With the Top 100 behind him, Bauer snuck in an update review meal at Oakland’s Bellanico, where chef Jonathan Luce has spent the past nine years building the restaurant into a Glenview neighborhood mainstay. Luce has “mastered all the basics,” Bauer says, from charcuterie to handmade pastas and desserts. Bauer heads for the weekly changing $40 fixed-price menu first, which included a signature dish of beet and ricotta ravioli with roasted steelhead trout on his visit. The a la carte options proved a little “more interesting,” however, like the “exceptional” cocoa casarecce pasta with milk-braised pork shoulder. Other menu items like the veggie risotto or braised beef pot roast are likewise “familiar, but never boring.” Two and a half stars for Ballanico’s “well-worn interior,” and its “endearing,” “comforting” menu.
Old Bus Tavern
At the Weekly, Pete Kane checks back in with Old Bus Tavern, where some chef changes have shaken things up, but left beer-friendly mainstays like the frito pie and signature burger intact. A couple menu items fall flat, like the fried cauliflower or the overblown Hotsy egg-chili-bacon sandwich, but the $15 burger has “got it all going on,” Kane says. Likewise, the trio of fish tacos are “some of the best thought-out fish tacos, I’ve ever had” and “nothing can compete with the $6 Frito Pie” with house-made noodle-thin corn chips and cheddar-beer sauce.
Hella Vegan Eats
In Oakland, East Bay Express editor Nick Miller finds Hella Vegan Eats in their brick-and-mortar spot inside a vintage car dealership. Veganism is “most certainly, if unexpectedly,” a “hot dining trend,” Miller says, and Hella Vegan Eats manages to pull off a unique combination of “animal-free dining, automobile-culture worship, LGBTQ-plus safe space, and the ubiquitous craft beer.” While HVE’s proprietors Silvi and Tiff Esquivel will spare diners the vegan propaganda, the food is “humble and unambitious,” Miller says. The Hellafornia burrito, for example, comes beanless and stuff with a pile of hand-cut fries according to San Diego tradition. But the tortilla tube isn’t “super thoughtful about how flavors work together,” Miller says, and it doesn’t stack up against other vegan Mexican options in the East Bay.
On the other hand, Miller was more enamored with the Champions of Breakfast plate and it’s “unexpectedly fluffy” biscuit slathered in veggie gravy, the chimichurri verde fries and the vegan fried chicken with “a salty pop and chew that will scratch that KFC itch.” Overall, it’s a warm-ish review for Hella Vegan’s “hangover food for the outsider contingent.”
The Weekly’s Jeffrey Edalatpour approves of Berkeley’s Pompette. Chris Ying considers cursed real estate and koji marinades at Yuzuki. The rest of the Chronicle Staff discussed the best things they’ve eaten this year.