For his Sunday review, Bauer traveled to Half Moon Bay where former Saison Chef de Cuisine Scott Clark is now serving burgers and soups out of a roadside caboose. “What motivates a chef who cooked in a pair of 4-star kitchens to open a restaurant in a caboose,” Bauer wonders, as though the appeal of a slower pace and a simplified life weren’t immediately obvious.
One imagines it would be literally impossible for the debatably anonymous critic to remain incognito at an 18-seat restaurant, but Bauer dutifully worked his way through the seven-item menu over several trips anyway. As you might expect, foraged and local ingredients shine even in such casual surroundings: a salad of herbs, flowers and radish buds comes in an overflowing takeout container dressed with local olive oil and Bragg’s liquid aminos. The real star: a hamburger sandwich with a fried farm egg on locally sourced white bread, takes Bauer several paragraphs to arrive at a one word description: “decadent.” The mushroom sandwich is the same, except “you don’t miss the meat.” Bauer loves the creativity exemplified by Clark’s soups the most (sunchoke chowder and miso with ground chicken and green onions were two standouts), but he doesn’t care for the “bland” macaroni and cheese, which isn’t sophisticated enough for his adult palate even though it is explicitly directed at children. Two and a half stars overall, but a harsh one and a half stars for atmosphere, which seems to miss the point.
Bauer was again wondering “Why here?” in his midweek review. Specifically: why did Apple CEO Tim Cook and Google CEO Sundar Pichai decide to break bread over lunch at Tamarine in Palo Alto? Because it’s a “calming environment” where diners “can enjoy a civilized conversation” and chef Tammy Huynh’s “inventive” Vietnamese food, Bauer claims. Although he says he tried not to compare the restaurant to Slanted Door in San Francisco, he does so at least twice: to ding the Tamarine kitchen’s heavy hand with the sauces and to label its crab dish as clearly inferior to a similar one at Slanted Door.
Menu prices have also skyrocketed in the seven years since he last visited and although most of the dishes weren’t necessarily memorable, Bauer found them at least “satisfying,” especially the clay pot black cod. Even though one of his dessert orders “reminded me of a Toto urinal ringed with a green sauce,” Bauer found the food to be otherwise “safe.” Two and a half stars for Tamarine, and a three-bell noise level rating that lets you know its still a good place to conduct high-level business conversations.
The New York Times Travel section visited our provincial hamlet to find out how Chef Brandon Jew is creating food that is offering a “new twist” on Chinatown at Mister Jiu’s. While it’s not an official Pete Wells review (for better, or for worse), Freda Moon paints a picture of a lush restaurant and a bar populated with “Ivanka Trump types in tall heels and straight blond ponytails.” Moon balks a bit at the “menu full of lists of ingredients separated by commas” and their “bracingly large dollar figures,” but ultimately finds Jew’s take on dim sum “lively and exciting.” With the menu about to shift with the seasons, Moon says, “it promises to grow even more compelling and provocative.”
At the Weekly, Pete Kane reviewed the latest entry into San Francisco’s sudden explosion of Creole cuisine at Bayou on 17th Street. Compared to Alba Ray’s, Bayou “errs on the side of casual at all times,” Kane says, and exotic items like the frog legs are “just plain fun to eat.” Among the New Orleans necessities: Kane says the chicken and andouille gumbo “nailed the earthy quality one expects,” but the crawfish étouffée didn’t offer much depth of flavor and the crawfish and shrimp fettuccine “was the real flop.”
Where Bayou steps up to the plate is in the sides like the dirty rice and mirliton slaw. The rotisserie chicken that anchors the menu also makes “a respectable dinner for two,” but the blackened catfish sandwich is chef Arthur Wall’s must-order item.
In the East Bay, Cynthia Salaysay found “robust” flavors and bold blue paint at downtown Berkeley’s Maison Bleue. “It gets very buttery here,” Salaysay says and it shows through in the decadent croque monsieur, pan-fried in butter and layered with ham and béchamel. The traditional Brittany-style crepes like the galette complète were “chewy and substantial” with even more generous slices of ham. Despite Maison Bleue’s “love affair with butter,” the menu focused on flavor rather than being “rich for richness’s sake” and it shows through even in lighter fare like the Marin sandwich — a simple sandwich of lox and mascarpone.
Chris Ying says Marafuku is a new reason to visit Japantown. Sarah Fritsche surveyed the farmers market. Pete Kane reviewed the renovated Hecho Cantina, right as the management announced the bar would be closing soon. Anyway, Kane says the Mezgronis are good.