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Michael Bauer Calls Omakase the “Best Fish Offering in the City”; Peter Kane Feels the Love at Petit Crenn

Plus, Anna Roth was a fan of Calavera and Luke Tsai liked Starline Social Club.

Petit Crenn
Petit Crenn
Patricia Chang

Just like Peter Kane, Michael Bauer has nearly only praise for Omakase, the tiny, omakase-only sushi restaurant in SoMa. Diners at Omakase have the choice between a $100, $150 and $200 tasting menu option, which all change every night, so “you never know what to expect, except that it will be among the best fish offered in the city,” Bauer wrote. Though a set-up like that can often be intimidating, “both the chefs and the waiters are attuned to American culture, so the intimidation factor is minimal.” Bauer loved all three menus equally, especially the less common items like rare Japanese spiny lobster and squid ink cake. There was a single misstep in the Japanese grouper that was overpowered by too much wasabi, but the parade of everything else made that okay. The interaction and entertainment of the restaurant appealed to Bauer, who had impromptu uni tastings and lessons and wrote that, “part of the allure of Omakase is watching the masterful technicians slice, lightly score or deeply slit the various fish to accentuate different qualities.” All in all, he compared the experience to “a day at the spa: peaceful and restorative, yet exhilarating.” 3 stars. [Chron]

On the complete opposite end of the dining spectrum, Bauer revisited Ideale, a pizza joint in North Beach to find “a blast from the past.” The pizzas with “thin, saltine-colored crust with a few darkened bubbles and a slick of bright tomato sauce, puddles of mozzarella and fragrant leaves of basil” are just as good he remembered them. As are the roast potatoes that have a “translucent outer shell that cracks like glass to release the creamy, steamy interior.” He wrote that the potatoes and the pizza “alone are worth a visit.” The pastas, though, while technically good, were “swimming in sauce,” something Bauer felt was a pander to tourists. “In some cases, it felt as if two decades catering to an everyman palate may have taken its toll,” he wrote. “There’s nothing wrong with staying the course, but I feel the chef needs to refresh what he’s doing.” 2 stars. [Chron]

Peter Kane checked out the “(slightly) more populist” (than Atelier Crenn) Petit Crenn in Hayes Valley this week, which “is not a molecular gastronomy kind of place,” he wrote. Dinner at Petit Crenn is family-style and $72 per person, and “the meal is one big ode to Brittany,” where chef Dominique Crenn is from, which results in “rustic” ingredients. He had only good things to say about the procession of food (escargot-mushroom broth with chanterelles, potatoes and charred leeks, whole rainbow trout with cider sabayon and more) that came his way, except for the little gem salad that “could have used more anchovy and more caper.” The memory of that subpar salad was immediately washed away by dessert, a frozen Valencia orange filled with orange “zest-flecked” mousse. “What a stunner that was,” he wrote. The meal operated “at a glacial pace,” but in a refreshing way. “There is an eros to this restaurant, and the attitude that diners should be allowed to linger is almost jarring,” he wrote. But he liked it. [SF Weekly]

Anna Roth ate grasshoppers this week at Calavera, an Oakland restaurant she called “a well-crafted homage to both contemporary Mexico and its long culinary history.” “Calavera is full and buzzy most nights, with people waiting for seats at tawny leather booths and distressed wooden tables. It’s a pleasant room to wait in,” she wrote. Despite sticking to traditional techniques, Roth thought that the restaurant “isn’t afraid to stray from tradition and get playful,” like in the “rich” sweetbread tacos and churro-like doughnuts. She compared the food to New York City’s celebrated, “mind-blowing” Cosme, and was quick to happily welcome Calavera to the Bay Area Mexican scene. [Chron]

This week Luke Tsai headed to Starline Social Club, “the fanciest place within a span of several blocks” in its Oakland hometown. The ever-changing menu from chef Austin Holey has just 10 dishes and is “straight-up California cuisine.” The dishes are “what I imagine a fine-dining chef might serve you if he or she invited you over for a backyard cookout,” Tsai wrote. There were the “delicious,” if “expensive” “thick-cut” onion rings, an aggressive-sounding, but satisfying rack of lamb and a buttermilk-battered, Korean-like fried chicken, perfect for those who “eat fried chicken primarily for the batter.” The only food disappointment was a disjointed watermelon salad. Service was “idiosyncratic, despite everyone being friendly enough,” and the atmosphere felt divided to Tsai as the space is used in several different ways with both a bar and a ballroom area for events. But the food trumps it all for him: “If you strip away all the extras and just treat the Starline as a restaurant, it's kind of a weird place, but not a wholly unlovable one — not when the food is as good, and feels as personal and unique, as it is.” [East Bay Express]

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