Michael Bauer spent the first three paragraphs of his Buffalo Theory review Bauer-splaining the Polk Street beer bar’s eponymous barstool science lesson, before comparing it to Donald Trump’s "birther obsession." Humorlessness aside, Bauer walked in hoping former Chronicle Rising Star Tim Luym could elevate the bar from beer hall to destination restaurant. And, while Bauer doesn't gush too much, Luym’s Asian fusion bar food mostly succeeds in taking some attention away from the 30 draft beers, the always-on TVs and the constant distraction of the patrons' smartphone screens.
Bauer praises Luym’s "Aranchino" balls that play on fried risotto with Chinese sticky rice and sausage, as well as some other beer-friendly fried goods like the tempura-battered local anchovies in the "unexpected" Fish, No Chips. The "thickly crusted" adobo wings — a throwback to Luym’s days at the long-departed Poleng Lounge — stand up to the "deep red glaze" and the BT burger likewise infuses Asian flavors into a beef and bison burger that is "excellent," despite the fact that Bauer couldn’t get his mouth around it. Overall, "the ideas are good" Bauer says, but the final execution can be a little flat and the service can be "uneven," although the staff appears to have a nice working knowledge of the beer selection. A respectable two stars for Luym’s global bar food.
For Wednesday’s update review, Bauer is returning to Seven Hills – one of those "second-tier restaurants that in any other city would be the first tier." That Bauer bump comes courtesy of Anthony Florian (Quince, Cotogna), who took over the kitchen in 2013, and his on-point waitstaff that "is now a solid three-star experience."
Topping off Florian’s menu were the "gossamer packets of pasta" in the mushroom tortelli and the "precisely cooked" kale tagliatelle with green noodles rounded out with a creamy three-meat (beef, duck, pork) Bolognese. Likewise, Bauer enjoyed the "two generously sized balls" touched by coriander and fennel in the order of pork and beef meatballs, and special of pork shoulder and loin was "beautifully plated" that was "well thought out and attractively delivered." Although the desserts were a little disappointing, the whole experience bounced Seven Hills up to three stars.
At the Weekly, Pete Kane strolls into "sushi-less Franco-Japanese restaurant" Nomica which he says "deserves credit for its willingness to take risks" more than it should be recognized for any particular dish. Case in point: a plate of shigoku oysters comes topped with frozen kanzuri granita that makes sense as a concept (kanzuri is chili paste traditionally fermented in snow) but not as a dish (frozen oysters are not appealing).
Anyhow, "the good outweighs the bad," Kane says and he’s delighted by the laminated brioche with a duxelles of shiitake and koji mushrooms, plus a whipped jidori egg yolk. On the other hand, the seaweed salad "felt like something you might eat at high-end rehab in Malibu," while an unidentified grilled fish with vegetable ash and trumpet mushrooms was "extraordinary." The best risk, according to Kane, was the $22 spin on fried chicken and waffles with karaage chicken, matcha butter and truffle maple. Cocktails were "hit or miss," but at least one, the Floating World, was "magnificent" and the umami-laced "Stray Cat Rock" was the best of the lot. Overall, another optimistic review from Kane, even if he thinks no one is going to give 24 hours notice to order the $100 whole chicken in brioche.
In search of his "own personal culinary white whale," Luke Tsai heads to the Berkeley location of San Jose-based Tasty Pot for stinky tofu, where he finds some lengthy wait times and individual hot pots rather than the traditional family style. While you lose some of the experience, Tsai admits it’s "amazingly decadent" to have a pot of broth to yourself and the selection is broad and "bold enough to appeal to hardcore hot pot eaters."
Tasty Pot’s "excellent" pork broth forms the base for all the soups (aside from the vegetarian option) and its depth of flavor doesn’t need to be covered up with chili heat, Tsai says. On the mild end, our critic recommends a lamb hot pot that allows the nuance to come out, but also points the spice fiends to the "Taiwanese Supreme Spicy" pot with ma-la chili heat and Sichuan peppercorns. As for that stinky tofu: Tsai found what he was looking for in the hot pot version with "fatty pork intestines and glutinous pork-blood cakes," but the all-out stinkiest/most delicious title goes to the side of pan-friend spicy fermented tofu, which is "almost sticky enough" for his taste.
Anna Roth reviews contemporary menu design and San Francisco's "new gold-star ramen" at Mensho Tokyo. John Birdsall thinks long and hard about Mission burritos for Bon Appétit. Pete Kane drinks up at Evil Eye and tries Welsh Rarebit at the Scullery.