The Other Critics

Bauer Loves the New Mina, Kind of Likes Five in Berkeley; Matthews Wants to Love Zut!; Patti U. Rounds Up Her Faves of the Year

Mr. Bauer gave a Christmas present to Michael Mina over the weekend, declaring his work at the relocated Michael Mina “spectacular” to the tune of three and a half stars. He mentions several dishes as “visually stunning” and “exciting,” like the Australian Wagyu shabu shabu, and the pork belly and geoduck clam salad. And he loves how much the servers are involved “interactive experience” of many of the dishes, pouring sauces and transferring components. He calls the Jidori chicken a “stunner” and says the “Five Seas” is “one of the best dishes of the year.” His only real complaint, a tempura quail dish that was “OK, but came across as heavy and muddled.” As for pastry chef Lincoln Carson’s seven-item dessert sampler, he says it’s “a must-order item.” [Chron]

And in Thursday’s paper, we neglected to note Bauer’s update review of Five in Berkeley, where he finds recently installed chef Banks White’s “execution can be mixed.” A pan-seared steelhead dish “fell flat” and the chicken in the chicken and dumplings was way over-salted, “even for someone like me who can’t get enough.” He likes parts of a mixed tempura, and his main accolades go to pastry chef Robert Hac, whose quince upside-down cake he calls “exceptional.” All told: two stars. [Chron]

Also in Berkeley, Allen Matthews files the first review we’ve seen of Zut! in the space formerly known as Eccolo. He says it’s “a restaurant I dearly want to love,” but compares some of the dishes to “my old Citroen: a wild ride” and notes the inauspiciousness of a name like “Zut!,” which basically means “drat!” He compliments several appetizers, even calling the stuffed squid “masterful,” but the entrées sound inconsistent and seem to change fairly often. A risotto was “bitter and salt laden”; a beef cheek dish was “otherworldly tender” but missing a promised gremolata; and a halibut dish was mushy on one occasion, and perfect on another, but accompanied by vegetables he says “looked like something out of a mall diner.” As for the pizzas, they’re “long on crust and decidedly short on toppings.” So despite three stars for atmosphere, he gives the place two stars overall.

And finally, Patti U. rounds up her favorite finds of the year, which naturally skew toward the Asian, and include the recently reviewed Pot Sticker, as well as Ramen Dojo in San Mateo, and Quan Bac. She also gives nods in the sphere of pizza to Una Pizza Napoletana and Zero Zero. [Examiner]

Bauer Loves the New Mina, Kind of Likes Five in Berkeley; Matthews Wants to Love