Restaurant Review

Urban Tavern

Upping the gastropub ante with refined takes on vegetarian stew and fresh pretzels
|
(1)

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

|
(0)

Specchio

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

|
(0)

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

|
(1)

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

|
(0)

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

|
(0)

"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 »

Cafe Prague

Huge platters of Bohemian food like goulash, roast duck, sauerbraten, and plenty of dumplings

|
(0)

DINE When in Prague, one would naturally try to eat as Praguers do, and in my experience, this means lots of pizza. The city, as a physical artifact, is a gothic dream, a fantasy of spires, castellations, and cobblestones worthy of Walt Disney. And being sealed up in the aspic of communism for 40 years actually enhanced these charms. When Milos Forman was looking for a place to film Amadeus, his 1984 movie about Mozart in Vienna, he settled on Prague as the setting because it had changed so little since the 18th century.Read more »

The Richmond

Elegant California cuisine in an unusual setting filled with nooks and draped with curtains
|
(0)

On the list of life's most perplexing questions, Where can I find a quiet restaurant? is rising fast. Increasingly I find myself presented with — even beseeched by — this inquiry, and increasingly I fumble. It's not that there aren't any, but their numbers seem to be dwindling, like those of book-readers or subscribers to newspapers. So when I find one, I am elated — quietly, of course.Read more »

Schmidt's

Doing right by traditional German cooking -- with plenty of schnitzel and spätzle
|
(0)

Schmidt's, which opened last summer in the heart of the Mission District's latest trendy-food zone, would appear to be an offspring of Hayes Valley stalwart Suppenküche, but its parentage is actually traceable to Walzwerk. Suppenküche has a blond-wood look that seems to be part ski chalet and part beer hall, while Walzwerk conjures the spirit of contemporary Prenzlauerberg, the Berlin (once East Berlin) neighborhood where urban chic has bloomed amid war-ruined buildings. Read more »

Guns 'n' rosés

|
(0)

If you like Beretta - and Beretta is very likable - you'll likely like its younger sibling, Starbelly. I wonder who is thinking up the names in the Beretta folks' briskly expanding universe of restaurants. "Beretta" makes me think of guns, while "Starbelly" sounds like a spoof of Spaceballs, Mel Brooks' epic spoof of the Star Wars franchise.Read more »