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Chronicle Top 100 2014

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This year it's online before the print edition is out, 20 new places:

http://www.sfchronicle.com/top-100-re...

Weird design with huge type and graphics.

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  1. Agreed; the layout is nearly unreadable. Very clunky.

    1. I pulled it up and kind of by accident zoomed out the map. Only ONE restaurant south of SF/Oakland. That's got to be some kind of record.

      4 Replies
      1. re: Ruth Lafler

        Yes, I've never been one of those people who insisted the South Bay get equal coverage in the Chron, but it's sort of hilarious that he included Manresa, and no other San Jose area restaurant.. The way the map is set up, it looks like he ate all over the South Bay and could only find one good restaurant. I really, really doubt this is true.

        Having said that, I don't have a ton of problem with this list, for what it is. It's more or less the sort of list you'd expect from him. Not saying that's good or bad; it is what it is.

        1. re: dunstable

          As one who lives in San Jose, there is the reality that is often reflected on this board, the restaurant scene here, tho getting better, does not quite yet rate.

        2. re: Ruth Lafler

          It depends on what kind of newspaper the Chron purports to be, Ruth.

          On the one hand it IS titled "SF" Chronicle. On the other hand it makes noises sometimes about being a regional paper, which would clash with omitting the half or so of the Bay Area population "south of SF or Oakland." Like its restaurant reviews of 40 years ago ignoring the East Bay (which did sometimes happen).

          Then again, so many of the restaurants south of SF/Oakland are Asian-Ethnic, for which the chron's current chief critic might not be the best equipped. Seems to me Whitelaw in the 70s did a better job of sniffing out and popularizing Sichuanese restaurants (a new thing for the US at the time) than the Chron has done in recent years for today's emerging Asian cuisines in the Bay Area.

          1. re: Ruth Lafler

            There are three in the Peninsula / South Bay section, counting Amber India twice.

          2. So Keiko was recently subject to an update review giving it 3.5 stars for food. But I don't see it on the list. At the same time, 2.5-star Lers Ros is there. Seems like there is some disconnect between the star rating system and inclusion on the list unless there is some form of affirmative action program for Thai restaurants. But if so, shouldn't Lers Ros be given more stars?

            6 Replies
            1. re: nocharge

              He tries to include a range of styles and price ranges of restaurants.

              1. re: Ruth Lafler

                So are there quotas for specific types of restaurants? Thai, French, Italian, Chinese, expensive, inexpensive, etc? Not very well spelled out, in my opinion. I think the star ratings are mostly within reason. One can always quibble about half a star one way or another, but I think that would be the margin of error of anyone's opinion. However, the Top-100 list shows an inexplicable level of arbitrariness.

              2. re: nocharge

                Keiko's update was published just yesterday so too late for this year's list.

                1. re: Robert Lauriston

                  The question is not when the Keiko update was published but when the review took place. Besides, Keiko and Lers Ros were originally reviewed within one week of each other. Keiko got 3 stars but didn't make the list. Lers Ros got 2.5 and made the list that year.

                  1. re: nocharge

                    It takes a few weeks for the production staff to put those big articles together. Per his blog, Bauer was working on the top 100 list on March 25, and he didn't eat at Keiko's until the end of April.

                    1. re: Robert Lauriston

                      Given that he probably visits or revisits well in excess of 100 restaurants to compile his list, he's probably been at it for a while. But again, even based on the original reviews of Keiko and Lers Ros that were one week apart, the exclusion of Keiko is strange.

              3. Fleur de Lys is not a Top 100 restaurant? Only in an alternate universe.

                6 Replies
                1. re: zorrosf

                  On this board there have been a lot of complaints about inconsistency and not-so-great meals at FdL that echo what Bauer wrote in his last update on the place:

                  http://www.sfgate.com/food/article/Ac...

