Restaurant Review

Caffe Bella Venezia

Hostel territory
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paulr@sfbg.com

The world traveler might arrive in some strange foreign city eager to find enlightenment at the table — to suss out the city's most interesting and revealing restaurants and ponder the cultural clues they offer — but first there is the matter of jet lag. The world traveler has an urgent need for a good night's sleep and perhaps a meal that's somehow authentically local but not too difficult: not too expensive or far away or served at a place that's difficult to get into. Read more »

Quixote's Mexican Grill

A fire in the blood
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paulr@sfbg.com

Literary nerds will note a slight irony in the naming of a Mexican restaurant after Don Quixote — a.k.a. Alfonso Quixano — the touchingly quixotic unhero of Miguel de Cervantes's novel El Ingenioso Hidalgo Don Quixote de la Mancha, first published in Spain in 1605. The novel has nothing to do with Mexico, though Mexico has plenty to do with Spain, beginning with a shared language and faith and including a certain goriness in cultural mythology. Read more »

Weird Fish

Strange magic
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paulr@sfbg.com

The fishing-out of the oceans, like all disasters, has produced its share of odd delights. Fish that were considered junk a generation ago — monkfish, grouper, skate — suddenly didn't look so shabby when cod and bluefin tuna became scarce. Today's weird fish is tomorrow's lovable fish, mostly because it's still there. But these little discoveries of necessity tend to end up amplifying the problem, as species go from being overlooked to sought after and thus overfished. Read more »

David's Kitchen

The magic pan
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paulr@sfbg.com

In the kitchen of David's Kitchen, a tiny restaurant in the Sunset, you will find David. The kitchen is of the semiexhibition sort, viewable from the snug dining room through a rectangular aperture that looks as if it once might have housed a picture window or maybe a large plasma flat-screen television. Was this space once home to a sports bar? David is David Chang, a native of China who opened the place with his wife, Terri, about four years ago. Read more »

Piccino Cafe

Speck and sexy
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> paulr@sfbg.com

Although restaurants can be, and often are described as being, sexy, they aren't really sexy in that way, the people way. So far as we know, and for reasons that I need not get into, they don't actually indulge. Which means that Piccino Cafe, a petite jewel of a restaurant that opened a few months ago on a quiet Dogpatch side street between the furies of I-280 and Third Street, cannot be the love child of, say, Universal Cafe and A16. Read more »

Scott Howard

The men's club
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> paulr@sfbg.com

As an aficionado of the men's-club look, I was swept into Scott Howard as if into some beautiful dream. Beyond the set of fluttering drapes that shield the host's station from errant breezes blowing near the front door lies a world of coffee- and tea-colored wood (floor, table and chairs, wall trim), gently dim lighting, a slightly sunken floor like that of some kind of arena, and a brilliantly backlit bar standing against one wall like a sentinel.

But ... Read more »

Esperpento

A theater of the absurd
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paulr@sfbg.com

Spanish food may have struggled for recognition in this country and will almost certainly never be as well loved as its near relation, Italian cooking, but in the last decade or so the Iberian peninsula has given us at least one big present: the tapa. Tapas, the little plates that could, are so big now that they're often not even remotely Spanish: we find Cuban and nuevo Latino and even American versions, while small plates from other cultures end up being called "tapas" for convenience's sake. Read more »

UB V2?

V2
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paulr@sfbg.com

The obvious question to ask about V2 is: what about V1? What happened there? Was it an experimental version that didn't quite pan out, like one of Hitler's 11th-hour rockets? Or is it still out there somewhere? Read more »

Open city

Aperto
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paulr@sfbg.com

There could hardly be a more welcoming name for a restaurant than aperto — "open" in Italian, and Aperto is an Italian restaurant — except, possibly, Welcome. The north face of Potrero Hill is home to lots of restaurants, but Welcome isn't one of them, at least not yet. While we wait, we can wait at Aperto, which offers a handsome wooden bench outside the front door for the convenience of those whose tables aren't yet available and are too weary to stand. Aperto is small, and it is busy, and everyone seems to know about it. Read more »

Spam reconsidered

Eva's Hawaiian Cafe
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paulr@sfbg.com

We can't quite say that spam has become a blight, since it was widely unloved (except for the Monty Python bit) even before the word's great shift in meaning. Everyone hates the new spam — except, I suppose, the spammers themselves, forever importuning the e-mail world on behalf of the mysterious Fifth Third Bank — but the old spam had a good deal to say, much of it unpretty, about America. Read more »