We kick off today's review fiesta at Gracias Madre, where Jonathan Kauffman enjoys cashew "cheese" and other artful vegan creations after getting over his hangups about the taqueria's parent restaurant, Cafe Gratitude. Admitting that he fell for the original raw-food spot's schtik years ago, you can almost hear The Kauff exhale as he notes, "the dishes [at Gracias Madre] have straightforward names, and the waiters, all lovely, practice without preaching." The Kauff goes on to call out some menu poseurs: a watery chile relleno denied its due time in the deep fryer and a tamal that "needed some Crisco whipped into the masa to lighten and moisten it up," before relishing an "excellent" vegan posole and a tostada that "you'd imagine was dreamed up by Moosewood Cookbook-toting hippies wintering on the Oaxacan coast." The Kauff summarizes, "I wouldn't call myself a lover, but I get the Madre love."[SF Weekly]
"The crispy pork terrine with caramelized fuyu persimmon, mustard greens and walnuts ($11) is a case in point: the gamy bite of the pork + the crisp of the crust + the sweet of the fruit + the tang of the greens + the crunch of the nuts = culinary bliss."
"They had me at the warm potato and lamb's tongue salad," continues May, who soundly enjoys former La Folie Chef Thomas McNaughton's "stream of spot-on dishes...with surprising quirks" enough to overlook a "waffly" pizza crust and bathroom shortage. But it's the light that really makes the experience for this critic:
"It...bathes the scallops and burnishes the olives popping from the crust of a napoletana pizza — anchovy, capers, garlic, Gaeta olives, tomato and chili ($14). I can't explain it. But that last lovely sunlight of the day makes the food at flour + water taste even more wonderful than it already is."[CC Times]
The Chron's Thursday Datebook takes us to a Burmese spot, Little Yangon, in Daly City, where "the lowly yellow split pea enjoys superstar status." Freelancer Mandy Erickson is taken with the remarkable variety of offerings at the Little Y, "especially of salads," including a Thai-influenced rainbow creation with "beautifully balanced" dressing. She also finds the lemon grass-infused catfish chowder to be "as flavorful as it is comforting." It's too bad she encounters prawns that "weren't as fresh as they could have been" in the prawn curry, a faluda dessert that "was nearly tasteless," and no liquor. Still Erickson perks up with a dairy beverage, and suggests you will too, "while the restaurant awaits its beer and wine license, try a sweet yogurt drink ($3.50), excellent for counteracting the searing chilies, or sip soothing juice from a young coconut ($3)." Mmm sippable yogurt. The verdict? Little Y gets the deuce. [SF Chron]
THE ELSEWHERE: EBX visits the newly opened Berkeley outpost of global, vegetarian, fast-food chain, Maoz, and declares "second-wave fast food has begun." The Merc delights in the hipster-free, family run atmosphere at San Jose's Vung Tau. SFStation's Daniel Goldstein calls Frances "one of the strongest new neighborhood restaurants to open in San Francisco in the past decade." Bar Bites inhabits the trading floor that is Royal Exchange; and Bargain Bite goes into a time warp at Lucca Delicatessen. Meanwhile, outside The City, Akane's "Sushi Monster" schools MSV's Stett Holbrook on sushi; and the Marin IJ has a ride full of diversity at the Mayflower Pub.