Michael Bauer visited Sessions at the Presidio to see if new owners Evin Gelleri and chef Michael Bilger can overcome the curse that has befallen other restaurants who try to make the cavernous space work. Though Bauer enjoyed Bilger's food, including "the beautifully executed pickle plate," meat and cheese platter on which "everything is worth a try," and generous main portions, he laments that it all "feels a little too slick and corporate." About the service, Bauer says it's "well-meaning but disjointed and shortsighted," especially when it comes to the timing of his dishes (both bringing them and taking them away). Ultimately, he says Sessions "comes together in a too-studied way," but that "maybe after a couple beers on the impressive patio overlooking the manicured park, [he] might have a different impression." 2 stars. [The Chron]
Bauer also returned to Town Hall where he only "saw glimmers of what the 12-year-old restaurant once was." Though he loves the feel of the space and says the cocktails continue to be excellent, "Some of the food on the New Orleans-inspired menu tasted like it was coming from a factory" and his favorite dishes "were not precisely rendered." He says, "You could have practically floated a boat in the thick Worcestershire-based barbecue sauce on the shrimp" and unfortunately, "that was not the only dish that needed a more practiced hand." About the service, Bauer says, he felt the "knowledgeable staff was trying, but there were too few to take care of the crowd" leaving him ultimately to conclude that "Town Hall still has the talent but is coasting and needs to get back in shape." 2 stars. [Chron]
Anna Roth traveled to the Tenderloin to try Abdul Al Rammah's food at Yemen Kitchen, a restaurant where she says the chef and "kitchen staff are extremely friendly and welcoming," but that was clearly built for the "Yemeni community." Still, she emphasizes, "You don't need to have a mother in the old country to appreciate the charms of the food Al Rammah is serving." She notes the portions are generous and includes the breakfast dish of spicy stewed fava beans, eggs, and beef, as well as a stir-fry of beef, lamb liver, and lamb heart among her favorite dishes, though she points out the daily specials are written only in Arabic on the chalkboard above the register, so you'll have to ask for an explanation if that's a language you can't read. The tiny restaurant only has three tables, but Roth says "Al Rammah is seeking a loan through crowdfunding site Kiva" for new equipment and hopefully so that he can eventually move into a bigger space. For now though, anyone can appreciate this food that Al Rammah says makes his people "feel like they're at home." [Chron]
Peter Kane works in an office above Westfield Shopping Centre and in preparation for El Niño, when it's going to be raining too hard for him to venture out to his favorite lunch spots, he spent the last few weeks eating his way through the mall. Here are just a few of his thoughts:
- Lobster ME "was a disappointment" due to "tasteless Velveeta-lookalike mac 'n' cheese" though, some good news: the poutine was "much better."
- Panda Express was "flavorless and expensive" with boring veggies, and orange chicken that "tasted like an extruded meat product shellacked with a heavy glaze."
- Ajisen Ramen's spicy pork ramen was one of the best lunches of Kane's endeavor. Though the lines are long, he says, "at around $10 or $11 for above-average broth, it's worth the wait."
- Two more bright (?) spots were Amoura, a Mediterranean place that "microwaves its pitas and puts too much parsley in its tabbouleh, but otherwise avoids doing anything offensive" and Fire of Brazil Churrasqueira which serves "generous portions" that are "fit for cave-dwelling Neanderthals, in spite of the legumes."
- Kane's most successful lunch was at M.Y. China where "the dim sum is easily the peer of Yank Sing's." Of course, you'll have to eat it while listening to "music that sounds like the Weather Channel without the weather," but that's just all part of what should expect when one eats his lunch at the mall. [SF Weekly]
Luke Tsai slurped his way through Noodle Fresh, a new Chinese restaurant in El Cerrito that he says boasts a wide variety of Chinese noodle dishes in a setting that's not intimidating for Western diners. He was most excited for the restaurant's Jiangxi rice noodles which are imported from China and can't be found anywhere else in the East Bay. The service he says was "Western style" in that the servers spoke English and were "a bit more formal than what you might expect at your typical hole-in-the-wall noodle shop," but points out half the customers during his visit appeared to be Chinese speakers and that the servers "shifted back and forth between English and Mandarin as needed." Should you make the trip? Tsai says, "For the modestly adventurous Chinese food eater, the restaurant offers a nice entry point into a whole world of dishes beyond your neighborhood takeout joint. For the rest of us, the kitchen serves up some pretty tasty bowls of noodles — by any standard." [East Bay Express]