Zero Zero

826 Folsom St. San Francisco, CA 94107(415) 348-8800 zerozerosf.com

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This may be the only place on earth that serves both a great fried chicken AND a solid pizza. Sure, I know what you’re going to say, what about places that have great chicken parm? To which I would retort, “chicken parm is not great fried chicken.”

But apart from the great fried chicken app, the others, arancini and the charcuterie, were just “eh.”

The pizza, however, was quite the surprise being that I’m from The Land of Za (aka NYC). And we tried several, most of which were very good. The best being the Castro pizza. After that a tie between the Broadway and the Geary, which is a clam pizza of all things. Yes, as in the mollusk. It was pretty damn good. The Fillmore was the only let down, comparatively speaking. Not bad mind you, just the weakest of the lot. Oh, and in case you haven’t guessed yet, they name their pies after the streets in San Francisco so if you want to know what’s exactly on each pie, check the link above for the menu.

And as for dessert, this was mostly a miss for me. The bread pudding simply isn’t worth the calories and if you know me by now, you’d also know that it takes a LOT for me to say that about bread pudding, which typically gets a free ride from me as a confectionary species. The soft serve is also a big whatevs, nothing you can’t get at a bagillion other places all across the country including Dairy Queen (gratuitous plug of a former client), and the best of the sweets, the ricotta beignets, while a passable solid good, still weren’t good enough that I would order them again if I went back. After all, I have my girlish figure to look out for… and by girlish I mean Travolta in Hairspray.

3 teeth

Almond

12 E 22nd St. New York, NY 10010 • (212) 228-7557 • almondnyc.com
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I’ve eaten here for brunch, lunch and dinner and it would seem that the later it gets in the day, the worse the restaurant becomes. So let’s start at the top (of the morning) and work our way down.

The brunch, while the best of what Almond has to offer, still proves to be a bit hit and miss. I personally liked what I ordered very much. It was a spicy chorizo omelet. That said, my wife was underwhelmed with her order, claiming it was rather “blah.” Granted I think she just ordered something “blah” on a menu that had more exciting options on it. But either way, I can’t say this is the best place I’ve ever been for brunch.

For lunch I had the turkey burger and it was nothing worth dancing a jig over. Now I realize a turkey burger is seldom jig worthy as a rule, but the menu was severely lacking in more interesting options.

And last but not least, dinner. Starting with the charcuterie which is a passable box checker. Not the best I’ve ever had. Not the worst. But it’s also not really the best measure of a chef, since it’s only about sourcing as opposed to culinary craft. After that, the short rib gnocci was way better to the ear than it was to the mouth, as was the scallop entree, which is a bit surprising, considering these very same owners manage to stick the landing galore on almost every seafood dish over at their other joint, L&W Oyster Co, which is SO much better.

Bringing up the rear was the pot de creme, and while the word “rear” and pot de creme should probably never be uttered in the same sentence on a food blog, they are aptly paired nonetheless.

All around, I would say Almond is just okay. Definitely not a destination, but a sufficient back up if you need one. The décor is nice and the service is usually pleasant. If you’re looking for more, however, keep looking.

2 teeth

Boqueria

53 W 19th St. New York, NY 10011 • (212) 255-4160boquerianyc.com
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Tapas/Small Plates are all the rage these days, but Boqueria is one of the reasons for that. For the last seven years they’ve been killing it. With their very cool decor and contemporary twists on authentic tapas classics. A tad hit and miss, as most tapas usually is, but they are more hit than most.

Some hits are definitely the blistered shishito peppers and the dates stuffed with almonds and cheese, wrapped in bacon. Also, for brunch, their egg sandwich with chorizo is perfection!

Other dishes that are worthy, but not headliners, would be the spicy potatoes and the charcuterie. Skip the salt cod fitters.

P.S. They also have one in Soho and it’s every bit as good.

4 teeth

Aldea

31 W 17th St. New York, NY 10011(212) 675-7223aldearestaurant.com

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Sometimes I think Michelin and I aren’t on the same page. I mean, sure the place is good. But great is pushing it. The service is painfully slow. Decor is fine. Nothing special. Clean. Simple. Modern.

