Taking on the (arguably) most-hyped restaurant debut of the year, Michael Bauer reviewed Paul Einbund’s “personable and quirky” project The Morris. And it’s those quirks — like the denim coasters made by Einbund’s wife or the White and Dry Martini made in honor of the Einbund’s father — that really get Bauer hooked.
In that regard, chef Gavin Schmidt’s “eclectic” menu “doesn’t disappoint” with of-the-moment small bites like shrimp toast and foie gras dumplings. Of Schmidt’s new signature dish — the brined, aged, smoked (and Instagrammed) duck — Bauer says it’s “so rich and forcefully flavored” that the “smokiness will linger long after you take the last bite.” While this appears to be praise for the dish, other items take the bold flavors “to the point of excess,” and the lamb and pork sausage was so salty it evidently dehydrated Mr. Bauer for at least the next 24 hours.
But Einbund, the master front-of-house man, is the real soul of The Morris and his energetic, “nonintimidating” and esoteric restaurant is compelling enough that you don’t need to completely understand the man behind it to have a good time. Two and a half stars overall, but three for Einbund’s heart-on-sleeve service.
For this week’s update review, Bauer checks in at Maven in the Lower Haight, where dining and drinking are still “a fun endeavor.” Despite one or two awkward cocktail pairings, Bauer enjoys the drinks when they’re on the acidic or smoky side, and he thinks current chef Isaac Miller is “a talented cook” whose menu “goes beyond what’s expected in the surroundings.” The chicken glazed in pomegranate, for example, had “a pleasant synergy,” but a trout fillet was “diminished” when the caper-raisin chutney brought out the fishy flavor. But it’s the service that really brings Bauer down here: one waiter “had a slight surly edge” and the critic thinks the staff might not be as familiar with the food and drinks as they used to be. What was once a three-star restaurant slipped to two and a half stars.
Bucking the trend of “more formal than they need to be” hotel restaurants, the Weekly’s Pete Kane says Union Square’s Rambler avoids playing it safe while still retaining a comfortable vibe and just enough kitchen boldness to keep things interesting. While “not every dish is a stunner,” Kane loved a couple “fatty and wonderful” items on the dinner menu like the duck and rabbit rillettes, and the cantal and potato croquettes, but had a hard time getting through the foie gras torchon. Of the main dishes, Kane believes the cassoulet with garlic sausage and duck confit “deserves recognition” for not dissolving into “a rich mush” and outshining the “mild” short ribs. He also visited for both lunch and brunch, which he enjoyed, but significantly favored dinner.
In the East Bay, Luke Tsai takes a look at Saha, the “Arabic Fusion” joint that recently moved out of San Francisco’s Hotel Carlton and onto Shattuck Avenue in Berkeley. According to chef-owner Mohamed Aboghanem, that “fusion” label is meant to give him a little extra freedom, which shows up in his signature dish of salmon baklava that is “wonderfully balanced,” even if the name makes you think of dessert.
Likewise, Tsai says dishes like the lobster knaffe — another reconfigured pastry — “capture the spirit of Aboghanem’s cooking.” On the more classic Yemeni dishes like the marag ganame lamb broth and the Helba & Pita stew, however, “Aboghanem plays it straight” and knows when not to mess with a time-honored dish. While the brunch menu will also make diners choose between homey and fusion-y, Tsai says the most impressive thing about Saha is “how solid the food is up and down the menu.”