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Bauer's Into Parallel 37 and Iffy on Seaglass

Parallel 37's chef's table. [Photo: Molly DeCoudreaux]

The Fourth of July cut short Week in Reviews last week, so here's a supersized Monday edition. Kicking things off: Parallel 37 at the Ritz-Carlton in SF, which is the second half of Bauer's double dose of Ritz restaurants. Unlike his pan of Navio, however, Bauer loves new chef Michael Rotondo's "refined" food, which "explores several flavors that complement rather than dominate the main ingredient." New pastry chef Andrea Correa is also a highlight, with "clever but fully integrated offerings" like whipped strawberry mousse. But though he thinks "the 100-seat dining room should be packed seven nights a week" based on food, he's less into the space itself: "the room is filled with expensive details, but overall it comes across as corporate, cold and disjointed...Rotondo is a seasoned chef who has quickly established himself as a rising star in the Bay Area, despite a less-than-ideal venue. I just hope enough people will discover his handiwork." Three stars. [Chron]

Less successful is Seaglass, Loretta Keller's new restaurant venture at the Exploratorium. While it's "an ambitious take on cafeteria food," Seaglass doesn't always pan out, with pizza "so bland that it seemed created for toddlers or someone in a nursing home" and a strange layout. "Unless you limit your choices to only one or two items in the same area, you'll likely to have to stand in multiple lines, so if anything was hot, it won't be by the time you pay and find a seat." Over at the sushi bar, Sachio Kojima's nigiri are "a hidden gem," but be careful to make sure he's working the line, lest you end up with "mangled" fish and "soggy" rice. In the end, "even the best chefs can't overcome the inherent limitations of a museum cafeteria catering to a wide variety of tastes." Two stars. [Chron]

Anna Roth is in dim sum heaven at Mama Ji's in the Castro, where "the enthusiasm and charm of the owners make you feel right at home" and "at its best, the dishes reach the heights of the great restaurants in the Richmond or San Mateo." Highlights include "perky and plump" pork shu mai, "fresh and abundant" shrimp balls, and Szechuan dinner fare that "meet[s] all your expectations for Sichuan cuisine, and it's a hell of a lot easier to get into than Mission Chinese." Though service can be iffy when the owners aren't around and "he place still has a hole-in-the-wall feel about it," it's a winner overall: "It's good-to-great dim sum in the Castro at a reasonable price. What more do we want?" [SF Weekly]

Jonathan Kauffman is also feeling the neighborhood love at Mason Pacific, a "cafe at the end of the world" that features a "small, exceedingly eclectic menu [that] gives nods to both the refined and the rustic." His favorite dishes are "fussy, terrific" halibut with grated cauliflower and breadcrumbs, and "feathery-crisp" potato skins topped with a dusting of Parmesan. "Service was impressively polished for such a new restaurant," and despite "bland" beef tartare, he's happy: "There are few bistros in the steep blocks around it, and none so handsome." [Tasting Table]

Though Mission Street Oyster Bar "sticks out like a sore crab claw...on a hip street in a hip neighborhood full of hip restaurants," Wendy Hector is cool with it: chef-owner Fredy Gamez "obviously knows his way around good seafood" and "tender and juicy" steamed clams, a "winner" of a cioppino, and great garlic bread all win her approval. Though fish entrees are "less exciting" and there are "no bells, no whistles" in the "two-toned aqua and royal-blue [dining room] decked out with hanging marlins," those who like "good quality seafood sans pretension" will leave happy. [Examiner]

Finally, Luke Tsai is pleased with the balance of power at Alameda's Sidestreet Pho, where the "sleek, modern, and sparkling-clean" dining room atmosphere "doesn't come at the expense of authenticity." Dishes like pig's blood cakes and durian smoothies intrigue, but the pho is a main attraction, with beef broth possessing "a savoriness born of many bones cooked for many, many hours." Also noteworthy: "incredibly addictive" crispy chow mein, "beautiful" beef carpaccio, and "perfectly balanced" chicken and cabbage salad. And plenty of noodles: "This is a restaurant for noodle lovers. Even the dishes in which noodles weren't the star attraction tended to have some noodle component." [EBX]

Mason Pacific

1358 Mason Street, San Francisco, CA (415) 374-7185 Visit Website

Seaglass Restaurant

Exploratorium Pier 15/17, San Fracisco, Ca