With most of his energy being devoted to promoting the Chronicle's Top 100 this week, Michael Bauer found a lot to like at Sous Beurre Kitchen, a little neighborhood French spot on 24th Street that, "feels a little like a quartz rock that has been cracked open to release a sparkly interior that stretches over two storefronts."
The project was born out of chef Michael Mauschbaugh's pop-ups at nearby Sugarlump Cafe and, according to Bauer, proves that including gratuities on the check doesn't hurt the staff's professionalism. The servers, Mr. B says, "are as cheery and personable as a concierge at a five-star hotel." As for the food, Bauer finds some "unpretentious" starters like house-smoked trout salad and a $13 steak tartare with "a powerful mustard undercurrent," capers and a quail egg.
For the mains, Bauer calls the Cornish game hen with seasonal accompaniments a "must-order" and raves over the $60 stuffed trout for two that servers will fillet tableside. There's also an option for an $85 prix-fixe menu that changes monthly. On Bauer's visit, that menu included: a "pleasant" salad of asparagus, fiddlehead ferns and morels, a chilled artichoke soup with "a knob of cockle clams," a truffled country paté, and an oxtail pot au feu with bone marrow. Some of the prix-fixe desserts were "a misstep," but Bauer was generally impressed by the a la carte options. Two and a half stars for food, two and a half overall.
Over at SF Weekly, Pete Kane paid a visit to Lark, the "neighborhood-y" newcomer in the Castro. Despite the recent surge of new restaurants in the neighborhood, Kane still finds it hard to get a table that isn't surrounded by guys on with "post-Grindr dates" and bachelorette parties that "treat dinner as a pre-text to pregame."
Aside from the possibly annoying crowd, Lark is "more than decent" with a California-Mediterranean menu that straddles the gap between quality and value. Standouts here are a basket of truffle fries, a snacky plate of olives, the hummus plate and a dish of Saumon fumé. The half-chicken, at a reasonable $16, "could have been a little juicier," but was otherwise "a master class in keeping things simple." Likewise, the Kurdish meatballs made with lamb and Angus beef, "were just really freaking good meatballs." Wines on the "fairly cosmopolitan" list are an equally good value and despite those annoying dining neighbors, Lark's vibe is "overall very pleasant."
Finally, the Examiner's Molly Gore hopped on the pupusa train with a trip to Panchita's at 16th and Valencia, where neighborhood abuela Doris Campos has been honing her 30-year-old pupusa recipe and feeding the drunks with cheap, late-night eats. While the pupusa options are always the same, Gore enjoys the chipotle pupusas, filled with "threads of soft, smoked chili" that stands out above the others, as well as the mushroom and garlic option that is "never shy with the garlic." Naturally, everything comes with vinegary curtido (cabbage slaw) and a tomato-based salsa in "industrial quantities," and at only $3 a pop, Gore says she's started stocking up on more and more pupusas with every visit.