Restaurant Review

RN74

Rev up that Renault, gourmands: Michael Mina's new venture takes a highly accessible road through French-influenced cuisine

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paulr@sfbg.com

DINE As we wait for someone to open a restaurant called Highway 29 — the ultimate Napa Valley wine-country spot — we are comforted in the knowledge that we already have RN74. You are absolved for not knowing that RN74, the road, is the Highway 29 of Burgundy. It runs south from the provincial capital of Dijon to Beaune, in the heart of the Burgundian wine country.Read more »

Heart

Wine bar meets beer hall, with vivid small plates and intriguing meats (hearts not included).

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Art/S Global Tapas

An array of intriguing small plates from around the world -- but the riff is match, not mix

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Nihon Whisky Lounge

From tasty to tastebud-searing, playful izakaya-style small plates complement an extensive whisky selection

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Urban Tavern

Upping the gastropub ante with refined takes on vegetarian stew and fresh pretzels
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paulr@sfbg.com

DINE A cardinal rule of urban living is that hotel restaurants are to be approached with caution, especially if the hotel is a tentacle of one of the national chain monsters. Some of San Francisco's best restaurants are in hotels, but those hotels tend to be chic and boutique-y. In the bigger, blander establishments, you're likely to find yourself eating cioppino from a hollowed-out round of sourdough bread while the whole restaurant spins slowly, like a sideways Ferris wheel in some sad circus.Read more »

5A5

Reinventing the steakhouse with subtle attention to beef and uncommon accompaniments

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Specchio

Mirror, mirror: Specchio offers stylishly traditional north-Italian cooking in an ultra-modern Mission setting

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paulr@sfbg.com

Success brings penalties as well as rewards, and if you are a successful cuisine in America, one of the penalties involves banality. Banality is the essence of mass culture. You are Italian food and everybody loves you, but Chef Boyardee puts you in a can and sells you from Wal-Mart shelves, and (just a bit higher up the shame scale) you can find yourself being dished out in hackneyed versions in hackneyed settings, squishy cannelloni in bland Bolognese sauce at quaint spots with tabletop candles set in empty bottles of cheap Chianti.Read more »

Bin 38

Hetto heaven! Bin 38 raises plate composition to a high art, with beautiful colors, textures, and arrangements

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paulr@sfbg.com

DINE If we agree that the Marina District is a sort of Castro District for heterosexuals — the het ghetto, or hetto — it should follow that food in the neighborhood's restaurants is something of an afterthought. Restaurant food in the Castro has long been a swamp of mediocrity (though there are signs of improvement), and restaurants in the Marina have likewise tended to be more about convenience, speed, and affordability — like refueling race cars — than an experience in their own right.Read more »

Tuba

Adding a Turkish note to the restaurant roundelay at 22nd Street and Guerrero

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A score or so years ago, the corner of 22nd and Guerrero streets was one of the gastronomic hotspots of the city. (A score, as we will all recall from our civics class parsings of Lincoln's Gettysburg Address, is 20 years.) On one corner stood, from 1989, Arnold Tordjman's eclectic and imaginative Flying Saucer, replete with neon flying saucers in the windows, while across the street was Robert Reynolds' Le Trou, which from the early 1980s offered a monthly rotation of regional French cooking. By the early 1990s, a glam trattoria called Mangiafuoco completed the triad.Read more »

Baker and Banker

Gifted wife-and-husband duo bring a seasonal and eclectic menu to an impeccable Victorian space

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"Banker" might not be the most auspicious word to attach to yourself in these parlous times — people used to rob banks; now it seems to be the other way around — but what if it's your surname? In a series of small ironies and convolutions, you're a chef not a banker — a chef named Banker, Jeffrey Banker — and you're married to a baker named Baker (Lori Baker), and you open a restaurant. The restaurant is called Baker & Banker, which sounds formidably institutional. Read more »