HOME > Chowhound > San Francisco Bay Area >

michael bauer's negative review of fonda (albany)

s
sundeck sue Jun 23, 2011 11:43 AM

just sent michael bauer the following note in response to his star and a half "pan" of fonda in today's sfchronicle:

Tough review of Fonda in today's paper. I'm writing to say, there are a few more good dishes.

Fonda is our go-to place when we're flying back from the East Coast (it's open late when most of the East Bay closes up tight--we're travel-weary and need a snack/drink--fonda posts happy-hour-prices for some food/drink after 9).

We always order the same fare, which is, w/out exception, terrific: duck tacos (which you enjoyed), fish tacos (very nicely cooked and spiced), cuban mini-burger (a well conceived and seasoned combo of meat-pickles-crisped onions), fresh mango w/ lime (the perfect close)--and a decent margarita or mexican beer.

It's not that we don't "get" your review. Other items that we've tried seem uninteresting and overpriced. But through our judiciously narrow lens, we have a better than star-and-a-half experience.

-----
Fonda
1501 Solano Ave, Albany, CA 94707

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
Delete
  1. r
    Ridge RE: sundeck sue Jun 23, 2011 07:26 PM

    I don’t give very much stock to food and wine critics. It’s just one person’s palate and people have different tastes. Bauer is the food critic I agree with the least; I am more often than not extremely perplexed by and strongly disagree with his reviews. It’s not all surprising to me that he gave a negative review of Fonda, a place I really like. But he is entitled to his opinion. I just almost never agree.

    1. v
      vulber RE: sundeck sue Jun 23, 2011 09:20 PM

      in all fiarness, bauer always orders as many items as possible to get a sense of consistency; if you're always getting the stuff you like there, you're goign to have a higher opinion of it....

      3 Replies
      1. re: vulber
        a
        abstractpoet RE: vulber Jun 24, 2011 12:13 AM

        Right, and this is a fundamental difference between Chowhound and traditional restaurant reviews: Chowhound's a place where an otherwise mediocre restaurant will get recommended again and again on the basis of one or two stellar items. There's no way a traditional starred review system can account for that (whether it's Bauer or whoever) - though a nuanced and thoughtfully written review might.

        Anyway, that's why a lot of people thought it was lame when Chowhound itself started offering a star system (which became a moot point, since hardly anyone actually uses it - just like hardly anyone uses that "been there"/"wanna go" nonsense).

        1. re: abstractpoet
          r
          Ridge RE: abstractpoet Jun 24, 2011 08:19 AM

          Personally I take all reviews with a grain of salt. And based on my experiences of going to places that have been reviewed I can say that I don’t trust Yelp and I don’t trust Bauer but I do trust the consensus of Chowhounders more. Fonda? It’s not the FL but it’s certainly not mediocre. But then, I'm no Bauer.

        2. re: vulber
          l
          lmnopm RE: vulber Jun 24, 2011 07:02 PM

          I can't help to think that once he gets a stick up his poto, that's the end of it. As for Fonda, I don't go there too often but enjoy to really enjoy what I eat, which is often the late Happy Hour food. Also, their weekend brunch is a delicious deal.

        3. j
          joshl RE: sundeck sue Jun 24, 2011 08:39 PM

          Bauer's review was very much consistent with my experience the last two times I ate there.

          16 Replies
          1. re: joshl
            r
            Ridge RE: joshl Jun 25, 2011 12:17 AM

            I haven't been in a couple of months but will try to go back soon and will report back

