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Bauer Enjoys Voyeurism and Pastrami at Alta CA; Kane Heads North for a Taste of San Fransisco

Plus, Tsai eats West African food in East Oakland and Bauer drinks gin and tonics at Aatxe.

Aatxe
Aatxe
Patricia Chang

This week's first foray into critic Michael Bauer's world is a visit to the newly opened Aatxe, the Basque-inspired restaurant from chef Ryan Pollnow and the Ne Timeas Restaurant Group (Central Kitchen, Flour + Water). The critic spent a decent amount of time tasting gin and tonics from the extensive cocktail menu from Bon Vivants (Trick Dog), declaring that "the gin and tonics will win over even those who don't particularly like that spirit." And while "the food is good," the "tab quickly adds up" when treating Aatxe like a regular restaurant (rather than like a tapas bar). Bauer enjoyed the juxtaposition of skilled service with the "rustic" appeal of the food, however the upscale prices sent him into a quandry, forcing him to consider the  "pros and cons of trying to create a concept that is true to the originating culture but must be adapted to a different environment." Ultimately, he never reveals his conclusion but ascertains that Pollnow sticks "fairly close" to the idea of a tapas bar. Treated as such, Bauer found that it "satisfies the hunger pangs and hits the spot." 2.5 Stars. [Chron]

For his update review, Bauer headed back to Alta CA, the mid-market restaurant that is part of Daniel Patterson's empire. He chose an interesting time to return, given that the former executive chef, Yoni Levy, only left his post in April. Now chef David Goody, "the former No. 2," is heading up the kitchen. According to Bauer, "some of the best dishes remain on the menu," including Levy's house-cured pastrami and puffed beef tendons dusted with malt vinegar powder. The Eastern European theme remains, now including inspiration from Goody's Polish-Jewish grandmother, with dishes like a successful "deconstructed beef stroganoff," and a chicken schnitzel that took "the reinvention a little too far." Overall, Bauer found that the restaurant has lot some of its newness and feels like it has "come into its own," a statement that includes the service. He declares it a destination worth seeking out, both for the food and "to be a voyeur," observing the young tech crowd that congregates there. Three Stars. [Chron]

Meanwhile, Peter Lawrence Kane headed North to Guerneville to check out Seaside Metal, the sister restaurant of San Francisco's Bar Crudo. It's been open awhile, Kane noted, but has gotten "curiously little" attention from SF. Many of the dishes are on the menus of both restaurants, though Seaside Metal "preserves the greatest hits." A "spectacular" Arctic char with wasabi tobiko and horseradish crème fraîche and pickled smelt plate were "bracing" and succesful; a few dull moments included Shishito peppers with "very little heat."  After the disappointment of an over-fried softshell crab,  Kane found that the chowder's silky texture "was unbeatable." Ultimately, this Valencia-styled transplant is the most "San Francisco-like spot in town," and a worthy destination. [SF Weekly]

In the East Bay, Luke Tsai visited A Taste of Africathe Cameroonian pop-up/catering business that is now a brick-and-mortar restaurant in East Oakland. The proprietor, Malong Pendar, "makes some of the most delicious food you'll find anywhere in the East Bay," according to his fans, and Tsai. The new digs are "a step up" from his pop-up days, with a spacious kitchen, tables and chairs. Tsai found though "everything about the restaurant has a "fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants feel," with a hilariously long wait time and no written menu, "once your meal finally arrives, all is forgiven." Dishes like perfectly crispy fried plantains and sautéed collard greens and gingery mashed yams with coconut are stars here. According to Tsai, it is some of "the tastiest, most deeply satisfying food in Oakland." [EBX]

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