Restaurant Review

Amber India

Gratifyingly spicy and carefully prepared dishes keep SoMa diners coming back for more
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paulr@sfbg.com

Whatever you think a tony Indian restaurant might look like, you're probably not picturing Amber India. On the other hand, if you're wondering what a tony Indian restaurant smells like, you probably already know: it smells like the regular kind, which is to say, it smells of curry. Read more »

Andalu

Though its name recalls a region of Spain, the commanding corner restaurant's menu of small plates is surprisingly and delightfully global
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paulr@sfbg.com

Before small plates go the way of the brontosaurus and the leisure suit, I thought I should look in on Andalu, which has held down the corner of 16th and Guerrero streets now for the better part of a decade and was one of the progenitors of our much-discussed "global tapas" trend. Read more »

Good Pizza

A culinary and literal beacon for the Tim Burton-like corner of Seventh and Mission streets
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paulr@sfbg.com

Are hotel restaurants second-class citizens? Do they fly coach? Not all of them, certainly, in this city: several of our grandest restaurants, including Masa's, Campton Place, and the Dining Room at the Ritz-Carlton, are in (grand) hotels. Still, the hotel restaurant, as a general proposition, gives a brief shiver. One has the abiding suspicion that these enterprises serve a captive audience consisting of out-of-towners — people here for conventions or conferences, or maybe just plain old tourists. Read more »

Cossu

A little night music
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paulr@sfbg.com

Having spent many months — too many months — watching presidential aspirants address television cameras from cavernous halls, I stepped into Cossu recently and found it oddly familiar. The restaurant is cavernous, and it even has a spotlit stage, although not for presidential candidates or other bloviating politicos but live musical acts. It also, until recently, was called Pasha.

The place has changed hands and changed chefs, according to one of our servers, and it's even (we were reassured) been redecorated. Read more »

A long look

Long Bar on Fillmore Street impresses with good (but not too fancy) food at reasonable prices
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paulr@sfbg.com

If you're old enough to remember Loongbar — and I'm too polite to ask — you might experience a moment of confusion about Long Bar. You might wonder if there's a familial connection, and why did the name of the restaurant split in two (some kind of verbal mitosis?), and what happened to the other O? But ... no worries, as the Aussies say. Read more »

Chinafornia

Dishes at Kathy's California Chinese Cuisine have a north-China look with western US influence, complemented by an old world Vienna atmosphere
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paulr@sfbg.com

The specter of linoleum haunts the neighborhood Chinese restaurant. Many of us have paid visits to these purgatories, where the food is tasty and cheap but the lighting is harsh and fluorescent and the flooring looks as if it had been laid down, without much love, during the Eisenhower administration. One ponders this trade-off, wondering, in particular, whether it's inevitable. Then one goes to Kathy's California Chinese Cuisine and finds an answer.

Rumors of Kathy's' culinary excellence had been reaching me for some time. Read more »

My kingdom for a dumpling

King of Dumpling in the Sunset is a fresh revelation of handmade deliciousness
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paulr@sfbg.com

As kingdoms go, Kingdom of Dumpling is a rather Lilliputian affair — a runt, actually, if that word can be used in conjunction with "kingdom." Dumplings are small objects, of course, even the Bavarian ones made from potatoes, also known as knödel, and they seem even smaller when described in the singular. Kingdom of Dumpling? Is there only one kind of dumpling, or only one permitted per customer, or (our worst-case scenario) only one of one kind permitted per customer? Read more »

Flaming in the Castro

A new branch of Brandy Ho's offers spicy, wood-smoked Hunan treats in the Castro's human aquarium
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paulr@sfbg.com

At Brandy Ho's newish outpost in the Castro District, the fuchsia-colored paper place settings are embossed with the image of a chili pepper. For spice freaks, this is the equivalent of the famous blinking boob in North Beach — the neighborhood that is the home of the original Brandy Ho's, which turns 30 next year. Let us meditate on the complex irony of all this.

People in the vicinity of their 30th birthdays often find themselves with procreation on the brain, so perhaps it isn't so surprising that restaurants sometimes develop a similar fever. Read more »

Little Delhi

Favoring curry
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paulr@sfbg.com

Manhattan joke: a part of Murray Hill, along Lexington Avenue in the '20s, is known as Curry Hill because of its profusion of Indian and Pakistani restaurants. Even if you hadn't heard the joke, you would probably recognize the neighborhood's scent: no cuisine I'm aware of has a stronger or clearer olfactory signature. (Backyard barbecuing might deserve an honorable mention.)

We have our own Curry Hill, but it's on Nob Hill, which pretty well mutes the word play, if not the scent. Read more »

Chan Chan can cook

The chefs at Chan Chan Cafe Cubano work their island magic with Cuban favorites
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paulr@sfbg.com

One is tempted to say that Chan Chan Café Cubano is authentically Cuban, but one has no idea, really. These days it is easier for Americans to visit Albania than Cuba, which, after nearly 50 years, remains sequestered behind the rusty remains of the iron curtain. Maybe Barack, if he manages to fend off the dazzling Republicans — he a grizzled ex-maverick with recurrent skin cancer, she a sporty gunner-down of wolves from helicopters (Tail Gunner Sarah?) — will rethink the wisdom of our Cuba policy. Read more »