More than two years after his initial review of the Perennial, Michael Bauer returned to Anthony Myint and Karen Leibowitz’s high-concept dojo of sustainability for an unstarred check-up. On his first go-round, Bauer had mixed impressions that added up to a two and a half star review. While he initially felt the concept could be “at times… painfully politically correct,” he also saw opening chef Chris Kiyuna “finding his groove and standing tall” amidst all the restrictions. Now, with Myint and chef Michael Andreatta handling the kitchen duties, the restaurant proves “diners don’t have to give up pleasure to help reverse climate change.”
The beef tartare was “intense,” the viola and rue sorbet was “refreshing,” the vegetable barbecue “will make vegetarians rejoice,” and the pork medallions will be just as exciting for the carnivores, Bauer says. Although the tofu panna cotta turned out “chalky,” overall the restaurant has gained confidence and appeals beyond its activist roots.
Comal Next Door
Berkeley’s upscale Mexican mainstay Comal has a new fast-casual little sibling called Comal Next Door, Bauer writes in another unstarred Between Meals column this week. Comal’s head chef Matt Gandin runs both kitchens, so the quality — and the carnitas — “easily makes the move” to the smaller, taqueria-style setup. At Comal Next Door, the burritos are “fully realized” belly bombs, a single taco order is substantial enough to split into two, and the sizeable tortas should satisfy most appetites, especially when paired with the “always excellent” chips and salsas. For the always budget-conscious Bauer (and the legions of college students who make up the restaurant’s clientele) that’s all the restaurant needs to “hit all the right notes.”
In the Castro, the Weekly’s Pete Kane went to the newest location of Palo Alto Indonesian favorite INDO for martabak, curry and duck kapitan. Martabak, a Yemeni version of samosas, are “almost like little, triangular beef Wellingtons,” Kane writes, and they should kick off any dinner inside the “low-key,” “dark and subdued” space. Although the prices are steeper than INDO’s predecessor Mekong Kitchen, Kane says there are “strong contenders” in the noodle section and the seafood green curry might be good enough make you switch from your favorite neighborhood takeout spot. The “most intriguing” dish, however, was the aforementioned duck dish with confit bird leg and kaffir lime sauce that provided “a great anchor” to the meal.
In Oakland, Express critic Janelle Bitker swooped through the highly anticipated Temescal outpost of San Francisco’s Marufuku Ramen to find what might be “the best Hakata-style ramen in the entire East Bay.” Marufuku’s 20-hour tonkotsu is an “incredibly creamy, rich broth” that “tasted luxurious without feeling heavy or overly salty,” Bitker says, and the accompaniments — from the scallions to the ceramic bowl itself — were “well thought-out.” The only downside was the “not particularly memorable” pork belly itself.
On the other hand, the paitan ramen — tonkotsu’s chicken-based relative — was “even more impressive,” Bitker notes, while pointing diners to the deluxe version that comes with a sizzling grilled chicken leg to balance out the milky broth. Looking out for the vegans in the audience, Bitker also probes manager Yuki Sakakibara for the secret to his off-menu but “stellar” vegan ramen. Made primarily from boiled Chinese cabbage, veggies and soybean oil, the vegan broth arrives just as milky and “rich in mouth feel” as the two meat-based versions. With a text message waitlist system that makes the line much more bearable, Bitker concludes “it’s hard to argue” with Marufuku’s results.
- The Perennial makes environmental activism taste good [San Francisco Chronicle]
- Comal Next Door hits all the right notes [San Francisco Chronicle]
- Borneo Again, at INDO in the Castro [SF Weekly]
- Marufuku: New Oakland Ramen Royalty [East Bay Express]