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Bauer Disappointed in Oliveto; Roth Gushes Over Brenda's Meat and Three

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Plus, Nico goes prix fixe to Bauer's delight and magical, home-style empanadas can be found in the Mission.

Brenda's Meat and Three
Brenda's Meat and Three

Michael Bauer experienced some highs and lows in his dining adventures this week. Starting with the high point, Bauer updated his review on Nico, calling it a "pitch-perfect dinner." In San Francisco's burgeoning French food scene, chef Nicolas Delaroque has "set a new standard for modern French food." Bauer's most recent visit to the Presidio Heights restaurant hinged upon Nico's transition to a prix-fixe menu; five courses for $55, or three courses for $45, with optional wine pairings. Bauer particularly enjoyed a first course with a "snowcapped mountain of clementine foam," "mahogany ocean of crab broth" and "lacy fronds of fennel tops [that] rose out of the froth like pines in the Sierra." Service, ambiance and price came together here, leading Bauer to pronounce it a "pitch-perfect dinner." 3.5 stars. [Chron]

Conversely, Bauer's trip to Oliveto was a disappointment. The Oakland restaurant, helmed by chef Jonah Rhodehamel, recently underwent its first remodel in 18 years. The renovation focused on managing sound levels, giving Oliveto a "fresh face" and "an exciting buzz to the room." Although Bauer awarded the Italian institution three stars in his 2011 review, 2014's assessment deems it "inconsistent" and "too expensive." Appetizers were the highlight, especially a steak tartare "boldly seasoned with pickled peppers, Castelvetrano olives and a bit of mint." Pasta dishes were a "letdown" and main courses "disappointed." Finally, service was "well meaning" but "hamstrung by long waits between courses" and no sommelier on staff, leaving diners "pretty much on their own." Sadly, while the refresh of the interior is a "winner," the food didn't measure up. Two stars. [Chron]

Meanwhile, Anna Roth visited Brenda's Meat and Three, the new restaurant from Brenda Buenviaje and wife Libby Truesdell, declaring it "worth breaking your resolutions for." The food here is more "generally Southern" than their other, New Orleans-focused restaurant, Brenda's French Soul Food, and plates are smaller in size. In the tradition of a Southern "meat and three sides", Brenda's offers a simple menu that changes daily and "almost always" includes "beautifully fried" chicken with a spiced crust. An "airy" and "wonderful" meatloaf, braised short ribs with mushroom gravy and trout with butter and almond sauce are all "good and worthy." Sides include typical but elevated options like stewed green beans with bacon, mashed potatoes, collard greens, and Brussels sprouts with "enough butter to negate their vegetal benefits." Breakfast is equally enticing, with fluffy biscuits smothered in gravy, sweet-potato pancakes and an "excellent Bloody Mary" with pickled okra. Roth admits to "gushing," but "can't help it," as she hasn't had a "bad bite, let alone a bad meal" at the new restaurant. [SF Weekly]

The Examiner's Wendy Hector waxed poetic about the "world of stuffed dough," after a recent visit to the Mission's empanada emporium Chile Lindo. Traditional fillings, like ground beef with egg, olives and raisins, are surrounded by "hearty" dough with a "chewy bite," although vegans can find a pretty "decent" version using Yves meatless ground beef. The ham and cheese empanada was "simple yet sublime," with a cheesy core that made "each mouthful a stringy symphony of fat, salt and fire." Coffee and "sweet stuff" can also be found at Chile Lindo, but the empanadas are "the real magic." [SF Examiner]

Nico

3228 Sacramento Street, San Francisco, CA

Brenda's Meat & Three

919 Divisadero Street, , CA 94115 (415) 926-8657 Visit Website

Chile Lindo Empanadas

2942 16th Street, San Francisco, CA

Oliveto

5655 College Avenue, , CA 94618 (510) 547-5356 Visit Website

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