For this week’s big review, Bauer is weighing the economics of the new fast-casual trend at Barzotto, where chef Michelle Minori is cranking out five different house made pastas daily. While the menu will change seasonally, Bauer’s selections range from a classic cacio e pepe to a "more creative" cresta di gallo. Unfortunately for a place billing itself as an "American pasta bar," Bauer thinks the kitchen could use a little more care in cooking said pasta and his bucatini was a little limp.
But the main courses are "where the kitchen excels," Bauer says and the porchetta is "one of the best" he’s seen, but he’s also enamored with the roast chicken and the seasonal vegetable platter. Although the staff "is friendly and helpful," Bauer is less excited about the lengthy line and "disorganized" counter-service scheme. But the two and a half star food made up for the two star service: it’s a two and a half star overall rating from Bauer.
In San Francisco Magazine, Josh Sens is considering the (scare quotes) "tyranny" of tasting menus at Kim Alter’s Nightbird, which is a bit of an anachronism in this new world of fast casual (see above). Although our critic agrees that tasting menus can be pompous and "ego-driven," he’s got nothing but praise for Alter, who is "a far cry from a diva or a despot." Alter’s cooking has a "quiet confidence," Sens says and Nightbird "doesn’t puff its chest and pose as a magnet for trophy hunters," which only adds to its appeal.
Case in point: the amuse bouche of slow-cooked quail egg with brown-butter hollandaise "called to mind the world’s most refined onion dip," and the tomato-and-oyster salad was "a summer garden party, held beside the sea." While he was similarly excited by the "variations of corn" dish that’s already becoming something of a signature for the restaurant, Sens felt it could use a little chili heat to punch up all the sweetness. The only misstep was the "unexciting" butter-poached lobster that "seemed too easy." With smart and restrained decor, plus the moody art deco back bar in the Linden Room, Nightbird is a three-star destination for Sens.
At the Weekly, Pete Kane took "about five or six" trips to Tartine Manufactory’s cathedral of carbs and only found one disappointment among the pastries (it was an arugula hazelnut danish). Of the sandwich selection, our critic seems to enjoy the roasted mushroom and raclette, as well as the almost-too-salty Cubano, but the greens on his proscuitto, pear and pecorino sandwich were unfortunately "wilted and lifeless."
On the other hand, "treats abound" on the sweet side of the menu, Kane says and the Liege waffle is a must-order with a "almost thin-candy-shell-like crust." Likewise on the drinks menu: the smoked pepper chelada was "challenging and more juice-like" than you’d expect, but ultimately thirst-quenching, and the Turmeric ginger kefir on tap just boggles his mind. As for the pristine interior, Kane feels that it’s a little "too clean, like it’s just been stage for a catalog shoot." Sandwich bummers aside, it’s a mostly positive review from Kane, especially when you add in the newly opened Cookies and Cream which you should know gets its milk from Petaluma water buffalo.
In the East Bay, Luke Tsai heads out to a San Leandro shopping center to find Silvano Hernandez’s Cinco TacoBar, which is "like a Chipotle, but the food is actually good." Unlike Chipotle, Cinco makes their tortillas to order and Tsai says that alone is worth the trip to San Leandro. Topping those tortillas, Tsai says the al pastor was the best meat option with an "intense savoriness" but the carne molida was an "unexpected wild card." While the carnitas was a "mild disappointment" the restaurant’s housemade, habañero-based Cinco sauce should blow away every other Chipotle analogue.
Tsai has high praise for the burritos too, which he says "should henceforth be included in any roundup of notable East Bay exemplars of the genre." And the fish taco was one of the best he’s had in the Bay area as well. Rounding out his recommendations are an "especially decadent" version of Papa Loca with waffle fries. Overall, it’s high praise for a strip mall taco bar.