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Bauer Gets Cheesy, Gives 3 Stars to the Matterhorn

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[Photo: Kevin Y./Yelp]

Bauer got into the holiday spirit with this week's review, visiting longstanding fondue outfit The Matterhorn. There, he shook away the December blues with the fondue Chinoise, complete with "paper-thin slices of well-marbled, aged beef stacked nearly as high as the Matterhorn." There's a fondue to fit every palate here, and each comes complete with horseradish, mustard and lingonberry sauces and enough garnishes have Bauer proclaim it "truly a feast." The wine list sports "unheard-of" prices" on bottles, with many in the $30 range, and although service can be a bit curt, it quickly thaws into a "homey and casual" attitude. "It feels a bit nostalgic and a bit retro, a perfect way to conquer the winter blahs." Three stars. [Chron]

Anna Roth skipped a review this week to focus on the best dishes she ate in 2013, from crispy milk-braised celery hearts at Hard Water to kouign amann at B. Patisserie to uni at Swan Oyster Depot. "When you eat out professionally, your meals tend to run together," says Roth. "But within those, there are a few memorable dishes that drift to the surface of my memory." [SF Weekly]

Jonathan Kauffman continued his survey of the area's best neighborhood restaurants with a nod to Zarzuela, where he found an "unfussy meal of traditional tapas and glasses of Verdejo or Rueda." A "fluffy" tortilla española "tastes more like a savory cake than a potato-onion omelet," a salad of romaine lettuce sported "good-quality canned tuna and roasted red peppers drizzled with a discreet splash of sherry vinegar" and lamb chops were seared on the plancha "without charring or drying out." It's humble, simple cooking that "never gets dull, no matter how often you eat it." [Tasting Table]

Wendy Hector headed to Jamber to check out the new "wine pub" concept, where it took "a few Mason jars of wine" to figure to scheme out. All of Jamber's wine is on tap and Californian, lending itself to "youthful, fun, simple" options paired with "hearty and at times downright goofy" cuisine. Mashed potater tots "come to life" with bacon jam, "a fabulously fatty, savory concoction that begs to be spread on everything that graces your fork." The poutine is "refreshingly traditional" and "a big, goopy mess" that's "well-worth the ream of napkins you'll go through." But macaroni and cheese is "less satisfying" with a "loose" and "floury" texture. The Jamburger impressed with a "puffy, buttery bun," "boldly seasoned patty" and tomato jam, and although nothing on the wine list blew Hector away "Jamber's cuisine really popped" when she switched over to beer. [Examiner]

Luke Tsai investigated a trifecta of Salvadoran pupusas, Mexican burritos, and Louisiana fried chicken at Oralia's Kitchen at the former Louisiana Fried Chicken/Happy Donuts location in El Cerrito. It's got a new concept and a lot going on, but the food at Oralia's "transcends the somewhat generic setting." A "homey authenticity" won Tsai over, and the restaurant's "gut-busting" Fried 'Chickurrito' (a burrito stuffed with Cajun-spiced fried-chicken strips, sour cream, lettuce, seasoned rice, and a chipotle cream sauce) impressed with a cool lettuce crunch that played will with the savoriness of the Mexican rice and the peppery chicken. "Entire food-truck empires have been built on much less tasty a food gimmick." Most compelling, though, was the the Salvadoran menu of "incredibly rich and savory" pork pupusas, "impressive" desayuno Salvedoreno and "wonderfully crisp" empanadas. Whether you want fast-food-style fried chicken or burritos, "Oralia's has you covered." [EBX]


2323 Van Ness Ave., San Francisco, CA