            1. re: Ridge
              r
              Ridge RE: Ridge Jul 2, 2011 09:32 AM

              Well…….I have to bite my tongue. We went back to Fonda on Tuesday night. We hadn’t been in a while. I was hoping it would be as good as previous visits, but overall the food has slipped. We started with chips and guacamole. The chips were slightly overly greasy. The guacamole was good but not as vibrant as previous versions I remember. The salsa that came with it was completely unspicy and bland. It was taco night. We got duck and lamb tacos. The duck tacos were definitely a big step down from previous versions we have had there. The lamb was kind of bland. We got grilled squid with siquil-P'ak. This was a dish they used to have at Sea Salt. At Sea Salt this dish was always amazing. The version at Fonda was mediocre. The grilled squid was tasty enough, but the giant mound of siquil-P'ak underneath was weird and bland and not at all like the spicy Sea Salt version. We also got an old favorite the Tostaditas de carnitas. This was good but then again this is a difficult dish to mess up. The one thing I noticed different from previous visits is a lack of seasoning, no heat from chilies and no acidity from lime that I always liked. Our last visit to Sea Salt was also somewhat of a letdown but not as much as this visit to Fonda was.

              -----
              Sea Salt
              2512 San Pablo Avenue, Berkeley, CA 94702

              1. re: Ridge
                bbulkow RE: Ridge Jul 2, 2011 10:05 AM

                You mean ... Bauer .... got something right????

                I haven't been happy with them since they took warm chocolate cake off the menu.

                1. re: bbulkow
                  r
                  Ridge RE: bbulkow Jul 2, 2011 10:33 AM

                  I can’t stand that I agree with him on something!!!

                2. re: Ridge
                  l
                  lmnopm RE: Ridge Jul 2, 2011 12:55 PM

                  i don't know if this is relevant, but last night @T-Rex, there was none of the house hot sauce that adorns all the tables. Upon inquiry of the waiter, he told us that the chiles they use were not available right now - who knows why - but I wonder if same or similar is what is used at Fonda, and they might be tinkering around with substitutes.

                  By the way (and I'm not making any apologies for Fonda), did you complain? Did you tell your server or a manager what you thought about the seasoning? For all we know (and this applies to pretty much anyplace), a handful of people might have complained that things were overseasoned, too salty, etc. etc. and no one said anything the other way, and the kitchen attempted to compensate for those who spoke up.

                  1. re: lmnopm
                    a
                    abstractpoet RE: lmnopm Jul 2, 2011 03:07 PM

                    The last time I ate brunch at T-Rex, I noticed a huge drop-off in quality (and disappointing menu changes) - enough for me to not want to ever go back, at least for brunch. So I wonder if things are just going downhill for the whole Lalime's empire.

                    The last couple of meals we've had at Sea Salt were OK, though.

                    -----
                    Sea Salt
                    2512 San Pablo Avenue, Berkeley, CA 94702

                    1. re: abstractpoet
                      l
                      lmnopm RE: abstractpoet Jul 2, 2011 04:04 PM

                      Can't say. Most of my recent dining has been at Lalime's for their specials (usually Thursday, sometimes Friday) and they have been from very good to great, and a great value. I've also had a few recent very good meals at Paisan. My T-Rex and Fonda eats in recent months have only been occasional happy hour drinks/snacks. I haven't been to Sea Salt in ages.

                      -----
                      Sea Salt
                      2512 San Pablo Avenue, Berkeley, CA 94702

                      Lalime's
                      1329 Gilman, Berkeley, CA 94706

                      Paisan
                      2514 San Pablo Ave, Berkeley, CA 94702

                      1. re: abstractpoet
                        Melanie Wong RE: abstractpoet Jul 2, 2011 04:16 PM

                        Hmm, wondering how Cesar is these days since K2 assumed management...

                        -----
                        Bar César
                        1515 Shattuck Ave, Berkeley, CA 94709

                        1. re: Melanie Wong
                          dlglidden RE: Melanie Wong Jul 2, 2011 05:21 PM

                          $3 margaritas at Bar Cesar all day long over the 3-day 4th of July weekend. At least K2 is advertising their restaurants and offering special deals regularly. Says nothing about the food, but says quite a bit about their determination to make a go of their restaurants in these hard times.

