Navio at the Ritz-Carlton
Bauer took his company credit card south down Highway 1 for this week’s update review at Navio, the flagship restaurant in the Ritz-Carlton Half Moon Bay. While Bauer loves the rugged coastline just outside the window, it turns out the service inside was just as rocky as when he panned the place in 2013. Starting with a mixup at the host stand and continuing with a pair of dim somms, Bauer is disappointed by the meal at almost every turn. Bauer "felt empathy" for chef Jason Pringle, he says, because there was a solid intent behind every dish, but "the final execution often got in the way." Indeed, much of Bauer’s comments use various synonyms for "bland" to describe several different kinds of fish, which doesn’t bode well for a seafood-focused restaurant.
Still, there are highlights, just not many of them. Bauer enjoyed the foraged agnolotti with ricotta and wild mushrooms, and the "cleverly conceived" take on s’mores for dessert. While Navio was undoubtedly a disappointment, two stars is still an improvement over his last visit.
Tēo Restaurant and Bar
At the Weekly, Pete Kane dives into the nuances of regional Chinese cuisine before directing us to SoMa’s Tēo Restaurant and Bar, the city’s new standard bearer for Chiu Chow (or Teochew) cuisine. While the bar portion of the restaurant suffers from a clubby Asian-Fusion vibe (beware the lemongrass mojito), "the food was better," Kane writes somewhat unenthusiastically. The highlights: a "peanut-rich" sweet and savory fired taro roll and the house-marinated goose that felt like something "you might find on a fancy picnic in Dordogne." Although he says it was his favorite, the braised sea cucumber was not actually "crispy" as advertised, but instead gelatinous and slathered in sauce — apparently a good thing. Overall: a very underwhelming review, but a mild hope that more Chiu Chow cuisine will catch on.
In the East Bay, Luke Tsai is back on the job and seeking out his two favorite Korean dishes: soondubu stew and Korean friend chicken under one roof at Gangnam Tofu in El Cerrito. (Not to be confused with Gangnam Tofu House in Fremont, however.) The place has a family-run vibe and, according to our critic, the best Korean fried chicken in the East Bay. There are about eight or nine different ways to order the aforementioned chicken, but both the signature "Gangnam Chicken" and the milder, sauceless original held up. Likewise, the soondubu tofu stew he’s looking for "stays true to all the homey, traditional flavors I look for in a dish like this." The verdict: heaps of praise for the KFC and a note that, while the menu isn’t as vast as other Korean joints in Oakland, there’s "still plenty to explore once you go beyond the crowd-pleasers."