Scrambling to revisit Top 100 Restaurants member Nombe before the 2011 updates are released in full this weekend, the Bauerometer files a review update of Nombe today. He reminisces sake sommelier Gil Payne and former chef Nick Balla "were so good that it didn't matter that the interior of the restaurant was mismatched and bare-bones." With new chef Vincent Schofield—who returned from his research trip to Tokyo in mid-January— "something gets lost in the translation." Bauer says "much of the food fell flat, or at least tasted flat." Ramen comes with "slightly overcooked noodles in a timid, watery broth," waloo sits atop " a soppy bed of fennel and leeks" and "the best part of the evening's visit was the sake." In a fairly obvious set-up for removal from the Top 100 list, Schofield gets 1.5 stars for food and the overall review nets out to 2 stars.
On a lighter note, Reidinger takes a trip to 25 Lusk, the address and the restaurant. It's looking good from the start with a comparison to Bix, another restaurant bringing "panache to an urban alley." The menu comes off as "intensely plated, meaning, a good deal of thought and energy got spent on presenting things." This sometimes leads to "underconstructed" plates, as in the foie gras torchon with useless toasts "like people who couldn't bend their knees." He doesn't seem overly impressed by the lobster beignets alongside the trout or the quail's "neglected garden" of arugula on the side and a medjool date cake pretty much sums it up:
"the cake itself was splendid and datey, the ice cream intensely apricoty and not very sweet, and the candied ginger sublime. But they each stood apart on the plate, like young teenagers at a party, segregated by sex. "Go forth and mingle!" I longed to cry, before giving a lusty shove with my fork."[SFBG]
The Repetitive Kauff does us all a favor and tries every young hot BBQ thing in town. Then he breaks down his favorites. Cathead's BBQ has outstanding sides: "mac and cheese and the cream-soaked scalloped potatoes...almost merit their own food truck." At the Niebergall brothers' Southern Sandwich Co., he enjoys "the pale, tender pulled pork [that] has obviously taken in many hours' worth of smoke, tasting as if it were infused with bacon fat and black pepper." At Smoke BBQ the "fattier ends of his ribs come out pink, succulent, and torrentially flavorful, especially when dipped in Smoke's sweet, allspice-heavy KC-style sauce. Two essential sides: the greens and the cheesy grits." Rebel's new Sneaky's BBQ is expensive, but on its "strips of kurobuta pork belly, coal-black and smoke-dense, the fat has slow-cooked into custard, and with each bite, it melts into the layers of lean meat, basting them one last time." And he says Slow Hand's "Texas-style barbecue is some of the best I've tasted on the West Coast." [SF Weekly]
The Elsewhere: The Chron files a Bargain Bite at Jodie's in Albany, the Datebook review has two stars for cult-followed Ramen Dojo in San Mateo, Metro SV tries the not gringo-fied Oaxacan Kitchen Mobile, Marin IJ finds the perfect cracker at Larkspur's Rustic Bakery, the EBX digs the new slant at Berkeley's Westside Cafe, and finally the Merc has a handy East Bay brunch roundup.
Inside Nombe. [Photo: FoodGal/Stuart Locklear]