                          1. re: Melanie Wong
                            a
                            abstractpoet RE: Melanie Wong Jul 2, 2011 09:48 PM

                            I assume they manage the Cesar Latino too, then? When did the changeover take place? We went for the first time a few weeks ago with admittedly low expectations. The nicest thing I can say is that it wasn't as expensive as we thought it was going to be. But we also ordered many of the cheapest things on the menu.

                            The food wasn't exactly bad but very gringo-ized, and quite frankly I've had better meals at Chili's. Best thing we ordered was the "carnitas" nachos, but it's pretty hard to mess up nachos. Chorizo mini "burger" was so salty as to be barely edible. Side order of sauteed spinach was fine but pretty bland. Fried plantains were OK - it was one of those really sweet preparations.

                            Looking at their current online menu, I don't see a lot of these particular items, so I don't know how often they switch things up.

                            -----
                            Bar César
                            4039 Piedmont Ave, Oakland, CA 94611

                            1. re: abstractpoet
                              Melanie Wong RE: abstractpoet Jan 15, 2012 02:14 PM

                              Maybe a year earlier, article dated July 2010.
                              http://articles.sfgate.com/2010-07-29...

                              1. re: abstractpoet
                                Robert Lauriston RE: abstractpoet Jan 15, 2012 02:32 PM

                                K2's reportedly no longer connected with Bar Cesar and the menu is in flux.

                                http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/6972...

                              2. re: Melanie Wong
                                JasmineG RE: Melanie Wong Jul 5, 2011 11:20 PM

                                Cesar Latino is basically like Fonda but on Piedmont Avenue, and with a great bar. I loved that Cesar so much when it opened on Piedmont Ave, and it's turned into something with too expensive and not very interesting food. It just makes me sad.

                                -----
                                Bar César
                                4039 Piedmont Ave, Oakland, CA 94611

                      2. re: joshl
                        chefj RE: joshl Jun 25, 2011 04:14 PM

                        We went a few years ago and have not returned. Really thought the food was much ado about nothing, both in flavor and portion. Service was decent with a bit of attitude and the cocktails were truly dreadful.

                        1. re: chefj
                          r
                          Ridge RE: chefj Jun 25, 2011 06:40 PM

                          I have liked it. I like the atmosphere on the upstairs level, it’s comfortable to sit in the comfy couches and eat small plates and drink wine. I’ve liked the food and never have had a bad experience there. I think maybe the food is not for everyone. It’s pretty rustic food and the seasoning is heavy on lime which I love but others might find one dimensional. I have particularly liked their crudo appetizers, the chips with guacamole and pork and the duck tacos. Once in a while I have gotten a less than stellar dish but more often than not I have enjoyed the new things I’ve tried.

                        2. re: joshl
                          dlglidden RE: joshl Jun 26, 2011 04:22 AM

                          I'm with you, Josh. Fonda was wonderful (and got wonderful reviews) for years after it opened. It's now, frankly, very tired and staid. It hasn't fiddled significantly with its menu or decor in years. Maybe the K2 group is overextended and unable to properly attend to all its several restaurants. Thinking back over the past few months, we've eaten quite often at Paisan, and frequently at Lalime's and even Jimmy Bean's, but not often at Sea Salt or T-Rex and not at all at Fonda.

                          Fonda used to be a fun, good value, unusual place to eat. Now, it no longer is.

                          -----
                          Sea Salt
                          2512 San Pablo Avenue, Berkeley, CA 94702

                          Lalime's
                          1329 Gilman, Berkeley, CA 94706

                          Jimmy Bean's
                          1290 6th St, Berkeley, CA 94710

                          Paisan
                          2514 San Pablo Ave, Berkeley, CA 94702

                        3. Robert Lauriston RE: sundeck sue Jul 5, 2011 04:39 PM

                          I've gone to Fonda for the late-night happy hour a couple of times this year and thought it was some of the best Mexican food I've had outside of Mexico, though the kitchen might be more consistent when things are slow.

                          Show Hidden Posts