In case you missed it: Eater SF’s own Rachel Levin stepped into the rarified air at Chinatown’s most expensive restaurant and found that Eight Tables by George Chen “is unlike any restaurant this side of the Pacific.” Three stars.
This week delivered two critical reviews of Son’s Addition, the personal project of Chef Nick Cobarruvias and his wife and Anna Sager Cobarruvias. To Michael Bauer the restaurant “feels like a throwback to another era” — one where small, personal restaurants like Delfina, Frances and Rich Table could open without much outside investment and deliver “food good enough to make national reviews.” At the Weekly, Pete Kane had a similar impression: now that the Cobarruviases have had a couple weeks to settle in, “24th Street is once again a hotspot.”
When it comes to the food, “not every dish on the menu works,” Bauer says, but the “authentic, caring spirit” makes up for some of the shortcomings. The comparisons to Cobarruvias’s former gig under Chef Jennifer Puccio are inevitable, but Bauer insists “Son’s Addition is not Marlowe” and Kane notes that Asian and Latino influences are drawn “into the expected California rubric without any of the showiness that would earn the dreaded fusion label.”
The two critics disagree on how all those elements fit together, however: For Kane, the Thai-inflected poached chicken with crispy skin was “most excellent” but Bauer mostly disregards the dish as unrelated to the rest of the menu. Bauer felt similarly about the tuna and uni tostadas until he starts to pick up on other Mexican threads “woven throughout the menu.”
Of the main course, Bauer and Kane both recommend the “very good” pan-roasted black cod or the heritage pork chop with pecan mole, but diverge on the lamb shank, which Bauer claims has “little flavor” although Kane found it “assertive.” Two and a half stars from Bauer, and a positive review from Kane, but one caveated with a plea for a little more differentiation and a little less beef tartare.
On Chestnut Street, Mamacita’s pivot to Japanese(ish) cuisine under the new name Mamanoko has Bauer wistful for the old days again. Although the partners felt it was time for a change, Bauer disagrees. The sushi and nigiri menus don’t hold any surprises, but the critic does find a few must-trys on the list like the Little Gem salad with soba noodles, or the “bold” pork dumplings. While Bauer does not enjoy gimmicks like the dessert sushi rolls, he does note that the restaurant has been packed since opening even despite the “obtuse move” to Asian cuisines. Two stars for an “also-ran” entry into local Japanese cuisine.
On the fast casual blog, Bauer wondered aloud whether Onsen, Tartine Manufactory and the Saratoga will make it onto his Best New Restaurants list. While Onsen is as impressive as it was in February, Tartine Manufactory “doesn’t seem as rustic” now that chefs Christa Chase and Bill Niles are in the kitchen, but the menu is “as good as I remember.” Meanwhile, the food at The Saratoga sounds like it’s gone almost completely downhill since Bauer’s initial three-star review. Even the dressed-up Toga Tots “tasted like something that might be found in a Costco snack bar.”
At the edge of West Berkeley, Express critic Janelle Bitker got a “virtuous” feeling from La Capilla’s organic, locally sourced and veggie-heavy Mexican fare. Rather than take the usual taqueria approach to vegan or vegetarian cuisine, restaurant boss Stephanie Romo has steered the menu towards creative combinations like black beans with sautéed kale and portobello mushrooms that is available in taco, burrito or sandwich form. Although it won’t work for the vegans, Bitker places the deep-fried local cod tacos atop La Capilla’s must-try list and recommends diners skip the long lines at Cholita Linda “next time you’re craving a fish taco.”
What’s more, “I can stay productive” after a burrito from La Capilla, Bitker says, shrugging off the usual burrito coma. And the version she tried with grass-fed carne asada was “wonderfully balanced” and “full of unadulterated flavor.” With a fresh juice bar, breakfast options, a few “nimble and clean” grilled sandwiches, and an unexpected parking lot, La Capilla “feels downright mythical for a small restaurant in Berkeley.”
- Three Stars for Chinatown’s Private Chateau [ESF]
- Son’s Addition a big plus for S.F. dining [Chronicle]
- Son’s Addition: 24th Street Is Once Again a Hotspot [SF Weekly]
- Mamanoko’s OK, but Michael Bauer says his heart belongs to Mamacita [Chronicle]
- Onsen, Saratoga and Tartine Manufactory: Which will make best new restaurants list? [Chronicle]
- Find Kale Tacos and Other Vegetarian Mexican Fare at Berkeley’s La Capilla [East Bay Express]