Chris Cosentino’s 12-year run at Incanto inspired many fond memories from the Chronicle and Michael Bauer even named it one of the 30 most important restaurants of his 30-plus-year reign over the newspaper’s food section. But the beloved restaurant doesn’t get a single mention in this week’s review of Cosentino’s latest: Acacia House in St. Helena’s Las Alcobas hotel. Perhaps for the benefit of current readers’ attention spans, Bauer skips past the Top Chef: Masters part of Cosentino’s career and jumps right to Cockscomb, where he says the chef “built his reputation on bold rustic cooking.”
Even though it took Bauer a couple reviews to warm up to that boldness at Cockscomb, the critic knows exactly how he feels about Acacia House, where luxury permeates every aspect: from the expansiveness of the porch, to the heft of the silverware, to the tiny silver broom that servers use to sweep crumbs off your table. Some Cosentino signature moves are here, but with more restraint and refinement, Bauer says. There are “powerful” hits of heat and spice in the lamb tartare or the hamachi crudo, but the pork-loving Cosentino is just as bold with his plant-based dishes like a “memorable” crudités appetizer and a “dramatic” combination of radishes, uni and uni butter, and a chilled melon soup dusted with “prosciutto snow.” The main courses like Iberico pork schnitzel topped with caviar, Cornish game hen wrapped in pancetta and Kobe rib eye with bone marrow Bordelaise show that the chef can still be a bit over-the top, even when he’s showing a modicum of restraint. With high marks for Curtis Cameron’s desserts, a full bar and a reasonably priced wine list clearly aimed at locals, Bauer is feeling a little bold himself: three and a half stars for Acacia House.
Although he’s “been there a half-dozen times over the years and was impressed with the food,” Bauer’s update review of Dona Tomas in Temescal reads like a list of disappointments: a 30-minute wait for a beer and a margarita, missing tomato dishes, dry and “leftover” tasting carnitas, and “one-dimensional” soup. Two stars for what Bauer assumes is “a mostly disorganized staff, both the front and the back of the house.”
At the Weekly, Pete Kane is the first to lend his critic’s palate to Petit Marlowe the latest from Big Night Restaurant Group (Leo’s Oyster Bar, The Cavalier, Marlowe) — and he’s got plenty of praise. “Virtually the entire menu is good,” Kane says, and fans of Leo’s will find a lot in common with celebrated FiDi oyster bar, with elements of Marlowe and the Cavalier thrown in for good measure. “It’s the Paris to The Cavalier’s London,” if you will. Pristine (and pricey) oysters start things off, but the composed dishes like smoked duck with mint and nectarine, wild king salmon tartare, or the côte de boeuf (also tartare) “larded up” with porcini mushrooms walk the line “between subtlety and sheer decadence.” While the escabeche and the burrata dishes needed a little more work, Kane is already calling Petit Marlowe, the best place in town for a first date.
At the East Bay’s newest high-profile, fast-casual opening The Kebabery, the East Bay Express contributor Janelle Bitker saves the skewered meats (and mushrooms) for last and heads straight for the veggies. Despite its Camino pedigree, the hype at the “simple” restaurant has baffled owners Russell Moore and Allison Hopelain, who enjoy telling people “it’s a vegetarian restaurant except for two kebabs.” While you can’t go wrong with any of the kebabs, Bitker says, it’s the salads and herbs that really make things shine and are “more interesting than you’d expect.” Her order of “boldly seasoned” chicken skewers left Bitker “feeling light ... like this was the sort of food I could and should eat on a regular basis.”
- Chris Cosentino’s bold taste of luxury at Acacia House in St. Helena [Chronicle]
- Missteps mar visit to Oakland favorite Dona Tomas [Chronicle]
- Petit Marlowe Is the Best Place in S.F. for a First Date [SFWeekly]
- Eat Your Vegetables at The Kebabery [East Bay Express]