The progressive Indian food revolution is apparently getting so heated Michael Bauer spotted Dosa owner Anjan Mitra dining out at Rooh, the latest entry into the genre. Mitra has reason to be worried, apparently, as Rooh’s chef Sujan Sarkar has been carrying around “Modernist Cuisine” as his go-to cookbook, Bauer says.
On the plate, that means Rooh’s menu features things like edible bubbles, puffed black rice, tamarind gels, chile granita and dehydrated butter garnishing the butter chicken. “The most creative dishes,” Bauer says, are the small plates like the grilled asparagus with curried cauliflower mousse and the beetroot murabba that “looks like impressionistic spring painting.” Bauer also loves the “dynamic tension” between the cool and fiery flavors in the paneer chili and the potato tikki, and the “gobble-down goodness” of the elegant lamb ribs. Although he has less to say about the dozen or so main dishes, Bauer is wowed by the quality of the small items like the flatbreads and the desserts that offer more “artistic interpretations of Indian flavors.” Three stars for Rooh, although the restaurant may see less of Sarkar, now that he’s also opening another location in New York City.
As Bauer inches closes to the release of his annual Top 100 list, we’re in the middle of the season where he re-visits old flames to see how they’re holding up. And this week’s update review brought him to Le Colonial, where the food is better than his last visit, but the seats are tragically empty.
Former chef Laurent Manrique is now running the show with chef Jean-Paul Peluffo and sous Tuan Phan heading up the kitchen, and Bauer is impressed by the barbecue ribs, a pretty-looking green papaya salad and the “generous” main courses like the sea bass with sweet potato noodles or the ginger-marinated pork. The best dish, however, was a French-Vietnamese hybrid called the Pot au Pho with oxtail and short ribs on a bed of crispy noodles and veggies that gets doused in ginger broth and more bone marrow. Two and a half stars for Le Colonial which “deserves to be as popular today as it was when it was new and trendy nearly 20 years ago.”
At the Weekly, Pete Kane heads to the Mission’s first proper Cuban restaurant Media Noche. While the menu is simple — just four sandwiches, four bowls, two salads and some snacks — Kane says the “hits-to-misses ratio” is better than three-to-one. The standard Cubano works, but Kane prefers the titular media noche sandwich and the pillowy brioche it comes on.
The Celia fried chicken sandwich suffered from some blandness, as did its vegetarian eggplant-based sister the Gloria, but the snacks like the picadillo empanadas and the mariquitas were redemptive, as was the Cuban classic ropa vieja. The loud decor might be polarizing if you’re not a fan of that South Beach (Miami, not SF) style, but overall Kane is a fan for lunch, happy hour or a late night sandwich.
In the East Bay, Express critic Cynthia Salaysay checks out Anfilo at the corner of Broadway and Grand, where owner Dagmawit Tesfaye and her husband/manager Ambessaw Assegued source “fresh, vibrant spices” and hand-picked, wild-grown Ethiopian coffee. And the sourcing makes a real difference, Salaysay says, and “many of Anfilo’s dishes spoke louder, in fiery and flowery tongues” than similar Ethiopian places in Oakland and even the dishes on the lunch buffet “stood out boldly against the others.”
Salaysay quickly gets addicted to the “berbere-spiked” red lentil mesir wot, and the doro wot chicken stew that made a drumstick “taste as dark and rich as beef.” Of the milder items, Salaysay enjoyed the ghee flavor in the cracked wheat quinch’e and found that Anfilo’s injera flatbread “stood up nicely” to all the bold flavors. Despite a few misses, the buffet makes for “an efficient spot for a good $10 lunch for local worker bees,” and the changing menu leaves plenty to explore.