The exterior of Wakuriya. [Photo: Bunrab.com]
Though he doesn't dig the strip-mall location or the impossible-to-get reservations, Bauer-san is all about the cuisine at San Mateo's Michelin one-star Wakuriya, from the "soothing environment" to "the wonderful dance of flavors in [one's] mouth." At $95 for nine courses, chef Katsuhiro Yamasaki's prices are "the deal of the decade," provided you can get in the door. Wakuriya is now at three stars overall and 3.5 for food, up from 2.5 back in 2009. [Chron]
Anna Roth checks in with Ramen Shop in Oakland, currently in just its third week of life. She liked the "voluptuous and spicy" tantanmen and was surprised by the richness of the vegetarian miso ramen but couldn't see the appeal in the Meyer lemon shoyu ramen, which she felt lacked depth. She also doesn't see the point of the joint's cocktail menu: "[Ramen] has so many complex flavors in its own right, you just want a straightforward beer." For comparison, she visited the new Outer Richmond location of popular Japanese chain Men Oh Ramen, praising the "intense" broth and the inspired addition of a raw egg in the Tokushima ramen, but feeling less enthusiastic about miso or spicy tonkatsu renditions. Roth also advises noodleheads to skip bar snacks like gyoza and fried chicken in favor of the main event. [SF Weekly]
Patty U. is in the tank for Alice Waters: "We exactly agree on what tastes good, better and best," she says of Queen Al. So it's understandable why the loss of longtime Chez Panisse chefs Jean-Pierre Moulle and David Tanis perturbed her, but her experience with new chefs Jerome Waag and Cal Peternell proved that the kids are all right. Waag turned in a meal that "could have been cooked by [Moulle] himself...as vivid and balanced and delicious as food can be," while Peternell's "charming" fare "tasted new and rather poetic with its overlay of exotic if totally integrated scent." As far as Unterman's concerned, the queen continues to reign: "It is the most representative restaurant in the Bay Area, and continues to be the best." [Unterman on Food]
Proving that Super Bowl mania has overtaken even food critics, both Jesse Hirsch of the Examiner and Virginia Miller of the Bay Guardian hit up down-home spots. Hirsch's round-up of sports bars turned up "excellent Korean-style wings" at Ted's Sports Bar & Grill, "killer" guacamole at the Taco Shop at Underdogs, and "ocean-fresh" oysters at Tee Off Bar & Grill, to say nothing of the hearty Filipino fare and raucous party crowd at Brisbane's 7 Mile House. Meanwhile, Miller swooned for Southpaw BBQ's new chef Max Hussey, calling out his "tender, aromatic, addictive" ribs, "divine bar food" like pulled-pork potato-chip "Natchez," the "playful balance" of the cocktails and the sweet service. [Examiner, SFBG]
THE ELSEWHERE: The EBX found Victory Burger and Bureau 510 both worthy additions to the East Bay bun lineup; the Merc loves Bushido's sustainable Mountain View seafood; Bagel Street Cafe scratched the Marin IJ's comfort-food itch; and Chron Bargain Bites likes the tasty roast chicken at Berkeley's Brasa.