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Bauer Upgrades Pläj's Stars; Roth Loves Guddu de Karahi

The dining room at Pläj. [Photo: Plajrestaurant.com]

The impending holidays had Bauer craving Nordic flavors, so he revisited Pläj, the city's only outlet for Scandinavian cuisine. There, he found Swedish chef Roberth Sundell hard at work on dishes like braised ox cheek with pink beet puree and a signature poached lobster with "caviar, horseradish, chunks of avocado and a touch of chile to lift it out of blandness." Bauer dug "homey preparations" like the smoked farmers' sausage "with pillows of gnocchi on nettle cream with onions and chanterelles," and a "pleasant" hen with a "crisp outside and creamy inside" potato ball and "earthy" cabbage. "Sundell has found his cooking voice," delcares Bauer, upgrading the restaurant from 2.5 to three stars. [Chron]

Anna Roth checked in at Guddu de Karahi, owner Guddu Haider's second act after cult favorite Lahore Karahi in the Tenderloin. His new spot reiterates some classic dishes like the signature tandoori fish, which Roth says "still lives up to the hype." "Luscious hunks of boneless tilapia" made Roth "primally, uncomplicatedly happy," but that's not all: nearly every dish she tried at Guddu de Karahi made Roth "swoon." From curries to vegetable dishes to the excellent karahi chicken, Roth loved it all. But it's that tandoori fish that really got her going. "If the dish were to disappear again, I'd be in the mob, forks and knives in hand, demanding Haider's return to the kitchen." [SF Weekly]

Josh Sens took on history both old and new at Tosca Cafe, where "if these walls could talk, they'd go on tour." After its revamp by April Bloomfield and Ken Friedman, "Tosca looks pretty much the same," and " drinking remains a prime order of business," although a "balanced" negroni is "largely displaced by a volume-hogging ice cube," making for a "stingy pour." The biggest change is the addition of food, and it's "the sort of cooking that could have worked here all along." "Vibrant" bar snacks, "satisfying" meatballs and "garlicky, moist" roast chicken for two are among the highlights. A "Manhattan-size chutzpah" dominates the restaurant's bossy policies (no reservations, high prices, and don't even think about ordering an app without settling on an entree then and there), but Sens doesn't mind too much. "Preservation has a price, and in this case, I think it's worth paying." [SF Mag]

Jon Kauffman paid a visit to Oakland's new Caribbean restaurant Kingston 11, where a "mean jerk chicken" awaits. Long-marinated and deeply seasoned, "its flavor is both brassy and deep, and the chile burn hangs out for a while." The rice and red beans are no bland Betties either: "cooked with coconut milk and a visible amount of spice, they have their own peppery swagger." Turn to the house-made ginger beer to clear sinuses and dissipate the heat, "giving you time to catch your breath before diving back in." All in all, Kauffman gives this purveyor of punchy Jamaican fare a notable star. [Tasting Table]

Also in Oakland, Luke Tsai followes the Filipino food trend to Kain'bigan, where fans of chicken adobo and other Filipino standards can get their kicks. A "homey, welcoming feeling" pervades the space, where the bistek fried rice, "addictive" garlic shrimp and lumpia hit the spot, but Tsai still preferred the more "interesting" and "soulful" dishes at nearby Filipino spot Lucky Three Seven. However, if Tsai were in the mood for something hot out of the wok, "Kain'bigan is where I'd go." [EBX]

Tosca Cafe

242 Columbus Avenue, , CA 94133 (415) 986-9651 Visit Website

Plaj

333 Fulton St., San Francisco CA

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