Restaurant at CIA Copia
In Napa, Bauer returns to the “monument of broken dreams” at Copia, where the long-departed Julia’s Kitchen debuted just two short months ago as the Restaurant at CIA Copia. Taking inspiration from the fellow CIA Greystone grads at State Bird Provisions, the Restaurant has several carts rolling around the dining room in a modified dim sum setup: a cart for appetizers, a cart for wine and cocktails, and a cow-shaped cart named “Bessie” for cheeses. (In his rush to review the restaurant, however, he apparently forgot to try the nitrogen ice cream cart.)
The large, shared items like a whole roasted chicken and an $85 steak “are more consistent” than the appetizers like hanger steak tartine that “had all the right components” but the temperatures of the various ingredients were off. He does, however, recommend the wild mushroom risotto. Although the service can be awkward, Bauer says he’d be “hard pressed to find a more convivial staff.” As part of the larger CIA at Copia project, Bauer is definitely into it. Two and a half stars.
It’s no secret Bauer goes bananas for Spanish food done well, so for his mid-week review our critic revisited Nob Hill’s Zarzuela, which has been doing paella and tapas well before it was cool. The 23-year-old restaurant “continues to impress me,” Bauer says, and the tiny space with its stucco walls brings him right back to Barcelona.
Most of the dishes on the 40-plus item menu “strike a deep, sultry tone,” and so Bauer often finds himself over-ordering dishes like the white bean stew with quail, the grilled lamb chops or the paella a la Valenciana that, “looks like the cover of a travel brochure” and could feed four by the time you ad in a few of the “generous” tapas. With attentive, veteran servers and a “very personal feel,” Bauer leaves a “comfortable, satisfying” three stars.
After a couple chef shuffles, Pete Kane is ready to review Mason Pacific under the new kitchen leadership of chef Justin Wright. His immediate impressions are that it’s both expensive — “unquestionably priced for its immediate environs” — and “altogether contemporary.” Like the photogenic tuna ceviche, “there’s nothing out of the ordinary here,” Kane says, “it’s simply very good.”
Recommendations include the grilled octopus (a Pete Kane dietary staple at this point), the “tied-and-true late winter rib-sticker” braised lamb or the “flawlessly seared” scallops. Be warned that “a bro-ish, business-casual vibe pervades,” but if you can look past it, the “atmosphere is well-done.”
Gastropig and Cracked
East Bay critic Luke Tsai serves up a double shot of “runny egg-yolk porn” at the casual, brisk Gastropig and the pop-up-gone-legit Cracked. Both specialize in breakfast, but former has honed the bacon, egg and cheese sandwich into a highly Instagrammable art form, complete with it’s own #baconslut hashtag. Despite the name “it’s an exemplary breakfast sandwich,” Tsai says and everything else on the menu — the waffle iron hash browns in particular — is likewise “solid if not extraordinary.”
The latter, meanwhile, opts for a more personal feel with chef-owner Buna Babilla adopting the Filipino influence of his beloved Jollibee. At Cracked, the sandwiches all come on soft, sweet pandesal rolls and you can find corned beef or spam and toasted seaweed alongside the BECs. With $2 “McDonald’s-style” hash browns and a balanced menu of sandwiches, Tsai’s only complaint is a lengthy wait during the brunch rush.
Lucky Peach co-founder Chris Ying has a new mid-week review column for the Chronicle called All Consuming which will be “expanding the range of restaurants we consider worth writing about.” Pete Kane drinks at Woods Beer Co’s Outward Bound.