Fresh off a review trip up to Calistoga, questionably ethical Chron critic Michael Bauer revisited another spa-adjacent restaurant for this week’s update review. By our count, this is actually Bauer's fifth review of Cavallo Point’s Murray Circle, and the third since current chef Justin Everett took over in the kitchen. (In fact, Bauer must have been particularly enthralled with Cavallo Point around 2011–2012, when he reviewed the place no less than three times in the span of two years.) What was once a three-star destination under opening chef Joseph Humphrey eventually settled into a two-and-a-half-star routine that, over the years, Bauer has described ever so eloquently as "still very good," "still strong," and "still good."
One thing that seems to keep Bauer coming back are the majestic bridge vistas, along with the restaurant's retro tin ceilings and the cozy dining room fireplaces — all of which (in true Bauer fashion) he makes a point to describe in great detail on each visit. The menu, however, is full of tiny letdowns and while the ideas are good, Bauer says, "the final execution seemed a little lax." A duck breast was "fine" but was unfortunately surrounded by dry späetzle, for example. An ocean stew with chorizo broth, however, was the edible highlight of the visit. In 2016, Murray Circle is keeping its two and a half stars, but at least Bauer updated the headline to "coveted destination."
Finally, after filing his Murray Circle review (and posting that ocean stew to Instagram), Bauer promptly took off for Italy.
Like Bauer, the Weekly’s Pete Kane seems a little let down by a perfectly fine hotel restaurant this week. Tratto, the quick-fix replacement for the short-lived BDK in the Marker Hotel, has "polish and professionalism throughout" Kane says, but the dishes themselves "span the narrow range between good and very good." Despite the rustic Italian vibe the place was shooting for, the most expensive dish is actually an $18 hamburger — likely a concession to the hotel’s Union Square tourist crowd.
So the highlights here aren’t so much highs, just sort of general recommendations: Kane says the butter beans with goat cheese and roasted tomato are "nicely calibrated," a Tuscan kale salad was "a little overdressed" and the Venetian meatballs contained "minimal seasoning." Of the pizzas, Kane says they were all "decent, respectable, solid," but not particularly creative. It’s the pastas and the cocktails that rise above to the level of "more exciting." Overall: faint praise from Kane, but Tratto sounds like a fine place to stop off for a Negroni Flip.
Stay Gold Deli
In West Oakland, dutiful East Bay Express critic Luke Tsai finds a new neighborhood delicatessen at Stay Gold Deli. With its collection of pinball machines, vinyl records for wallpaper, plus a pool table and foosball table to boot, the place is more than just a meat counter — it’s a community gathering place and "a deli, a sit-down restaurant, a coffee shop, a beer garden, and a grocery store all in one."
And when it comes to the deli counter, "the price is right" even if it’s not necessarily cheap at about $8–10 for a sandwich. According to Tsai, chef Stella Lane’s Italian-American background and deep South training are helpful to understand the menu that boasts old school Italian deli classics alongside new takes on American soul food. For example, Tsai loves the vinegar-spiked Butcher’s Splendor sandwich, the "gloriously saucy" $8 meatball sub with Lane’s grandmother’s slow-simmered and smoked meatballs, and the insane-sounding Southern Gal sandwich with brisket, cheddar, gravy and "about 80 percent mashed potatoes."
Overall though, the menu is "freewheeling" and "nondenominational," so inspiration could come from anywhere as Lane plans to roll out an expanded dinner menu and "full-blown barbecue" after the official grand opening in August. The verdict for now: an egalitarian new hotspot in West Oakland.