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Bauer Revisits Amber India; Roth Feasts on Prime Rib

[Photo: Amber India/Facebook]

Wondering which restaurant had Bauer crusading for a host attitude adjustment? His revisit to Amber India holds the key. There, he found fault with the fumbling, "usually young women" behind the host stand, whose missteps kicked off "what turns out to be a good meal" on a "sour note." But everything goes "comparatively smoothly" once Bauer got seated: a sauce "seemed to drape like a cashmere blanket over the plump Malabari shrimp," the awadhi lamb qorma was "enhanced with fragrant orris root," and the baluchi murg tikka "sported a moist, fragrant interior under a thin, crusty skin" (though the greens were a bust). But while chef Ajay Mishra's Indian fare impressed, the front-of-house left Bauer bummed. "Service can sometimes be as dull as the sauces are bright." 2.5 stars. [Chron]

The feeling was jubilant when Anna Roth ventured to House of Prime Rib, "the kind of restaurant where you take a moment to savor the milestones of life." There's "an overwhelmingly positive vibe in the air," as chefs in "comically tall starched hats" propel "zeppelin-shaped" stainless-steel domes of prime rib atop rolling carts. The menu is "ridiculously simple," with "velvety, chewy" meat, creamed spinach and buttery mashed potatoes, and although Roth awoke with "heartburn and the beginnings of a headache, absolutely parched from a sodium overload," her lasting impression was a festive "peace on earth, goodwill towards men." [SF Weekly]

Patricia Unterman waited just fourteen hours after the opening of Alta CA to check out Daniel Patterson's new spinoff, where she found that "life is good. Very good." The "loft-like space is now airy and contemporary," the staff is "cordial, smart, professional" and the "notoriously oblivious techies" turned out to be nothing but "solicitous drinkers and diners." Yoni Levy's mixed chicory salad started the meal off on a good note, with "exhilaratingly fresh hazelnuts" and a sprinkling of "just the right blue cheese" in "precisely-balanced vinaigrette." Unterman goes on to christen the new "best hamburger in town," a "thick, succulent, buttery ball of ground beef" on a "demure, brioche-style bun." Cocktails, too, "possess clarity of vision," and the blessedly late hours make Alta "a gift to anyone who wants to eat late in this early-bird city." [Unterman on Food]

Jonathan Kauffman continued his rundown of the best neighborhood spots around, this time focusing on Oakland favorite À Côté. It's been around since the days when a small-plates menu was relatively unknown, but "the plates are hardly tiny tapas," with three dishes offering more than enough food for a party of two. Kauffman can't decide what he likes best, the ramekin of "warm, herb-scented rabbit rillettes with quince jam" or the "pan-seared ling cod with beurre blanc and fried onions, a salad of chickories, persimmons and hazelnuts on the side." Either way, the food and the waiter's "impressive" wine-discernment skills earned this spot a notable star on Kauffman's list. [Tasting Table]

The Kate's Kitchen space in the Lower Haight now plays host to Thomas Martinez's dinner pop-up Chaparral, and Molly Gore set out to sample the former Mission Beach Cafe chef's new offering. A BYOB component and 2 a.m. closing time lends a "comfy, casual air" to the whole scheme, and the "refined comfort food" does not disappoint. "Plump" sweet-potato gnocchi, "tender" lamb shoulder and the "pastoral nostalgia" of a slow-roasted chicken "beg for a fireplace and a giant oak table." However, a giant brunch menu "reminds diners that they, indeed, are on Haight Street." Gore was left with an impression of "good and simple food that hugs an erudite sensibility." [Examiner]

Luke Tsai admits to being a bit of a "James Syhabout fanboy," saying he was "psyched" to hear of the chef's plans to open Box and Bells. On his subsequent visits to the restaurant, Tsai found the decor "a little odd" and the front section "discombobulating," but "the food is so good that everything else fades to the background." It's "the kind of super-rich, indulgent, meat-centric food that chefs cook for each other," with options like "ridiculously tender" steak, "incredibly rich" vegetables and fried chicken with raw oyster mayonnaise that deserves a medal. But before you dine here, Tsai advises a light lunch and a run. "When the server puts the menu in front of you, that's not going to be the time you'll want to exercise restraint." [EBX]

Box & Bells

5912 College Ave, Oakland, CA 94618 510-923-2000 Visit Website

Alta CA

1420 Market Street, , CA 94102 (415) 590-2585 Visit Website

À Côté

5478 College Avenue, , CA 94618 (510) 655-6469 Visit Website

Amber India

25 Yerba Buena Lane, San Francisco CA