                  1. re: Robert Lauriston

                    Apparently, Bauer cares more about the attire of the hostess and the ubiquity of cherry tomatoes than the beauty and class of the decor, the sumptuous food, and the classic presentations (e.g., where else do you get a Grand Marnier souffle these days?) I readily concede that "different strokes for different folks" is still cogent advice and FdL may not make everyone's list of SF's Top 10. However, not in the Top 100??? In the immortal words of John McEnroe: "You can't be serious!"

                    1. re: zorrosf

                      He gave FdL four stars for atmosphere. There are a lot of other restaurants in that price range that get more consistently positive reviews here. Many of them are owned by chefs who have only one place and are in the kitchen every day.

                      You can get a Grand Marnier souffle at RN74, Bisou, Cafe Jacqueline, Chapeau, Gary Danko, Alexander's Steakhouse, or Jeanne d'Arc.

                      1. re: Robert Lauriston

                        Nevertheless zorrosf has a point, and I get it. "Consistent reviews" on this Chowhound board are hardly the final word, or even necessarily representative at all (I've seen some restaurants draw mostly comments here that are eccentric compared to the typical patron's or critic's impression although don't get me wrong, it's certainly not in the sorry league of Y*lp).

                        And people who've experienced and appreciated Hubert Keller's exuberant homey-accented Alsatian cooking for 15 or 30 years, extending perhaps back to his earlier restaurant too -- starting long before most of today's fashionable restaurants and chefs -- may well overlook a run of inconsistency even if they too experience it, which they may well not.

                        1. re: eatzalot

                          I don't think anyone is disputing Hubert Keller's talent. More likely a matter of a chef possibly overextending himself to build an empire. Fleur de Lys in SF. Fleur in Las Vegas. Burger Bars in SF, Vegas, and Beijing. Appearances on TV shows like Top Chef. Writing cook books. Etc. No wonder if the original flagship restaurant might suffer in the process. Michael Mina is probably in the same boat, so to speak.

                          1. re: nocharge

                            That's fair enough. (It seems now every successful chef in this country needs an "empire," too. Must have started with Wolfgang J. Topfschnig, better known by his made-over name "Puck.")

                2. Dropped (I only count 18 so maybe I missed a couple):

                  Auberge du Solel
                  Dopo, Oakland
                  Farallon
                  Fifth Floor (closed)
                  Hog & Rocks
                  Koi Palace, Daly City
                  Michael Mina
                  Mill Valley Beerworks
                  Mission Chinese Food
                  O Chame, Berkeley (closed)
                  Osteria Stellina
                  Outerlands (chef left)
                  Pesce
                  Press
                  Spruce
                  Trick Dog
                  Wakuriya
                  Waterbar

                  19 Replies
                  1. re: Robert Lauriston

                    Mission Chinese Food and Koi Palace got bad reviews. Did the others have bad reviews, or just not make the cut?

                    1. re: Robert Lauriston

                      Cool to see that list! The most surprising one, in my opinion, would be Michael Mina. After that, Spruce, Waterbar, and Farallon in no particular order.

                      1. re: nocharge

                        Not sorry to see Michael Mina leave the list. The only way I'd return is if I was someone's guest, (s)he insisted, and picked up the check.

                        1. re: lmnopm

                          I'm more surprised than sad, especially since Bauer has had a history of giving Mina-related places somewhat inflated ratings. The latest Bauer update for Michael Mina was in September with the headline
                          "Michael Mina is stellar - but not quite 4-star" and he gave the place a 3.5 star rating. If places like that are being kicked off of the list in favor of 2.5 star places, I'm not sure how to correlate his star system with his Top-100 list.

                          1. re: nocharge

                            "As I was … updating the Michael Mina [Top 100] entry, I was dumbfounded when I realized the a la carte main courses started at $42 and went up to $52 (rib eye steak). I had a visceral reaction to those prices. In addition, the appetizers start at $20 and go up to $29 and there’s an additional 3 percent San Francisco surcharge. It all made me ask: Is it worth the price?"

