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SF Chron top 100 restaurants 2011

Robert Lauriston Mar 31, 2011 10:57 AM

Comes out Sunday (print edition out late Friday).

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  1. Robert Lauriston Mar 31, 2011 10:58 AM

    Bauer's list of the 26 (!) new places he added:

    http://insidescoopsf.sfgate.com/blog/...

    A Cote, Oakland
    Absinthe
    Angele, Napa
    Bar Agricole
    Benu
    Bistro Aix
    Boubon Steak
    Commonwealth
    Cotogna
    Farallon
    Fifth Floor
    Gitane
    Ippuku, Berkeley
    Mamacita
    Marlowe
    Mission Chinese Food
    Morimoto, Napa
    Oenotri, Napa
    Plum, Oakland
    Prospect
    Ristobar
    Saison
    Station 1, Woodside
    Ubuntu, Napa
    Waterbar
    Zero Zero

    29 Replies
    1. re: Robert Lauriston
      lexdevil Mar 31, 2011 11:08 AM

      I know he wasn't a fan of Commis, and I DO like A Cote, but ranking A Cote over Commis in the East Bay seems both silly and petty. I was hoping that Bauer's reappraisal of Commis leading into the top hundred (he included the parmesan "rock" in a blog post) was going to give him a chance to back off of his original position.

      1. re: lexdevil
        mattstolz Apr 3, 2011 05:05 AM

        sillier than giving a #1 ranking to a place you didnt like?

        1. re: mattstolz
          Robert Lauriston Apr 3, 2011 11:24 AM

          There's no ranking in the top 100. À Côté is on the list and Commis isn't. His review made it pretty clear why Commis didn't make the cut:

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

          1. re: Robert Lauriston
            v
            vulber Apr 3, 2011 09:02 PM

            yes but his blog post indicated that he went back to commis recently, making me wodner if he'd changed his mind

        2. re: lexdevil
          JasmineG Apr 5, 2011 09:10 AM

          Excluding Commis is totally petty. It's just his way of trying to pretend that he was right about it all along when he didn't like it, even when it has a Michelin star.

          1. re: JasmineG
            Robert Lauriston Apr 5, 2011 09:18 AM

            Bauer's review explains pretty well what he didn't like about Commis, and from reports here I don't think the place has changed:

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

        3. re: Robert Lauriston
          Ruth Lafler Mar 31, 2011 11:10 AM

          Interesting. While a lot of those are new (or new-ish), several of them (including the first three) are older, well-established places (i.e. more than five years). I'll be interested to see why he now deems them worthy when he didn't before.

          1. re: Ruth Lafler
            Robert Lauriston Mar 31, 2011 11:23 AM

            He tacitly admits in that blog post that he's making an arbitrary selection among the best 110 or 125 restaurants in the area.

            He explicitly addressed the top 100 issue in his updates of À Côté and Farallon last year:

            http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2010/08/26/DDB11ER0RT.DTL
            http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2010/06/24/DD4K1E02Q0.DTL

            And he thought Absinthe and Fifth Floor much improved under their new chefs:

            http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2010/10/21/DDFQ1FQ5S9.DTL
            http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article...

            1. re: Robert Lauriston
              Ruth Lafler Mar 31, 2011 12:44 PM

              Yeah, once you get past the first 30 or so you're splitting hairs and including some things over others for the sake of diversity (price, type of cuisine, location, etc.).

              I have to say that having eaten at Fifth Floor under the most recent previous chef that I'm not thrilled about the new menu -- seems both more expensive and less interesting (or perhaps not as forgivably uninteresting as it would be at a lower price point). I haven't been to Absinthe in years.

              1. re: Ruth Lafler
                Robert Lauriston Mar 31, 2011 01:47 PM

                To me the logical solution would be to call it "Top 100" so, as Bauer says, it "sounds right," but include the extra 10 or 25. Due to places with multiple branches It's always more than 100 when first published, and by the end of the year it's often less due to closures. Slighting 10 or 25 restaurants that are as admittedly as good as the rest in the service of a catchy headline seems unprofessional to me.

                1. re: Robert Lauriston
                  m
                  mikeh Mar 31, 2011 03:34 PM

                  Or, he could do away with the "Top #" altogether and approach it like how some other foodie cities do (including New Orleans or Charleston) - have categories or genres of cuisine and list whatever places have distinguished themselves from the rest of the pack within that genre. He'd still probably end up with no more than 130 or so. Call it "Top Restaurants of the Bay Area 2011" or the "2011 Bay Area Dining Guide"

                  1. re: mikeh
                    Robert Lauriston Mar 31, 2011 04:24 PM

                    Publishers actually have solid data showing that people respond to "top # _____" or "best # _____."

