Given his status as the city’s most influential critic, Michael Bauer’s annual Top 100 Restaurants is the kind of list that many might regard as definitive and unimpeachable. Mr. Bauer himself admits that there are a number of solid restaurants he had to knock off, simply because he had too many worthy contenders. While we won’t expend much energy dissing the perennial members of this list who are perhaps up to less interesting things than a number of newer contenders, we need to give a shout-out to the five most obvious omissions from our point of view.
1. Bar Tartine — Bauer himself loves the joint, and we’ve never had a meal there that wasn’t top-notch. Also, the service is generally terrific and the wine list is always interesting, so why is this place not on there and House of Prime Rib still is?
2. Marlowe — It may simply be too new to have grabbed Bauer’s attention, but chef Jennifer Puccio does amazing things with chicken, and brings a lot of class and more than a little whimsy to her casual menu.
3. Commis — Only the Italian end of the spectrum in Oakland’s burgeoning food scene seems to have won Bauer’s respect (also, what of Brown Sugar Kitchen?), and his lackluster review of James Syhabout’s food at Commis shows us that such high-end experimentation in a minimalist vein may not be his deal. But many people love this restaurant — it won Oakland’s very first Michelin star, something that can’t be said of next-door Bauer fave Bay Wolf — and perhaps it’s about time Kauffman stopped over there and gave the review-reading public a second opinion… Oh that’s right, he did, and he says it approaches “sublime.”
4. Fifth Floor — The restaurant hidden within the Palomar Hotel may have known headier and more buzz-happy days back in the early aughts, but the place probably deserves a re-visit from Bauer. Chef Jennie Lorenzo has a deft hand with French, Asian, and New American cuisines that results in a number of winning dishes, as well as a Michelin star in 2010. Also, bar manager Jacques Bezuidenhout and sommelier Emily Wines both bring their high-end expertise to a great fine dining experience.
5. Saison — 2010 Rising Star Chef Josh Skenes is the only one of his rising star ilk whose restaurant isn’t on Bauer’s list. Does the three-night-a-week (soon to be four-night-a-week) restaurant lose out because they aren’t open five or six nights? We call bullshit.
Also, what about Orson, or Starbelly? We’ve never totally understood Bauer’s preferences for Tipsy Pig and Beretta, but in our book, Elizabeth Falkner’s pizzas and inventive desserts, and Adam Timney’s pizzas, sandwiches, and entrees make these no-brainer choices.
And what about Gather in Berkeley, which Bauer seemed to like recently, or any number of neighborhood gems which he likely hasn’t had time to revisit in years? We could go on, but we’re sure you will in the comments and elsewhere. Have at it.
The Top 100 Restaurants in the Bay Area [Chron, new list goes live Tuesday, April 6th]