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Bauer Praises Angèle; Sens Visits Verbena

Inside Angèle [Photo: Angèle/Facebook]

Bauer went on a wine country jaunt to Napa's Angèle in his update review this week. It's a French bistro where "classic doesn't have to be boring." "Few restaurants have the rich character" of this spot, says Bauer, and a "Napa-meets-Provence" attitude struck the right balance. A rotating door of chefs has distracted attention from the spot, but current chef Rogelio Garcia and his predecessors have all been "excellent." From early-spring artichokes to "crisp veal" sweetbreads, "the season's first and best is always well represented," and pâte de campagne and mustard-crusted pork loin impressed. "Angèle adds up to a quintessential Napa Valley dining experience, one that should be near the top of the list for any visitor—or local." Three stars. [Chron]

Josh Sens visited new veggie hotspot Verbena, where Sean Baker's "fondness for the harvest inspires him to great bursts of creative expression." Here, "the presentations are supremely photogenic," and "a plate becomes [Baker's] canvas" for brushstrokes of black garlic and fermented rice purée, and "rice–and–wheat berry crisps rise like sails from a sunset-colored sea of red hummus." The chef's mind is clearly full of new concepts, "but his exhilarating rush of ideas is frequently too dizzying for its own good." "Complex and layered, the cooking at times conflicts with itself," and the wild eclecticism of the menu sometimes brings dishes "from out of the blue." In Verbena's "soaring celebration of all that grows around us," Sens says "it's best when it settles back to earth." [SF Mag]

Jonathan Kauffman checked out Ichi Sushi's new incarnation, where the Ni Bar in back was designed as a waiting room with drinks and small plates. But "your resolve to hold out for sushi may be whittled away" by dishes like the sanbaizu sunomono ("pink commas of shrimp with pickled cucumber and frilly, crunchy tremella") crisp-skinned fried chicken wings (cooked sous-vide with yuzu juice "until the flesh is as tender as a ripe peach") and clams with ground pork in a "ridiculously savory miso broth swirled with black garlic oil." [Tasting Table]

Molly Gore got on the upscale Mexican train with a visit to Loló, and pronounced that "the new wave is here, and it better never leave." The new spot is "an ebullient, chromatic explosion," with "deep, earthy and sweet" gorditas, "rich" and "balanced" carnitas and impressive tuna tacón. "The playful cocktails stopped short of being offensively cartoonish," and a "delightfully dry and a little bit peppery" margarita got the job done. The final word? "Jolly good fun, inescapable optimism and good food." [Examiner]

Luke Tsai went on a tongue-numbing venture to new Sichuan spot Chengdu Style Restaurant, where he encountered "the unique sensory pleasures that have made the Sichuan style of cooking one of the most popular regional Chinese cuisines." Sichuan peppercorn, with its numbing sensation and "subtle citrus flavor," is all over the menu here, from thinly sliced beef shank and tendon drenched in a Sichuan-pepper-infused chili oil ("more pleasantly tongue-prickling than searingly hot") to "chewy and unctuous" pigs trotters. Though much of the menu is "clumsily translated," Tsai stumbled onto "several pleasant surprises," like the tofu pudding and the fenzheng rou, "decadent as well as rustic, and utterly familiar," with "not much heat, just a shadow of star anise hanging, ghostlike, over each bite." [EBX]

ICHI Sushi + NI Bar

3282 Mission St, San Francisco, CA 94110 415-525-4750 Visit Website

Verbena

2323 Polk Street, San Francisco, CA 94109 415-441-2323

Angèle

540 Main St., Napa, CA

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