For Wednesday’s review, Michael Bauer revisted Oro to update the two stars he dropped there last November. In the intervening months, chef Jason Fox has tightened up the menu, shifting the premise away from shared plates without losing any of the "bold preparations" that set it apart from Commonwealth. The prices have come down a bit here as well and Bauer seems to be a fan of the brined chicken roulade "with a supporting cast of ramps, fava beans and sunflower seeds porridge" and the lamb shoulder that’s slow-poached and then grilled over eucalyptus before it is "hidden in a forest" of cabbage and sunchokes.
Overall, a breeze of an update for Mr. Bauer (who appears to still be cruising on his leftover notes from the Top 100 refresh) and half a star bonus for Mr. Fox. Two and a half stars.
At the Weekly, Pete Kane headed to chef Jonathan Waxman’s new, self-titled Ghirardelli Square anchor tenant Waxman’s where the drinks are "uneven," the water is "house-sparkled," and the tables are "graciously spaced apart." At this point the Chez Panisse alum has more than made a name for himself with a James Beard award for best chef in New York thanks to his work at Barbuto, so Kane finds the restaurant is "enjoyable, if risk-averse" and tends to "hew close to expectations."
But, if anything, those high expectations are met in dishes like a pasta dish with Dungeness crab and tagliatelle, jalapeño and Meyer lemon, or the short ribs over garlic panisse that apparently kept a hold over Mr. Kane until he finished the leftovers several days later. On the other hand, the undersalted duck liver mousse en cocotte made our intrepid reviewer feel like he was actually field dressing the bird.
All told: a positive, if middle-of-the-road, review for Waxman’s, which appears to be the namesake chef’s retirement plan.
In the East Bay, Luke Tsai steps out for a Modest Working Person’s lunch and finds "a breath of fresh air" among the twee food truck scene with El Sabrosito — a new mobile pupuseria from Salvadoran sisters Maria and Claudia Zavala. The truck has managed to avoid much hype but Tsai says for his money, "El Sabrosito is the most appealing new food truck to hit the streets in Oakland in the past couple of years," because it keeps an old-school loncheria vibe and relatively low prices.
Marketing aside: the pupusas are "fat, well-griddled specimens" that are "fluffy and flavorful," although they cook them a little bit thicker and less crisp than Mr. Tsai would like. The chicharrón pupusas meld pork and cheese to make "an ultra savory meat paste," and the Zavalas spike their curtido slaw with serrano pepper to give it a little more heat than traditional versions. Even modest dishes like the bean soup which, at $8 for a tub with rice and hand-pressed tortillas, turned out to be enough food for two or three lunches. And the unassuming standout was a $2.75 chicken tamal steamed in banana leaves and barely held together with tender masa. In the end, Tsai is impressed that none of this seems like truck food, but "this is what street food is all about."
Outside of the marquee reviews, Bauer dropped into the much-anticipated Mister Jiu’s and now appears to be instagramming review meals in real time (or nearly real-time anyway). He misspelled the restaurant’s name, but he sure does seem to enjoy the steamed halibut with ginger, shiitake mushroom broth and smoked oyster sauce.
Anna Roth, meanwhile, headed up to Napa's Contimo Provisions pop-up, where she found one of the best roast beef sandwiches of her life. It doesn't hurt that Contimo's chefs Ryan Harris and Kevin Folan boast a fine dining pedigree and are doing the same sorts of seasonal and local food that most Napa restaurants are doing, but in sandwich form.