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Bauer Thinks Rintaro's "Not All That," While Roth Deems It Worthy of a Bag of Chips

Seed + Salt, Burma Bear, and Chilli Padi also factor into this week's reviews.

Izakaya Rintaro
Izakaya Rintaro
Michael David Rose Photography

For this week's update review, Bauer returned to Zero Zero to evaluate new chef Joyce Conway, owner Bruce Hill's mentee for the past four years. While he found that the restaurant's signature pizzas were still good (and mostly the same), Conway's salads, small plates, pastas, and main courses were what really set Zero Zero apart for him. The radicchio and chicory salad, with "a fragrant wash of olio nuovo that gently dominates," stands out, but Bauer would pretty much ditch everything else for the fried chicken thighs, with a "dense, crisp crust encasing moist boned meat" so good that they don't even need the accompanying chile sauce and mild caraway yogurt. And even though the pastas are "good," he thinks they "can't compete" with SPQR, Perbacco or Flour + Water's, especially with their staggering $20 price tag. Still, good service and solid food are enough to merit 2.5 stars. [Chron]

After his pleasant, thigh-filled visit to Zero Zero, Bauer focused his energy on Izakaya Rintaro, where he encountered a complicated mixture of successes and failures in his multiple visits. He thinks Kyoto-born chef-owner Sylvan Mishima Brackett delivers a "nuanced interpretation of Japanese cuisine," with a "Waters-like integrity" that's the result of his many years as a "Chez Panisse disciple." But highs and lows abounded: a curry kabocha croquette was perfectly crusted and fried, yet a whole fried petrale sole had flesh that "flaked like sawdust." The yellowfin tuna sashimi and silken tofu met with high praise, but the Odd Bits Chef's Choice chicken skewers were "perplexing," including six skewers of items like "gristly knee bones" and cuts Bauer couldn't recognize, though he's "butchered thousands of chickens" in his time. (Despite asking the cooks, even the server couldn't identify the mystery bits.) He found service wildly inconsistent, and says diners are "pretty much on their own" with beverage pairings. Ultimately, he thinks Rintaro is "taking itself a little too seriously," and that while the restaurant has potential, it "has a way to go...good, but it's not all that." Two stars. [Chron]

Roth also visited Izakaya Rintaro, as well as neighboring Japanese spot Orenchi Beyond. Curiously, Roth found perfection in some of Bauer's least favorite dishes at Rintaro (and vice versa), dubbing the "admirably moist" petrale sole "as beautiful as it is delicious...like a work of contemporary art." As for those croquettes Bauer loved, Roth couldn't detect much curry (but did admire the crunch). And for her, chicken, the core of Bauer's most reviled dishes at Rintaro, is "the best reason to go," with "some of the best skewers in the city." Roth also praised the "not-too-sweet flavor" of their housemade plum wine, declaring that "a glass or two of that," plus some chicken skewers, would allow a guest to leave "a very happy human." Meanwhile, at Orenchi, the ramen "holds up to the hype," with the original Orenchi bowl showing "all the elements of the ramen symphony coming together beautifully." Appetizers like spicy fried chicken wings, cold smoky deep-fried eggplant and a fermented squid with a "slimy, cartiligeous texture" that's an "acquired taste," are more hit-and-miss. In addition to the addictive ramen, cold Sapporos in metal cups, a selection of sakes and a lively atmosphere are part of the charm. [SF Weekly]

Off the Japanese beat, Jonathan Kauffman ducked into Seed + Salt, the Marina's new gluten-free, vegan restaurant that is a "New Year’s resolution incarnate." Like moths to the flame, "young white women" are at least "50 percent of the customers," with the remaining 50 percent composed of a variety of demographics with "great skin." But owner Mo Clancy and chef Ariel Nadelberg have created a "virtuous" restaurant that is "not necessarily an act of self-sacrifice," despite the temptation to "write about Seed + Salt with a trend-aware smirk." While the gluten-free buns on the vegan BLT are "gummy," the soy-marinated eggplant strips subbing in for bacon are crunchy and good enough to eat on their own. Salads shine bright, and cauliflower couscous is lively, "shot through with mint and golden raisins...dosed with just enough acidity to bring their flavors into sharp focus." It's the "kind of food [one] could eat every day," if one had the budget for multiple $20 lunches per week. [Chron]

Cynthia Salaysay had a blast at Burma Bear, a Burmese-influenced barbeque food stand in the Haight's Second Act Marketplace. American-Southern inspired ribs are complemented by sides like coconut rice that "beats potato salad," brown rice, or biryani with cardamom and star anise. There's also a traditional chicken curry and tea leaf salad that hits you "right side up and upside down" with flavor. It's "still coming together," but the food is "addictive and comforting." [Examiner]

Over in Oakland's Chinatown, Luke Tsai tried out Chilli Padi. While it's mainly a Malaysian restaurant, it serves a "hodgepodge" of Thai and Chinese dishes in a modern environment, setting it apart from its Chinatown neighbors. Though it's named for the Malaysian version of the Thai bird chili, Tsai found many of Chilli Padi's dishes lacking in spice, possibly an adjustment for the largely Chinese clientele. While an extensive menu made it hard to know where to start, Tsai found many great options, including the the laksa mee, a curry noodle soup with chicken, fried tofu puffs, eggplant, okra and egg noodles in a coconut curry broth. It's an oasis for Malaysian expats, who should find it a "taste of home." [EBX]

Chilli Padi Malaysian Cuisine

366 8th St, Oakland, CA 94607

Orenchi Beyond

174 Valencia St, San Francisco, CA 94103

Seed & Salt

2240 Chestnut St, San Francisco, CA 94123

Rintaro

82 14th St, San Francisco, CA 94103 (415) 589-7022 Visit Website

Burma Bear

325 19th Street, , CA 94612 (510) 817-4413 Visit Website

Zero Zero

826 Folsom Street, , CA 94107 (415) 348-8800 Visit Website

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