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Bauer Is A Firm Cala Fan; Sens Eats All of Twitter

This extra-special double feature of Week In Reviews includes last week’s as well. Carry on.

Patricia Chang

Critic-about-town Michael Bauer is making a bold statement about Calasaying “there’s a refinement in every dish that is hard to find in Mexican food anywhere in the United States.” He’s enamored by chef Gabriela Camara’s food, particularly the “signature” trout tostadas, “lively and complex” abalones and the “star” whole rock cod. “From start to finish Cala is fully realized,” Bauer concludes, even if service can be “not always efficient.” 3 ½ stars. [The Chron]

The 45-minute wait at Village Sake is way worth, Bauer said, for “pristine” fish and skewers in a Japanese pub setting. Some food, like the miso black cod and hamachi collar, is reminiscent of Sushi Ran, where chef Scott Whitman cooked for 15 years. The food is “beautifully presented,” and there’s not one dish that Bauer wrote a bad word about, all the way down to the “moist” toffee cake. “From start to finish you can see the professionalism in the decor, service and the food,” he concluded. 3 stars. [The Chron]

Speaking of Sushi Ran, Bauer took the opportunity to revisit the 30-year sushi spot, which “has consistently produced some of the best sushi and Japanese food in the Bay Area.” The kitchen is now being run by sushi chef Taka Toshi and kitchen chef Heather Zheng, and “the food continues to resonate with clean, straightforward flavors,” though “the rice underneath the nigiri wasn’t as distinct as on previous visits and tended toward being mushy.” The fish is just as fresh, though, and the signature hamachi collar is still “beautifully grilled.” Service was “a bit disappointing this time,” but it’s still enough to earn… 3 stars. [The Chron]

Bauer called A Cote a “pioneer” in his 2011 three-star review because of its small plate format, still relatively new then, but he’s gone back and found that the menu has skewed to a more traditional format. Under current chef Michael Cook, Bauer thought that “the kitchen seems to have grown complacent,” citing “mushy” paella rice, “room temperature” pork tenderloin and “dry, leathery” tempura oysters. Service feels “short” staffed, but the restaurant still pulls a crowd. For his party, Bauer “left slightly disappointed.” 2 stars. [The Chron]

Up in Napa, Peter Kane visited 1313 Main with his baller friend, where he found that chef Adam Ross (The Restaurant at Meadowood, Ad Hoc) “has clear aspirations” to make the restaurant “a wine country destination.” Highlights included the “incredible” truffle-poached egg, “creamy and light” herbed gnocchi and “crowd-pleaser” bavette steak. Kane thought you can skip the “thrill-less” foie gras and “strangely cured” fennel-crusted salmon. Most impressive to Kane was the restaurant’s attention to its produce, much of which comes from its garden a few blocks away, because, as he wrote, “it's the simplest elements that make a satisfying meal.” [SF Weekly]

According to Kane, Scotland Yard “is the third leg of a triangle of worthwhile restaurants that opened this year, even if you're guilty of Marina-bashing.” He’s a definitive fan of chef Jason Raffin’s food, namely the sirloin tartare, pan-seared dumplings and Brussels sprouts. The Coca-Cola ribs “were among the very best” he’s had in the city, and the Yard burger’s “ingredients were singing in a chorus.” On the not-so-good side, the pork chop was “over-salted” and butternut squash “undercooked.” But, he concluded that “there is something of a split personality to Scotland Yard, but to be honest, I dig the kitchen's vision.” Not so much the decor, which features an interior “as girly as the food is bro-y.” [SF Weekly]

In the December issue of San Francisco magazine, Josh Sens takes on the entire Twitter building and delivers some judgments on its dining scene. At Dirty Water (1 ½ stars), Sens calls the cocktails “a strength,” the charcuterie “standard issue” and the guinea hen potpie a good, “hearty” “outlier.” He was overwhelmed by the digital drink choices though, finding it a fitting metaphor for the restaurant as a whole: “In my chilly interactions with the iPad, I couldn’t help thinking of the restaurant as reflective of our ascendant culture: Lacking sharp perspective, it compensates with a preponderance of choice.” At Azalina’s (1 ½ stars), he found “bone-dry” roast chicken, “greasy” noodles and just one dish that pleased him, the “vibrant” pineapple and tea salad. Bon Marché’s (2 stars) interior distracts him, though the food is “satisfying.” [SF mag]

Luke Tsai found American breakfast and Egyptian specialties at Pyramids Restaurant & Grill in East Oakland this week, and he liked it. In fact, he’d “happily make the trek over once a week, at least, and start the day off right with a plate of [chef/owner Emad] Ghobrial's ful,” or fava bean mash. Tsai also called the cumin-spiced lentil soup a “highlight,” though the gyro meat just “fine.” As for the American breakfast side of things, Tsai calls it “solidly above average.” [East Bay Express]

The Jiangnan Chinese food scene is growing in SF, and Anna Roth is on it. She visited Taste of Jiangnan in the Inner Richmond and found food that is “subtler than the chile-heavy cuisine of Szechuan or the cumin punch of Xi’an.” The lighter-style fare results in pork-only dumplings in the wonton soup and whitebait fish scrambled with eggs and chives. She didn’t like some dishes, like crispy rice crust with salted egg yolk and steamed bean curd roll, but was a fan of others, like “the menu’s stadium thumper, the ‘delicious braised pork,’ which certainly lives up to its name,” she wrote. All in all, Taste of Jiangnan is a restaurant that “deserves your attention.” [The Chron]

At Vive La Tarte, Anna Roth finds a very San Francisco-specific style of cheesecake, one that combines elements from all over the world. The cream cheese base is “almost as light and fluffy as Karl the Fog, but still with the tangy-sweet balance that is the hallmark of the best cheesecakes” with a Speculoos crust that’s a nod to the owners’ Belgium roots. Other items include loosely-interpreted tarts, “well-formed” focaccia, “less than ideal” quiche, salads, doughnuts and more. The open design of the restaurant creates community, but also “can be awkward.” [The Chron]