2021 California Food Journalism and News [SF Bay Area, Los Angeles, the rest of California and Northern Nevada]

The minute I hear the words transparency or transparent, I assume someone is lying. There’s a Belcampo near me, but I’ve never gone there because I’ve always thought that the prices were insane.

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Uncle Tito is located at 59 9th Street in San Francisco; it’s open for takeout Thursday through Sunday, 4–8 p.m., with in-person dining set to debut on June 15.

Zareen’s is on the list? While the food is pleasant, I really think the quality in the past year isn’t quite how it was when they only had the Mountain View store. So much so that after my disappointing meal last year I haven’t gone back even though I live close to it.

If Ettan is on the list, I feel very strongly that Rooh should be, as well. I like Ettan, but I personally think Rooh is even better than Ettan.

I probably shouldn’t critique the vietnamese choices of a food critic of Vietnamese ancestry. The duck congee was nice, but I never thought its enough to vault Vit Dong Que into the crowd of top restaurants.

I somewhat like the tortas at La Casita Chilanga as well, but again I am perplexed why it is a top restaurant. Call me biased, but I think the tortas from CDMX are much ‘cleaner’ in taste and don’t have to rely on an abundance of sauce.

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excerpt:

That effect is multiplied by the Oakland bar’s Wong Kar Wai-meets-“Enter the Void” aesthetic. The narrow space has hot pink lighting so dense it feels like a holographic fog, and the translucent COVID-era barriers between barstool seating and bartenders seem to be made of flattened lime Jolly Rancher candies. It’s enough to make you topple off your stool.

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D. Dai
@danielledai

·

Jun 14

Conclusion: No zongzi can compare to moms homemade zongzi, but I’d do R Bakery again for the flavorful rice or Tao Yuen for the filling. These three options were what I could find at 5:30pm on a Monday. Open to more suggestions in the future.

and the next to last reply from Melanie Wong:


m s wine
@pantrycooking

·

Jun 14

Replying to

@danielledai

Thanks for the zongzi trial in Oakland. Now you need to check out the high filling ratio, purple sticky rice version in San Francisco.

Luke on Soul Slice:

Now, Louis is turning that simple idea into a bona fide restaurant. Located at the former Noodle Theory Provisions space in North Oakland, at 5849 San Pablo Ave., Soul Slice will be a soul food restaurant first and foremost—a place for customers to enjoy collard greens and black-eyed peas, fried oysters and lemon pepper catfish. But Soul Slice’s main point of distinction is that it serves all those dishes and more on top of its proprietary biscuit crust. As a pizza, in other words. To Louis’s knowledge, it’s the first dedicated biscuit pizza restaurant anywhere in the country.

One pizza features okra, smashed potatoes, crispy black-eyed peas, mustard greens, collards and tomatoes. You can get hot links or cornmeal-crusted fried oysters on your pizza.

Soul Slice
Located at the former Noodle Theory Provisions space in North Oakland
5849 San Pablo Ave.
Oakland

The restaurant will open on Saturday, June 19

(https://soulslicepizza.com/)

The Habibi’s Birreria is just a couple of miles down the road from me. The birria is very good. Haven’t yet gotten a chance to mix it with falafel or shawarma, though.

Great article - someone already posted it but i am posting it again - sorry

At least, i love the premise, and the choice from my back yard is excellent. Few know that particular gas station in rwc spawned the entire geuellense empire. Yes i have been there and yes it is great

-b

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Soleil Ho in the SF Chronicle -

excerpt:


Critical reviews have a myriad of benefits. They’re a way to set standards and, more importantly for readers, guide diners away from restaurants that would be a waste of hard-earned money and time. In some cases, negative reviews have obvious literary value, such as with British critic Jay Rayner’s piece on Le Cinq in Paris. Here, he writes that an onion starter is “mostly black, like nightmares, and sticky, like the floor at a teenager’s party.” Others contain actionable solutions for problems: My review of Le Colonial offered suggestions to an Asian fusion restaurant that seemed to struggle with adapting its decor to the 21st century. And negative reviews can point out instances of discrimination, such as when then-New York Times critic Ruth Reichl famously donned makeup and a wig to disguise herself as an elderly woman while visiting New York City’s Gramercy Tavern. She was largely ignored, and her indignation could be felt throughout the review. Even corporate Domino’s took pains to improve its crust recipe in reaction to people mostly hating it.

