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Wednesday, April 20, 2011

My, What a Good Time They're Having at Leopold's

Posted By on Wed, Apr 20, 2011 at 3:54 PM

This is the boot. You're supposed to pass it around the table, though most people don't. - LARA HATA
  • Lara Hata
  • This is the boot. You're supposed to pass it around the table, though most people don't.

For this week's restaurant review, I visited Leopold's in Russian Hill -- not only was I curious about Klaus and Albert Rainer's Austrian-Italian food, but I'd talked to several people since the place opened who had enthusiastically described the food and the prices.

They weren't wrong. While the Italian influence wasn't as strong as the initial media blitz suggested, Leopold's has turned out to be as solid as Suppenküche and Schmidt's, the food perhaps a little lighter on the palate. What I hadn't expected was the scene. The place has two kind of patrons: Those who are interested in the food, and those who want to drink two liters of beer out of a giant glass boot. So far, the only downside is that the communal table in the center of the room is torture to sit at. That the restaurant can leave both sets of customers satisfied -- if unable to walk, for different reasons -- is testament that the Rainers have hit their mark.

Leopold's: 2400 Polk (at Union), 474-2000,

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Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Ten Dine About Town Meals That Look Pretty Good to Me

Posted By on Tue, Jan 11, 2011 at 4:15 PM

Isa's duck breast is on the restaurant's DAT menu. - BRIAN L./YELP
  • Brian L./Yelp
  • Isa's duck breast is on the restaurant's DAT menu.

Dine About Town, which starts up again Jan. 15-31, is on its tenth year. Ten years! The prix-fixe promotion was launched in the middle of the dot-com bust, and has only gained in popularity through a second boom and bust cycle. Even in the Groupon era, it remains beloved (with customers, if not waitstaff). More than a few participating restaurants pack their dining rooms in two of the deadest weeks of the year.

My review calendar is full enough that I rarely take advantage of the promotion, but today I pored over all the menus posted on the Dine About Town site to see which ones looked the most appealing. Some of the restaurants don't advertise their specials ahead of time, and dozens more follow the standard template of a salad followed by a cheap entrée and a cheap dessert.

Here are ten of the prix-fixe meals ― some two-course lunch meals for $17.95, some three-course dinners for $34.95 ― that caught my fancy, either because they departed from the template or because I can never get enough of pappardelle with braised meat:

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Thursday, December 30, 2010

Kauffman's Top 10 New Restaurants of 2010

Posted By on Thu, Dec 30, 2010 at 9:45 AM

Ippuku's yakitori: totally on the list. - LARA HATA
  • Lara Hata
  • Ippuku's yakitori: totally on the list.

Tuesday, SFoodie posted a list of the 2010 restaurant closures that hurt the most. Today brings the yang to the yin: a list of my 10 favorite new restaurants. (Hey, since everybody's doing it...) I've provided commentary enough about the state of the restaurant scene in print and on the blog, so I'll just leave you with a list of the restaurants that served my most memorable meals this year, followed by a few addenda and the necessary disclaimers.

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Monday, September 20, 2010

Is This PR Campaign Genius or Idiotic?

Posted By on Mon, Sep 20, 2010 at 12:16 PM

This was fun for about 20 seconds, and then our arms got tired.
  • This was fun for about 20 seconds, and then our arms got tired.
As much as the SF Weekly tells PR people we don't write about things we don't buy, unsolicited samples and tchotchkes deluge the paper's offices ― more bottles of cheap wine than a Tenderloin corner store, enough T-shirts to clothe a Hungarian village.

Friday's haul set off a fierce debate. Waiting for two of us at our desks that morning were four-foot-long, four-pound mailing tubes, each containing a piece of wood with some paper nailed to it: A bourbon-barrel stave from a beer company advertising a new aged beer. What in the #$^@ do I do with a piece of charred wood? I began the day's rant with. Someone spent $15-$20 to mail me a piece of junk that is just going to go into the trash.

Then the marketing staff came over to inspect and proclaimed the stunt genius. "It got your attention!" they countered, pointing out that the stave has a presence, a heft, a smell that an e-mail wouldn't.

So which is it? Brilliant or a waste of money? And do you want these? Because they're still going in the trash.

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Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Jonathan Kauffman Eats at Viva Goa, Wonders What 'Authentic' Means

Posted By on Wed, Sep 15, 2010 at 5:22 PM

Viva Goa's malabari jinga. - NILOFER M./YELP
Fuck authenticity, a word used ― in the context of food we approve of ― like Vaseline on memory's lens. When it's food we don't exactly like, it can be a cudgel. But what can ever be "authentic" about a cuisine re-created 5,000 miles from its source, with fish, meats, and vegetables that can't be remotely right? That's the Jenga puzzle Jonathan Kauffman ponders in today's "Eat" column at SF Weekly: Should Viva Goa ― the new Goan-cuisine restaurant on Lombard, steeped in the cooking of southwest coastal India ― be dinged for distorting the region's traditional flavor profiles, or admired, at face value, for the dishes it does well? Ponder along with Kauffman at

