Restaurant Review

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 »

Mythic pizza

Gialina
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paulr@sfbg.com

The perfect pizza, like its near relations the perfect golf shot, the perfect holiday, and the perfect sentence, is an apparition of memory. We all have some recollection of a pie (or three-wood from the rough to within 10 feet of the pin) that achieved sublimity. We might have eaten this pie in Rome or Naples, on Chestnut Street or Columbus Avenue, or even in our own kitchen. Read more »

Golden nugget

Ziryab
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paulr@sfbg.com

New restaurants, like trees and kings, have a way of rising from the remains of fallen ones: the restaurant is dead, long live the restaurant. This only makes sense. In the typical hermit-crab situation, a kitchen of some kind is already in place, there might also be some serviceable tables and chairs, and the permit jabberwocky will be slightly less daunting. Easier all the way around.

But this is not the only means of passing fortune's baton. Read more »

Upside Woodside

Bella Vista Continental Restaurant
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paulr@sfbg.com

"Are we on the San Andreas Fault?" my companion asked uneasily as we stepped from the car and stood looking at the Bella Vista Continental Restaurant, lit up like something out of a Hans Christian Andersen tale in the soft winter gloaming. "No," I said. Read more »

The sushi house rules

Barracuda Sushi
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paulr@sfbg.com

An old rule of prudence teaches that you should never eat raw oysters in a month whose name doesn't have an "r" in it — from May to August, more or less — the warm-weather months elevating the danger of spoilage. Rain and cold do present their inconveniences and discomforts, but they are also balm in the matter of seafood, most of which is delicate and turns bad easily if the temperature starts to rise. Read more »

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 »