In Berkeley, the latest project from the ever-growing network of Chez Panisse alumni apparently got off to a rough start. The transformation of Cafe Rouge into Pompette “didn’t address what, on opening, was a major problem,” Michael Bauer writes this week, and “the debut of Pompette seemed amateurish.” But after chef David Visick had a few months to settle into the daily routine, things seemed to improve. A chicken dish with chard and mashed potatoes was “unexpectedly crisp,” and “fully integrated,” as the grilled white sea bass and the roasted pork rack. Bauer was so enamored with the “striking” presentation of the avocado, pink grapefruit and endive salad that he “wanted to take a picture and frame” it. Despite a one-and-a-half star debut, Bauer is ready to give Pompette two and a half stars overall.
Walnut Creek Yacht Club
In the Far East Bay, Michael Bauer finds a restaurant “still pleasantly locked in the ’90s” at Walnut Creek Yacht Club. While the over-the-top decor can seem cheesy and outdated, Bauer confirms the fish there "could compete in freshness with just about any restaurant in the Bay Area.” His halibut was "perfectly grilled,” and the fish and chips battered in Anchor Steam are "some of the best around." The crab cakes, another perennial favorite, also have “a bold seafaring flavor" and the extensive menu should please just about anyone. Two and a half stars for twenty years of nautical jokes in Walnut Creek.
In Fruitvale, SF Weekly’s Pete Kane wonders if the food holds up to controversy at Reem’s California, where "if you don’t #feelthewarmth from the saj, or grill, you’ll feel it from the menu board.” Kane recommends diners "do not miss out on the man’oushe," especially the briny cheese version or the “intensely flavorful Pali Cal" chicken wrap. The best dish, however, was the “filling and uncomplicated” shakshuka that came with exactly the right number of toasted pitas. “I suspect even apolitical types will find plenty to love at Reem’s," Kane says, “and members of the resistance will find it irresistible.”
For San Francisco Magazine, Jos Sens visits chef Khai Duong’s latest project: the ten-course Vietnamese tasting menu spot Khai. With the new space, the chef is bucking the opulence of his former restaurant, Ana Mandara in Ghirardelli Square, for “an endearingly offbeat restaurant that’s shorn of all formality and refinement except for what appears on the plate.” Adding to the quirky charm, Duong often runs food to the table himself so he can give diners the backstory of how each dish came to be.
Although Duong plans to change the menu with the seasons, Sens enjoyed a “complex and compelling” dish of crab sausage that was “like chewing on a tire and discovering you like it,” and a year-round dish of salmon, pork belly and rice noodles tossed with spicy banana sauce. The “finest course of all,” however, was a pan-fried butterfish that bested the classic preparations found in Hanoi. While the wine pairings felt “stingy” and “cut-rate,” Duong’s coconut and durian dessert was enough to make give Sens’ meal “a delightful close.” Two and a half stars.
- Pompette finds its way in Berkeley [SF Chronicle]
- Fresh fish no joke at Walnut Creek Yacht Club [SF Chronicle]
- Reem’s: Mandatory Palestine [SF Weekly]
- ‘Iron Chef Vietnam’ Star Judge Returns to S.F. with a Knockout Tasting Menu [San Francisco Magazine]