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Bauer Still Digs Akiko's; Sens Finds Aveline A Bit Bizarre

Photo: TripAdvisor

Bauer "was wondering what would happen" when chef Ricky Yap departed Akiko's last month, but "on a recent return visit, I found the food and service both still impressive." Owner Ray Lee "has shortened the menu and jettisoned many hot items to concentrate on sushi," and dishes like house-cured salmon roe with monkfish liver and nori create "a tsunami in the mouth." Also of note: bluefin "so striated that it resembled a lobster tail and had richness akin to A5 Wagyu," and sea bream that's "an example of minimum number of ingredients achieving a maximum effect." While "many of the preparations felt simplified without the flourishes Yap had added to the plates," the restaurant hasn't lost its luster. "Akiko's has become, and should remain, a coveted reservation." Three stars, an unchanged rating. [Chron]

"Where does the line fall between bold cooking and bizarre cooking?" asks Josh Sens about Aveline. Some of Casey Thompson's strange-sounding combinations, like "crisply conceived" crab macarons and a combo of amberjack crudo, ham "snow," black lime, cherry blossoms, banana purée, and dehydrated, salted banana that seemed like "she'd been taking orders from a random-word generator" were surprisingly winning. But not every wacky combination succeeds: tomato pie is "cloying and crunchy, something you might conjure after popping psychedelics and rummaging in your green waste bin," and an avocado appetizer "so involved that my server stammered and fell silent when asked to describe it, like a schoolkid stumped at a spelling bee." Those who can't handle the creativity might be better off snacking at sister bar The European, where "relaxed, booze-friendly cooking" includes "a first-rate fiery fried chicken." Still, "I tip my toque to Thompson for taking chances, something that she has never seemed afraid to do." Two stars. [SF Mag]

Though "it's certainly got all the elements of the next big trend," like exotic ingredients and a long history, "Persian food has yet to break into the big time." That's why Anna Roth is excited about Anar, which has moved into "a lonely corner of SOMA, though once you're inside you forget all about the desolate stretch of Harrison outside its doors." The food is more memorable, like "beautifully layered" fesenjen, chicken-pomegranate-walnut stew that's "the best thing on the menu," or gheymeh bedemjan, a stew of lamb, chickpea, and eggplant "with an unexpected zing." Portions are huge, too: "There will be more rice than you're likely to eat in one sitting, and with entree prices closing in on $20, a couple on a budget could do well with an appetizer or main dish split between them." [SF Weekly]

Tasting Table's erratic parade of occasional non-review reviews continues with a paean to Monsieur Benjamin from Lauren Sloss, who ate her way through a good portion of the massive menu. "Because it's trying to be all things to all people, the menu's breadth may overwhelm at first, but soon we found ourselves seeing it as a choose-your-own-adventure meal map." Adventures worth choosing: "life-changing" lobster ragout, "textbook" steak frites, and steak tartare "that subtly shows the chef's sleight of hand." "A restaurant for any occasion? For sure." [Tasting Table]

Cynthia Salaysay is always "glad [she] made the trip" to South San Francisco's Cafe de Casas, where "unusual, warm" Brazilian pastries, "often filled with meat," are perfect carry-on plane fare. Her favorite bites are the coxinha, which blends shredded chicken, hearts of palm, and cream cheese, and the pão de queijo, gluten-free cheese puffs that are "uniformly gooey inside, with a crisp, almost crunchy exterior." Lunchtime dishes that are "eye-poppingly large" also satisfy, including a stewed chicken that "dances brightly on the tongue" and "delicately spiced" beans. "It's one of the least pretentious, heartfelt places I've come across." [Examiner]

Luke Tsai is a fan of unpretentious Handlebar, the brick-and-mortar from Fiveten Burger's Roland Robles. Unsurprisingly, its burger boasts "no deficit of meaty, chin-dribbling juices," and is accompanied by "miraculous" tater tots with garlic and truffle oil. But while "it would take a monumental amount of self-control for me to ever dine at Handlebar and not order the burger and tots," Tsai also digs the "oh-so-seductively creamy" mac and cheese, "the rare vegetarian entrée that felt decadent enough to satisfy even the most determined carnivore." Though some dishes, like summer squash, were "so simple they fell flat...the kind of vegetable dish an uninspired home cook might throw together in a pinch," the "best meal to have here is brunch," particularly the Monday industry brunch, when a pancake on a stick and free cocktails are big draws. [EBX]

· All Week in Reviews posts [~ ESF ~]

Monsieur Benjamin

451 Gough Street, , CA 94102 (415) 403-2233 Visit Website

The European

490 Geary St, San Francisco, CA 94102 (415) 345-2305 Visit Website

Aveline

490 Geary St, San Francisco, CA 94102 415-345-2303 Visit Website

Akiko's

431 Bush St, San Francisco, CA 94108

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