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Bauer Revists Comal, Tsai Goes "Toxin-Free" at Berkeley's Mission Heirloom

The two sides of Berkeley: a meaty Mexican mainstay and a paleo-centric "clean food" spot.

His Bauerness kicks off our reviews this week with an updated review of Comal in Berkeley, where he was disappointed to find that his favorite roast turkey was "taking the day off" on a recent visit. Despite the setback, Bauer and pals gobbled up masterful Mexican staples like saffron rice and salsas that are "among the best around" before moving on to tripe guisado that "unfolds in waves with nuances of bacon, onion and garlic" and some surprises like rabbit tinga with mole amarillo or asparagus with Meyer lemon brown butter. One definite highlight for the longstanding food critic and arbiter of taste was the sound level, which got a "pleasantly quiet" Four Bells rating despite a packed house. The food itself got a glowing three stars.

Elsewhere in Berkeley, Luke Tsai checks out the Bay Area's "first restaurant dedicated to the Paleolithic diet" Mission Heirloom Garden Café. Although the spot is billed as a haven for paleo types, Tsai finds the cafe is actually "a refuge for people with all types of dietary restrictions" and caters to folks looking for "clean" and toxin-free food. Diners won't find any grains, gluten or even garlic here — everything is organic and there's nothing grilled or sautéed (there's not even a stove). Although the menu is extensive despite the restrictions, Tsai had a harder time finding any actual flavors and umami appears to be "strictly forbidden."

Head-to-tail turkey meatballs blandly "embodied everything people hate about health food" and could have used an extra dollop of the dandelion truffle pesto that was the best thing the dish had going for it. One surprising standout, however, was the burger: a mix of beef and beef heart that was steam-baked to make up for the lack of a grill and served on a bed of greens rather than a bun. The only missing element was the char.

Despite a couple wins like sous-vide eggs with a gluten-free olive scone, some of the prices are staggering enough to make the critic wonder if he was getting scammed. The trendy and controversial Bulletproof Coffee is available for $6.50 but turned out to be "nauseatingly rich." Meanwhile, a $20 serving of raw, unpasteurized camel's milk was meant for one person but was too filled with barnyard funk for a table of four to finish. For all it's shortcomings in the flavor department, Tsai does admit the food may not be for someone with the unrestricted diet of a professional food critic.

Finally, at SF Weekly, we still don't have a formal review from newly tapped and un-anonymous critic Pete Kane. What we do get this week is a spin through the Tenderloin's Tadu Ethiopian Kitchen, where Weekly contributor Trevor Felch waxes poetic about injera before diving into lamb tibs with an "alluring brightness" and "just the right gaminess." The veggie sampler is also an easy hit here, but Felch is most impressed with the spicy special kitfo — rare or raw beef that is mixed table-side with spices, jalapeño and melted butter before being spread out "pread out on the injera like pâté." With a few dishes that can be hard to find outside of Ethiopian spots in New York and DC, Tadu Kitchen reminds Felch of the early days of Ler Ros, when the restaurant's "popularity quickly exceeded capacity."

Comal

2020 Shattuck Avenue, , CA 94704 (510) 926-6300 Visit Website

Mission Heirloom

2085 Vine St, Berkeley, CA (415) 766-8603 Visit Website

Tadu

484 Ellis St, San Francisco, CA 94102 (415) 409-6649

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