But the food, it just never seemed to get to that next level of transcendent foodgasm status. And I had all of the signature recommended dishes.

That said, they started strong with an amuse bouche that rocked. But unfortunately I can’t even remember what it was, because it was followed by so many lesser bites, it drowned the memory on my taste buds.

The cured meats and cheeses, for example, I found to be less flavorful than anything you can buy at most decent delis worth their salt. For example, Eataly, just blocks away.

The octopus dish, while good, is easily bested by dishes at Taralucci e Vino, L&W Oyster Co. and Manzanilla. All in the same hood. And none of which have a “star.”

And the duck. The almighty duck (pictured above). The signature dish that has more hype than a Wes Anderson movie… Was just eh. I’ve had many a better duck dish at a host of places that also get no love from Michelin.

So, by the time dessert came, I was reluctant to press on. Partly because of the slow service, but also because I hate eating wasted calories. Meaning highly caloric without being highly awesome. But since everyone else got dessert, I caved and got the doughnuts (because of their RAVE reviews). And while texturally they are wonderful. Their flavor was again, just eh. And yes, I am about to list a bunch of places that do it better, many of whom do not have Michelin stars… Craft, Manzo, Rosa Mexicana & The Doughnut Plant.

In the word’s of Arnold Schwatzenegger on Opposite Day, “I will NOT be back.”

2 teeth

Beaudevin

Charlotte-Douglas International Airport 5501 R C Josh Birmingham Pkwy Charlotte, NC28208(704) 359-4318

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For an airport restaurant I would say you would be hard-pressed to find better. The wine by the glass was surprisingly good (Pinot Noir). And the tapas style small plates kept wowing one after another. From the prosciutto & melon to the cheese plate to the caprese skewers, to the bread plate and olives. The only average ones were the shrimp cocktail and the humus. Not bad mind you, just not up to par with their small plate siblings.

And as for the salad mains, I did the grilled artichoke. A solid good. The creamy whipped goat made for a nice complement to the peppery arugula.

Oh, and our server was awesome. Quick, friendly and without writing anything down she didn’t forget a single order from the 6 people in our party.

4 teeth

Oenotri

1425 1st St. Napa, CA 94559 • (707) 252-1022 • oenotri.com

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Not sure if you saw it, but there was a recent article in Food & Wine Magazine about Thomas Keller’s favorite restaurants in Napa, apart from his own, of course. And on said list just happened to be the one and only Oenotri.

And as foodie recommendations go, it’s pretty hard to beat Thomas Keller so we went guns blazing, ordering every single antipasta, every single pasta pasta. Two of the three pizzas. A salami plate. A side of potatoes (of course). And every single dessert. Obnoxious? Undoubtably. But there were six of us, so it’s slightly less obnoxious than it sounds, because it basically broke down to one dish per person, per course.

Now, prepare for a ride on the Bipolar Express… The first thing to hit the table was the salami plate which was a solid good. And one particular salami was quite special, made yellowish by the saffron within it.

Then an Ultimate arrived on the scene. The best funghi pizza I’ve ever had. Even the other pie (meatball) was pretty awesome, with a terrific crust and buttery cheese that worked harmoniously together like edible Olympic synchronized swimmers.

But alas the perfection was not to last. On the antipasta course Oenotri went an abysmal 1 for 5. The only one rising above an “eh” would be the wax beans with meatballs and quail egg. So right about then I started to question ole Tommy. That is until the short rib pappardelle came around. So good I wish we would’ve gotten six of them. Not that the others were bad, but the only other pasta dish worthy of a shout out would be the paccheri ragu.

Similarly, the desserts fared about the same. The almond panna cotta was the winner and easily the best panna cotta I’ve ever had, even thought I’m normally not a panna cotta person. Also, an honorable mention goes to the sour cherry tart.

Service was very good. The Amarone wine went wonderfully with everything. And apart from the antipastas, the only other big miss is that the setting is a bit tragic, especially if you sit outside, locsted in the courtyard of a strip mall. But Keller never was big on décor, so I guess it didn’t bother him as much as me.

