With the Chronicle's annual Top 100 sapping Michael Bauer's life-force for the 21st year in a row, the esteemed local food critic handed off this week's only full review to his occasional understudy: Sheba, a 12-year-old, pure-bred Brittany he adopted in Kansas a decade ago.
While the human reviewer physically went to Mill Valley's Molina, and presumably pressed the keys to make the review show up in the newspaper, he didn't have very much to say about the place. Much of the review is spent lamenting the loss of opening chef Todd Shoberg, who apparently neglected to teach his promoted-sous how to master the wood-fired oven before he decamped. "That's probably the reason," Bauer writes, "most of my pork chop was taken home to my dog, Sheba, who loves the restaurant."
Dang, harsh. Two stars.
Original Joe's of Westlake
Pete Kane rectified a "grievous oversight" on his part and headed to Daly City for his first taste of Original Joe's, Westlake or otherwise. What he found was "exactly the kind of updated classic I love the most." Like Bauer last week, Kane is happy to overlook some kitchen mistakes because the place is nailing it on the mid-century vibe. And he loves everything from the starburst chandeliers, to the bus boys' monkey suits, to the typeface on the meat-heavy menu. (Futura, if you're asking.)
It can't hurt that the portions are so generous and a side of overcooked ravioli turns out alright thanks to the "ineffable" red sauce that "all but pulsates with soft light." On the rest of the menu, the prime rib is "full of vigor" despite being both a dead animal and cooked medium, while the mashed potatoes were "buttered within an inch of their lump-less lives."
The final verdict? Original Joe's is neither "a nostalgia act" nor "the culinary equivalent of Guns N' Roses at Coachella." Well, in that case, take me down to Daly City.
In the East Bay, Luke Tsai returns this week with a review of Akemi, a "modern Zen chic" reincarnation of Miyuki on "Solano Avenue's low-key, family-friendly restaurant row" in Berkeley. The place has "something for everyone," Tsai writes, from "giant sushi rolls to fusion-y small plates." Even though an expansive menu can often lead to a drop in overall quality, much of it exceeds expectations here. The overall focus is on those aforementioned fusion items: a hamachi appetizer with ponzu, jalapeño and "guacamole, basically" stood out, as did the okonomiyaki with bonito flakes and just the right amount of cabbage.
The grilled and fried meats are "a little more conventional," but the beef tataki, with American-style wagyu was the big hit. The sushi is similarly "better-than-average" and the only place where Akemi faltered was the lobster ramen, which tasted "generic" despite a $19 price tag. Even so, the final verdict is positive and Akemi is "already a double or triple threat" when it comes to the various types of Japanese cuisine.
In the rest of the sort-of reviews: Anna Roth reviewed the Middle Sunset's vibrant food scene. (Spoiler: it's "alive" and there are donuts.) Bauer took to instagram to review the Green Goddess dressing at the Advocate in Berkeley (another thing that was severely lacking at Molina). And, finally, Pete Kane used a sprawling cover story on the local burger scene to review burgermeister Wes Rowe, like, as a person.