Digesting The Reviews: Non-Restaurants Are So Hot Right Now

Michael Bauer hit a pair of city favorites this week. On Sunday, he doled out a generous trio of stars for CAV Wine Bar, the restaurant/wine bar right next door to Zuni Cafe. Bauer, initially reluctant to recognize Pamela Busch’s California-cuisine-laden wine bar as a legit restaurant (a reluctance that, after one visit, made him “embarrassed [that his] radar hadn’t picked up CAV sooner”), eventually finds nothing but praise to heap upon the hidden Hayes Valley gem:

The food is excellent, and the professional, efficient service adds icing to the cake. The staff knows the menu, so on each visit I put the server in charge of pairings. At least 30 wines are offered by the taste or the glass, including more than 50 after-dinner options. The 18 countries represented make a fascinating list, one the staff is so proud of that no outside wines are allowed to be brought in.Three meals, three winning experiences. I feel remiss in not reviewing it sooner. But now that you know about it, raise a toast to Pamela Busch and her crew.

It seems that everything hit a high note with Bauer, from the “sublime” wine list to the seared squab on a pad of scrapple (“one of the most memorable small plates I’ve encountered”). Make your reservations now. [SFGate]

The Carnelian Room and more, post-jump!

With his quota for progressive dining experiences full for the week, Bauer then took a trip to one of the city’s landmark restaurants, the venerable Carnelian Room . In stark contrast to the CAV though, the Carnelian Room’s breathtaking view could not save it from its decidedly uneven fare:

A pink sunset washed over the horizon just as our first courses arrived – a very good gratin of white asparagus with truffles and flakes of pecorino cheese ($14) and a trio of soups ($11). The cream of artichoke featured loads of tender hearts and leaves, and the lobster bisque was rich and buttery. The ginger-lemon grass consomme with finely diced mince of carrots, however, had a harsh aftertaste that was partly quelled by a generous sprinkling of salt … By the time the sun went down, we were on to our main courses. Unfortunately, they sounded much better than they tasted, although each had great elements. Pan-sauteed duck breast ($29) was nicely cooked and fanned over spinach and bright bursts of fava beans. The orange balsamic glaze, however, would have been better with a more subtle sweetness. (Can somebody please lock up the balsamic?)

Nonetheless, the Carnelian Room’s shortcomings were still enough for a solid 2.5 stars, and the fact of the matter remains that it is still “a special-occasion place, and the breathtaking view ensures a memorable experience.” [SFGate]

Elsewhere, Carol Ness marvels at how far the Dogpatch has come with the opening of Piccino, Paul Reidinger gets hostel at Caffe Bella Venezia, L.E. Leone braves yuppies at Toast and some Chowhounds discuss the Iron Chef “Battle Garlic” menu at Incanto.

Digesting The Reviews: Non-Restaurants Are So Hot Right Now