We kick off this week's smorgasbord with Amanda Gold's Thursday Datebook review of Tacolicious, Joe Hargrave's Mexican reinvention of its more upscale, Spanish predecessor, Laiola. Gold overlooks menu names so cute "you half expect the i's to be dotted with hearts," to find several "no joke" dishes like guajillo-braised short rib tacos and a tuna tostada that's "bound to become a signature dish." In the end, she doles out 2.5 stars with a hop onto the Bauer train: "Tacolicious is one of several Bay Area re-invented restaurants where owners have turned languising spaces into vibrant new spots." [Chron]
Meanwhile in Healdsburg, Brocho Bauer senses major shifts at Barndiva : "I returned recently to find everything had changed for the better...the real change is that Ryan Fancher, who worked at the French Laundry and, most recently, El Dorado Kitchen in Sonoma, has rejected all the experimental menu formats for a simple, straightforward approach. Besides one passive aggressive stab at the servers of yore: "Service has become more professional and less quirky," there's nothing bad to say about food or service and Barndiva now has three whole stars to play with. [Chron]
Stett Holbrook offers a taste of what's coming to the shuttered Bacar space at the flagship Alexander's Steakhouse in Cupertino, and it's flat-out extravagant: "Bring on the caviar! Crack another magnum of Opus One! More foie gras all around!" The quality of food and service backs up the belt-loosening and Alexander's is "an island of relaxation, comfort and excellent food and drink." [MSV]
Nearby in the Lower Fillmore, Patty Untz feels the beat at Netsanet Alemayhu's Sheba Piano Lounge: "We drank exotic, perfectly balanced cocktails made with aromatic Ethiopian bitters [that]...went brilliantly with a big plate of Ethiopian dishes." She finds Sheba to be "a sophisticated, charming, multifaceted eatery I wish I’d noticed three years ago." [Examiner]
Reidinger is in the Mission delighting in the newly added exclamation point on Garçon!'s signage. Although "Mon dieu!" the burger is a fail, the overall experience is that of "a good, solid French restaurant in a neighborhood that has just about every other kind of restaurant other than." [SFBG]
THE ELSEWHERE: The CoCo Times goes through the roof for Emeryville's Summer Summer Thai, The Merc has a magical time at Menlo Park's Madera in the Sand Hill Resort, the Marin IJ is skipping the egg dishes at Old Town Bistro. Bar Bites gets loopy with the Boomers at Pisco Latin Lounge, and Bargain Bite has breakfast for dinner at St. Francis Fountain.
[Photo: Cooking With The Single Guy]