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

                            1. re: Robert Lauriston

                              Yeah, I read that. But that doesn't really answer the question about what the criteria are for inclusion in the Top-100. And it's not like Michael Mina being pricey is a brand new concept. Bauer never noticed it before?

                              1. re: nocharge

                                He was the first one to figure out sending only cute waiters to his table.

                                1. re: ML8000

                                  Ouch!

                        2. re: nocharge

                          I'm most surprised by Wakuriya. I haven't been, but have heard rave reviews by everyone (trustworthy) who has, and reservations disappear for any given day in seemingly minutes.

                          1. re: bouncepass

                            Maybe it was one of the six he dropped for no reason except to get the count down to a bogus 100. There are actually 107 restaurants on the list, since he counts Chez Panisse + the Cafe at Chez Panisse, Gialina + Ragazza, Perbacco + Barbacco, Pizzaiolo + Boot & Shoe, Scopa + Campo Fina, Terra + Bar Terra, and both Yang Sing branches as one each (though Cotogna and Quince count as two).

                            "… the day before the deadline … I had to whittle down the 106 restaurants I had written down to 100. In the end it went purely on a gut feeling, considering such factors of price/value, location and type of food. This year, 20 new places were added to the list, including three Japanese places …"

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

                            1. re: Robert Lauriston

                              Counting two Yank Sing branches as one may make some sense. Counting Perbacco and Barbacco as one would make a lot less sense. Lumping Quince and Cotogna together (which he doesn't) would make even less sense than that.

                              1. re: nocharge

                                I think the relationship of Quince and Cotogna is much too similar to that of Perbacco and Barbacco to justify dropping one of the six restaurants he arbitrarily cut.

                                1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                  Quince and Cotogna both deserve mention. The other tandems do not. He's simply listing their sister locations together for informational purposes. Barbacco didn't deserve it's own listing this year.

                                  1. re: sugartoof

                                    Regardless of what restaurants deserve mentioning, Quince and Cotogna are very different restaurants although in close geographical proximity and run by the same owners. Same thing could be said for Perbacco/Barbacco. Why would one of the two tandems count as one while the other doesn't?

                                    Undisciplined arbitrariness on part of a restaurant reviewer who thinks that 100 is a magic keyword.

                                    1. re: nocharge

                                      Publishers love big round numbers in roundup headlines, but shoehorning six or seven extra restaurants into the 100 using the excuse that their owners are lucky enough to have two place undercuts his argument for arbitrarily throwing out six others.

                                      1. re: nocharge

                                        Like I said, I believe it's because they were listing second locations, and Barbacco wouldn't have made the list otherwise. Unlike Cotogna which might have even beat out Quince this year, since it's having it's moment.

                                        If the list was open to extra names, I doubt it would have solved the dual listing scenario.

                          2. re: Robert Lauriston

                            Outerlands was remodeling and the chef just left. Timing doesn't add up to get dropped.

                            Trick Dog getting dropped implies it was only added in the first place to seem with-it.

                            1. re: sugartoof

                              The Chron reported that the chef would not be returning a couple of weeks before Bauer blogged about working on the top 100 list.

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

                            2. re: Robert Lauriston

                              Canteen closed, that's the other one gone from last year.

                              He tacked Campo Fina onto Scopa, so he only dropped 19 to add 20.

                            3. Bauer notes in his introduction to the piece that only nine of the 20 places are on the list for the first time.

                              http://www.sfgate.com/restaurants/din...

                              1. Actually, counting all the two- and threefers, it's the top 113:

                                A16 + A16 Rockridge
                                Amber India x 3
                                Chez Panisse + Cafe at Chez Panisse
                                Gialina + Ragazza
                                La Folie + La Folie Lounge
                                Lers Ros x 3
                                Perbacco + Barbacco
                                Pizzaiolo + Boot & Shoe
                                Scopa + Campo Fina
                                Terra + Bar Terra
                                Yang Sing x 2

                                1. Bauer posted his top 10 dishes from the top 113 today:

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

                                  Makes me want to go to Gary Danko.

