The French Laundry
The parts of Thomas Keller’s restaurant empire that aren’t in Yountville, California may have lost some of their four-star sheen over the past few years, but Michael Bauer is confident that Keller’s flagship is only getting better with age (and a recent high-profile remodel by the same firm that did the SFMOMA). Eater National’s Monica Burton has all the context on Bauer’s enduring love affair with Keller and TFL.
Juanita & Maude
In the East Bay, Express critic Janelle Bitker headed to Albany where owners Scott Eastman (Corso) and Ariane Owens have brought “an unparalleled level of sophistication” to the local dining scene with Juanita & Maude. While the menu changes daily, Eastman incorporates Japanese ingredients, Eastern European traditions and “fantastic” Italian dishes to create something completely unique.
Take, for example, the gnocchi that was “bathed in a deeply savory Umbrian wine sauce” and dressed up with pancetta. Despite all the hefty-sounding ingredients, the dish “showed admirable restraint” and Eastman lets the “pillowy” gnocchi do the talking. (Ditto the hand-rolled malloreddus in lamb ragu.)
Eastman’s careful technique also shows through in the seafood dishes like a “remarkable” black cod surrounded by mussels and chorizo, but at the same time he’s not afraid to toss an “unapologetically old-school” or “generally unsexy dish” on the menu. Rather than trying to re-invent comfort classics like chicken cordon bleu or a homey plate of meatballs, Eastman “just puts out darn good versions of them,” Bitker says. Combine that with “the most consistently great service,” she experienced in 2017, and Juanita & Maude is a modern classic with a “refreshingly old-fashioned” soul.
Another of Bauer’s longtime favorites, the “larger, more elaborate” Dosa on Fillmore Street, got an updated look for his Between Meals column. The past few years have brought a flurry of high-end regional Indian restaurants to San Francisco and even though some of them didn’t last, the cuisine itself has moved forward, leaving Dosa somewhat “lacking.”
Despite the addition of chef Arun Gupta (Gramercy Tavern), many of the dishes “went awry in the details,” Bauer says. The star dosa dish, from which the restaurant takes its name, was “was leathery rather than crisp,” the fried chicken was “overfried” and the spiced avocado chaat came out “gloppy.” The “on point” execution of the almond Ambur chicken curry, however, did give the critic some hope for Dosa’s future.
In a bonus Bauer column, the longtime food critic pulled an extra shift as the Chronicle’s book critic with a two-for-one review of Hawker Fare on Valencia Street and Chef James Syhabout’s new published work Hawker Fare: Stories and Recipes. The book, co-written by Eater contributor and James Beard biographer John Birdsall, offers a glimpse into Syhabout’s journey of self-exploration, Bauer says. The recipes, like the ever-evolving menu on Valencia Street, include regional dishes Syhabout has reconstructed from that exploration, as well as many popular Thai staples, “but here,” Bauer says, “they have a livelier spirit.”
On Valencia Street, where restaurants occasional disappear without any good explanation, the Weekly’s Pete Kane dropped by MAU to see how the Vietnamese spot was holding up after a mysterious closure at the end of last year. “MAU 2.0 has a lot of good points,” Kane says, but the restaurant is “cutting two obvious corners” when it comes to service and produce. Dishes like the five-spice chicken or the sweet and sour ribs come out feeling “homogenized” and even the $11 beef pho doesn’t have the same richness as the pho down the street at Sunflower.
But MAU has a plenty of high points, Kane notes: the low-ABV drinks are “spunky and inventive,” while the mango salad had a nice balance of heat and acidity, plus a “substantial helping” of shrimp and pork. The tiem (beef) soup was “thoroughly satisfying,” the hue rolls were “artful,” and the cha ca la vong was downright, “un-missable” with its mix of herbs, shrimp paste and turmeric catfish.
- Juanita & Maude Is an Instant Classic in Albany [East Bay Express]
- The French Laundry’s Still Got It, According to the SF Chronicle [Eater]
- Dosa on Fillmore slips but shows some promise with new chef [San Francisco Chronicle]
- Hawker Fare captures the soul of chef James Syhabout [San Francisco Chronicle]
- The Vietnamese Flavors at the Reopened MAU Keep Valencia Fresh [SF Weekly]