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How does Bacar make Bauer's "100" ? Pedigree?

b
Brandon Nelson Feb 9, 2001 12:50 AM

Hounds,

I found the inclusion of Bacar on the Chron's top 100 list odd. I know what a great big project it has been. I know about the anticipation. I know about the delays. How on earth can you rate a 3 month old restaraunt in your top 100?

100 wines by the glass? I love that idea. The stuff that I have read about the menus looks tasty. But to me one of the greatest factors in reviewing a restaraunt is consistancy. Theres no way Bacar can offer that with a resume that is 3 months long. I understand the bright stars that shine in its kitchen, but I don't buy pedigree ratings.

I didn't see Masa's mentioned, so obviously Ron Siegal didn't get credit for his past work at Charles Nob Hill, or his future (hopefully) sucess at Masa's.

How do you defend this selection if you are Michael Bauer? Any ideas? I just plain don't get it.

Chow!!!

  1. l
    Limster Feb 13, 2001 03:30 PM

    Just out of curiosity, has anyone eaten at Bacar and lived to tell? I'm not very enthusiatic about this place and I noticed a post here about a month ago that said the service stank, but I'm wondering what the food's actually like.

    IMHO, the top 100 isn't a completely useless list. Some of the places on it are fine, and it is also a fairly good indicator of which restaurants are likely to be crowded. (I scan Zagat's for the same purpose.) My bet is that a lot of people will believe what's written in the papers and use that pick restaurants. That allows me to avoid the busy places that are overexposed in the media. And if I really want reservations, I'll know to call way ahead, or to stick with weekdays.

    1. j
      Jim H. Feb 12, 2001 01:04 PM

      I don't get out as much as I used to, but if I were paranoid I'd think it was me. Do I not know good food when I taste it? Am I losing my taste buds with advancing age? Do I not appreciate the labor and artistic talent that goes into imaginative plating of lackluster food? I think I'm still OK, but I wonder about the food critics. Bauer and Berger are perhaps the worst...I have always given them the benefit of the doubt on payola, but I know enough about the restaurant business to know that it is impossible to cook really great food for the recognized critic, and dreck for everyone else. Any thoughts about critic honesty and institutional bias?

      8 Replies
      1. re: Jim H.
        m
        Melanie Wong Feb 13, 2001 03:35 AM

        I was sorting through a few quotes from the late Roy Brady, and knowing how you feel about Berger, thought I'd share this one with you.

        pg. 38 - [Discussing the _University of California/Sotheby Book of California Wine_] "...there's a great range of interesting things well done by people who knew what they were talking about. I can only think of two articles...three articles that I wouldn't put in the same category as the others. Now this is the sort of thing I don't want to get out. [with further prodding to name names] One was by Dan Berger. They reprinted an article that he had written somewhere. He refused to even proofread it, said he wasn't getting enough money for it. I think that when you accept a contract to contribute to a book, you do the conventional thing, that means proofreading. I tell you I didn't care for that. That put me off on a bad foot with him. Which was almost the first time I'd even heard of him. Then there was an article by Harvey Steinman, who I think is basically a silly man, trivial. The real close one, though, is the big article by Bob Thompson. I read that several times and could not figure out what it was supposed to mean. It reviews a lot of the current wine critics. It seems to me it's really between trivial and sycophantic."

        1. re: Melanie Wong
          l
          Larry Stein Feb 13, 2001 05:57 PM

          His son was in the Berkeley CA wine tasting group to which I belonged from 1979-88. I'll be damned if I can remember his first name, but his nickname was Bevo (and no, he didn't go to Texas A&M).

          Amazing how a tasting group comprised of Berkeley hippie-types could yield future "stars" (they'd probably puke at such a term) in wine: Joel Butler (one of the first Masters of Wine in the US), Steve Edmunds (Edmunds St. John winemaker/owner) and Bill Easton (Domaine de la Terre Rouge winemaker/owner).
          And for the record, none of us inhaled. :)

          1. re: Larry Stein
            m
            Melanie Wong Feb 14, 2001 02:16 AM

            Interesting! Joel Butler was the very first American MW. Actually Tim Hanni MW (remember the umami debate on this board?) passed the same year (1990). But since the induction ceremony was done in alphabetical order, Joel was first.

