In SoMa, Michael Bauer returned to chef Mourad Lahlou’s eponymous SoMa restaurant to see how the restaurant has evolved in the past three years. Over that period, Lahlou shuttered his beloved restaurant Aziza (which will become the Spanish-Moorish Amara later this year), and focused on finding his own culinary voice at the intersection of Moroccan and California cuisines — and apparently it has paid off. On a recent visit, Bauer says, “it became clear that [Lahlou] has found his path” with menu highlights like a gem salad with urfa ash made form Turkish chiles, kanpachi with avocado and “bon bon-like” foie gras coated in mandarin gelee and coconut cream.
While every dish shows off Lahlou’s talent, Bauer says, the critic recommends opting for the family-style menu options which “show the restaurant in its best light” through dishes like a whole roast chicken with a quartet of sides befitting of the Cal-Moroccan connection. Throw in three-star service plus “fitting finales” from pastry chef Katherine Campecino and Bauer upgrades Mourad from three to three and a half stars.
The Temple Club
In Oakland, Bauer caught up with prodigal Bay Area expat Geoffrey Deetz, who has returned to the states after 16 years, 22 restaurants and one No Reservations appearance in Vietnam. “In a way,” Bauer writes, The Temple Club has become “another expat restaurant, but this one for Vietnamese who are nostalgic for their homeland.” Deetz shops for produce twice a day to find ingredients for the menu, which changes daily and aims for faithful reproductions of Vietnamese cuisine ranging from street foods to banquet dishes.
The Goi Hoi An (marinated beef served cold with green papaya and onions) stood out with its aroma that “floats to the nostrils like the mist rising from rice paddies” and combination of spice and fish sauce that “tickles every region of the tongue.” While Deetz’s award-winning pho with sour beef broth was sold out on every one of Bauer’s visits, other options like the boneless pork stew with pickled mustard greens also “captures the essence” of the fresh-and-funky Vietnamese flavor palate. Other dishes, like chicken wings glazed in black pepper and fish sauce for example, have “nearly universal appeal,” as long as you’ve got a Tiger Beer to wash it down with. Two and a half stars for Temple Club.
For the Weekly, Pete Kane admits he was wrong about George Chen’s ambitious China Live project, and the luxe Eight Tables was what finally won him over. It’s clear, Kane says, that Chen and the restaurant hope “to show up on the radar screens of visiting East Asian dignitaries” and maybe land on Michelin’s Euro-centric radar in the process.
Despite a few over-constructed or brazenly opulent “clunkers” on his visit, Kane felt the restaurant “achieves and sustains a level of excellence without interrupting the smooth pace it sets.” The black cod course, for example, paired with an evocative lily pad cocktail was a “knockout” that seems directed at the overpriced and sub-par Nobus of the world.
Enoteca Mediterraneo and CDP
In the East Bay, Express critic Janelle Bitker brings us a two-for-one wine bar review of Enoteca Mediterraneo and CDP. The former belongs to Iranian-born, Persian-Jewish chef Jamshied Basseri and is an indirect result of President Trump’s 2017 Muslim travel ban, Bitker reports. While the latter is the Commis spinoff from James Syhabout, the Michelin-starred chef still glowing from the release of his Hawker Fare cookbook.
Enoteca Mediterraneo is “a direct reflection of Basseri’s personality,” Bitker says, with “colorful, vibrant” charm and “exceedingly affordable” wines and tapas inspired by Spain, Greece, and Morocco. A warm neighborhood spot staffed by Basseri and just one helper, that’s as good for reading at the bar as it is for spending hours over a meal with friends.
CDP, meanwhile, “feels gloriously luxurious,” Bitker says, and one could easily drop hundreds of dollars on wine and caviar alone. But CDP’s charm comes from the “particularly incredible” happy hour, where everything on the seasonal menu is $9 or less — including Syhabout’s signature and “mind-blowingly delicious” slow poached egg yolk. Once paired with bread and chicken skin butter, diners can get the “a true Commis experience” at a fraction of the price.
- Mourad beautifully captures the soul of a chef [SF Chronicle]
- The Temple Club: Vietnamese food you can’t get anywhere else [SF Chronicle]
- Eight Tables Puts Any Doubts About China Live to Rest [SF Weekly]
- Enoteca Mediterraneo and CDP Deliver Two Styles of Wine Bar [East Bay Express]