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Ho may have made a minor error here - from what I can tell the famous Reichl review she’s referring to is probably of Le Cirque rather than Gramercy Tavern. (The review itself doesn’t explicitly mention the disguises, but I assume Reichl expands on the story in the book where she gives the full blow-by-blow of all her disguised personas.)

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Seems like a lot of the issue is “tone” in negative reviews, often pettiness and the desire to shred. You can offer construction criticism that is just that, honest constructive criticism without the snark. Part of the issue is the job repetitiveness and every place wants to shine, and every critic wants to carve up territory and get style points….and like all industries there’s internal gossip. My sense is the younger critics are moving away from the old snark. Partly because the restaurant critique game has changed in that they don’t carry the same weight as the past. Also crowd sourced critiques like Hungry Onion and Yelp have democratized reviews and information. People don’t depend on the big local daily for reviews any longer. If I do see a big metro daily review, I skim to get a sense but fill in my own details. I think many people do this. The pandemic simply set things into motion faster. Lots of hard and clear breaks happened during 2021.

There are also specific and general cultures at play that seem to be somewhat disapproving of negative reviews. Food boards often give me kind of a vibe that many of the posters are a little too personally invested in the ins and outs of the restaurant world. They see chefs as their heroes, especially homegrown/local ones, and can’t abide any suggestion that maybe, sometimes, their food isn’t worth bothering with. (Not unique to food boards- I’ve been on music boards like this too.)

And relative to the east coast, California generally has always come off as valuing a positive/cheery attitude at the expense of directness/candor/honesty. (See: https://twitter.com/jordonaut/status/1352363163686068226?s=19 ) So I can see why Ho might feel the need to make the case for critical reviews in the pages of the Chron.

The famous Le Cirque review was something different. It was actually a dual review: on one visit, she was treated like a nobody and on the next visit, she had been “made” as the Times reviewer and got lavish, fawning treatment, probably to the detriment of all the tables around her. I don’t know of any other review, in the Times or elsewhere, that really pulled back the curtain and showed how the two-tier system at some of these restaurants actually worked.

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The bit I could read of the Google Books preview of Garlic and Sapphires sure made it appear that Le Cirque was the place being referred to in Ho’s quote:

when then-New York Times critic Ruth Reichl famously donned makeup and a wig to disguise herself as an elderly woman while visiting New York City’s Gramercy Tavern.

In the original review itself, Reichl doesn’t mention the elaborate disguise job she did before that very early visit to Le Cirque, her first NYT restaurant review. But in the book, she does. Over several pages, she describes inventing the persona of “Molly Hollis”, a frumpy-but-wealthy retired teacher from Michigan. “Molly” and Claudia Banks, Reichl’s costume and acting consultant, go to Le Cirque and get treated like crap. Then, months later, she goes again with one of her bosses, a top managing editor, and they get the royal treatment.

(One thing that Reichl makes clear in Garlic and Sapphires is that there was no honeymoon period where she could go around undetected in New York, before she was “made” as the NYT restaurant reviewer. She was disconcerted to realize that the New York restaurant world was aware of her appearance the instant she took the NYT job and moved there from LA, and so she started disguising herself before ever even reviewing a single restaurant for the NYT.)

Both of the Reichl Gramercy Tavern reviews I came across are positive-to-very-positive; if she panned the place for treating her shabbily while in disguise, it was in an additional review I couldn’t find.

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“Food is a pretty good prism through which to view humanity.”

― Jonathan Gold