            I've been blind tasting with Steve Edmunds fairly regularly for the last two years. Have learned as much from him about tasting analysis and wine styles as almost anyone. Love his wines too - Old World style in California.

            I don't know Bill Easton well. I often spot him at Kermit's or having a latte next door at Cafe Fanny. One of my dear friends who is a Rhone fanatic has been his assistant for a little over a year now. I hope to get up to the winery soon.

            1. re: Melanie Wong
              l
              Larry Stein Feb 14, 2001 10:53 AM

              I've picked up tasting tips here and there since I left the business in '88, but that Berkeley tasting group was a long-term crash course (if there is such a thing). There were some tremendous palates in that group. Arguably, one of the best ones is now a high school history teacher in the East Bay. At that time, he was one of the owners of Trumpetvine Wines in Berkeley.

              Maybe the best thing I got out of that group is leaving one's ego at home when tasting. Sometimes you'll rate a wine first and everyone else has it last and vice versa. Big deal. Happens to everyone. The hard part was defending that ranking! I caught a ration of s*&t on many occasions. However, it was all in good fun.

              Of course, not all the wines were great, but one of the members (someone who was never in the wine trade) always had certain green, leafy...uhh, foliage of the finest quality to lead the proceedings in a different direction after the results were in. Hey, this did take place in Berkeley so that shouldn't be surprising! &*)

              To this day, I miss that group. Ask Steve about the Swinetasters next time you see him.

              1. re: Larry Stein
                a
                Alexandra Eisler Feb 16, 2001 06:53 PM

                "Arguably, one of the best ones is now a high school history teacher in the East Bay. At that time, he was one of the owners of Trumpetvine Wines in Berkeley"

                I just read this thread to my brother - his first job in the wine business (and favorite!) was working for Jim Brandley at Trumpetvine while a freshman at Cal.

                small, small world...

        2. re: Jim H.
          &
          "Fine" Feb 20, 2001 08:24 PM

          It wasn't clear to me whether poster Brandon Nelson had actually eaten at Bacar and found it wanting or was making a general statement.

          I ate there about a month ago and had mostly very good food; however, the service was appalling, the corkage outrageous.

          There was a very long wait between courses and instead of an apology or a touch of graciousness from the manager type circulating around there was instead an attempt to make us feel guilty for speaking up.

          I agree with the criticism of listing Bacar so soon after its delayed opening.

          I also disagree with the emphasis on high-end, American and/or Western European-accented places and so little attention to the many ethnic restaurants in the area. My feeling about Bauer is he "goes along to get along" rather than leads. Have you noticed that the Chron recommends the same handful of Chinese restaurants year in and year out?

          As for anonymity of critics, the problem seems to me to be that they simply can't resist hanging out with other food types, eventually being widely recognized. One has to have an entirely different temperament from most critics to do a creditable job of maintaining anonymity.

          Also, Bauer seems to dine out at "the children's hour," around 6 PM. How can anyone evaluate a restaurant in the heat of pressure doing that?

          1. re: "Fine"
            b
            Brandon Nelson Feb 21, 2001 12:48 AM

            Howdy

            No. I have not yet eaten at Bacar. I was taking a poke at the jounalistic integrety of the whole "Top 100" list in general. Many of us know and understand the problems a new restaraunt faces on opening. Bacars trials are almost local legend.

            For Bacar to take a spot on a list that is this covetted the experiance would have to be truly out of this world. I haven't seen Bauer review Bacar. Perhaps I missed it, I don't really care. What I do care about is that Bacars appearance on this list suggests something shady. Why? The place had been open 10 weeks at the time of the article. I don't think that it is honest or responsible to call Bacar one of the Bay Areas best restaraunts yet. It still lacks the most important element for inclusion, consistancy. So far all I know about Bacar is this;

            1) Michael Bauer threw his Eos buddies a very meaty bone. Were the begging?

