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Villon’s Mix-and-Match Cuisine Lands 2.5 Bauer Stars

Also: Pete Kane finally gets hotel restaurant burnout and Janelle Bitker finds Lao bar food in Piedmont

Villon
Patricia Chang

Octavia

Eater’s in-house critic Rachel Levin gives us her thoughts on Octavia, where the “moments of mediocrity were fleeting,” the avocado is “as smooth and creamy as a savory pot de creme,” and Chef Melissa Perello (along with her new CDC Sara Hauman) have created excellence “without ego.” Three stars.


Villon

Beet salads are omnipresent on Bay Area menus. Michael Bauer pointed this out himself six years ago, but according to back-of-house legend and Maile Carpenter’s 2001 San Francisco Magazine story “Eating in Michael Bauer’s Town,” we can blame the dish’s ubiquity on Mr. Bauer’s own insatiable appetite for dirt candy and salty cheese. So, it makes sense that Chef Jason Franey’s baby beet salad with burnt ricotta would top this week’s review of Villon, the new restaurant in Mid-Market’s Proper Hotel.

Bauer has been watching Franey’s work with excitement ever since the chef rejuvenated Monterey’s Restaurant 1833 as a 3.5-star destination, and the “generous” roast duck with duck bacon Brussels sprouts and glazed fall veggies stands out as a “memorable repast that epitomizes the convivial feel” of Franey’s new home on Market Street. A dish of skate wing swimming in “silken” lobster bouillabaisse also shows off the technique that Bauer has come to admire, and the gnudi with chantrelle mushrooms is “one of the best around.” On the other hand, some menu items seem to be guided only by current food trends, the service is still in the awkward “startup phase” and that “well-conceived” beet salad was ultimately too sweet for Bauer’s taste. Two and a half stars.


CIA at Copia

In other beet-related news, Bauer mentions at least three dishes that incorporate beta vulgaris in his fast-casual update review of the CIA at Copia. Bauer followed Chef Polly Lappetito from Ciccio in Yountville to her new spot in Napa proper, and finds much of the same menu from her former home (minus the pizza). Back at Ciccio, however, her former sous chef Bryant Minuche’s menu is “in the same vein, but missing the precision Lappetito brought to the menu.”


B55 Crafthouse

Just when we though Pete Kane’s tour of hotel restaurants was coming to a close, he swooped through the Marriott Marquis on Fourth Street to review B55 Crafthouse — the hotel’s sub-par, “industrial chic” dining option aimed at hotel guests. The food “isn’t terrible,” Kane says, but the menu appears to be designed by a focus group from 2014 and it “debases itself through repeated acts of hollow mimicry.” A satisfying soft pretzel costs an “unconscionable” ten dollars here and the half chicken was “seriously underdone,” but the kitchen did manage to redeem itself with an “impressive” take on the Impossible burger.


Saap Avenue

In the East Bay, Express critic Janelle Bitker checked out the latest from the “beloved” Chai Thai Noodles family of restaurants: The Saap Avenue. The latest location focuses exclusively on Lao cuisine, but with a slightly trendier atmosphere and higher price point than the mom-and-pop mini-chain is generally known for. Likewise, Bitker says many of the dishes seemed to hold back on the chili heat that Lao cuisine is known for, but that error that was quickly corrected when she asked for her meal “Lao spicy” on her second visit. Topping her must-orders are the spicy fish salad, the funky papaya salad with padaek (fermented fish sauce) and the deep-fried quail that makes for “ideal gnawing-over-drinks food.”


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