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Bauer Loves the Burger at Cafe du Nord; Kane Almost Sends Back His Huxley Brunch

Plus, Tsai is let down by Zut Tavern and Sens finds Lord Stanley to be far from Downton... in a good way.

Huxley's dining room
Huxley's dining room

Michael Bauer liked the food a lot more than the music at Café du Nord's Viking Room, which re-opened this summer in the Swedish American Hall, the vibe of which Bauer described as "a speakeasy-like situation." Though he heard different music on each visit, "They all sound similarly tinny, as if they were being amplified by a sound system installed in the 1920s." Luckily, "The somewhat retro food fares much better" and the "cocktails are equal partners, and they hold their own." He recommends ordering seafood "whether it be the raw oysters that change nightly or the broiled oysters Kirkpatrick with bacon, hot sauce and Parmesan," said the cheese presentation was one of the best he's had, and claims the hamburger "should be put on the must-try list for anyone obsessed with finding the best version." The misses were Café du Nord's only dessert, an ice cream sundae "that turned out to be mildly disappointing" and the service which was "nothing short of weird - as if novice cocktail waiters in street clothes were randomly chosen to deliver food." 2.5 stars [Chron]

Bauer also traveled to West Marin to pay another visit to Osteria Stellina in Point Reyes Station, which he described as "an oasis in an otherwise mediocre dining area" that "captures the essence of its West Marin locale." Osteria Stellina has been open for seven years, but it's new chef Jon Helquist (Chez Panisse) who Bauer credits with improving the food which he previously found "slightly disappointing." Though Bauer says one of the seasonal pastas included a "slightly chewy penne," he thought the Paradise Valley cauliflower, roasted with dill and served with La Quercia prosciutto was a "compelling mashup" and promised, "you really need go no further than the grilled California white sea bass, a meaty chunk of fish set atop cherry tomatoes, sweet corn, zucchini and Romano beans." While he found there to be "a certain warmth in the staff,"  he also pointed out service "has never been a strength of the restaurant, and you can see the lack of training at every turn." 2.5 stars [Chron]

Lord Stanley may sound aristocratic, but Josh Sens thinks it's "a long way from Downton [Abbey]." However, he means that in good way, describing the cuisine of Rupert and Carrie Blease as "sophisticated and free of rigid regionalism or fussy manners." Sens ordered the $83 six-course prix fixe and found the cooking to be "at once personal and technically precise." Favorites included the lamb shoulder with pads of lemon curd "that turn a blissful combo—lamb and lemon—into something closer to divine," as well as the black cod with eggplant and avocado which he described as "achingly delicate." He was not as big a fan of the vinegar-marinated tomatoes or salt cod brandade, the latter of which he said landed "with a thud." He also found the space to be loud and the cluttered floor plan to be problematic. "The tables are set so close together that servers have to sidestep—and diners have to stifle snarky comments about the party sitting next to them." 3 stars [SF Mag]

If you go to a restaurant specifically to order their much-hyped tableside risotto only to find out that it was a scrapped a week after opening, you're going to be pretty letdown. That's exactly what happened to Luke Tsai when he visited Zut! Tavern, Shotaro Kamio's reboot of Zut! in West Berkeley. Turns out tableside risotto was a logistical nightmare, but even the vegetarian summer risotto that was on the menu disappointed Tsai as "the sweetness here wound up overwhelming all of the other ingredients." He also tried the octopus but found it to be "way too salty" and a fresh tagliatelle dish was "exceedingly spicy." There were, however, a few hits that made Tsai "hopeful for what the restaurant might someday become." These included the "coccoli, a kind of Italian frybread" topped with burrata and Zut's Tuscan bread salad which he says is "Bay Area summer eating at its simplest and most classic." He described the main dining room which is open to the street and has a large open-air skylight to be "one of the more charming spaces on Fourth Street" and is bolstered by the fact that executive chef Nathan Gabriel promised the tableside risotto will be back once the staff can be trained. [East Bay Express]

Peter Kane says, "There's no getting around the fact that Huxley is Nouvelle Tenderloin," and that might not be a great thing. While Kane enjoyed dinner at the 25-seat spot, brunch "was a little rougher." For dinner, he was a fan of the breads and spreads plate, the heirloom tomato salad and the beef short rib pot pie. However, of brunch, he said the baked eggs were "a tasty dish, but the execution was wobbly" and "the French toast with yellow peaches was, to be blunt, a complete head-scratcher." In fact, though he hasn't sent something back to a kitchen in over ten years, he said, "if that had been the only thing I ordered, it would have been a candidate for a redo." Brunch wasn't all misses though. Despite being "under-salted and over-toasted," he still found the avocado toast to be a hit. "The toast was basically a vehicle for avocado, which was in turn a vehicle for sea urchin, and nobody's going to mind that." Final thoughts from Kane: "I like Huxley, but I love the old TL so much more." [SF Weekly]


846 Geary Street, , CA 94109 (415) 800-8223 Visit Website

Osteria Stellina

, , California

Cafe Du Nord

2174 Market Street, , CA 94114 (415) 471-2969 Visit Website

Zut! Tavern

1820 Fourth Street, Berkeley, CA 94710, USA