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Frances, Waterbar, Fang, Oyaji, MORE, Reviewed!

Lured by the authoritarian pull of city buzz, The Kauff lands a table at Melissa Perello's Frances for his weekly review. He acknowledges "Frances is that rare restaurant that achieves everything it sets out to be," and Perello "is one of the city's most subtle, precise technicians," yet leaves feeling conflicted. And then the inner demons really come out:

"The restaurant stirs up an internal squabble that continues to rage. The side of me that appreciates Frances for its many strengths argues that outrageous, inventive food is not what a neighborhood restaurant is supposed to do...But the exasperated side wins out. There wasn't a single unexpected tweak to make me think, oh, this is how the chef's brain works! How exciting!...Perello needs to give us a sense of her as an artist as well as a consummate artisan."
Is The Kauff a schizo? Or merely a contrarian? Or perhaps our city's newest critic is well-equipped to call SF out on its tendency toward pack mentality when it comes to our favorite restaurants?

Onward to more indecision at The Chron, where Mikey Flippers bobs into Waterbar and proclaims, "now the food almost matches the view at this impressive Pat Kuleto and Mark Franz restaurant." You'll remember, The Bauer gave Waterbar the infamous deuce after they shafted him at a crappy table in 2008, leaving him "cramped and a little claustrophopic." Well now he's enjoyed:

"markedly improved quality of food under Parke Ulrich. That is, of course, unless you're seated in the low-ceilinged dining room on the far side of the main room. It feels like the equivalent of a back porch."
And nobody puts Bauer on the porch. The review builds steam at the end thanks to improved service: "The staff knows the wine and the menu, helping make Waterbar a restaurant that defies the odds: Now the food matches the view." But wait, didn't he just say the food almost matches the view? Regardless, it's a three star hootenanny all around, with a triple for food, service, and atmosphere. [Chron]

Over at The Examiner, Madame Unterman is relatively decisive in her feelings towards Fang, Peter Fang's new southeastern Chinese restaurant next to the W Hotel. But one must know what he or she is getting into:

"If you visit Fang expecting the restraint and balance of the region’s traditional cooking, you will be disappointed. But if you are open to lively, very personal creations that riff on the flavors and techniques from this area, you will discover many addictive dishes."
Then Patty drops a crafty little hint as to her dining partner: "Flavors are so much bigger in Fang’s cooking than in traditional Shanghai cooking that it shocked some Shanghai ladies at my table one day. An estimable Parsi home cook however, was intrigued." So it's clear she was either eating with Freddie Mercury or her friend Niloufer Ichaporia King. [SF Examiner]

On the contrary, Paul Reidinger seems to be dining alone as he's staring at other diners' iPads throughout his review meal at the Richmond's Oyaji:

"The iPad was enthralling and magical, but I was more enthralled by the sight of our young sushi chef at his labors, expertly forming his rolls and hand rolls, wielding his sharp ceramic knives and handing us the results. Gleaming gizmo wizardry at one elbow, and spicy tuna at the other. Give me ... well, it would be greedy to say both, especially since I don't want an iPad."
Funny, we thought he going for the sushi chef. But no, Reidinger tries a few rolls and feels neither here nor there on them: "The food is pretty conventional, mostly excellent, with a few blips." And those damned iPadders just don't seem to get it: "The iPadders to my left seemed to have come to that conclusion; they had little discourse with our handsome young sushi chef and seemed to prefer the small plates of cooked food that were prepared somewhere out of sight..." [SFBG]

THE ELSEWHERE: The Chron also heads to Berkeley today, where it finds a posh reinvention of Ozzie's Soda Fountain at Elmwood Cafe; Matthew Stafford of the EBX has an interesting meal at Rivoli; the CC Times realizes FR is for French at Benicia''s new, Lucca FR; the Mercury News basks in waves and family values at Tiburon's Caprice. Stett Holbrook of Metro Silicon Valley finds real talent at Quattro in the Four Seasons; Bar Bites ensconces itself in glam at the Meritage at the Claremont, Oakland; and last but not least, Bargain Bite goes big at Big Nate's BBQ in Soma.

Inside Frances. [Photo: Christopher Hall]

Frances

3870 17th Street, , CA 94114 (415) 621-3870 Visit Website

Frances

3870 17th St., San Francisco, CA

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