The Other Critics

Ubuntu Still (Almost) As Good Under New Chef, Says Bauer

Photo: Kurt Rogers/Chron

Going by the numbers, Michael Bauer gives Ubuntu owner Sandy Lawrence just what she wanted today in his new review of the restaurant under the helm of executive chef Aaron London: three stars, with three and a half for the food, exactly the same rating as it received when he first reviewed it in 2007. Everyone assumed that the restaurant would be lost without the vegetable artistry of Jeremy Fox, who departed abruptly in February, but Bauer assures us that London “continues to provide an alternative view of how good vegetarian cuisine can be.”

The thing is, despite the stars, the language of the review is quite mild. These aren’t accolades. He calls Carl Swanson’s desserts “well constructed,” and he writes, “Both London and Swanson have a way of artfully blending incongruous ingredients.”

But of Jeremy and Deanie Fox, Bauer previously said things like “truly extraordinary” and “visionary” and “to say I was blown away… is an understatement.” He wrote that both chefs’ dishes could easily have been served at the French Laundry. Also, his earlier review was about twice as long, highlighting dozens of dishes that wowed him, and he went on to rave in other Chron pieces and blog entries.

So this leads to an obvious question about how arbitrary the star system is when “well constructed” and “truly extraordinary” become equivalent. And thus we have to infer that Bauer was feeling too kind to admit that he wasn’t exactly “blown away” this time around.

In new hands, Ubuntu unites diverse ingredients [Chron]
Earlier: Jeremy Fox, and Possibly His Staff, Are Leaving Ubuntu [Grub Street]
Ubuntu takes vegetarian cuisine to new heights [Chron - 2007]
The Bay Area’s visionary chefs [Chron - 2008]
Greener dining at Ubuntu [Between Meals - 2008]

Ubuntu Still (Almost) As Good Under New Chef, Says Bauer