In Belmont, Michael Bauer returns to “unsung” neighborhood Italian spot Divino 11 years after his last review. It’s been so long since his last review that Bauer has “forgotten how good [Owner Vicenzo] Cucco is with traditional pasta.” Bauer puts Cucco’s Bolognese with pappardelle above the other half-dozen versions of the sauce he’s had in the past year and puts the meatballs in a class of his favorites alongside flasher spots like Tosca. The intervening years also made our long-tenured critic forget just how good the pistachio-crusted pork chop (“one of the tenderest pieces of meat that I’ve encountered”) was, but he’s more likely to recall the “memorable” Petrale sole special on his next visit, assuming Divino is still around in the next decade. Ending his dinner with an apple tart, Bauer drops two and a half stars for Divino — just like he did in 2006.
At the Weekly, Pete Kane gets the honors of being the first to press with a review of China Live, the 30,000-square-foot food hall and marketplace that’s “like nothing else in San Francisco.” Kane recommends heading to the counter in the ground-floor Market Restaurant, but his first couple rounds of dim sum didn’t quite live up to the hype. While the xiaolongbao had a better flavor compared to the immensely popular Din Tai Fung, they were “structurally deficient” and fell apart between the steaming basket and the spoon. A deconstructed bowl of lu rou fan minced pork in a five-spice stew, on the other hand, “was the porcine redemption.”
Moving down the menu, Kane found the Cantonese half-chicken to be “fairly stunning,” “shining” and “barbecued to perfection” before rounding out bold chili-garlic cucumber skins, a bowl of “mutant” celtuce with salty bait shrimp and a “surprisingly good” century egg. Although the panna cotta with honey and barley was “among the best” he’s had, Kane can’t shake the feeling that China Live “isn’t so much effortless as airtight” and aims to impress more than it strives for authenticity.
At the East Bay Express, Momo Chang handles this week’s review of Temescal’s “decidedly un-hipster” Korean spot Daol Tofu. Run by former Anzu chef Sunny Bae, Daol covers everything from bo ssam and bulgogi to kimchi fried rice and ramen, but it’s the eye-feast banchan at the beginning of the meal that sets the tone in the “no frills” dining room.
Chang recommends the bu de jungol “military stew” casserole with kimchi, ham sausage and slices of ham and American cheese that also happens be the largest and most expensive dish on the menu. Although the mild casserole came out spicier than she hoped, Chang found the seafood soondubu “incredibly balanced” with soft tofu and a variety of shellfish adding some texture. If you do go for the bu de jungol casserole, be sure to ask for plenty of take-out containers, lest Bae give you the “Asian auntie guilt trip” if you leave some behind.
- Divino: Simply divine pasta in Belmont [Chron]
- The China Lobby: China Live Marketplace Debuts [SF Weekly]
- Oakland's Daol Tofu Offers Variety And Comfort By Way Of Korea [East Bay Express]