            2) Word about town is that the servive at Bacar still has bugs the size of Texas cockroaches.

            If we were posting about a BBQ joint or a roach coach I can let bad service slide. If we post about fine dining it's a huge issue.

            Perhaps Bauer could have done everyone a service and given them an honorable mention. I just didn't like the appearance of politics, back scratching, or someones hand in someone else's pocket. We can all draw our own conclusions.

            Chow!!!

            1. re: Brandon Nelson
              &
              "Fine" Feb 21, 2001 08:02 PM

              Hear, Hear!

        3. p
          Phoebe Feb 12, 2001 12:36 PM

          Simple. Michael Bauer is a ridiculous food critic.

          1 Reply
          1. re: Phoebe
            p
            Pepe C. Feb 15, 2001 05:43 PM

            Mmmm-hmm. I met Bauer once at a food show and thought he was pretentious and condescending. No doubt he's eating for free at Bacar and Eos for the next 10 years...

          2. m
            Melanie Wong Feb 9, 2001 02:15 AM

            Yep, especially since from what I'm hearing the service bugs haven't been worked out yet in the closer to two than 3 months it's been open. But I noticed that Debbie and Arnold's earlier venture, Eos, didn't make the cut this year either.

            10 Replies
            1. re: Melanie Wong
              j
              John Galt Feb 9, 2001 12:53 PM

              Yes, I also wondered about this one.

              By the way, Bauer is very close with the EOS people, that's why Robin Davis did the review a few weeks back (didn't she?).

              Zagat's runs a section for places that have opened, but have not been around long enough for a proper review.

              For me, a list of the "TOP 100" in the Bay Area is a bit silly. There are so many great places, in so many categories, in a very large and diverse area. Methinks people who are true Chowhounds give little thought to such a list, let alone what The Comical and Bauer have to say.

              The other thing that often gets overlooked is the politics involved. Bauer has running feuds with more than a few owners. For example, ask yourself why Bix has been off the list for so long? The food may have had it's ups and downs, but it's still a solid destination for us, especially with friends from out of town.

              Jianna? Whatever.

              I've got the "TOP 100" in my cat's litter box.

              Cheers.

              1. re: John Galt
                b
                Brandon Nelson Feb 9, 2001 01:40 PM

                I thought this looked a lot like thinly disguised politics. All I have have heard about the place has to do with service bugs as well. So much for journalistic integrity.

                Chow!!!

                1. re: Brandon Nelson
                  a
                  Ann Leneave Feb 12, 2001 09:57 PM

                  Notice any similarities to wine reviews and reviewers? It's a crock so many times. I don't think Zagat is all that great either. That's why I am so thrilled to have found you chowhounds.

                  What do you think of Patricia Unterman? I like her writing a lot, and would agree with the occasional
                  reviews I have read. I wish she would do more.

                  1. re: Ann Leneave
                    j
                    John Galt Feb 13, 2001 12:02 AM

                    Did Patricia stay with the Examiner, or did she move over to the Comical?

                    Pick up a copy of the NYT on Wednesday. Grimes is no Gael Greene, but he is still a generation or two ahead of the ninnies out here. Bauer can't even write very well, let alone review food. In an area with so many great places, it's a crime that this ass is allowed to roam free.

                    That Glow review on Sunday takes the cake. How can you publish a big picture of one of last year's rising chef's in front of one of his dishes, then reduce his food to dirt? Real class.

                    I had a less than great meal at Glow a few weeks back. True, it was overpriced and middle of the road. But why give the poor guy a mug shot and then rip him to shreads? Build up, pull down? What's the point? Ego?

                    Sorry for the rant.

