Michael Bauer simply cannot resist Cockscomb, it seems. Although he reviewed Chris Cosentino's decadent, bold and wholly unsubtle SoMa beast just over a year ago, he filed an updated review this week that leads off with his own "primal urge" to tear apart some "luscious" tuna meat. Apparently summoning all his restraint, Bauer generously shared the $40 yellowfin collar with his companions (and later with Instagram) before gazing around the room to observe his fellow diners indulging in the "type of gastronomic excess [that] would elicit gasps and guilty admonitions" at any other restaurant.
Though he disliked some of that vibe the first time around, Bauer's updated review feels more like reacquainting himself with Cosentino's excess than anything else. Where Bauer felt the kitchen could have shown just a little restraint the first time around, this time it's Bauer himself who can barely hold back as he happily dives headfirst into bold dishes like the cauliflower "glistening in duck fat" or a milk-fed roast chicken that "makes a statement with the still-attached feet that hang stiffly over the plate."All told, Bauer finds "the food is exquisitely consistent in its excess." Three stars.
Joe's of Westlake
For his fresh review this week, Bauer traveled back in time to Original Joe's of Westlake, where old-timers "weave their walkers through the gaggle of diners waiting for a seat" and the redesigned interior "feels like a midcentury masterpiece." Ignoring the two years it was closed for renovations, the restaurant turns 60 this year and Bauer's review reads like a history of strip mall development in Daly City.
When he does get around to the food about halfway through the review, he seems almost apologetic that the cuisine "may lack some of the finesse seen elsewhere in the Bay Area." But Joe's was never known for innovation and the restaurant is so consistently packed that Bauer is willing to look past sloppy kitchen mistakes. When a spaghetti dish with prawns didn't come together, Bauer says "[t]hese missteps are minor and probably can't be avoided when putting out more than a thousand plates a day."
One wonders, however, if the Chronicle would be so forgiving with a 300-seat newcomer that wasn't across the street from a TJ Maxx. In the end, Bauer recommends indulging in the cheap $7 martinis and sticking to any menu item that begins with the word "Joe's." Three stars. (Two and a half for food.)
Elsewhere this week: Pete Kane sat down at 12-seat Divisadero newcomer Jū-Ni where the $90, 12-course omakase menu is literally your only option. With a dozen pieces of nigiri, Kane finds much to love among Chef Geoffrey Lee's choices. However on one trip, Kane's seating (there are only two per night) included a "clearly intoxicated" woman who acted "so boisterously that if we were on a flight, she might have gotten it diverted." The staff's reaction (or lack thereof) that marred an otherwise exquisite $200 dinner. Overall: a glowing review for the food, but a massive side-eye at the entitled clientele invading Divisadero.
In the East Bay, Cynthia Salaysay fills in again for regular critic Luke Tsai with a review of Mien Tay, Oakland's "clean, small diner-like spot" with a focus on the southern Vietnamese food the brother-sister team of Calvin and Linda Do grew up with. "There's no carelessness about Mien Tay," Salaysay writes, in praise of the House Special Noodle Soup. Her only complaints? That the Vietnamese coffee is served in a paper cup and they didn't pile on enough accoutrements on the greenery plate that accompanies the soups.
Finally, for her Eat Up column in the Chron this week Anna Roth hit the curiously Pacific Northwest-themed Cafe Eugene in Albany. As a native of Seattle herself Roth is able to tease out the differences between California cuisine and that of our neighbors at a higher latitude. But "Northwest cuisine is still coming of age and figuring itself out on the plate," Roth writes, and that is also true of Cafe Eugene. The verdict: "a perfectly agreeable refuge for breakfast or happy hour."