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Bauer Downgrades Bar Tartine; Roth Hits Forbes Island

Inside Bar Tartine. [Photo: Joanne Wan/Flickr]

Last year, Bauer granted three stars to the "different and exciting" Bar Tartine, but he retracted one star in this week's update review, after a muddled menu left the critic "perplexed and unsatisfied." Dishes were almost uniformly "high in acid and bold in flavor," giving Bauer "palate fatigue" and leaving him wanting more. Alas, desserts were "devoid of bright fresh notes," and though service was "excellent," Bauer "felt like a guinea pig." "Maybe I simply don't get the food," he mused, "or maybe [chefs] Balla and Burns are in a transitional stage, exploring new directions, and what will emerge will be something spectacular." Two stars. [Chron]

Anna Roth left the shores of San Francisco's contemporary food scene to visit Forbes Island, the waterbound tourist trap located off Fisherman's Wharf. Strapping on the metaphorical fanny pack, she joined a boatload of out-of-towners in visiting the "kitschy floating restaurant." Though she recommends starting off with a drink, "this is not the place to get ambitious." You can enjoy your beverage on deck chairs "under swaying palm trees" or head up the winding staircase to the top of the lighthouse, where you can watch dusk creep over the city. Then move to the dining room, which while not "as tacky as you expected," is still adorned with seascapes, pirate paraphernalia and the like. There, sample the menu that's held on since the restaurant's 1999 debut, complete with tourist-minded pricing: a "lackluster" $39 petrale sole, a chocolate martini, nary a sign of the city's local, seasonal, organic mantra. "Forbes Island is more about experiencing S.F. eccentricity than farm-to-table cuisine," and the Midwest set loves it, hook, line and sinker, "even if it's the sanitized face of local weirdness that the city puts on for outsiders." Still, it's a bit sad "that this mediocre dinner could be one of their main food memories." [SF Weekly]

With Jonathan Kauffman off to the Chronicle, Tasting Table had halted food reviews for a few months, but it seems they have a new critical voice in the form of Meesha Halm, who stopped by Michael Mina's Pabu and Ramen Bar in a review this week. "Mood, timing and the size of your wallet" should determine which spot you choose, with Ramen Bar better if you're "ravenous with little more than a ten spot at lunchtime," and the more upscale Pabu the best choice if "money's no object." Ramen Bar's ambiance is that of "a jaunty old Japanese fishing village," while Pabu boasts an "ikebana-inspired atrium," enclosed booths and more. With nary a bad word for either restaurant's ramen, omakase, shabu shabu and more, it sounds like Halm had "a blazing good time," aided by the flaming Japanese whisky ceremonies which went "above and beyond" to complete the experience. [Tasting Table]

Meanwhile, Molly Gore tried out Palm House, calling it a "leisurely daiquiri sanctum" somewhere between "a tropical getaway and a coastal retirement hideout." With a menu that "lingers on the fringe of kitsch" and a bar program that's a "riff on tropically-themed craft cocktails," Gore found the offering "overwrought, the culinary equivalent of turning up the bass." Though not necessarily a bad quality, it's "better experienced in moderation," a quality Palm House, with its "mesmerizing slushie machine," is sorely lacking. Palm House can be "grating," with "expensive" food, "cloying" cocktails and a "loud and transparent" concept. But nuance is not quite the point at "Cow Hollow's very own swim-up bar," and "since when is vacation an occasion for subtlety?" [Examiner]

With Luke Tsai on vacation, Cynthia Salaysay hopped over from the Examiner's food desk to filed a rave for The Cook and Her Farmer, recently opened in Oakland. "If you're a lover of shellfish, get the mussels or clams. And if you aren't, get them anyway," and try the "knockout" grilled cheese sandwich and "standout" Kennebec French fries, too. Food is surpassingly affordable at the new spot, which features a "small, focused" rotating menu and a few "exceptional" permanent dishes, which come in "substantial" portions. And with service that's as "unfussy and disarmingly generous" as the " seemingly effortless — yet exquisite — food," The Cook and Her Farmer "is on track to become a quintessentially Oakland spot." [EBX]


101 California St, San Francisco, CA 94111

Palm House

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