                    1. re: Ann Leneave
                      a
                      AnotherAnne Feb 13, 2001 11:46 AM

                      I have always liked Patricia Unterman. She has very good taste. She was the food critic for the Chronicle for 15 years, then the Chron went and fired a slew of long time columnists for expense purposes and started using less expensive writers. She does a food article in the Sunday Examiner but not each week. Last week's chicken article was a good one (see link).

                      I wish she would update the Food Lover's Guide to SF. It was published in 1997 so is still quite useful, but many restaurants have closed (and opened) since it's publication.

                      Link: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article...

                      1. re: AnotherAnne
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                        "Fine" Feb 20, 2001 08:34 PM

                        Patricia Unterman is one of the prime examples of critics who don't appear to believe in the value of anonymity. Hell, when she was writing for the Chron, she had already run a restaurant in the East Bay and then opened her place on Hayes in SF.

                        When the Ex still existed, she would write about sitting down with owners/chefs and asking them to prepare special meals for her. Any of us could get a flawles meal under those circumstances! I don't know what to call that, but it sure doesn't fit my definition of restaurant criticism. PR is closer to it.

                        1. re: "Fine"
                          l
                          Limster Feb 21, 2001 01:00 PM

                          But at least Unterman is up front about the fact that she knows the owners or chefs. In these situtations, I usually discount the service report, but I doubt that the food would be wildly different from what average joe is getting.

                          1. re: Limster
                            &
                            "Fine" Feb 22, 2001 10:06 PM

                            I beg to disagree! I can remember visiting a chef friend when the boss came in hysterical because a famous columnist had just arrived. Anything even a little old (sauces/bases made a few hours earlier), slightly wilted, etc. was set aside for new and fresh. Other diners were left waiting while all the cooks and pantryfolks devoted themselves to the "star's" table.

                            There are usually fresher or less fresh items; timing can make a huge difference--flesh of any kind cooked a moment too little or too much. Just the eye/tastebuds of the the head chef making certain everything is perfection. Of course, in an ideal world every customer would get this kind of attention.

                            Then there are the little extras that can't help but make an impression. I can recall one restaurateur I knew who always rushed out with a taste of this or that. It's hard for even the hardest-nose food writers not to be affected by extra attention, extra goodies, etc. Indeed, many of Unterman's pieces talk about just such delights, as if they have any relevance to the experiences her readers will have.(I recall one where she wrote about how the owner understood exactly what she wanted in the way of a broad sampling of the menu and went about providing it.)

                            I remember another place where a now world-famous restaurateur came by and offered a taste of d'Yquem. Who would be mean-spirited enough to write one critical word after that? Only the most high-minded food critic!

                            It's not necessarily that anyone is trying to be dishonest, but human nature being what it is ....

                            1. re: "Fine"
                              l
                              Limster Feb 23, 2001 02:21 AM

                              I've been to a few places that Unterman has reviewed (some of them before I read her review), and generally agree with her. These places include Hama-Ko, Chaz (I think I like this place more than her), Dine and Little Sichuan. I'm definitely not getting any special treatment at these places, except perhaps at Hama-Ko, where I'm a regular.

                              I completely agree that it would be ideal if a reviewer could be treated identically to the average diner, but in a less than perfect world, I like the fact that there is full disclosure in Unterman's reviews - we know that she is getting special treatment, and what kind of special treatment at that.

                              So far, I've found Unterman's reviews to be more useful than the other SF food critics in the local papers, but if there are others who have found discrepancies between her reviews and their actual experience, I'd love to hear about them, so that I can adjust accordingly when I read her reviews.

                              1. re: Limster
                                l
                                Lucy Mar 2, 2001 12:40 AM

                                I could not agree more with Limster. Patricia was & still is one of the best food writers/critics, over-all. Her understanding of business, professionalism, food sense and her role in it all was very sincere and realistic. If your life is the industry, there is proper protocol wherever you go. No super-natural hype like Bauer performs. Patricia's articles in the Chronicle to this day are outstanding and will continue her legacy amongst the best. Anyone read Dornenburg?Page's book on "Dining Out"? It is worthwhile read on this topic.

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