Restaurant Review

Farina Focaccia and Cucina Italiana

The watch zone
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paulr@sfbg.com

Imagine a restaurant situated inside a bottle of sparkling water, and you will have a working sense of Farina Focaccia and Cucina Italiana, the latest entry along 18th Street's burgeoning food row in the Mistro. The Italians, in their inimitable way, refer to sparkling water as con gas, and Farina is an Italian restaurant — a Ligurian-influenced restaurant, to be precise, which means it's not quite a head-on rival to Delfina, a few steps away. Read more »

The Dining Room

How the Ritz-Carlton saved civilization
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paulr@sfbg.com

Ritz sounds a lot like rich, and you might well catch a glimpse of some rich people as you make your way toward the Dining Room at the Ritz-Carlton, where you have taken care to make a reservation. You might see them, financiers and captains of industry with entourages of family, debouching from black Lincoln Town Cars in front of the hotel, a colonnaded fortress of marble that sits like the Parthenon on an outlier of Nob Hill. Read more »

La Salette

Gettin' figgy
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paulr@sfbg.com

Is Portugal the most isolated country in Europe? It's certainly competitive. It is the sidekick land of the Iberian peninsula, itself a geographical curiosity barely connected to the rest of the continent by a mountainous isthmus. Iberia's big bruiser is Spain, of course, and the Iberian siblings are strikingly similar in language, history, and of course, cuisine. But whereas Spain looks both outward to the Atlantic and inward to the Mediterranean basin, much of which it ruled not so long ago, Portugal looks on the Atlantic only. Read more »

Kabul City

Dinner at the Blowback Café
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paulr@sfbg.com

War, although unfortunate in almost every way, can pay some ex post facto dividends in foodland. (Emphasis on post.) Would we have the Slanted Door today if misguided policies founded on ignorance and false premises a half century ago had not led us into Vietnam? War creates refugees, and if the war is an imperial one, the refugees allied with the imperial power tend to seek refuge in the home territory of that empire — homeland is the homey term we use today — often bringing with them little besides culinary knowledge. Read more »

Essencia

Welcome to Perufornia
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By Paul Reidinger

paulr@sfbg.com

The name "Anne Gingrass" carries a certain magic in San Francisco culinary circles, but it's a name that will no longer do. Gingrass was the Spago-trained chef who, with her then-husband, David Gingrass, opened Postrio in 1989, as a prelude of sorts to launching their own place, Hawthorne Lane, six years later. Somewhere along the way, the marriage broke up — not an unfamiliar story among restaurant couples — and earlier this year Gingrass remarried. Read more »

Canton Seafood and Dim Sum Restaurant

What's in a sign?
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paulr@sfbg.com

If children should be seen but not heard, and writers should be read but neither seen nor heard, what does this tell us about restaurant signage? Certainly that it should be seen and, ideally, read. Signage isn't everything, but it tells us a lot about a place even before we step inside. If signage is going to be conspicuous, it ought to be stylish, as at Dosa and Ziryab, and if it's going to be inconspicuous, as at many of the highest-end places around town, then the place had better be so good that we'll find it despite the lack of a beckoning beacon. Read more »

Patisserie Philippe

Le deli
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paulr@sfbg.com

Most of us have our favorite bistros, boîtes, bakeries, and pubs — but patisseries? That seems a little precious, and maybe hard to pronounce. And fattening, since patisseries are all about pastries, and pastries are all about — or largely about — butter and eggs and sugar, with some flour and yeast thrown in, not to mention chocolate, more often than not. Read more »

Myconos

Opa!
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paulr@sfbg.com

Our town, for all its glories, does have its little shortages here and there. We are, in particular, not as rich as some of the bigger cities in the "littles" and "towns" that give those great metropolises their distinctive scents of ethnic potpourri. Oh, we do have a Chinatown and a Japantown, and our Little Italy can be found living under a pseudonym in North Beach. Read more »

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 »