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Bauer Digs the Ume Shakeup; Roth Hits Palm House

Patterson and Cooper in Ume's kitchen. [Photo: Ume/Facebook]

"For the most part," says Bauer, the transformation of Oakland's Plum to the Japanese-inflected Ume "has been successful." Cocktails are "exceptional," service is "expert and fast" and Bauer loved small plates like the English pea salad, diced marinated trout with white turnips, and "must-order" puffed brown rice crackers. The warm chicken thighs "look anemic until you take a bite," and the only real disappointment was the fried-chicken ramen, which "was filling but lacked the finesse of the other dishes." Though the dining room wasn't full, "with the always busy Plum Bar next door, it's a good bet that Patterson's turnaround will be successful." 2.5 stars. [Chron]

Though "decorated in what future archaeologists might describe as upmarket Tommy Bahama," new Marina restaurant Palm House is "not over-the-top or Tiki bar-tacky." Rather, observes Anna Roth, it "feels more Miami than Margaritaville," though it does boast "the most attractive frozen slushie machine you've ever seen." These slushies, however, are "cold and smooth, more tart than sweet," making them something an adult might actually want to drink. Food "aims higher than jerk chicken quesadillas and coconut shrimp," and Roth liked the Trade Wind Burger's "hefty patty" and savored the "standout" Cubano. But more ambitious dishes like the pulled duck tacos, jerk mahi-mahi fish and eggs revoltillo missed the mark. All told, it's "innocuous food that goes well with drinks and the Marina crowd that populates the place," though if you head to the back dining room and "away from the neighborhood natives and their rum floats, you have a chance to create your own oasis." [SF Weekly]

Cynthia Salaysay stopped in at Chino, which she calls a "quirky and inventive" alternative to the city's wood-fired pizza obsession. Chino boasts "one of the most interesting menus in The City," with "flavorful, sticky and light" chicken wings, "deceptively complex" bao de chicharron and "toasty, nutty" rice cakes. Though there were some missteps, Salaysay loved the "boba plus fruity slushy cocktail" at the bar, and "the vibe is party-hardy, not hoity-toity." "It's exciting to see a restaurant be this imaginative and so lighthearted at the same time." [Examiner]

Meawhile, Luke Tsai found "excellent handmade tortillas, hard-to-find masa-based antojitos, and slow-cooked barbacoa" at Los Cilantros, which is located inside La Peña Cultural Center in Berkeley. Thoug she uses high-end ingredients, chef-owner Dilsa Lugo, a La Cocina alum, "doesn't toot her horn" and prices aren't exorbitant. Thankfully, Tsai is here to toot it for her: he loved the "damn satisfying" chilaquiles verdes, "bright, garlicky, and fiery" salsa, "smoky, complex" mole tacos and favorite barbacoa. Though taco meat and sopa de tortilla needed more flavor, Tsai learned that even Isabel Allende is a fan of Lugo's dishes. "There's a good chance that South Berkeley will enjoy them, too." [EBX]

Chino

3198 16th St., San Francisco, CA 94103 (415) 552-5771 Visit Website

Ume

2802 White Oak Drive, , TX 77007 (832) 767-5872 Visit Website

Palm House

2032 Union Street, , CA 94123 (415) 749-9959 Visit Website

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