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Boer Loves Homestead; Bodega Bistro Baffles Roth

Inside Homestead [Photo: Patricia Chang]

As Michael Bauer headed home from 2-week Panamanian jaunt, Nicholas Boer stopped in at Homestead, where "with each visit, the menu became more solid, more creative, more soulful." Boer really dug the prairie-inspired ambiance: "The crackling flames create a deliciously warm atmosphere, especially when the lights dim in the narrow dining room" and "polished silverware, glowing copper and caged Edison lighting add to the effect." It's the meats, though, that really do the trick, like the "succulent yet light" pork "with a vinegary lift." The poached halibut and miso-glazed black cod both let Boer down, but the escabeche ("a silky interplay of seared squid, avocado and baby corn in a salty lime vinaigrette") and second course of crisp artichoke, chanterelle mushrooms and grana padano made up for it. A commitment to local ingredients and a friendly staff topped off the experience. The verdict? "Homestead is one of very few restaurants that I'm anxious to go back to." 2.5 stars. [Chron]

Meanwhile, Anna Roth experienced a tale of two restaurants at Bodega Bistro, where her first visit was a complete disaster. Imperial rolls "came to the table with burnt edges," the pork in the Bun cha Hanoi was "overcooked and uninteresting," the pho was "more fat than meat" and the bahn xeo omelet was dry. But on her second visit, Roth found a space bustling with a "diverse, convivial, wine-swilling crowd, that pointed to the fact that I had prematurely declared the restaurant's demise." This time around, the food was better: the calamari was "big chunks of tender, not-rubbery flesh, encased in a salty, crisp, airy batter," and the tiger prawns made for "one of the best shrimp dishes I've had in a long while." In the end, Roth left the restaurant with more questions than answers, chief among these: why is the television perennially tuned to the Military Channel? [SF Weekly]

Jonathan Kauffman checked out the new Fog City, and he found few traces of the spot's diner past besides "its culinary eclecticism." The custom-built cooking apparatus (or "wall of fire") plays a part in most of the restaurant's menu items, from baby carrots to albacore fillets. "Skip one heritage item, the Fog City burger, and instead get the chicken for two," counsels Kauffman. "Its spice-rubbed skin is rendered crisp in the wood-fired oven, and the meat is brightened at the table with a sprinkle of coriander-lemon salt." All in all, Kauf gives this reincarnation his "notable" designation. [Tasting Table]

Molly Gore made a dutiful pilgrimage to La Urbana, where she found "a dimly lit spot with two kinds of 'froth' on the menu." La Urbana, she thinks, represents the awkward teen years of the Divisadero stretch. "Call it the pubescent phase of gentrification — unsure where it's going and trying hard to look good on the way. In some ways, La Urbana fits right in." She was largely unimpressed with the "overwrought" cocktails and "showy but ultimately unremarkable" desserts, and the restaurant's dishes mainly hit her as trying a little too hard. "The diver scallops, for example, are cooked perfectly, but a sparse garnish of tomato gelee and avocado do little to bolster a feeling that you're eating real food." Gore enjoyed the verduras con arroz and especially the esquites ("a warm and lovely mess of roasted corn with melted manchego and aioli"), but she left feeling unresolved. "I won't complain about evolution, but I do hope an affordable breed of gut-filling innovation makes its way there." [Examiner]

Luke Tsai paid a visit to Bourbon & Beef, where he found a place that "looks and feels more like a Miami hotel bar than it does your typical Oakland reclaimed-wood backdrop." The restaurant's confused identity is a misstep: "Is it a tapas joint? A cocktail lounge? A place for steak-and-potatoes lovers? Bourbon & Beef tries to juggle all of these elements and can't quite pull any of them off convincingly." But the real problem, says Tsai, is that "the cooking execution is far too inconsistent to justify some of the highest prices you'll find in the East Bay." A $19 carne asada was particularly offensive: "ancho-marinated sirloin steak was gray all the way through, tough enough to give our jaws a workout, and covered in enough tangy slaw and spicy guajillo chile sauce to mask whatever actual beef flavor there may have been." Plus, $19 for a small plate? There were some good dishes, like the puerco con curtido, "three mini pork-belly tacos, made with cubes of well-marbled Kurobuta pork belly that were deep-fried (yielding a crisp outer shell and tender, juicy flesh) and served atop cool jicama slaw (the "curtido") and good corn tortillas." But ambiance, price point, and quibbles with the service left Tsai craving more bourbon, less beef. [EBX]

· All Week in Reviews [~ ESF ~]


4029 Piedmont Avenue, , CA 94611 (510) 420-6962 Visit Website

La Urbana

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

Fog City

1300 Battery St, San Francisco, CA 94111 415 982 2000 Visit Website