                    If the number changed every year ("Top 122 Restaurants 2011," "Top 117 Restaurants 2012," etc.) it would imply more thought and discernment than the obvious and admitted arbitrariness of "Top 100."

                  2. re: Robert Lauriston
                    JasmineG Apr 5, 2011 09:12 AM

                    It's also so weird the way that he joins together multiple restaurants to make the number come out as 100, even when those two, while siblings, aren't particularly the same. Perbacco and Barbacco, while both great restaurants, are very different, for example.

                    1. re: JasmineG
                      Robert Lauriston Apr 5, 2011 09:27 AM

                      If you count the twofers and threefers, it's the top 107.

                      As vulber said earlier, if Perbacco and Barbacco count as one, then why not Quince and Cotogna?

                  3. re: Ruth Lafler
                    n
                    nocharge Mar 31, 2011 05:05 PM

                    I had dinner at Fifth Floor recently and when the review came out, I wasn't surprised. I thought it was well deserved. And they can probably use some good publicity -- when I ate there, the dining room was half empty at 7 on a Friday night.

              2. re: Robert Lauriston
                n
                nocharge Apr 2, 2011 05:32 PM

                Here are the ones that appear to have gotten 86'd:

                Bar Bambino
                Bay Wolf
                Beretta
                Bix
                Cafe La Haye
                Chez Papa Resto
                Chow
                Etoile
                Farmhouse Inn & Restaurant
                Firefly
                Flora
                Frascati
                Hog Island Oyster Co.
                Limon
                Madrona Manor
                Murray Circle
                Neela's
                Nombe
                Park Chow
                Press
                Spruce
                The Dining Room at the Ritz-Carlton
                Tipsy Pig
                Vik's Chaat Corner
                Wexler's
                Wood Tavern
                Yoshi's San Francisco

                1. re: nocharge
                  v
                  vulber Apr 3, 2011 09:54 AM

                  wow - a lot of these cuts actually make sense.

                  i'd consider beretta bix, chow, firefly, hog island, nombe, tipsy pig, wexler's, wood tavern (realize the board will disagree with me on this one) and yoshi's all to be good to very good, but not top 100 material, so it's nice to see that he realized it too.

                  the cut of spruce is extremely surprising though; esp. as its most recent rating is now 3.5 stars; wonder if there's an update review coming soon.

                  1. re: vulber
                    b
                    bdl Apr 3, 2011 10:52 AM

                    "it's nice to see he realized it too". Like House of Prime Rib, Greens, Nopalito, O Chane, Town Hall, Dosa etc. etc. If he got some right, I think it just the law of averages. The list still seems for the most part arbitrary.

                    1. re: bdl
                      v
                      vulber Apr 3, 2011 09:03 PM

                      no i agree, but i agree with a higher percentage of this year's dropped list than other years

                    2. re: vulber
                      Robert Lauriston Apr 3, 2011 11:29 AM

                      Bauer said that many places he dropped "were just as good as ever." Sounds like the only reason he dropped many of them was to make room for new places.

                      http://insidescoopsf.sfgate.com/blog/...

                      1. re: Robert Lauriston
                        b
                        bdl Apr 3, 2011 11:36 AM

                        I guess no points for longevity.

                      2. re: vulber
                        n
                        nocharge Apr 3, 2011 04:00 PM

                        Bauer claims he dropped Spruce from the list because it's "undergoing changes in the kitchen."

                        1. re: nocharge
                          Robert Lauriston Apr 3, 2011 05:32 PM

                          New chef de cuisine:

                          http://insidescoopsf.sfgate.com/blog/...

                          1. re: Robert Lauriston
                            v
                            vulber Apr 3, 2011 09:04 PM

                            yea but ultimately, it's still the executive chef that runs the show. had the corey lee/timothy hollingsworth transition at TFL occurred at the time of the top 100, i don't think it would have been dropped.

                            1. re: vulber
                              Robert Lauriston Apr 4, 2011 08:38 AM

                              New executive chef as well:

                              http://insidescoopsf.sfgate.com/blog/...

