The Other Critics

Unterman Says Corey Lee Has ‘Changed All the Rules’ at Benu; Bauer Says Alfred’s Has Gotten Better

Patti U. tries out the tasting menu at Benu, and says, “by the sixth course… I was in love.” She adores the faux shark’s fin soup and the 1000-year-old quail’s egg, and notes that “Everything that actually lands at the table — food, ceramics, glassware — is refined and interesting.” She’s a little confused by the à la carte menu, however, and says, “I didn’t know how to make a meal out of it,” referring to some delicious dishes that nonetheless make for odd pairings. But she says it’s still a steal, at $160, for a “Michelin-style three-star extravaganza.” [Examiner, Earlier Slideshow]

Michael Bauer revisits ancient FiDi steakhouse Alfred’s (659 Merchant Street), which dates back to before the 1929 stock market crash. His 2004 review was not so great, but he finds the place has improved since then, calling his cocktail “right on,” the steaks “superb” and the shrimp cocktail “perfectly cooked.” Also he notes the “Deficit Buster Dinner,” which is a $38 prix fixe that gets you split pea soup, a steak, and dessert. All in all: two and a half stars. [Chron]

And Carol Ness heads over to new Berkeley pizzeria Paisan (2514 San Pablo Avenue), which we initially heard would be Neapolitan-esque, but Ness finds the crusts a bit thicker and the toppings heavier than traditional Neapolitan. She says, “he food is often satisfying, though sometimes problematic,” complimenting the pies as well as several pastas, like the garlic oil and pepperoncini pasta. But she’s less jazzed about the meatier entrées like the porchetta and the lamb. All told: two stars. [Chron]

Unterman Says Corey Lee Has ‘Changed All the Rules’ at Benu; Bauer