Bauer returned from a trip to London just in time to see his review of Limewood hit newsstands this weekend. Chef Joseph Humphrey (who Bauer adored during his time at Cavallo Point) has taken over where Dominique Crenn’s oh-so-short-lived Antoinette fizzled out, and Bauer finds the new vibe to be very promising.
The more decadent menu flourishes are gone, replaced by Humphrey’s "decidedly more approachable," though definitely not cheaper, bill of fare— the menu starts with canapes and tops out with a $32 lamb chop. Of those starter bites, Bauer enjoyed the cornmeal and sumac-crusted eggplant ("probably the best fried eggplant I’ve had") and the fried oysters he found worthy of instagramming. The kitchen and waitstaff have all apparently stepped up their game since the revamp, but Bauer still spotted some shortcomings like the "pasty and dense" acorn flour cavatelli or a "lackluster" smoked black cod. On the other hand, there were unexpected elements — like the whole roast beets alongside a chicken breast entree — that "elevated" the entire dish, and our critic is ready to call Limewood a "first-rate" lunch option with a burger that may rival the Bay Area’s best. Two and a half stars overall for Humphrey’s new home in the East Bay.
Seeking out some late-night dining, Pete Kane heads to 12-year-old Oola in SoMa, where he finds some "perfectly good" oysters, "nouveau riche" truffle caviar steak tartare and Brussels sprouts with cauliflower seasoned with bacon and aleppo pepper. On the main courses, our critic found an over-dressed salmon and a "dry, crumbly" burger that he says he can’t recommend. Instead, diners should steer towards the $24 "crispy and juicy and coherent" Mary’s chicken and the "rich," "unimprovable" pappardelle bolognese. While the cocktails "weren’t all that hot," Kane still finds a serviceable spot for after-work drinks with the cool coworker or a late bite for those times when you’re out on a school night.
For this week’s superlative, Luke Tsai drops by Berkeley’s Agrodolce, "the most picturesque Italian restaurant that the East Bay has to offer." Before the food even arrives, Tsai is enamored with Rosa D’Alo, the matriarch of the family behind Agrodolce and it’s 20-year-old sister restaurant Trattoria La Siciliana, and whose hometown of Palermo serves as the inspiration for the menu. Tsai says the two restaurants aren’t exactly known for subtlety and his highlights include a "tasty, but not for the faint of heart" octopus salad and the salty, rosemary heavy Sicilian porchetta. But if you’re only going to order one thing, Tsai says, let it be the focaccia-like sfincione with hard sheep’s milk cheese and "anchovy-infused tomato sauce." While the pastas and the risotto pass Tsai’s taste test, they are "a bit too one-note" to eat alone and in a chaotic mom-and-pop restaurant with hand-written tabs, you really ought to be dining family style anyway.