Chad Robertson and Elisabeth Prueitt’s temple of baked goods has already gotten one wistful (but unstarred) review from the Chronicle, but Michael Bauer graced us with his own thoughts on the place this weekend. The former warehouse space is “the next iteration of the exhibition kitchen,” Bauer notes, and provides an “airy” feel while giving diners a look behind the scenes to go along with their meal. But Bauer can’t quite bring himself to wait in the pastry line, so he steers his review towards the “much more relaxing and elaborate” dinner service and the “godsend” of a reservations system.
Highlights of his review dinners include the “now-famous” porchetta sandwich, which goes eggless once the breakfast service wraps up. Naturally, bread abounds here and even when the baked goods aren’t the focus of a dish — like the side of toast that comes with the “truly great” chicken and pork bone broth — they’re still competing for attention. Overall, Bauer is obviously a fan of chef Sam Goinsalvos’s “style of peasant cooking” that works in dishes like a whole salt-baked petrale sole or shelling beans and pancetta in mushroom broth. With a friendly and efficient staff, plus show-stopping desserts like a Rocky Road ice cream pie, Bauer can hardly find a bad word to say about the Manufactory. Three stars.
For his update review, Bauer also checked in with Cafe Claude where the Parisian feel is “classic” but never cliche. In 28 years of business, the food has “vacillated between acceptable and very good,” Bauer says, but with the addition of chef Justin Minnich, “it has never been better.”
Although a survey of the menu won’t find any groundbreaking items, Minnich has re-worked all the preparations so they feel fresh and modern, like the mushroom and foie gras bread pudding that tags along with the roast chicken or the “beautifully realized” house salad that “looks like an open flower.” Likewise, the coq au vin is among Bauer’s top versions of the dish and the steak frites is “as it should be.” Two and a half stars.
From Valencia Street, the Weekly’s Pete Kane filed a review of “Lower-East-Side-by-way-of-Melbourne Indian restaurant” Babu Ji. Kane says the best way to tackle the menu is through the $62 chef’s tasting menu, which will give you an opportunity to try out the “harmonious, seductive textures that characterize this kitchen.” Speeding through the menu, Kane raves over the Colonel Tso’s cauliflower, which was boiled, broiled and deep-fried until “the texture was a marvel.” Other high points along the way included “creamy” tandoori prawns and un-improvable dish of lamb in chutney and yogurt.
On the other hand, a massive thali set was “beautifully presented” but the various sauces were too homogenous for a tasting menu. That said, the “thoroughly delicious” fenugreek butter chicken was apparently better on its own than as a stop on the tasting menu. While the “hipster catnip” self-service beer fridge serves its intended purpose (at $8 a bottle, mind you), Kane worries that Bubu Ji’s biggest drawback might be it’s “aggressively East Village” vibe or its notoriously cursed location. But in terms of the food, Kane can’t think of a better fit for the space.
Berkeley Social Club
In the East Bay, Luke Tsai checks out Berkeley Social Club — the replacement for Perdition Smokehouse on University Avenue. For his eighth restaurant, co-owner Steven Choi is bringing a fusion of Korean and American comfort foods like Korean fried chicken and waffles or pajun scallion pancakes reinvented as a brunch item. The former boasted “juicy flesh and shatteringly crisp crust” while the later was “delicious, if somewhat flaccid.”
With it’s mix of greasy spoon standbys, purely Korean items and the Millionaire’s Bacon borrowed from Choi’s other brunch-focused spot Sweet Maple, Tsai says breakfast service makes Berkeley Social Club a compelling addition to the neighborhood. At dinner however, the menu shifts to more standard upscale Korean items that are “still a work in progress.” The “Bang Bomb,” for example, was a “whimsical, inspired” and “Instagram-ready” feat — a giant ball of rice filled with fish roe, bugolgi and a steamed egg that was apparently a wonder to behold, but still ended up being “essentially a glorified rice bowl.” In the end, Tsai says, Choi and company will have to decide who their core audience is, but for now, you’d be hard-pressed to find a brunch spot with more space in the neighborhood.