he holds much sentimental value for the Ghirardelli Square Vietnamese restaurant: “the restaurant remains beautiful” and the “flavors are still bright and exciting.” But it appears “the beginnings of a slide” have taken hold: “stained menus, wrinkled tablecloths slightly askew, sagging decorative ribbons. Small things to be sure, but details make a difference.” On the menu he notes the same: “a touch of lethargy seems to have crept into the poetically named combinations.” He goes on to recount lukewarm ribs, unevenly browned signature crispy rolls, uneven service, and just when things start sounding really bad: "durian sorbet had little of the fruit's coveted funkiness," he drops two and a half whole stars just like that, keeping Ana Mandara in the same class as spots like Bar Jules, Canteen, and Charlie Hallowell’s Pizzaiolo. [Chron]
At SF Weekly, Jonathan Kauffman represents the other end of the dining spectrum, with an overwhelmingly positive review of the inexpensive Southeastern (Hakka) Chinese food at Outer Richmond’s Hakka Restaurant.
“Chef Li was cooking in all the ways that have made [Craig] Stoll an emblem of San Francisco style. Bringing out simple, transparent flavors — the glossy-mag jargon, I believe, is "ingredient-driven cooking."Despite the Cantonese crab “coated in a brown glaze that had all the dynamism of a Keanu Reeves Hamlet,” Hakka restaurant differentiates itself from others “calling themselves Hakka” in serving “one of the largest, most varied selections of authentic dishes” the Kauff has yet seen. [SF Weekly]
Paul Reidinger spouts off a mixed review of Art/s Global Tapas on Lombard Street in the Marina. Expecting a fusion of Japanese and Latin flavors, he’s faced with this realization:
“At Art/s, the riff is match, not mix. There is no overt cross-cultural pollination; the two-sided menu card offers a California hodgepodge, with Iberian and Mexican touches, on its front face, while the Japanese items are to be found on the other side. The twain do not meet.”Still his party is strung along by the “shamelessly fatty” cheese croquette, “excellent mahi-mahi filet” and a “quite nice” Cancun sushi roll. Reidinger also calls out a notable misstep: Mexican chorizo in an ostensibly Basque dish. [SFBG]
THE ELSEWHERE: Matthew Stafford at the EBX finds an agreeable “comic-noir” atmosphere at Grand Lake’s Alley, The Merc falls in love with the textures at Oakland’s Commis, SFStaion has an unstuffy, authentic taste of Mexico at Chilango. At The Chron, Doug Levy travels to Novato for Bar Bites at Finnegan's Marin, and Janny Hu follows Bauer’s region of choice this week for a Vietnamese Bargain Bite bonanza at Tin Vietnamese Cuisine.
Ana Mandara, Photo Credit: afagan via Flickr