Restaurant Review

Shack chic

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paulr@sfbg.com
The crab shack is a species of restaurant indigenous to the Gulf and Atlantic coasts of the United States, and so in these Pacific parts is something of a rarity. Back East, crab shacks tend to be found near beaches — my first experience of one was at Rehoboth Beach, Del., in the summer of 1987 — and to emphasize freshness and immediacy over elaborate preparation. Read more »

The reflecting pool

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paulr@sfbg.com
A chicken-and-egg — or maybe fish-and-roe — problem: do neighborhood restaurants tend to reflect the character of a neighborhood or does a neighborhood take its cues from its restaurants? The answer is probably both, since that is usually the answer to such trick questions, but in general there is more of the former than the latter, I would say. The truly revolutionary restaurant, the place that makes a startling announcement of intention on a street of sameness, birds of a feather flocking together, is fairly rare. Read more »

Mood elevation

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paulr@sfbg.com
Among proper names that suggest height or loftiness, few have a grander pedigree than Ararat, the moniker of the mountain or mountain range where, according to the book of Genesis, Noah's ark was supposed to have made landfall after riding out the flood. Today's Mount Ararat, a volcano rising nearly 17,000 feet above sea level, lies in northeastern Turkey, near that country's borders with Iran and Armenia. Read more »

Aslam's Rasoi

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paulr@sfbg.com
If Rasoi, a gently fading South Asian restaurant on the tumultuous Valencia corridor, had collapsed altogether in the face of last year's Dosa challenge, shock would probably not have been the general reaction. Dosa (which opened last fall with a South Indian menu) was and remains the new wave, and its swirling, youthful crowds would not seem out of place at the entrance to a popular nightclub. Read more »

To be continued . . .

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paulr@sfbg.com
Time's arrow flies in only one direction, pace Martin Amis and Captain Kirk, and with this verity in mind we should probably be more careful than we are about distinguishing between a progression and actual progress. The former is inevitable and constant, the ticks and tocks of the clock; the latter is neither. Read more »

Town and country

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paulr@sfbg.com
It is safe to say that when city people talk about going on a jaunt to the country, the country they are talking about going on a jaunt to qualifies as the country mostly by virtue of not being the city. Jaunters are not proposing to leave civilization; city people do not drive to Healdsburg on a tranquil Saturday afternoon in June, braving bridge traffic and 101 traffic, so that they can milk cows or pull weeds at a biodynamic winery. Read more »

The road to Mecca

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paulr@sfbg.com
Judging a book by its cover might be a sin, but how about judging a restaurant by its name? In most cases this is probably at least premature, if not quite a sin, though the name Mecca presents a strong temptation. Here we have a restaurant that opened a decade ago on a stretch of mid-Market that wasn't exactly Shangri-la; the neighbors included a Ford dealership, one of the tattier Safeways, and, a bit later, the sex club Eros. Read more »

Morphology

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> paulr@sfbg.com
The popular imagination supposes that restaurant writers are Olympians, dispatching thunderbolt justice to places that scorch their garlic (a sin smellable from several blocks away) or fail to refill the water glasses, or whose restrooms are in a state of untidiness that would make the White Glove Lady shriek. But the real powers of restaurant writing, at least as I have understood it, are more subtle and have to do with bringing attention to worthy spots that might otherwise languish unnoticed. A kind word or two might help a small place breathe — or not. Read more »

Island in the sun

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paulr@sfbg.com

Of the great Mediterranean islands, Sardinia is probably the least well known. Crete has its Minoan past and the mythic connection to Atlantis, Sicily its mafiosi; Corsica was the birthplace of Napoleon but Sardinia is best known for lending its name, after a fashion, to a small member of the herring family, the sardine, which is abundant in the island's waters and usually ends up being salted, boiled in oil, and packed in tins for export.Read more »

Umlaut with that?

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paulr@sfbg.com

A friend from LA said, upon stepping into Lettüs Café Organic, "I feel like I'm back in LA. On Rodeo Drive somewhere." Ah, Rodeo Drive, home of the Polo Store, haunt of Nancy Reagan. Lettüs isn't quite the kind of place where you'd expect to see Mrs. R. Read more »