While the promise of a booming Mid-Market has yet to materialize, Chronicle critic Michael Bauer believes Corridor could be the success that bucks the trend. With 70 seats below a 400-unit apartment building just steps away from the opera and the symphony, Corridor is actually set up for a crowd and Bauer apparently can’t say enough good things about the menu and the service. He has heaps of praise for the many upscale riffs on comfort food like the meat loaf Wellington or the savory cheddar and chive monkey bread, but its the shrimp roll that really shows chef du cuisine Kevin Schantz "knows where to cut corners without impacting quality."
Since he loved Trestle, Bauer is also pleased to see the garganelli Bolognese made the trip to Van Ness, and the pea risotto with maitakes and truffle butter likewise could be "right at home on the menu at the more upscale Stones Throw." While he did manage to find a couple "minor" failures like a "placeholder" chicken parm sandwich and a too-dense lasagna, overall the unique split-service model and the bustling neighborhood "which is filled with Millennials" is enough to put Corridor in Bauer’s three-star club.
Now that Thomas McNaughton and company have revised the menu at Central Kitchen, Bauer saw fit to return for an update review. McNaughton might have been going for a more accessible, neighborhood-y vibe, but Bauer actually disagrees with the results. It "still feels more like a destination than a neighborhood hangout," Bauer says, especially with pasta dishes hovering around $20 and mains bumping up against $30. Although "every dish was good individually," the flavors as a whole tend to run together and "ended up tasting too similar." Even on a second try, Bauer found that every dish had an overpowering ingredient that took away from the others, but he can still recommend the salmon with green curry and the beef short ribs with tomato, basil and summer beans. Although Bauer loves the (three-star) atmosphere, the food gets a respectable two and a half stars.
Over at the Weekly, Pete Kane is comparing Berkeley’s La Marcha to SoMa’s temple of tapas Bellota. With only 600-square feet, La Marcha is more "date night" than decadent and Kane likes the "perkily roasted taters" in the patatas bravas, the (very affordable) mar y montaña with clams and pancetta in broth and the morcilla blood sausage that’s "right out of the Alice Waters playbook." A dish of pulpo and garbanzos, on the other hand, was unsuccessful with its octopus, piquillo peppers and chickpea puree all fighting "like a person you already agree with has started shouting to make their point." Everything gets back on track with the paellas, however, and the arroz negro takes on a starring role with squid ink, salmon roe and truffle aioli. There’s a hint of disappointment when the paella doesn’t have the tell-tale socarrat layer of burnt rice, but the menu itself is "a virtual guarantor of happiness."
At Oakland’s combination "California style" barbecue and Burmese joint Burma Bear, Luke Tsai finds memories of "the cobbled-together backyard barbecues that were a hallmark of my Asian-American childhood" where grilled sausages and soy sauce-marinated pork chops shared the plate with corn on the cob and Chinese-style cold noodles. He raves over the "gloriously greasy" beef brisket rubbed with chef-owner Hubert Lim’s Asian-inflected dry rub. Taking the place of coleslaw or potato salad are Burmese-style garlic noodles that provide "the perfect savory compliment" to the brisket.
While the meat might be the focus, Lim offers "more appealing vegetarian options than just about any other barbecue joint" in Oakland. While the "extra-Californian" kale version of a tea leaf salad is a winner, Tsai really wants to call attention to the stir-fried cilantro-curry portobello entree that comes out tasting like "an herbaceous Persian stew." Overall: "there really isn’t any other place like it in the Bay Area."