Louie’s Gen-Gen Room
With Bauer still traipsing around Italy with his other half, the Chronicle’s Drinks writer Esther Mobley has space to stretch out with her review of Louie’s Gen-Gen Room, the much-anticipated, reservations-only drinking establishment beneath Liholiho Yacht Club. While you might rightly expect a wave of Tiki drinks here, Mobley says the vibe is actually "bald and unadorned" compared to the usual overabundance of kitsch in Tiki bars. "Linear, minimalist and understated," Mobley writes, "the drinks here are an exercise in tropical restraint."
In other words, the Gen-Gen Room is "Tiki" in the same way that Liholiho is "Hawaiian," and bar manager Yanni Kehagiaras (Nopa, Nopalito, Liholiho) has created an eclectic menu that is both literally and figuratively refreshing. As for what to order, Mobley’s highlights include a pineapple-based Negroni called the Endless Summer, and a "masculine take on a fruity drink" called the Barrel with bourbon, passion fruit and burnt sugar syrup. For sustenance, Mobley called out the avocado waffle which "explodes with umami" and the riff on Japanese okonomiyaki with Liholiho’s house-made spam and salty tonkatsu mayo.
Although we don’t get star ratings in non-Bauer reviews, Louie’s Gen-Gen Room sounds like it has put itself squarely in the running for a whole slew of Best New Bars awards, so now would be a good time to start refreshing that reservations page.
At the Weekly, Pete Kane is pondering restaurant groups, specifically the Hi Neighbor Hospitality Group behind Fat Angel, Stones Throw, Trestle and their latest review-worthy, upscale-causal spot Corridor on Van Ness. True to that designation, diners won’t find much over $20 here and the menu’s strengths, according to Kane, are the contrasts "between nature’s bounty and things that are straight-up bad for you."
With that in mind, Kane jumps from the colorful heirloom tomato and burrata salad to the "lightly cheddary" and "cake-like" monkey bread to the "soft, fuzzy crunch" in the spicy meatballs and the "moister than the name implies" crispy falafel croquettes. Corridor is aimed at neighborhood lunchers and folks who want a quick-service option before the Opera, so while the "Square Meals" section of the menu may not be the sexiest option from Hi Neighbor’s restaurants, options like pan-roasted salmon or the half roast chicken are "comfort foods to the core." On the other hand, Corridor’s extensive menu can be a drawback: Dishes like the duck confit can be over-adorned, and the obligatory $15 burger arrived at Kane’s table as a condiment-soaked mess, even if the fries were perfectly cooked.
The verdict: San Francisco should feel lucky to find a restaurant where half a roast chicken is less than $20.
In the East Bay, the Express’ Cynthia Salaysay takes over for Luke Tsai this week and dives into the "whimsically named Epicurious Garden" — Berkeley’s very Berkeley take on the food court — to unearth Guacamole 61. Owner Willy Perez actually comes from Cheeseboard across the street, so he apparently noticed an opportunity in the neighborhood’s lacking Mexican options and his chef Gustavo Orozco has put together a "flashy truck-style menu" that doesn’t skimp on the portions, but also "doesn’t feel gluttonous to eat."
Of those meaty options, Salaysay says to make a "beeline for the al pastor," which is made fresh every day and boasts a pineapple sweetness with a mellow heat. If tacos aren’t your deal, then Salaysay steers towards the tortas which could probably serve as two meals for most and come with "just enough crema" to tie together the meat, beans, onions and lettuce.
The verdict: Guacamole 61 has "heart and swagger" that is both over-the-top and occasionally delicate. A stand out among the abundance of North Berkeley.
The Chronicle actually has a whole package on Tiki drinks this week including Martin Cate (Smuggler’s Cove) on "what makes an exotic cocktail," Amanda Gold bringing newbies to the Tonga Room, and a repost of Mobley’s Pagan Idol review. Meanwhile, Pete Kane also drank a horchata latte.