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Bauer Revisits Farmhouse Inn, Kisses a Lot of Frogs Around Town

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Patricia Chang

Bauer's latest trip down memory lane starts in Forestville, at the Farmhouse Inn. Though the property is a longtime Michelin-star holder, it's been ten years since Bauer was last "enamored of the quaint yellow house, the rustic surroundings and the local cuisine produced by [chef] Steve Litke." The restaurant was on Bauer's Top 100 list "for a long while," but "came off a few years ago because the competition had become so fierce." Now the restaurant is prix-fixe only, "offering diners either three ($79) or four ($94) courses, with five choices in each course." Bauer is pleased by dishes like a "pristine salad of mixed chicories, Fuyu persimmons, pomegranate seeds, toasted pumpkin seeds and paper-thin slices of lomo that resemble flowers, all in a dewy glaze of golden balsamic vinaigrette." A mix of the inn's classic dishes like rabbit loin wrapped in bacon and new additions like roast elk tenderloin are accentuated by "masterful" pacing, evidence that the restaurant "has matured nicely," and is now "one of the most evolved and elegant restaurants in Sonoma County." Three stars. [Chron]

Because "not every restaurant is worth a review," and he can "afford to be choosy," Bauer maintains a list of restaurants designated as "DNR— do not review." This week, he wrote up three high-profile spots that weren't "destination-worthy" enough for a "full-blown review." At Game, from Sachin Chopra of All Spice fame, "food and service seem a bit at loose ends" and "every course needed tweaking." Cavatelli "was way undercooked," black-eyed pea soup was "a dusty gray puree," and a goat dish "seemed disjointed and had very little flavor." Next up was Pink Zebra, from Jesse Koide (Mission Chinese Food), where Bauer had a "perfectly good" omakase but found the surroundings "awkward," adding up to a meal that "wasn't worth the effort." Although Pink Zebra is "high-profile," it "needs more time to gel." Finally, the new iteration of Carlos Altamirano's Peruvian-fusion spot Mochica in Potrero Hill "could be a neighborhood restaurant" for Bauer, who lives nearby, but he found that "both food and service were amateurish." The best thing was the empanada. Overall, Bauer declares, "you have to kiss a lot of frogs to find your prince." [Inside Scoop]

Finally, Bauer visited Arguello, the new Mexican restaurant from Traci Des Jardins. Located in the converted Officer's Club in the Presidio, getting there "can feel like a trek." But Des Jardins is a "talented chef," offering "classic preparations with a modern sensibility." In response to recent criticisms of Des Jardins' heritage and qualifications to cook Mexican food, Bauer declared "it’s nonsense that having a certain ethnic heritage makes you inherently better at producing the cuisine," and either way "Des Jardins’ mother and grandparents are Mexican, and she grew up with the cuisine." The "food is good," because the chef has the "passion, reverence and integrity to make it." He enjoyed an "excellent guacamole" with chips that "shatter in layers with each bite," and "noticeably pristine" ingredients. The taquitos looked like they came from a "grocer's freezer," but tasted fresh. But "service can be slow," and Bauer did not enjoy the hostess' "haughty attitude" and refusal to seat his incomplete party. Overall, he thinks Arguello has succeeded in "celebrating the importance of the Mexican population to the area." 2.5 stars. [Chron]

Pink Zebra

3515 20th St, San Francisco, CA 94110

Game Restaurant

648 Bush St, San Francisco, CA 94108

Mochica

1469 18th St, San Francisco, CA 94107 (415) 278-0480

Arguello Restaurant

50 Moraga Ave., San Francisco, CA (415) 561-3650

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