Eater’s own Rachel Levin had a trio of meals at the Absinthe group’s latest cocktails-and-tapas spot Barcino, and came away feeling that the former outshined the latter. Don’t sleep on the patatas though, they’re quickly becoming the restaurant’s signature dish and Levin says they’re “like the largest, most delicious tater tots I’ve ever had.” One star.
Chef Ryan McIlwraith’s Spanish menu left a more lasting impression with the Weekly’s Pete Kane, however. Kane agreed with Levin’s assessment of the must-have patatas, but rated the carpaccio as “simply fantastic” and explained the fried egg-and-caviar ou was “beautifully balanced.” Likewise, the cocktails “need no fixing” and the mix-and-match gin tonic menu has both critics forgiving misfires like the overdressed potato bombas.
While Daniel Patterson is plotting the expansion of Alta Group to the east and the south, Michael Bauer filed his first review of Alta’s second incarnation in the Dogpatch. The tipless pricing scheme is “the way I wish menus would go,” Bauer says, so we know he’s on board from the start. (Although he’s still a bit surly about the 4 percent Healthy SF surchange.)
Bauer says chef Matt Brimer’s dishes are “interesting” with “unexpected touches” but the neighborhood apparently hasn’t caught on to the kitchen’s high quality yet. The local crudo is “excellent” and “fully embellished”, while the heirloom tomato salad lets Brimer “show his artistry” with arranged anchovies. Likewise, the meat dishes are “lavishly crafted” and the $17 Alta burger has already jumped onto Bauer’s favorite burgers list. With a lunch menu of “reasonable, rib-sticking deals” like braised beef over brown rice and cleverly concocted low-ABV cocktails, Bauer sees the same “trailblazer” potential that Coi had in North Beach or Haven (soon to be an Alta) had in Jack London Square. Two and a half stars.
On Bauer’s quick-service “Between Meals” food blog, he’s singing praises of Mi Almita, the latest concept at Mina Test Kitchen. Bauer agrees with Eater critic Bill Addison that Mina’s collaborator, Houston chef Hugo Ortega, is “one of the best chefs in the country,” and the five-course prix-fixe clearly shows off his talent and ability. Plus, it’s “a bargain at $39.”
Meanwhile, in Hayes Valley, Bauer explains why Dobbs Ferry is absolutely not going on the Chronicle’s Civic Center neighborhood guide this year: it and “a couple other established places” in the neighborhood “seem indifferent to serving good food.” Moroccan newcomer Khamsa and two-year-old Hawaiian spot Aina, on the other hand, were both deemed “worth checking out.” (Aina’s must-try item: Kiawe-smoked char siu ribs.) And, on 24th Street, Bauer says The Roosevelt (née Roosevelt Tamale Parlor) “may not be the best Mexican you’ll find,” but it’s satisfying nonetheless.
Finally, with the recent surge in omakase openings, Bauer has listed his favorites. In no particular order: Sasake, Ijji Sushi, Wako, Ju-Ni, Hashiri, Kenzo, Kinjo, Delage, Sushi Hon.
Pete Kane also ventured east to “Burmese hole-in-the-wall” Grocery Cafe to see what all the fuss is about. The place built up a cult following before county building inspectors forced it to close, but the new location is just “characterless and generically upscale,” Kane says. Likewise, the food is “good,” in the critic’s opinion, but that’s it: “only good.”
Recommendations include “crowd favorite” tea-leaf salad or the even-better rainbow noodle salad. The mohinga was unfortunately “unremarkable and the fish was low-key” while the steak masala was similarly middle-of-the-road. In fact, everything was so mediocre that Kane left feeling like he caught the restaurant on a series of off days.
In a section of Alameda with “anonymous business parks and zero foot traffic,” Express critic Janelle Bitker finds Pacific Lighthouse, an impressive waterfront dim sum parlor that just shot to the top of her list of dumpling houses. While the standbys like siu mai and har gow “perform well,” Bitker says, exploring the rest of the hard-to-find menu items is what makes the meal. Zhongshan-style pork dumplings, scallop and shrimp seafood dumplings and an East Bay take on Tim Ho Wan’s crispy char siu bao all get high marks, even if the service falls short.
On Oakland’s Lakeshore Avenue, Bitker also checked out the “low profile,” “laid-back” and homey Moroccan Palace. After playing around with Italian and American take-out, owners Lani Hamam and Imane Akhbiriq have finally landed on a menu of traditional Moroccan meals where “the quality is high, the meats tender, the couscous light, and the sauces refined.” Bitker was “thoroughly impressed” by the beef tajine, as well as a chicken version with preserved lemon, but the zaalouk salad with eggplant and roaster red peppers garnered a “heavenly” rating. To shake up the tajine-couscous combo, Bitker also recommends the chicken bastila sweet-savory meat pie and to end your meal with the ritual mint tea.
- Alta MSP takes a chance in Dogpatch with something for just about everyone [San Francisco Chronicle]
- Barcino takes over the Boxing Room [SF Weekly]
- Grocery Story: A Cult Favorite Reopens In Jack London Square [SF Weekly]
- Pacific Lighthouse Serves Dim Sum with a View [East Bay Express]
- A Taste of Morocco in Oakland [East Bay Express]