                              1. re: Robert Lauriston
                                v
                                vulber Apr 5, 2011 08:54 AM

                                hmmm...still...as long as mark sulivan is still going to be involved in the restaurant...i find it hard to believe that it will change too much....but perhaps i could be wrong

                      3. re: nocharge
                        m
                        mramage Apr 4, 2011 11:23 AM

                        I have booked Madrona Manor in May on a visit to SF - he dropped it off the top 100, but in his last return review there did not seem to be anything negative about it, and the personal reviews still look good. Has it fallen off some way in food or service?

                        1. re: mramage
                          Robert Lauriston Apr 4, 2011 11:28 AM

                          You'd do better to ask about that on the SF Bay Area board.

                          http://www.chow.com/restaurants/25537...

                      4. re: Robert Lauriston
                        v
                        vulber Apr 3, 2011 09:59 AM

                        i also find it interesting that after combining barbacco and perbacco last year, he didn't do the same for quince and cotogna.

                        and while they're undboutedly different restaurants, ,it still seems like he could have saved some space by combining zero zero and pizzeria picco, as its ultimately the same head chef in charge of the pizza, just different toppings.

                      5. v
                        vulber Apr 1, 2011 05:32 AM

                        This now means that Mission Chinese Food is the best non-dim sum Chinese restaurant in the Bay Area....

                        5 Replies
                        1. re: vulber
                          Robert Lauriston Apr 1, 2011 08:43 AM

                          Mission Chinese Food is probably the most creative and original.

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

                          1. re: Robert Lauriston
                            v
                            vulber Apr 3, 2011 10:14 AM

                            i would agree with that, although does that mean it should be included over less creative, less original, sichuan restaurants like china village or sichuan fortune house that have better execution and better food? i would say no.

                            1. re: vulber
                              Robert Lauriston Apr 3, 2011 11:47 AM

                              The real issue is whether it makes sense for the Chron to give a single reviewer that assignment. Bauer has to eat over 250 meals a year just to revisit all the places on the top 100 and visit the new places he reviews at least three times. How much time does that leave to keep up with the area's Chinese restaurants and other non-"fine dining" scenes?

                              For comparison, the Michelin guide, which has no arbitrary cap and fairly strictly defined criteria, has 127 starred and Bib Gourmand restaurants. Though their selection of Chinese restaurants is also a bit odd: Chu, Crouching Tiger, the Castro branch of Henry's Hunan, HKFL, and Yank Sing. Henry's Hunan and not Great China?

                              http://www.michelinguide.com/us/sf_stars_2011.html
                              http://www.michelinguide.com/us/2011_...

                              1. re: Robert Lauriston
                                d
                                Dan Wodarcyk Apr 3, 2011 07:27 PM

                                My thoughts on some that belong, mostly don't, although the do not's are quite good, just not top 100:

                                First off, anyone have a truck that belongs here? I don't, just curious.

                                Amber "token" India: there has to be better, same with Dosa

                                Bistro Don Gio: reliable, consistent, but tired

                                Angele: great to see back and well deserved

                                Morimoto: great review last summer, and also deserved, then, but I'm guessing he hasn't been back to see the serious decline in management and service

                                O'Chame: Oh why?

                                Sushi Ran: needs to get out of his comfort zone and visit some serious sushi places, like Sakae, Ino, Hana, Sam's

                                Va de Vi: again, why? has to get a Walnut Creek spot in there

                                1. re: Dan Wodarcyk
                                  b
                                  bigwheel042 Apr 5, 2011 01:32 AM

                                  I mean, "comfort zone" is what Bauer does, his shtick. He almost exclusively goes to places that are squarely in a Western tradition of restaurant-going, one where you never have to worry about the sushi chef barking at you if you're committing a faux pas like dredging your piece of nigiri in soy sauce. To say nothing of places with an atmosphere that encourages thinking about exactly which microbes have been lurking in the vicinity of your delicious burrito or water-boiled beef.

                                  And that's OK by me. When I want guidance on having a great upper-middle-class restaurant experience, Bauer's my guy. And when I want guidance on somewhere outside that realm, I'll go somewhere else. And if other people don't flock to great ethnic dives because they only follow Bauer's map? That's cool too. More for me.

                        2. Robert Lauriston Apr 5, 2011 08:44 AM

                          Web version is out:

                          http://www.sfgate.com/food/top100/2011

                          http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/food/to...

                          1. Robert Lauriston Apr 26, 2011 10:17 AM

                            Another post by Bauer detailing his decisions, including the identification of Madrona Manor as the last one cut:

                            http://insidescoopsf.sfgate.com/blog/...

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