Welcome to 2019, in which retired SF Chronicle critic Michael Bauer is still writing restaurant reviews. Though he seemingly dropped the mic on his 32-year SF tenure with a four-star review of Michael Mina in September, the critic has published his first post-Chron writeup focusing on one of SF’s hottest tickets, Angler from chef Joshua Skenes.
In what is his second piece for the publication, the Journal of Alta California, Bauer, already a fan of the “primal” tasting menu at three-Michelin-starred Saison, paid a visit to Skenes’ new Embarcadero restaurant, where he found “a cheeky mix of casualness and formality,” and declared that “Angler is Saison on steroids.”
“Many dishes live on the edge, creating an exhilarating experience,” writes the critic, who uncharacteristically didn’t seem to mind the “1980s music pumping from the sound system” in the dining room.
The new quarterly magazine and website — whose publisher is newspaper heir William R. Hearst III — publishes reviews in various genres, from fashion to music, books, and, of course, food. Past food reviews are from a variety of authors, and include a takedown of In-n-Out, and an Los Angeles ice cream company; there’s no indication that Bauer will become a regular contributor. According to the website it’s “a paean to California,” that “will provide literate, interesting coverage of the Golden State.”
It’s unclear if the previously “anonymous” critic reviewed the restaurant undercover, though its impossible that his visit went unnoticed. Like, actually impossible, considering that the critic’s face was already burned into the minds of most SF chefs, many of whom are still recovering from Bauer’s three-decade-long reign.
The critic went on to recommend other fire-driven restaurants, including Cotogna, Che Fico, and Birdsong. Bauer hasn’t publicly commented on what his next moves will be, but he did say “I’m not calling it retirement,” saying he’d pursue freelance and might write a book when he left SF’s paper of record. If his latest review is any indication, though, he’s not planning to give up the ghost anytime soon on criticism.
Meanwhile SF Chronicle’s fresh-faced new critic, Soleil Ho, has already reported for duty; stay tuned for her first review, which is expected to drop soon.