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Sweet Dubs Fenix on the Rise; Roth Digs Saru Sushi

[Photo: Fenix/Facebook]

Bauer took this week off, but in his stead, Carey Sweet took a welcome musical sojourn to San Rafael's Fenix concert venue and restaurant, declaring that "food is hardly a second thought at this ambitious project." From "very rich" mascarpone grits with wild chanterelles to "nicely chewy" baby octopus with celery root puree and spicy chorizo to "excellent" duck, Sweet was in the groove. "Roadies don't eat this well," she declared. "Rock on." Two stars. [Chron]

In an effort to pay more attention to under-the-radar neighborhood gems, Roth visited Noe Valley's Saru Sushi, and found a line out the door that showed locals haven't forgotten about Billy Kong's japanese fare. Get here early to snag a seat for dishes like the popular hamachi truffle (eight perfect squares of fresh, raw yellowtail in a mesmerizing truffle-laced soy sauce), a worth-the-price sashimi tasting, and unique tasting spoons laden with morsels of "velvety" scallop or "intensely savory" chopped amberjack. All told, the "clean flavor of sushi" was the perfect antidote to the excess of the holidays (and yes, they have a long sake list). [SF Weekly]

Patricia Unterman filed a rave review for chef Srijith Gopinathan's nine-course 'Spice Route' tasting menu at Michelin-starred Campton Place, which she calls "the real deal" and "a trip worth taking." The $115 menu offers creative small dishes like spice pot with dry ice "fog" and cauliflower florettes with Meyer lemon milk, kale and tamarind, ramping up to the "big-boy dishes," "each more a knock-out than the next." Unterman loved the "quivering scallops bathed in spicy hot, lime-scented turmeric sauce," papadum tagliatelle ("I've never tasted anything like it") and "miraculous" Indian ragout with lobster, and all the somm's picks paired perfectly with the "poetic meal." "Campton Place may have found the next big thing." [Unterman on Food]

Jonathan Kauffman skipped the Brenda's line and grabbed some of Brenda Buenviaje's cream biscuits at her new cafe, Libby Jane. "The space may be even more inviting than the restaurant next door," says Kauffman, who enjoyed biscuits in several flavors. One came "riddled with fresh blueberries" and "almost crossed into scone territory," while another, "flecked" with bacon, melted cheddar and green onion, "could double as a light lunch." Yes, please. [Tasting Table]

"Bold flavors" awaited Alex Hochman at Xi An Gourmet, where cuisine from the Shaanxi region of China takes center stage, and Middle Eastern influences create unique fusion flavors. For example, "Big Plate Chicken" looked like Italian chicken scarpariello, but tasted of jalapeños, cardamom and pepper. Xi An holds many wonders, like the "action-packed" lamb, "earthy" shredded pork and al dente Shaanxi handmade noodles, a "highlight" of the meal. "None of the fare is tear-drawing spicy," but "most dishes leave the mouth numb and warm," a welcome sensation for winter in the Inner Richmond. [Examiner]

With Luke Tsai on vacation, Cynthia Salaysay paid a visit to Oakland's Osmanthus, where she found "something was missing" in the upscale pan-Asian fusion spot. The green tea leaf salad tasted "muddy and tannic" and was overwhelmed by the grainy tea greens, and Sichuan-style dry-fried chicken wings and dry-fried green beans lacked the requisite heat. More unusual dishes fared better: chili broth noodles offer a good potential hangover cure, and the smoked-trout fried rice "was smoky and sweet." "There's a good dinner to be had here," says Salaysay, but "I'm hoping that Osmanthus' kitchen will become more experimental and bolder with the chilies." [EBX]

Campton Place

Campton Place, , CA 94108

Fenix

919 Fourth St., San Rafael CA

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