Despite the sudden surge in omakase restaurants around town, Bauer is showing no signs of sushi fatigue. By his own admission, Bauer has visited no less than seven sushi restaurants in the past month, but he’s enthralled with the “masterful” work of chef Takatoshi Toshi at Polk Street’s Kinjo. Like Ijji, Ju-Ni and Nomica’s recent openings, Kinjo shares some DNA with Sausalito’s legendary Sushi Ran (“the Chez Panisse of Japanese restaurants”) and Toshi is a decorated sushi chef who takes time between dishes to discuss the “careful sourcing” of the fish that star on his $120, 12-course menu.
Bauer admires Toshi’s delicate hand with the accoutrements like lemon, sansho pepper, and salt that brought out nuances in the fish that “I never knew were there.” But it’s the drama that sets Kinjo apart: Toshi cold smokes a dish of snapper, mackerel and king salmon over cherrywood chips right on the bar. Later, a Santa Cruz spot prawn is presented as a swift execution for the live crustacean, ending with the flash-fried shrimp head plated alongside the raw tail dabbed with its own roe. For maximum effect, Bauer recommends you get a front-row seat at the sushi counter. Three stars for Kinjo.
According to Bauerblog, our long-tenured local food critic is “closing in” on the next edition of the Top 100, so his midweek review took him to Oakland’s four-year-old Nido, located “off the well-traveled path near Jack London Square.” Owner Silvia McCollow and former Nopalito chef Jose Ramos have recreated the dishes of Silvia’s childhood inside “a warm, cozy space” with “a quality missing in many Mexican restaurants” that often feel generic. Bauer recommends the “complex” chicken mole Coloradito quasadilla (or its vegetarian sister), the bone-in carnitas “strewn with streamers of pig ears,” and the ahi tuna tostaditas. His only disappointment is that the posole he loves so much has disappeared from the menu. Three stars for Nido.
At the Weekly, new editor-in-chief Pete Kane visits chef Telmo Faria’s (Tacolicious) new, properly Portuguese restaurant Uma Casa in Noe Valley where a meal starts with “addictive” potato chips and the prices are “eminently reasonable.” While the “strongly seasoned” piri-piri chicken wings are “homey and well worth the $12” and the $5 bread-and-butter is “a cut above,” it’s the seafood dishes that shine. A tuna salad is “like ultra-luxe poke,” Kane says, “wearing a headdress of microgreens” and “bedazzled” with quail egg. Meanwhile, the $10 salt cod fritters “outperform even the most well-rehearsed crab cakes.” On the mains: the caldeirada seafood stew was “flat-out excellent” and the bacalhau gomes de sá (salt cod casserole) was “easily its equal.” Kane recommends you go with a group to maximize your tasting options, and there’s plenty of reason to seek it out, even if you’re not specifically hunting for Portuguese cuisine.
The Veg Hub
After last week’s bacon-heavy outing, East Bay Express critic Luke Tsai checks out “black-owned, community-oriented nonprofit” vegan sandwich shop The Veg Hub, located next to a vacant McDonald’s on MacArthur boulevard. Rather than get preachy about vegan food, chef GW Chew just “serves food that your average McDonald’s customer might actually want to eat,” Tsai says. Think: vegan cheesesteaks, vegan cheese fries, and vegan ballpark nachos that all clock in at less than $10 and still have “the salty-fatty craveability” that makes fast food so addictive.
Chew is also the proprietor of Better Than Meats company, which he started in Arkansas after years of developing his own vegan food products, and Tsai says the must-order item is that aforementioned Philly Cheeze Melt, “which might be the only legitimately delicious veganized cheesesteak I’ve ever eaten.” Chew’s own version of Cheez Whiz — made with puréed carrots and cashews — was similarly convincing. While the most boring menu item was a sesame kale salad, Tsai says the Veg Hub is already “a big success” as a neighborhood fixture that serves “a remarkably diverse mix of customers.”