Restaurant Review

Mussel systems

Aqua
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paulr@sfbg.com

When last we looked in on Aqua, the prospect seemed rather marbly and banklike, and the menu included paella. Paella is not a dish you should order even at most Spanish restaurants, let alone at a high-end seafood house, but a member of my party went ahead and ordered it anyway — in the heedlessness of youth — and was afterwards disappointed. Read more »

Lemongrass and old grease

Rasha Restaurant
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paulr@sfbg.com

The Bad Planner's Guide to the Galaxy is a little thin in the Valentine's Day section. It could be that the Bad Planner isn't very romantic, or it could be that the Bad Planner just isn't a very good planner — doesn't get on the stick weeks or months in advance to make restaurant reservations the way our society's many compulsive, air-traffic-controller types do. The result is often, on the enchanted evening in question, an interlude of sweaty panic: Where to go? Who will have us at the last minute? Read more »

See you in Assisi

Ristorante Umbria
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paulr@sfbg.com

Umbria is the center of Italy, pretty much, and that isn't an easy thing to be. The country has an unconcentric shape, for one thing: a long, booted shank poised to kick a lumpy ball called Sicily, with aloof Sardinia looking on and a curious glanslike flaring in the north, where the peninsula's long-ago collision with the rest of Europe raised the Alps. Italy is, like California, hot, snowy, mountainous, and flat; it is a land of butter, rice, pancetta, tomatoes, basil, and olive oil. It is close to Switzerland and Africa. Read more »

En plein air

Cole Valley's Zazie
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paulr@sfbg.com

If every neighborhood needs a neighborhood bistro, then every neighborhood bistro needs a neighborhood. And is there a neighborhood in the city more charmingly neighborhoody than Cole Valley, the little hamlet tucked in a cleft of the hills near UCSF and fitted out with every romantic accoutrement, from a railway station (Muni's N-Judah line stops at Cole and Carl after emerging from a mysterious tunnel) to a sunlit boulangerie with well-worn floorboards? Read more »

A Tale of two malls

Out the Door and New Filipinas
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paulr@sfbg.com

Whether euphemism is entirely a separate language or just a dialect, we need translational efforts to understand what is really being said in its slippery idiom. When foreign ministers tell the media they have enjoyed "frank and cordial discussions," we peek behind the fluttering veil of words to see that they bitterly argued and threatened each other. Read more »

Eat Global

Pres A Vi
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paulr@sfbg.com

As a fellow traveler of the Luddites, I am obliged to treat the phrase "digital arts" — as in the Letterman Digital Arts Center, in the Presidio — with some skepticism. Of course I have a cell phone and a computer, a pair of digital apparatuses, and I do regard them as essential to life as we know it — as essential tools. Tools are servants, and although they are not devoid of value, their value is in their usefulness. Read more »

Let them eat pancakesi

Toast
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paulr@sfbg.com

Not too many years ago, the intersection of Church and 30th streets had a distinctly end-of-the-line, Hooterville flavor. It was there that Muni's J-Church streetcars ran out of track and had to turn themselves around for the voyage back to Market Street. Read more »

Monkey see

Koh Samui and the Monkey
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paulr@sfbg.com

One of the funniest bits of post-dot-com cultural effluvia was a television ad in which a crestfallen yuppie keeps replaying a video of a CNBC broadcast announcing a NASDAQ of 5,000. Read more »

The Boulevardiers

Eureka Restaurant
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paulr@sfbg.com

There are certain doors one steps through only every quarter-century or so, and for me one such door is located in the heart of the heart of the Castro, at 4063 18th St. I've been up and down that hyperkinetic block many times across the intervening years, but the last time I actually set foot in the door, it belonged to a restaurant called the Neon Chicken, which served some of the better food in the Castro. Read more »

The art of the cart

Regalito Rosticeria
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paulr@sfbg.com

The romance of street-cart food might not be high romance, but it is romance and does cast its spell, particularly in big, rich cities — like ours — with elaborate infrastructures of fancy restaurants and a concomitant epidemic of some as-yet unnamed cultural autoimmune disorder that attaches inordinate worth to the prosaic.
Street-cart chic reflects, I would say, a recognition among the high rollers that immaculate table linens and Limoges china aren't all there is to the gastronomic life, that occasionally a little mayonnaise running down the sleeve is in order, though mayb Read more »