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Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Jonathan Kauffman: Hog and Rocks Avoids Most Dude-Food Clichés

Posted By on Wed, Sep 1, 2010 at 12:37 PM

Hog and Rocks manages to straddle the eat-drink divide. - DAVID E./YELP
  • David E./Yelp
  • Hog and Rocks manages to straddle the eat-drink divide.
In today's "Eat" column, SF Weekly restaurant critic Jonathan Kauffman traces the rise of places that straddle the line between food and drink. Kauffman:
Something is shifting in San Francisco. The secret cabal that sets our food trends has decreed that every new restaurant have an ambitious cocktail program. What with this diktat and the lingering influence of 2005's gastropub fad, the city is seeing a wave of places trying to be bars and restaurants at the same time.
Enter Hog and Rocks, a collaboration between Maverick's Scott Youkilis and bar guy Eric Rubin. Where Youkilis could easily wallow in dude food ― bar food's easy fallback, thick with wings and sliders ― the chef pushes farther, curating a multiculti selection of hams, alongside vivid salads and other dishes. And even though some of Youkilis's bistro efforts fall flatter than a bro who's pounded one Jameson shot too many, Kauffman finds enough to like here. Follow along at

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Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Get Your Earbuds Ready: Jonathan Kauffman to Appear on KQED's Forum Tomorrow

Posted By on Wed, Aug 25, 2010 at 5:25 PM

After eight months as SF Weekly restaurant critic and SFoodie blogger, Jonathan Kauffman has tweaked the tenor of Bay Area food coverage with his writing voice. Tomorrow on KQED's Forum radio chat show, he'll attempt to do the same with his speaking voice. Kauffman joins Forum host Michael Krasny tomorrow at 10 a.m. to talk restaurants ― he'll be joined, we hear, by Tablehopper Marcia Gagliardi. Should be stimulating.

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California Through the Foam: Jonathan Kauffman Checks Out Sons and Daughters

Posted By on Wed, Aug 25, 2010 at 4:33 PM

Foam party: Sons and Daughters' porcini noodles with teensy turnips. - AL Z./YELP
  • aL Z./Yelp
  • Foam party: Sons and Daughters' porcini noodles with teensy turnips.
Tired of the same old dichotomy that places Northern California's farm-to-table cuisine far form the glossy geometry of so-called molecular gastronomy? So are we. So is Jonathan Kauffman. In today's "Eat" column, SF Weekly's food critic finds two young chefs using the tricks of the latter to burnish the pleasures of the former. Kauffman rolls into two-month-old Sons and Daughters, where Teague Moriarty and Matt McNamara harness foams and powders to make the dewy harvest of farm-centric ingredients even dewier. Kauffman:
They are two guys in their 20s with cooking-school hubris and modest résumés -- stints as private chefs, European internships, Moriarty's sous-chef position at Grégoire in Berkeley -- yet their cooking has a polish many long-timers never achieve. Like most chefs working in this vein, they've taught themselves about techniques like spherification (putting a liquid into round shapes) and sous-vide (cooking at low temperatures in vacuum-sealed bags) by studying cookbooks from restaurants like Alinea and the Fat Duck and by befriending the staff from Le Sanctuaire, the nearby molecular-gastronomy supply store.
Read the review. Then scroll through Kauffman's extra-credit Q and A with chefs Matt McNamara and Teague Moriarty.

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Ten Things Other Than Ice Cream to Eat Today

Posted By on Wed, Aug 25, 2010 at 8:45 AM

This $2 bag of cantaloupe with chile, lime, and salt saved my life yesterday. - STEPH P./YELP
  • Steph P./Yelp
  • This $2 bag of cantaloupe with chile, lime, and salt saved my life yesterday.

1. Bun (cold rice noodles) with grilled pork and a lemon soda at PPQ (1816 Irving, 661-8869).

2. Melon, pineapple, or cucumbers doused with chile, lime, and salt from the frutero cart at 21st and Mission.

3. Fresh fruit ice pops from Mandarina 535 Octavia (at Ivy), 861-5661.

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Monday, August 23, 2010

When Pink Ice Cream Isn't Gay Enough: Tranny Smackdown at Humphry Slocombe

Posted By on Mon, Aug 23, 2010 at 10:21 AM

One. Tranny. Mess. - JONATHAN KAUFFMAN
  • Jonathan Kauffman
  • One. Tranny. Mess.
Last night, the corner of 24th Street and Harrison transformed into 110 percent queer space: A rainbow arch of balloons. A DJ spinning crackety-queen house. A Beach Blanket Babylon star in a giant pink dress. A waifish sailor in dress whites. Jane Wiedlin of the Go-Gos. Dolled-up drag queens ― when two or three of you gather in our name, Suppositori Spelling always appears. 

All this was Humphry Slocombe's way to honor Big Gay Ice Cream Truck's Douglas Quint, in town from New York for the day to participate in the SF Street Food Festival conference. Quint was in full relax mode, drinking beers and chatting with the crowd; one woman showed up in one of his T-shirts, earning herself an extra-big hug.

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