Restaurant Review

Nights of the round table

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paulr@sfbg.com
If, like me, you associate the letters K and L with wine — as in K and L Wines — you might have to do some expectation adjustment when you step through the doors of KL Restaurant, a Hong Kong–style seafood house in the westernmost Richmond. Despite the heavily maritime menu, the only alcoholic drink on offer is beer, and the only beer is Heineken. No Tsingtao? Not even Sapporo or Tiger? Unheard of. Not that there's anything wrong with Heineken.
The restaurant's winelessness did not come as a complete surprise. Read more »

Sea rations

Alamo Square Seafood Grill
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paulr@sfbg.com
One of the stronger arguments for vegetarianism is variety: there are far more kinds of vegetables and ways of preparing vegetables than there are meats and ways of preparing meat, even if you eat mutton. (And know where to get it.) Fish and seafood too are more various than meats — or at least they have been. Read more »

Love child

The downhome joys of Front Porch
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paulr@sfbg.com
At the Front Porch, you will find a front porch. It's not the kind of porch you'd see at Grandma's house, with the bug screens and the swinging lounger; it's more a big-city version, a covered sidewalk garden casually set with small tables and Adirondack chairs — an alfresco waiting room for those waiting to score a table inside. Read more »

Got capsicum?

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paulr@sfbg.com
With time, one finds oneself bidding fond farewells to one's spicehound friends. Oh, nothing changes too dramatically, except that bit by bit (or bite by bite), onetime fire-eaters lose their taste for the thrill of capsicum. Certain alluring foods of yore — chili, pepperoni pizza, Mongolian beef — start to cause problems, especially if eaten too near bedtime. You still go out with them, your spicehound pack, but when they point at this or that on the menu, wondering which dishes are spicy, they are plotting routes of retreat now, not angles of approach. Read more »

Charm latitudes

Cafe Claude
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paulr@sfbg.com
Presidents are so seldom intentionally funny that when a genuine wit makes it to the Oval Office, we (the people!) tend to notice and remember. As a quipster, John F. Kennedy is without peer in modern times, and while his crack that Washington, DC, is "a city of Northern charm and Southern efficiency" might not be his best line, it's still a pretty good one — not to mention useful for certain latter-day restaurant writers, who admire the deftly phrased paradox while being perennially fascinated by the truth embedded in it. Read more »

Mild to wild

The Mandarin comforts of Ah Lin
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paulr@sfbg.com
"Mandarin" is a word that suggests a certain grandeur or even haughtiness. Mandarin English is the language of such pompmeisters as William F. Buckley Jr., George F. Will, and all those other East Coast bow-tied toffs with Roman numerals after their names. As for mandarin food: if you are enjoying this style of Chinese cooking, you must sit up straight, keep your napkin in your lap, and not eat with your fingers. Can you see Buckley or Will eating pot stickers with their fingers?
Perhaps that is a needlessly nightmarish image. Read more »

In the family way

Lombardi's Fine Foods
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paulr@sfbg.com
When last I saw John Lombardo, proprietor of Lombardo's Fine Foods, he was hurrying along the sidewalk outside the windows of his recently expanded Mission Terrace operation — a café now adjoins the catering kitchen — on his way home to ... change the baby's diapers? He had revealed to us his domestic mission, with apologies and having first checked to make sure we were satisfied with our food, and it is some measure of how satisfied we were that I forgot why he said he was rushing forth almost as soon as he'd said why. Read more »

Watch on the Rhine

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paulr@sfbg.com
If San Francisco were Europe, Divisadero Street would be the Rhine: the heavily traveled commercial artery that crosses a jigsaw puzzle of (sometimes) quarrelsome fiefs, duchies, and principalities on its way north or south. In this paradigm I make the stretch of Divis from California to Geary, more or less, to be our Alsace-Lorraine, the six-of-one, half-dozen-of-the-other province long the subject of a tug-of-war between greater powers. Read more »

Camp Hip

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paulr@sfbg.com
Everybody seems to love Thai food, but the oohing and aahing is generally confined to the cooking. You don't hear much about the stunning designs of Thai restaurants. In one sense, this is just fine; good food is its own reward, and overclever interior decoration can lead to sensory overload. Read more »

A lover's lane

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paulr@sfbg.com
Of the top 10 questions I am most often asked about restaurants in the city, the top two by far are “Which is the best?” and “Which is your favorite?” Since "best" is a snake pit of competing considerations and unacknowledged biases, I am happier with the second, which is all about acknowledging one's biases — about being in touch with the inner bias. For me, it is also far easier to answer, since my favorite restaurant in the city, the one I have recommended to inquiring minds for more than a decade, is Hawthorne Lane. Read more »