The romance between Michael Bauer and Gitane faded last year, but this week's three star review proves the love is back. New chef Patrick Kelly joins his wife Bridget Batson, creating a "dynamic force" in the kitchen. Bauer was "skeptical" that the higher menu prices "would be worth it," but that faded when the appetizers "substantial enough to serve as main courses," arrived. The combination of "clandestine appeal and a sexy interior," "one of the best bathrooms in the Bay Area," "best cocktails around," and delicious dishes put Gitane "solidly back on top." [Chron]
Reeling from the usual end-of-year gorge, SF Weekly's Anna Roth finds Eiji's house-made tofus are "just the thing for a palate recovering from months of overstimulation"—especially the "velvety" oboro tofu, and its "artist's palette" of flavor enhancers. She also likes a "restorative" seafood soup, "better-than-average" miso cod, and the "terrific dish of eggplant baked with miso and walnut, one of the richest things we ordered that delivered an umami-rich wallop to the tastebuds." Other highlights include the "attentive but unobtrusive" service, and an order-ahead mochi-wrapped strawberry for dessert. [SF Weekly]
This week SFBG's Virginia Miller locates hard-to-find Caribbean flavors just outside the city at San Jose's Back A Yard and Oakland's Miss Ollie's. The first meets her expectations with daily specials of tender curry goat, fish marinated in a hearty vinegar sauce, and saltfish and ackee approved by her Jamaica-weaned friend. But Miss Ollie's misses the mark with "a two-note (salty and HOT)" flavor that has her "begging for more plantains and ackee to contrast Scotch bonnet peppers and over-salty cod." She resolves it's better to stick to the lamb patties in a puff pastry ("an Indian-Caribbean empanada, redolent of cardamom and allspice"), Jamaican hard dough bread, Creole doughnuts, and its "superior, refreshing rendition" of sorrel. [SFBG]
THE ELSEWHERE: EBX thinks cozy deli Grand Lake Kitchen in Oakland needs to work out some kinks; The Merc devours smokey barbecue at Slow Hand BBQ in Pleasant Hill; Marin IJ explores Gordon Biersch roots at Hopmonk Tavern in Novato; The Chron finds bistro-friendly food at Odalisque Café and Grill in San Rafael: 2 stars.
— Ashley Mason