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Bauer Visits Cocky, Testosterone-Filled Cockscomb; Tsai Experiences Sensory Overload at Plank

Plus: Drinking at Hogwash, and longing for more food at Californios.

Patricia Chang

This week, the local critic clique focused their tongues on Cockscomb, Chris Cosentino's "cocky" new meat palace in SoMa. First up is Bauer's take on the "testosterone-filled" menu, in a restaurant "where restraint isn't part of the vocabulary." Naturally, Bauer is the son of a butcher, so while he is very familiar with meat cuts and likes offal he admits that Cosentino goes even further with it than most chefs— the beef heart tartare was "better than many versions made with rib eye or tenderloin. While Bauer found several other hits on the menu, including a "ham burger" and exceptional crab bruschetta, over-seasoning seemed to be a theme throughout his meals. The wood-oven roasted pig's head, "as leathery and tanned as House Speaker John Boehner's skin" is another prime example of Cosentino's "take-no-prisoners cooking style," described by Bauer as the "ultimate guy food." 2.5 stars. [Chron]

And, as it turns out, ladies can get down with a super meaty meal, too. On her visit to Cockscomb, Anna Roth was delighted by the very same whole roasted pig's head, accompanying pig's brain aioli (aka "brain-aise") and especially the snout painted in gold leaf, "a truly baller move" on Cosentino's part. At his newest restaurant, Cosentino is "still serving the obscure parts of the animal," but this time it's "through a San Francisco, rather than Italian, lens." With a menu that intends to revise classic San Francisco dishes, the celery Victor (a dish invented at the St. Francis Hotel in the early 20th century) is "particularly wonderful," topped with both crispy chicken skin and chicharrones. Ultimately, Roth concludes that while this is no restaurant for those on a diet, Cosentino has nicely achieved the "fresh start" he sought after closing Incanto. [SF Weekly]

In Bauer's other, vaguely less meaty travels through San Francisco's restaurant scene, he revisited Kokkari in Jackson Square. After bumping it from his Top 100 list in 2010, "when the food and service seemed rote," Bauer cut it out of his own rotation for several years. Now, though, everything in chef Erik Cosselmon's kitchen appears to be "back on track." While Bauer suspected he was recognized as a critic on his visit, service and teamwork appeared "impressive" throughout the restaurant. Dishes from the grill, wood oven and rotisserie were simple and well-executed. With the "simple, pure food" and "smell of oregano and burning embers," Bauer is certain that "diners could imagine themselves on the Greek Isles." Three stars. [Chron]

Jonathan Kauffman paid a visit to Union Square's new beer-drinker-happy-place, Hogwash. An eclectic spot that mirrors the neighborhood, Hogwash isn't "designed to be sought out by drinkers eager to incite FOMO with a few gloating texts" (though it might). According to Master Cicerone Rich Higgins, who consulted on the beer list, "Hogwash doesn’t take itself seriously — or doesn’t take beer pretentiously." Kauffman found evidence of this in the prolific presence of 55 ounce "Hog Goblets," a beer selection that appeals to "both visitors to the city and locals who rate their pints on Untappd" and a sausage-dominated menu that plays nice with the beer. He concludes that, happily, "Hogwash isn’t about pushing the beer scene forward — it’s about creating a comfort zone, a site-specific bar." [Chron]

In the East Bay, Luke Tsai gave Oakland's "super-sized Dave & Buster's clone" Plank a whirl. First of all, he was impressed by the sheer size of the 50,000-square-foot restaurant/game emporium, featuring 40 enormous flat screen TVs, 18 bowling lanes, skee ball and all kinds of dinkle-donkling, flashing game machines. The establishment even has outdoor bocce courts with lawn furniture facing the bay, which Tsai describes as "a slice of the Jersey Shore transposed onto the Oakland waterfront." The restaurant side of things is all over the place, but mostly "better than average," running the gamut from Asian tacos to gumbo to pizza and burgers. Ultimately, Tsai feels that while Plank is a great place to simultaneously watch a game, stuff your face with wings and go bowling, it's no dining destination. "There are too many places in Oakland that serve much better versions of the same dishes for roughly the same price." [EBX]

Molly Gore of The Examiner visited Californios, Val Cantu's upscale Mexican restaurant in the Mission. She found a restaurant "a bit wrapped up in its own aspirations," and slightly disjointed, though "Cantu's cooking is tremendously good." Dishes like smoked kampachi and a soup of sous vide chicken and broth were showstoppers; indeed, the chef succeeds in his mission "to deconstruct and reinvent a genre that has been ghettoized," delivering six to eight modern (but not very substantial) courses that change each night. Gore left "pleased, but not satisfied." as though "[she] still needed dinner" after a full tasting menu. At $57, Cantu's tasting menu is "a steal," but still didn't keep Gore from "hitting the nearest best taqueria on the way home." [SF Examiner]