Arriving a bit late to the Locol party, Michael Bauer finally dropped his review of Daniel Patterson and Roy Choi’s ambitious fast food enterprise. We’ll dispense with the backstory here, but Bauer says he was "ready to go back for seconds" after eating the flagship Cheeseburg and he seemed to enjoy the Messy Beef Chili Bowl with its "sure-fiery hand in seasoning." Likewise, Bauer thinks the Fried Chickenburg could land on the menu at any one of Patterson’s other casual restaurants "and still be a standout."
As for the rest of the menu, Bauer seems a little reluctant to speak ill of anything and mostly sticks to listing their ingredients while providing some tasting notes and suggestions: a little more salt in the Bulgur Language bowl, or a little less sweetener in the agua frescas, for example. While the restaurant is still a work in progress and the service can occasionally be a little off (as the service at fast food joints so often is) Bauer gives Locol a very warm two stars while pushing for the Patterson-Choi collaboration to hit the national stage.
For this week’s update review, Bauer makes his third trip to Bluestem Brasserie since the place opened in 2011. Bauer panned everything aside from one dessert back then, but now with Chef John Griffiths (formerly of the Advocate in Berkeley) now in charge of the kitchen, Bluestem has become one of his "top recommendations near Westfield San Francisco Centre or Union Square."
Topping the new, truncated menu are a "best in class" macaroni and cheese or the Santa Claus melon salad with purslane and thinly-sliced ham. And Bauer has a few preparation suggestions, for the most part, "the food is like getting an unexpected gift" and he points diners in the direction of a duck confit with fried duck egg or a New York steak with salsa verde that "would compete with a version from the best steak house in the city." Topping everything off, the service is "efficient and attentive" and that Honolulu Hangover Cake that was Bauer’s only high point five years ago is still there on the menu. Three stars for Bluestem Brasserie, which has "finally found its way."
At Polk Street’s new "craft-beer-and-Filipino-food" spot Buffalo Theory, the Weekly’s Pete Kane finds a lot more than just a loud TV-filled room and an "Allagash-heavy beer list." For starters: the menu isn’t strictly Filipino (Kane calls it "pan-global pub food") but it’s the Filipino items like the garlicky, Worcestershire-doused pica pica beef salpicao that our critic likes the best. Likewise, Kane says the sisig and grits could cure a severe hangover and somehow manages to sneak an offal dish into a sports bar at the same time. The adobo wings and peanuts make sense with a beer-drinking crowd, but the small plates like "kaffir-heavy" meatballs with pecorino, or the yellowtail crudo that add a nice variety to a beer-friendly menu. Overall: a positive review for the food, which is actually inexpensive compared to the beer list.
In the East Bay, the Express’ Luke Tsai reviewed the latest Oaxaca-focused addition to Uptown Oakland at Agave Uptown. Chef-owner Octavio Diaz and his family run a few Mexican restaurants up in Sonoma and given their connection to Oaxaca, it should come as no surprise that they take great pride in their carefully guarded mole negro recipe. Tsai tests their work with the rotisserie-grilled mole chicken that kept a crispy skin despite sitting in a pool of sauce. Although Tsai has been calling a lot of things "the best in the East Bay" lately, he rates Diaz’s tortillas as "some of the best" he’s had at an upscale Mexican place.
For his absolute favorites, Tsai likes the tlayuda — a crisp tortilla topped with black bean paste, fresh cheese and nopales — and the molcajete mixed grill with chicken, shrimp and steak served in a spicy tomato salsa. While Agave Uptown might be jumping into an already crowded mezcal-and-tacos scene in the East Bay, Tsai thinks it’s a standout. "It’s also less expensive," Tsai says, "and a bit less precious" than the competition like Comal or Calavera.