Oh, almost forgot the all important side of potatoes! They were actually excellent. Packing some nice heat. I would’ve eaten more of them had my stomach not lit up the “no vacancy” sign.

So, all in all, in terms of knives, I am very conflicted. I mean on the one hand when a restaurant has two Ultimates in the same meal, it’s pretty hard to go below 4 knives. But on the other hand, when a restaurant serves up over 10 misses it’s hard to justify going over the 3 knives. Now obviously half knives would solve this kerfuffle quite handily, but that’s a cop out. So, being that I am a “ferocious” foodie, I am going to have to go with harsher sentence.

3 teeth

 

Hog & Rocks

3431 19th St. San Francisco, CA 94110 (415) 550-8627hogandrocks.com

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First, let me just say that they had me at the name. And fortunately, they didn’t disappoint thereafter. Almost everything we had was awesome. From the drinks to the charcuterie to the wonderfully creamy chicken liver app. Impeccably fresh kumamoto oysters didn’t hurt either.

But the winner of the night, the pork entrée. So damn good it even bested the beef. Which normally in a head to head, I go beef. But not on this day. Pork reigned supreme. But I guess that’s to be expected form a place with “hog” in its name.

The only miss for me was dessert, and by miss I mean just okay. Most certainly not bad. The brownie. It’s nothing that would “rock” your world. It’s not inventive. But it is moist and chocolaty. So it’s hard to complain- and yet somehow I still manage too.

That said, I will end on a high note. The service was excellent. Our waitress literally added to the experience as if she were a friend at the table.

Shocking that the place was so empty though. But it was a Monday night. Maybe people in SF don’t eat out on Mondays?

4 teeth

 

Eataly

200 5th Ave. New York, NY 10010(212) 229-2560 • eataly.com

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I see a lot of people struggling with their expectations for this place, hence the lower than normal reviews on Yelp for a Batali restaurant. That said, this isn’t a restaurant. It is more of a “market,” or as I like to call it, an Italian gourmet food bazaar. And personally, I think it’s the best thing Batali has ever done. By a wide margin. And I’ve eaten at 6 of his restaurants prior to this (Babbo, Del Posto, Lupa, Tarry Lodge, Mozza & Mozza Pizzeria).

Sure, the place is chaotic and noisy. But if you leave your preconceived notions back at your apartment and go with an open mind, you will see that chefs can be creative in other ways besides what’s on your plate.

That said, the food is excellent, and I have fully completed the rounds, eating at all seven (La Pizza, La Pasta, Verdure, Pesce, Manzo, La Piazza & Birreria) of the restaurants within Eataly, plus the sandwich counters, the fresh pasta counter, cheese case, patisserie, gelato shop and bakery. And this place never ceases to amaze. I mean just think about how difficult it must be to serve this kind of quality at that kind of scale- it’s a feat unlike any other and they pull it off day in and day out. I literally defy anyone to name a place that compares on both scale and quality. It just doesn’t happen. Because normally big means bad. So hats off to Eataly for being a delicious anomaly.

But most of all, I applaud Eataly for not making this place feel like a gimmick or theme restaurant. Granted, the name is quite tragic, but nobody’s perfect.

P.S. A few tips: 1) If you don’t know which olive oil to pick in the section toward the left rear corner, just lean over the aisle and ask someone coming out of  Manzo’s kitchen (their top of the line meat restaurant) which oil they are currently using. They are always kind to point it out, and it’s WAY better than what you’d get at O & CO, but for half the price. 2) Pawlet in the cheese case is incredible. As are many of their cheeses, including the taleggio, fresh ricotta, fresh mozzarella and grana. If you get the ricotta, I highly recommend the almond honey (antipasta case right side of main hall) and a loaf of rustica from the bakery. 3) At the stand up restaurant in the center, do NOT get the fish sandwich written up in New York Magazine. I have no idea what that critic was thinking, but it is literally the ONLY thing I have ever hated at Eataly and Ive easily eaten here over 50 times.

5 teeth