The Other Critics

Kauffman Tastes Shark’s Fin Soup, Figures Out What the Big Deal Is; Reidinger Revisits Absinthe

A shark's fin harvest.
A shark’s fin harvest. Photo: via SF Weekly

In lieu of a restaurant review this week, Jonathan Kauffman delves into the controversy surrounding shark’s fin, and the proposed ban from two state lawmakers who see the practice of shark finning as inhumane. First, like a good critic, he heads to Great Eastern in Chinatown for a $32 bowl of crab and shark’s fin soup, and marvels at its texture. “As I sipped the soup, the filaments fluttered against every surface of my mouth, impossible to pinpoint, like walking through the mist halo of a sprinkler and trying to identify where each drop lands on your skin.”

He then interviews Charles Phan, who’s not such a fan of the stuff, and who came out in support of the ban despite the objection of some chef friends. And Kauffman talks to the legendary Cecilia Chiang, who admits, “It is a mark of status [more than it is a Chinese culinary treasure],” but she adds, “If I don’t serve shark’s fin, how will the meal be special?” Kauffman draws a comparison to the caviar industry, which has had to adjust after over-fishing has effectively cleared all osetra and beluga sturgeon out of the Caspian Sea — the same could happen with sharks, he says, if demand for shark’s fin isn’t regulated. [SF Weekly, Earlier]

Meanwhile over at the Guardian, Paul Reidinger pays a visit to Absinthe, and praises it as “the height of what San Francisco restaurants were, and were like, before the city became a suburb of Silicon Valley.” Thems fightin’ words, Paul! Anyhow, he says the boisterous vibe at the Hayes Valley restaurant is reminiscent of Stars in the good old days of the 80s, and he calls chef Adam Keough’s bouillabaisse “lovely” and those garlic pretzels “fabulous.” Also, the German chocolate cake by pastry chef Bill Corbett won him over, despite his general hate for German chocolate cake. [SFBG]

Kauffman Tastes Shark’s Fin Soup, Figures Out What the Big Deal Is;