The Other Critics

Josh Sens Loves Haven, Calls It ‘a Thinking Chef’s California Bistro’; Unterman Calls Farina ‘Transporting’

Haven in Oakland's Jack London Square.
Haven in Oakland’s Jack London Square. Photo: Grub Street

SF Mag critic Josh Sens is more on the same page as Jonathan Kauffman when it comes to Kim Alter’s food at Haven. Now being the fourth critic to hit the place — Michael Bauer and the East Bay Express’s Jesse Hirsch were both nonplussed, or downright disappointed — Sens is complimentary both about the space (“the space itself feels personable, and an open kitchen, with setback counter seating, gives a heartbeat to a building that was born without much soul”) and the menu, saying that Alter has created “a thinking chef’s California bistro” with hearty, “high-minded comfort food.” Unlike Bauer, he likes her modern take on shepherd’s pie; the smoked fettucine; and a duck breast dish with farro and a Banyuls-foie gras reduction. All told: three stars. [SF Mag]

Meanwhile, Patricia Unterman returns to Farina, almost a year after Michael Bauer had a horrible, over-priced time there. Patty admits the place is expensive, but puts a positive spin on it — as is her wont — saying the restaurant is “in a class by itself” and new chef Angelo Auriana’s food makes the experience “transporting” and “sublime.” She says she “stopped worrying about the tab” as soon as she took a bite of Auriana’s tripe, “braised to buttery tenderness, and infused with red pepper, wine and tomatoes. Priceless.” Furthermore she absolutely adores the chestnut flour tortelli with hand-chopped squab, aged sheeps’ milk cheese, and black pepper, even if it is a 28-dollar pasta dish. And she finishes up by saying Auriana’s a passionate cook, and “at Farina, where the prices support his culinary aspirations, such ebullient, labor intensive, authentic Italian cooking is right a home.” [Examiner]

Josh Sens Loves Haven, Calls It ‘a Thinking Chef’s California