For Eater, our own Rachel Levin visited Alembic to see how James Beard Rising Star nominee Rachel Aronow was handling the kitchen at the Haight’s longtime craft cocktail haven, the Alembic. The menu had “more downs than ups,” Levin writes, and garnishes from the restaurant’s 1,00-square-foot urban garden added an unnecessary sense of “in-your-face” fussiness to many of the dishes. But, as one of the city’s “craft cocktail” forerunners, you really can’t go wrong with the drinks. Order the charcuterie, the never-gonna-leave-the-menu jerk spiced duck hearts, the brussel sprouts or the fall squash veloute, “a soup fit for birds — and I liked it.” One star.
Charlie Palmer Steak
For the Chronicle, Michael Bauer checked out the current scene in downtown Napa, where his local pals have become happy hour regulars at chef Charlie Palmer’s latest hotel restaurant, the eponymous Charlie Palmer Steak in the Archer hotel. But Bauer’s friends might not be the best gauge of what’s in vogue, food-wise, it turns out. As the critic notes, it “seemed as if some of the food, or at least the plating, was a decade behind the times.”
Large, rectangular plates smeared with purees not only look dated, Bauer says, but they crowded out the utensils on the table and everyone — diners and servers alike — ends up spending “an excessive amount of time rearranging tabletops” and it’s “obvious that the people who conceived this restaurant must not have actually dined here.” The traditional steakhouse sides were all hit-or-miss, as was the pleasant yet “robotic” service, but the $75 Snake River Farms Wagyu strip steak managed to be “a everything a steak should be.”
Despite the corporate vibe and the “too generic” food, Bauer is giving Charlie Palmer Steak a generous two and a half stars, assuming you only order the seafood platter, that $75 strip steak with a side of fries and one of pastry chef Jason Collins’s desserts. Or, if you’re doing Napa on a budget, the three course, $35 lunch menu is “a great and reasonably priced way to spend a few hours in the valley.”
While making his Top 100 rounds, Bauer also stopped to highlight chef Suzette Gresham of Acquerello. Even though she’s only one of two female chefs in the Bay Area with two Michelin stars, Gresham’s name often gets left off the list of local female food luminaries and Bauer says she Gresham deserves recognition for building a restaurant that “successfully bridges generations.”
Over those 30 years, Gresham has created so many specialties “they could fill an entire menu on their own,” Bauer says, and she keeps things fresh by tucking away old standards like cuttlefish spaghetti and pasta with foie gras as off-menu add-ons. For $195, however, Gresham’s 10-course mix-and-match tasting menu is “one of the best bargains in San Francisco” Bauer says and showcases the “wide-ranging talent” of the chef and her kitchen staff. By the time pastry chef Riccardo Menicucci’s dessert course has come and gone, Bauer is ready to be carried out of the restaurant on the sweets cart.
Dosa by DOSA
For the Weekly, Pete Kane went fast-casual this week at Dosa by DOSA in Uptown Oakland. With a slimmed down menu, the titular street food is on full display here and Kane says he couldn’t find a fault with any of the dosa on the menu, but highlights the tamil lamb and the roasted chile garlic as top picks. To fully experience the playful vibe, however, Kane recommends bringing a couple friends so you can crowd your table with the cheese-stuffed naan (“feels superior to virtually every quesadilla on this Earth”), the idli fries and a bucket of Chennai fried chicken that makes “a nice alternative to all the Korean fried chickens and buttermilk dredges around town.”
In West Berkley, Express critic Janelle Bitker reviewed Standard Fare’s daily-changing sandwiches on a tip from a fellow sandwich monger. Chef-owner Kelsie Kerr makes only two options a day, one vegan and one omnivorous, but as she explained to Bitker, “I have all sorts of philosophies about sandwiches because I don’t really like sandwiches.” In addition to the focaccia-like bread that serves as the base for her takeout items, the former Chez Panisse chef rolls out a daily soup, salad and lunch special that is true to the Alice Waters vision and “always a fully composed, multi-component, balanced meal at a quality far higher than you might expect for the price.” And if you live in the neighborhood, Bitker recommends popping by on the early side for one of Kerr’s pastries, especially the “outrageously soft, gooey yet light,” Saturdays-only sticky bun.
- Despite the Alembic’s Ambitious Menu, Cocktails Remain the Star [Eater SF]
- Charlie Palmer Steak brings surf and turf to downtown Napa [San Francisco Chronicle]
- Chef Suzette Gresham bridges classic to contemporary at Acquerello as it nears 30 [San Francisco Chronicle]
- Fast-Casual Done Right: Dosa by DOSA’s Idli Fries and Chennai Fried Chicken [SF Weekly]
- Standard Fare Provides a Low-Key, Chef’s Table Experience [East Bay Express]