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Tu Lan, Revisited; Roth Sees La Urbana's Potential

Inside La Urbana. [Photo: Patricia Chang]

With Bauer on vacation, Tara Duggan checked up on the new and improved Tu Lan, which recently reopened after being shuttered for a year over health code violations. She found the fancy wooden awning and stainless-steel bar "definitely a step up," but Tu Lan was unchanged in all the ways that mattered: it smells the same ("a familiar, almost comforting aroma of seared meat mingled with just-fried imperial rolls and wok-seared shrimp"), the fresh salad rolls with shrimp are still "some of the biggest we've seen," and yes, a line still forms out front at lunchtime. The bottom line: "Tu Lan is worth checking out in its new incarnation." [Chron]

Anna Roth paid a visit to new hotspot La Urbana, where she found a "upscale, ambitious, high-concept Mexican cuisine, with a sleek urban feel and high prices to match." With a "stunning" remodel and a 40-bottle mezcal collection, La Urbana has a lot going for it. Some of the cocktails are "quite tasty" (the Mexican Dude, made with horchata, vodka, and mezcal), but some of them "tasted like soda" (the violet flower margarita). "Someone in the kitchen is clearly cooking with heart," said Roth, who enjoyed the quesadillas "Tijuana" and carnitas, but felt the ceviche and pozole could do more. Still, there's a lot of room to grow. "With tighter service, a better-edited menu, and a more egalitarian price-to-portion ratio, La Urbana could grow into a good, interesting restaurant." But after initially resenting La Urbana as "a harbinger of Divis gentrification," Roth now hopes "it find its rhythm and sticks around." [SF Weekly]

Kauffman tried the pizza at Colin Etezadi's new Slicer Pizzeria, where the vegetables come from Riverdog Farm and the sauce, salad dressings and sausage are all made in house. "The thin crusts on the big pies quickly re-crisp in the oven, and their puffy outer ring never tastes like a wasted piece of dough," says Kauffman, who's "still dreaming about with the slices topped with curls of prosciutto and fennel hidden underneath the cheese, and the ones with clouds of ricotta, olive rings and freshly torn basil leaves." And for passing the plain cheese test, Kauffman deems Slicer notable. [Tasting Table]

Alex Hochman sampled the Laotian fare at Champa Garden's new location, and found the experience to be all about managing expectations. The spot's original location in Oakland has a cult following, but after the first visit and a plate of disappointing spicy cashews, Hochman "had no real desire to return." However, the Champa sampler "made for a much better introduction to Laotian cuisine," with the fried rice-ball salad making for "some fun, sloppy dining" and the chili-flecked sausage "pack[ing] intensity after an initial sweet wave." "With reset expectations, this newcomer grew on me." [Examiner]

Luke Tsai went gluten-free this week, visiting Southern spot Grease Box, where he found the fried chicken "excellent," with "a shatteringly crisp, deep-walnut-brown batter shell and meat so juicy that it practically gushes when you bite in." A full breakfast menu and lunch sandwiches are on offer, but the barbecue is the main event, from brisket to boozy whiskey-jalapeño pork ribs. Service was too slow for Tsai's tastes, but "there were moments when I really did forget that I was eating at a gluten-free restaurant. All I thought was, 'This is some damn good barbecue.'" [EBX]

La Urbana

661 Divisadero, San Francisco, CA 94115 415 440 4500 Visit Website

Tu Lan

8 Sixth St., San Francisco CA