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The Critics Are Split On Bar Crenn’s Swanky Food and Matching Prices

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Also: Michael Bauer rediscovers the city’s original fast-casual chicken joint

Pink scallop with caviar from Bar Crenn

Bar Crenn

Eater SF’s own Rachel Levin was floored by Dominique Crenn’s “opulent, dimly lit” and “impeccably done” wine bar. While it might be “the most romantic place to sip a pamplemousse negroni,” the Michelin-starred restaurateur’s decision to categorize it as a wine bar has critics like Levin and fellow critic Esther Mobley over at the Chronicle reeling from sticker shock. The $65 wine pairing charge felt especially egregious to both critics, who were expecting more than three half-pours from a supposedly wine-centric restaurant. The food on the carte blanche tasting menu pays homage to legendary french chefs and is as beautiful as you’d expect from a Crenn production, but Levin still left hungry and two-hundred dollars poorer after the “most divine Madeleine of my life.”

Still, the sum was greater than its parts: Despite some adjustable issues like price and air temperature, the experience was worth three stars for Levin, although Mobley thinks your splurge-dining budget would be better spent at Petit Crenn, where you won’t have to eat around a coffee table.

Il Pollaio

The hush you’re hearing around the Chronicle’s Food + Home section is the calm before the impending drop of the Top 100 Restaurants list, scheduled to arrive this week. After much self-reflection in the wake of the #MeToo movement, readers will finally learn whether Michael Bauer believes restaurants run by sexual harassers are essential to the Bay Area’s dining scene. [Update: It’s live.] In the meantime, Bauer visited a wholly uncontroversial spot for an update review: North Beach’s original fast-casual chicken joint Il Pollaio. After nearly 35 years of serving up grilled birds and rabbits, the family-run business still has good food, “warm and familial” service and portions that are generous enough for the neighborhood cops.

Pasta Pop-Up

While in North Beach, Bauer also swung through Francesco Covucci and Peter Fazio’s generically named Pasta Pop-Up, where the prices are reasonable, the menu is “concise and to the point,” and everything hits “all of the trend buttons.” The housemade, locally sourced, sustainable pasta dishes are all “really, really good,” Bauer says, and the rustic Bolognese was better than any Bauer tasted on his four-day research trip to Bologna last year. Service is “a little scattered,” but that’s easily overlooked when there’s $8 wine on the menu. Two and a half stars.


In the Tenderloin, Pete Kane finds a teeny, somewhat upscale Yucatecan-style taqueria at Papi’s, where the pozole is life-giving, the low-ABV margaritas are “excellent” and the takeout business is apparently thriving. Although the guacamole “tasted mostly like the refrigerator,” the shrimp, fish, carne aside and al pastor tacos were are all “equally worth ordering.” The real standout, however, is the duck confit, available in quesadilla, taco or the “heavenly-sounding” burrito option.

Tay Ho

In the Oakland’s Chinatown, Janelle Bitker waded into Tay Ho’s 60-item menu to find some regional Mekong cuisine among the restaurant’s bounty of Vietnamese dishes. Highlights included a “gorgeous” cha cá lã vong fried catfish with umami-rich pineapple and anchovy sauce, the bánh khot turmeric cakes and the “wow factor” item: catfish curry served inside a coconut. Arrive early for lunch if you want to be sure to get a table and a shot at the bánh cuôn noodle rolls.

Il Pollaio

555 Columbus Avenue, , CA 94133 (415) 362-7727 Visit Website

Bar Crenn

3131 Fillmore Street, , CA 94123 (415) 440-0460 Visit Website