"It should be one of the hottest tickets in town, what with the wine list crafted by owner Pamela Busch, and the food from [John] Maher. He's worked at the French Laundry, Dry Creek Kitchen and Aqua -- quite a resume for a 28-year-old."Is that the scent of a 2011 Rising Star Chef hanging heavily in the air? The fumes continue to linger as Bauer digs into everything from "bargain for the quality" pig trotters ($12) to lamb ($24) that "looks as if it came out of the French Laundry kitchen." Maher gets 3 shiny stars for food, while out-of-step service brings the overall rating down to 2.5 stars. [SFGate]
The second Thursday Datebook review today comes from Carol Ness who has a good time with the mixed crowd at Oakland's Hibiscus. Chef Sarah Kirnon, who made a name for herself and her Caribbean-Creole cuisine at the Mission's Front Porch, solidifies her reputation here in Uptown: "The menu changes almost nightly...but the same mix of flavors is always in play: heat, sweet and lots of things you may not have heard of...the food is very good now and seems headed even higher." Hibiscus emerges with 2.5 stars, across the board. [SFGate]
Patty Untz Untz sings loud praises for the "Vietnamese delights" at Quan Bac, the new Inner Richmond restaurant from Sarah Le. After opening with a two paragraph love sonnet for Le's Vietnamese chicken salad ($7.95), she proclaims: "Quan Bac -- which roughly translates to "northern eating place" -- represents her defining moment as a businesswoman and a chef." [Examiner]
Over at SF Weekly, The Kauff delights in the "homestyle' food at SoMa's Ruchi, despite his suspicion of the word "homestyle" as a restaurant descriptor. It's clear he admires his waiter, who "looked like the Bollywood Yul Brynner," but perhaps not as much as the menu: "departing from both the old canon of Punjabi and Mughal dishes that many Americans mistake for the sum total of Indian cuisine, as well as the new canon of southern Indian fare restaurants like Dosa and Udupi Palace have brought to the city." In the end the restaurant dishes more successes during lunch, "when the kitchen is thrumming." [SF Weekly]
After a run-in with an unidentifiable small dog ("a cockapoo, or maybe a Tibetan terrier") and a debate with his "health-nut friend" about the "flavor-to-calories ratio" of salsa, Reidinger's Bay Guardian review digs into the Lower Haight's Little Chihuahua. The shrimp quesadilla is "lovely," spicy cabbage salad provides "a bowlful of virtue" and "the nacho plates pack some real throw-weight." Overall it's an authentic experience, despite the lacking "presence of actual Mexicans." [SFBG]
THE ELSWHERE: MIJ's Tanya Henry gets cozy with her roots at Mill Valley's Cafe del Soul, the EBX has high tea and more at Albany's Buttercream bakery and cafe, the Mercury News gets tugged into wanderlust at RN74. CoCo Times offers up a wallet-friendly threesome of Brass Bear Deli, Amba Falafel and Lava Pit, Bar Bites is at El Dorado Kitchen while Bargain Bites does Burmese Kitchen.