Restaurant Review

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 »

Zazang Korean Noodle

A nice change from Korean BBQ, featuring homemade noodles and spicy black bean paste
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paulr@sfbg.com

The words "Korean" and "barbecue" might never be woven into an eternal golden braid to compare with Gödel, Escher, and Bach, but they are definitely interwoven, perhaps even fused. When you say you want Korean food, you almost certainly will be understood to mean the kind served at the barbecue joints that line Geary Boulevard in the blocks just east of Park Presidio. Read more »

Bruno's Pizzeria Cucina

Bruno brings everyone's favorite Italian savory pie to the Fillmore historic jazz district
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paulr@sfbg.com

What do pizza and jazz have in common? Why, two z's, of course — the pair of identical twins that also appears in such exciting words as nozzle, nizzle, pizzle, pazzo, and cazzo. Put these all together and shout them from the rooftops and you'll have quite a riff, if not quite a jazz riff. For music, play ZZ Top. Then run from the obscenity police.

Other than that, pizza and jazz go together like ... well, they don't actually go together. There is no connection I know of. Read more »

Grand Pu Bah

Honey, I torched the chicken: Thai street food gets gussied up with California touches
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You might think, with today’s endless parade of television cooking shows, that the dining public’s appetite for a theatrical restaurant experience might be whetted. But mostly this does not seem to be the case. Oh, we have plenty of display kitchens, and soufflés finished tableside, and occasionally you might happen upon on a cheese cart, or a foie gras or champagne cart. Read more »

Tropisueno

Outsized taco cart by day, high-energy urban cantina in the evening: Tropisueno is a Mexican dream
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paulr@sfbg.com

Tropisueño's resonant name hints at dreams, but you won't be doing any dreaming there. In the evenings the restaurant — it's a kind of urban cantina — catches fire like a piece of newsprint and blazes up into a fabulous, if noisy, party. Read more »

City Grill

The Noe Valley spot's nouvelle American menu nods to the traditional while offering excellent modern dishes
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paulr@sfbg.com

At this moment — at the cusp of spring — the most happening restaurant in Noe Valley is Contigo, which opened early in March in what had been a computer store. The crowd promptly swooped, with a thickness and intensity not seen in the neighborhood since the launch of Fresca nearly four years ago and without, it seems, much in the way of worries about the economic meltdown. You step into Contigo, find yourself against a wall of chattering people, and step out. Read more »

Bar Johnny

More than just bar food -- memorable, eclectic, and priced for value
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paulr@sfbg.com

Until quite recently, you did not often see the word "bar" associated with food-serving establishments in this part of the world. Hungry people slipping into Bar X for a bite were most likely in Europe, or the pages of a Somerset Maugham novel, not on the streets of San Francisco. Read more »

Spicy Bite

Fragrant Indian standards at affordable prices in an easy-to-take location near Bernal Heights
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paulr@sfbg.com

We all have our little weaknesses, and one of mine is any form of the word "spice." "Spicy" is a particularly potent variation, since in common usage it doesn't mean well-spiced in a general sense, with nutmeg and clove — like carrot cake or mulled cider — but flavorfully hot. If some dish is described as spicy, whether shrimp or French fries, I am going to have a hard time staying away from it. And if a restaurant has the word "spicy" in its name, I am going to have a hard time staying away from it, too. I am all ears. Read more »

Colibri

A bistro that transcends the taqueria, expanding the Bay's definition of Mexican cuisine
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paulr@sfbg.com

The biggest shadow hanging over many a pre-theater dinner is anxiety about getting to the show on time. Will the service be prompt, is there time for dessert, where is the check, can we cover four blocks in two minutes? The human element in these sorts of situations is always incalculable, but it does help if your pre-theater restaurant is across the street from the theater. That's brick-and-mortar reassurance. And if we're talking the Geary Theater and Colibrí Mexican Bistro, I mean right across street. Read more »