Restaurant Review

Flour + Water

Humble ingredients spun into wonderful, slightly exotic pastas and well-blistered thin-crust pizzas
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paulr@sfbg.com

In an era when the naming of restaurants resembles the naming of Japanese cars — the ideal being a single, elegant, mysterious word like "Incanto" or "Lexus" — it seems rather daring to give a new place such a defiantly plain, yet weirdly complex, name as Flour + Water. One suspects that the idea is to suggest simplicity and forthrightness, but a certain austerity is also implied — not to mention the ubiquitous ness of flour in this country. We eat way too much flour, too much of it white and refined. It silts up our insides. Read more »

Aicha

Are tagines the unicorns of the food world? This Moroccan spot turns them out with authentic flair
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paulr@sfbg.com

The tagine is something of a unicorn in the kingdom of food. Many people will recognize the word as referring to a stew of Moroccan or other north African provenance, but it also refers to the pot in which the stew is cooked. And, though you may be an inveterate Moroccan-restaurant-goer, chances are you've never seen the tagine pot in its full glory. Read more »

Farallon

Quietly sophisticated "coastal cuisine" in a Captain Nemo-like, underwater-fantasy setting
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paulr@sfbg.com

Since restaurants tend to age in dog years, a restaurant that reaches its 12th birthday — like Farallon — might be called venerable. Read more »

Bar Bambino

An eclectic Italian menu, seasoned with playfulness, that rewards nibblers and grazers
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paulr@sfbg.com

Heresy is the true spice of life, and it was with this thought in mind that I sat one evening in Bar Bambino, a two-year-old wine bar in a most unlikely location — a heretical location? — and had a beer. The beer was a Moretti but also dark, a La Rossa. I'd never before seen Italian dark beer, either here or in Italy, and, truth be told, I didn't know the Italians even brewed dark beer. The party of the second part, a beer skeptic, reached across the table to take a sip from the large, shapely goblet.

"Mmmm! That's good!" was the verdict. Read more »

Terzo

The look of a monastery designed by Mies van der Rohe and an eclectic Mediterranean menu that speaks in a slight Italian accent
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paulr@sfbg.com

Fish might not need bicycles, but does a restaurant with an Italian name need pasta? Terzo does offer fish on its menu — and pasta too, though rather glancingly, considering that many of us would put pasta right at the center of Italian cuisine. But despite the name — "terzo" means "third" in Italian and is meant to suggest the public spaces where people gather when they're not at home or work — Terzo isn't quite an Italian restaurant. Read more »

Fly on Sutter

The second iteration of Fly has a pool-hall feel with a friendly quasi-American menu
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paulr@sfbg.com

Although Brick shuffled off this mortal coil toward the end of April, it did leave part of that coil behind, in the form of an impressive brick wall. That wall now belongs to the city's second iteration of Fly and remains the dominant physical feature of the space, along with stretches of purple paint and hangings of wall art fashioned from bottle caps that glint in the changing light.

In good times and bad, the death of restaurants isn't unusual. Read more »

Contigo

California gloss added to a solid Catalán base coat -- resulting in the authentic hubbub of a tapas spot
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paulr@sfbg.com

For a small restaurant, Contigo is physically complex. As you enter, you glide along a six-seat food bar at the edge of a display kitchen, while beyond the host's checkpoint opens a two-level dining room enclosed by white oak banquettes, like the remains of a Viking ship. (The wood was actually recovered from a Connecticut barn.) One sidewall consists of a bank of stainless-steel refrigerators, standing at attention like troops awaiting review; opposite is another bar — smaller, emphasizing wine, and partly recessed in the manner of a church nave. Read more »

Two

Chapter Two
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paulr@sfbg.com

When Hawthorne Lane became Two late in 2007, I quietly mourned. The original restaurant had been, from its opening in 1995, one of my very favorite places in the city — none better — and when you are sitting on top of the world, where is there to go but down? The idea of attracting a younger clientele made a certain steely-eyed business sense; nearby Bizou had become Coco500 largely for this reason, so there was precedent. Read more »

Nopalito

Carefully made, Mayan-influenced Mexican food in a mod, if unlikely, setting
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paulr@sfbg.com

Nopalito might or might not offer "far and away the best Mexican food in the Bay Area," as a hyperbolic toot harvested locally and posted on the restaurant's Web site contends — I say not — but the food is very good. The menu card, moreover, gives a brisk tutorial in the persistence of Indian language and culture in Mexico and is worth scanning just as an intellectual artifact. Read more »

Waterbar

A sea-centric menu that's full of flair and, although not cheap, isn't killingly expensive either.
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paul@sfbg.com

Waterbar is, obviously, a seafood house, but it doesn't shout this fact in your face. The building is handsome in a generic way, and the interior décor is notable mostly for its artful blend of bustle and hush. Read more »