The new restaurant at the W, replacing the former XYZ, is called Trace. The food, while not wildly exciting on paper, was pretty solid and flavorful on our single visit there. And this week we have two reviews of the place hitting at the same time, one from the always affable Ms. Unterman, and one from the more cantankerous (at least this week he is) Mr. Bauer. Both agree that the food is good — Patty goes so far as to use the words “enthralling” and “lush” — but Patty predictably focuses on the positive while Michael is immediately put off by walking into what he calls “a 1990s time capsule.”
He notes the “model-thin” hosts “parading down the center of the long, narrow, black-and-white dining room as if they were on the catwalk,” and “trance music, so loud at times that I couldn’t think of the next word out of my mouth.” Uh oh… guess this is where he got his inspiration for the blog post last week about noise in restaurants. He’s so put off by the environment (“more like an elegant nightclub than a restaurant”), that he goes on to harp on the stated mission on the menu about socially responsible food “all very common in the Bay Area, and the almost sanctimonious tone seems an ill fit for the venue.” And when he gets around to the food, he says first that preparations are inconsistent before going on to mention anything that he liked (the braised squid, the pork shoulder gnocchi, and the roast Sonoma duck breast).
Patty, meanwhile, loves just about everything she ate. There’s a flatbread with broccoli sprouts and pork belly of which she says “dances together to create a generous, easily ‘shared’ first bite”; there’s some agnolotti she calls a “buttery little plate of heaven”; and she’s also a fan of the duck breast and the fennel-pollen pasta we told you about here.
In the end, Patty’s all smiles, and Bauer gives them two stars — including two stars for an atmosphere he clearly hated.