The Other Critics

Reidinger Goes Deep Into the Sunset to Find Shangri-La; Kauffman Compares Chotto and Kasumi

Our good friend Reidinger takes us on a journey this week deep into the Sunset to visit 33-year-old vegetarian Chinese restaurant Shangri-La (2026 Irving). Perhaps because of all the messaging on the menu about the place being kosher, Reidinger finds himself in a characteristically lengthy tangent about the “beautiful discord” of restaurant’s muzak selection. “The music reminded me, a little, of the early scene in Schindler’s List in which the Shabbat candles are lighted.” … and here we go… “It was like being in a café in some city in central Europe in 1937, with the shadows of war gathering in dark corners. The sounds of the violin are among the most haunting and moody in music.” Eventually he gets to the food, which he says is “outstanding and reasonably priced” but not before describing the restaurant itself as “atmospheric” and the staff rather “cheerful.” He calls their mu shu “flawless” and the Szechuan style spicy noodles “equally satisfying.” [SFBG]

Meanwhile, Kauffman reports that “the all-purpose neighborhood Japanese restaurant… the one that specializes in udon, tempura, and California roll combos… is finally on the wane,” and he celebrates the evolving trend of izakaya and yakitori food coming to neighborhood Japanese eateries. Taking new entrants Chotto and Kasumi as examples, he writes, “They share a commitment to the robata, if not a total mastery of it, as well as a number of the same dishes.” Like Unterman and Bauer before him, he’s a fan of chicken meatballs, and he calls out the agedashi tofu too. All told he says, “Chef Armando Justo does some beautiful things with a charcoal grill.”

But moving on to Kasumi (2608 Ocean Avenue), he says the ramen isn’t really worth a trip, and there are some missteps at the robata as well, with the duck breast and some chicken items coming out overcooked or under-seasoned. But he likes the tsukune meatballs here, which he says taste “rather pleasantly, like breakfast sausage,” and he totally loves the chazuke, a dish of warm dashi over crisped rice, shredded salmon, salmon roe, and seaweed: “The brothy rice was a humble dish, its salt bursts and sea-swept smells serene rather than flashy. And yet I kept spooning into the dish as if it were made of truffles and foie gras.” [SF Weekly]

Reidinger Goes Deep Into the Sunset to Find Shangri-La; Kauffman Compares Chotto