Longtime Bay Area foodie trendsetter Michael Bauer saw an opportunity to make some bold declarations with his review of Rich Table’s casual spinoff RT Rotisserie. “Hayes Valley is the new Mission,” Bauer says, and when it comes to restaurants, the “quick-serve place is the wave of the future.” Like the other chef-driven, fast-casual outlets to which Bauer has taken a shine, RT shows “no compromise in the quality,” and the result of a painstaking brining process is “one of the best rotisserie chickens I’ve had,” priced at an “enticing” $19. For veggie lovers, the rotisserie cauliflower is also “outstanding” and pairs well with RT’s Douglas fir sour cream sauce.
Rounding out the simple menu are a chicken or pork sandwich “so generous that they can easily serve two normal appetites,” and the “bright, bountiful” RT Salad. Bauer’s only diss seems to be the gussied-up umami fries — they were “really good,” but the rice and porcini powder was too much embellishment on “a near perfect food.” The service, however, is spot-on with its “fine dining sensibility.” Three stars for our fast-casual future.
For his update review this week, Bauer revisited Moshi Moshi, which has weathered 30 years of changes at the edge of Mission Bay and the Dogpatch. When the restaurant opened, Bauer says, he remembers “marveling at how remote this warehouse area seemed at night.” Now he can barely find parking. Despite the lengthy menu, Bauer covered “the entire Japanese spectrum” on his visit and was “pleasantly surprised” by it all, particularly the tempura mushrooms and chewy undo with a side of chicken karaage. More than anything though, Bauer loves the spirit and upbeat attitude of 83-year-old owner Mitsura “Mits” Akashi, who still comes in for lunch and dinner service most days. Two and a half stars for Mits.
Chef Manny Torres Gimenez, whose fine-dining pop-ups at Mission chicken dive Mr. Pollo eventually led to an interesting rebirth for the Palace Steak House, has returned with another concept for the the location at Mission and Cesar Chavez Streets and the Weekly’s Pete Kane is on it. Now that he’s calling the place Francisca’s, Gimenez has switched to a hybrid family-style approach, but some of the “jubilant sense of wackiness” and experimentation remains from his early tasting-menu days.
The cuisine is influenced by Gimenez’s native Venezuela, but the chicken arepa didn’t actually land for Kane, nor did the “understated” roast chicken — at least until a generous ladled of truffles came out. Likewise, a “mega-portion” of foie gras on brioche fared well, seemingly due to its sheer size, but the tuna tartare merely tasted “contemporary” despite looking “like it time-traveled from 1988.” While Gimenez may have built up his cult following through cheerfully low-budget pop-ups, features like the lack of computer system — which may have seemed quaint a couple years ago — give Francisca’s “a sense of amateurishness” that doesn’t fit with the price of the entrees.
Bare Knuckle Pizza
In the East Bay, Express contributor Janelle Bitker meets community-college-professor-turned-pizza-hustler-and-vegan-champion Viet Nguyen, the proprietor of Bare Knuckle Pizza, a tiny counter spot in Oakland’s Chinatown. Despite the small size, Nguyen has two “nearly identical” menus: one for vegans and one for omnivores. Bitker says she’s never seen such an extensive list of vegan pies and there’s a actually vegan alternative to every single ingredient, from the mozzarella to the pepperoni.
Even better, Bitker says, the vegan pizzas cost exactly the same as their animal-based counterparts and the crust, which is wood-fired in a custom oven, “ranks among the top-tier of East Bay pizza spots.” She was particularly impressed by the vegan, gluten-free margherita which features “positively creamy” vegan cheese from the Butcher’s Son and Nguyen’s “bright, not-too-sweet tomato sauce,” atop a crust that managed to avoid becoming the usual gluten-free mush. For those without dietary restrictions, Bitker recommends the straight up pepperoni pie or the homage to Paulie Gee’s with honey, prosciutto and gorgonzola.
- Evan & Sarah Rich’s RT Rotisserie enriches Hayes Valley [Chronicle]
- Big heart guides Moshi Moshi’s big menu in a changing Dogpatch [Chronicle]
- Mr. Pollo Cult Figure Manny Torres Gimenez Reaches Higher at Francisca’s [SF Weekly]
- Bare Knuckle Pizza in Oakland is a New Destination for Vegan Pizza [East Bay Express]