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Roth Hates TBD; Kauffman Gives Iyasare Three Stars

The hearth at TBD. [Photo: Patricia Chang]

Anna Roth found a great deal to be annoyed by at TBD, AQ's casual, fire-driven spinoff. The name is confusing, the "camping-chic" decor is "too twee for its own good," and the menu design "makes composing a meal difficult." But by far the worst part of the experience was the "lackluster, bewildering, and sometimes genuinely bad" food. Roth slammed the "disparate flavor combinations" and "lack of cohesion," noting misfires like the "dry and flabby" rye waffle served with cured rainbow trout, the "overpowered" uni and the" bread, butter & coastal seaweeds" were "another almost-there." Not everything was a miss: Roth enjoyed the "wonderful" persimmon, sunchoke, and bay scallop ceviche and the "moist" spiced parsnip cake. But the overall concept just doesn't click. "When people roll their eyes about the preciousness of the San Francisco restaurant scene, this is the kind of overwrought experience that they have in mind." [SF Weekly]

Kauffman had a much more pleasant experience at the newly opened Iyasare in Berkeley, where Sho Kamio's food was "vivid, layered and thoroughly conceived, some of the most exciting food we've eaten in months." Kauffman found "a riot of hues and textures" with the bowl of "crisp apple, tiny greens and translucent seaweeds sprouting from a bed of creamy tofu" and beet-marinated ocean trout were "the shade of a blood orange" with yuzu aioli, fresh herbs and shards of fried burdock. Though inspired by Sho's home in rural Japan, "the coolly dramatic space is far from bucolic" and "Kamio's small plates end up transcending any regionalism." With a "must-try" three stars, Kauffman is a true believer. [Tasting Table]

Cynthia Salaysay checked out Guddu de Karahi and found "a small, no-frills spot with a quiet hum" where "the food shines." "Heavenly and heady" smoke "drives salivary glands to work overtime," and the "perennially popular" and "delicate and golden" fish tandoori doesn't disappoint. More surprising was the "unsung" lamb boti, where a "smoky savor harmonized with the lamb's earthiness" and "tongue-tickling chilies played a high note." Service isn't perfect, but "lulls are quickly forgiven once the bright, mysterious dishes show up on the table ... In fact, everything is forgotten but the food." [Examiner]

Meanwhile, Luke Tsai paid a visit to Barkada, a "quaint little boutique bakery-cafe" that transforms into a full-service restaurant on nights and weekends. It's "the kind of place that cares about such niceties as artful plating," and the homey food impresses: "super-thin and super-crisp" pizzettas are going for the low price of $3, "one could scarcely ask for a more wholesome" salade Niçoise and the the eggs benedict is brunch's "crowning glory." "No one ever said it'd be easy to turn a bakery into a restaurant, but Barkada is pulling off a pretty convincing impersonation." [EBX]


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