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Bauer Charmed By Brenda's Meat & Three; Tsai Likes Longbranch's Late-Night Offerings

Plus, the critics' takes on Range, Mochica, and Burma Love.

Burma Love
Burma Love
Patricia Chang

This week, Michael Bauer visited Brenda's Meat & Three, the eponymous new restaurant from chef Brenda Buenviaje (also of Brenda's French Soul Food). It overwhelmed him with nostalgia for his Midwestern hometown and the kind of cooking that is "everywhere in Kansas," prompting an extended reverie on the diverse demographic of tattooed, preppy, Asian and "ebony-skinned" patrons enjoying bologna sandwiches side-by-side, in a restaurant serving "long-cooked homey food that’s not all that popular in Northern California. Nonetheless, "it draws crowds." Lunch is the "sweet spot," while dinner is "a little sloppy," featuring delicious but disintegrating vegetables and "surprisingly tough" ribs. Service is solid and the staff a delight, with a "small-town friendliness [that] makes the restaurant a place you want to come back to." Two stars. [Chron]

Bauer also visited Range for an update review that coincided with the restaurant's ten-year anniversary. It also happened to coincide with the return of chef-owner Phil West, who has returned to the kitchen after Rachel Sillcocks' recent departure. Bauer suspects that he would have known that West was back in the kitchen just by tasting his chicken liver mousse. In the review, he repeatedly references the "knowing hand" and "stepped-up service" that he found upon the return of West, mentioning that while the restaurant made the Top 100 last year, "the food had lost a bit of the complexity that comes from the hands of a real master." (In other words, he effectively managed to mask a mediocre review of the restaurant's former chef beneath a glowing tribute to West.) "Range, under West, has stood the test of time. It’s as fresh today as the day it opened." 3.5 stars. [Chron]

Over in the East Bay, Luke Tsai visited Longbranch Saloon, the West Berkeley neighborhood bar and restaurant serving "elevated, California-inflected pub food." It's not out to reinvent the wheel, offering "the usual pickle-making and charcuterie, roasted bone marrow, and a fancy-ish $14 cheeseburger." High points included "porky and unctuous" potted pig trotter and a great version of Wisconsin-style fried cheese curds with a dab of Fresno chili jam. The salads, too, were well-made, "thoughtful" combinations. However, the entrées fell flat, with Tsai concluding that "simple food demands better execution." Ultimately the restaurant "just needs a bit of fine-tuning," but the late-night menu and bustling atmosphere make it a welcome addition to the neighborhood. [EBX]

Roth paid a visit to Burma Love, the new Mission outpost from the people behind Burma Superstar. There she found a pleasant "upscale-ish Southeast Asian atmosphere," supported by a menu "imported from Burma Superstar and its sister restaurant B*Star." Favorites like the tea-leaf salad are still present, though a few dollars more expensive, alongside homey, new dishes like duck curry and whole-fried fish. Only one new dish "didn't work at all," in the form of "spicy noodles" that were too sweet and ketchup-y to live up to their name. While it's easy to construe a more expensive, Mission version of Burma Superstar as a "sinister" indication of the tech industry's influence on the city, Roth is willing to pay the premium for a great Burmese option in the neighborhood. "It's just surprising the restaurant hasn't been there all along." [SF Weekly]

The Examiner's Alex Hochman got mixed signals at the recently relocated Mochica in Potrero Hill. The food was tasty, but the service was a "friendly mess" that distracted from the excellent Peruvian flavors. Slow or absent drink orders, long waits between entrees and computer malfunctions cast a shadow over the "many dishes coming out of Carlos Altamirano’s sparkling open kitchen [that] were solid." Fresh, delicious cebiche pescado, beef tongue that was "delightfully charred and earthy," and pork shoulder smothered in mole-like sauce were all winners. Hochman recommends that until service nears the level of the food and decor, "proceed with caution." [SF Examiner]

Brenda's Meat & Three

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

Mochica

1469 18th St, San Francisco, CA 94107 (415) 278-0480

Range

842 Valencia Street, San Francisco, CA 94110 Visit Website

Burma Love

211 Valencia St, San Francisco, CA

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