[Photo: Campton Place/Facebook]
Bauer paid a visit to Campton Place, "a launching pad for many great chefs," and declared Srijith Gopinathan to be no exception. About a year ago, the chef "threw caution to the wind" and created a six- and nine-course tasting menu that "showcases his talents and shows that he's sensing the California vibe." With familiar Indian flavors as a reference, "ingredients are combined and presented in a way that makes everything seem newborn. It's an impressive show of culinary artistry."
The main drawback is the "fusty" dining room, which is "not old enough to feel classic, like the Big 4, or modern enough for the current trend." However, the "precise, expert service ... never goes out of style." From lime snow with mint syrup and spices to green chickpeas with burrata and herbed puri, it all adds up "to an elevated eating experience that transcends the traditional tenor of the dining room." Three stars. [Chron]
Meanwhile, Roth investigated the city's newest smokey offerings with visits to Divisadero's 4505 Burgers & BBQ and Magnolia Brewery's Smokestack, both of which are "expanding the definition of barbecue in the city by choosing not to adhere to one style." At 4505, pork ribs were "pure" and "sweet" with carmelized char on the sides, "but required some toothwork," brisket was "tender and juicy," and pulled pork is "near-ideal," though Roth found the chicken "a disappointment." Coleslaw, beans and the "wonderfully indulgent" Frankenroni make it "worth going to 4505 for the sides alone," and for owner Ryan Farr, "that neighborhood vibe is the endgame of any barbecue spot."
At Smokestack, the restaurant inside the newly opened Magnolia Brewery in the Dogpatch, Roth found more of a mixed bag, with "most of the meat cold and dried-out on both visits." When served warm, though, "a few items perked up considerably," like the chopped pork and "glorious" chicken. On the side, coleslaw proved "refreshing but boring after a few bites," but the spicy kale, carrots with "kicky miso" sauce and baked goods were "worth seeking out." Though "the layout within is awkward" and cocktails are "ponderous," the "handsome" space and "always-great" Magnolia beer lineup were the main draw. [SF Weekly]
Alex Hochman also reviewed Smokestack this week, and he raved about the "vivacious" meats, from the "creamy with fat, totally smoky" brisket to the "heart-achingly good" burnt ends and sausage "stunners." Hochman agreed with Roth on the layout issue, saying the spot's "quirky logistics make for a frustrating experience," and the "Disneyland mentality" of assigning line-standing and table-holding responsibilities made for "not exactly a relaxing night out." But "judging by Smokestack's early crowds, it's safe to say that I'm not alone in declaring that when it comes to barbecue, we finally have a contender." [Examiner]
Over in Oakland, Luke Tsai checked out "tiny slip of a sandwich shop" Modigliani Cafe, which is "decidedly unsexy," "cash-only," and "predominantly takeout." So what's the draw? "A menu of unpretentious, East Coast-inflected Italian-American cooking," with a "main attraction" in the unique sausage roll. It's a pizza-sandwich hybrid that Tsai calls "vaguely burrito-like in appearance" with the flavors and the pleasures of "a next-level Hot Pocket: a "rich, hearty, and slightly sweet" tomato dipping sauce adds to the experience. All told, the sandwiches sang. "For the price, you won't find another meatball sandwich in the East Bay that's as good," and Tsai pronounced the open-face eggplant parmesan sandwich "perhaps the best I've had on the West Coast." With a few minor quibbles notwithstanding, "Modigliani Cafe gives folks another great dining option in the Grand Lake neighborhood." [EBX]