                                  Comal's roast turkey is fantastic.

                                  http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/8438...

                                  Tosca's roast chicken made no sense to me.

                                  http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/8855...

                                  6 Replies
                                  1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                    The Tosca dish does really look nonsensical.
                                    Honestly, her NY menus have dishes like that too.

                                    1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                      Marlowe's hamburgers are good but wouldn't make my top 10.

                                      1. re: bbulkow

                                        Agree 100%. Hamburger preferences are very much like pizza: chacon a son gout. That said, having done so once, I wouldn't walk across the street for Marlowe's burger. Frites were excellent, tho.

                                        1. re: bbulkow

                                          I prefer the simple and straightforward style of Kronnerburger (with the cheese sauce on the side), Mua, or Cafe Rouge, but Marlowe's is probably my favorite relatively complicated burger. I've been craving one for ages, don't get down that way very often lately.

                                          1. re: bbulkow

                                            I feel the same way. It's one of the better I've had in SF in the last few years, and I'd like to revisit that taste again, but not enough to actually bother with any of the 3 places serving it.

                                          2. re: Robert Lauriston

                                            Are the mustard capellini at SPQR always on the menu? The other dishes on the list look like they're available all year round, but maybe with a seasonal flourish or two.

                                          3. The Bauer is going to be on Forum with Michael Krasny this morning at 10am to discuss his Top 100. I assume their producer is going to screen the callers pretty thoroughly, but it would amuse me very much if we take over the program a la 4chan. "Hello, this is Robert from Berkeley. Are you able to count to 100?"

                                            http://www.kqed.org/radio/programs/fo...

                                            16 Replies
                                            1. re: dunstable

                                              Is Bauer going to use a voicebox so that his voice doesn't become recognizable to everyone in the restaurant industry? You know, the same degree of diligent care he's used to protect his visual identity?

                                              Re screened calls, I'm sure Chowhounders are savvy enough to play it straight to get past the screeners!

                                              1. re: dunstable

                                                har, I hope Robert's not listening. Bauer's talking about how he had the list down to 106, then down to 101, and finally 100...

                                                1. re: dunstable

                                                  Interestingly, he openly acknowledges that he is usually recognized by restaurant staff.

                                                2. re: dunstable

                                                  Why does Bauer inspire this much distaste (anger seemed like too strong of a word)?

                                                  He's a flawed presence so I get the frustration, but there are times, like this one, where I wonder what the ridicule is really about. I find him practically trivial at his point. Was there a time when any of you trusted his reviews or had thought the top 100 was comprehensive, or even reliable? I don't mean to take shots, but I have to wonder if his loudest critics are just repenting for the years they held his opinion in high regard, before catching on?

                                                  1. re: sugartoof

                                                    Don't look at me, I'm a transplant.

                                                    He's coming off well in this interview, actually.

                                                    1. re: dunstable

                                                      Sorry, Dunstable. I just happened to reply to your comment.

                                                    2. re: sugartoof

                                                      For me, it's the way his reviews corrupt San Francisco Bay Area restaurants to match his tastes, much like Robert Parker's reviews corrupting the wine world. If we had multiple strong voices it would be less of an issue but one strong voice can be bad news indeed.

                                                      Michael

                                                      1. re: mdg

                                                        The Chron had two strong voices ~20 years ago, before Bauer forced Patricia Unterman and Stan Sesser out so he could take over both their columns.

                                                        1. re: mdg

                                                          I think that has been a long-time point of criticism. Another one would be that he doesn't review a lot of hole-in-the-wall restaurants, something that sometimes irks the crowd that believe finding great hole-in-the-wall places that nobody knows about is their mission in life.

                                                          But I think for the restaurants he does review, the star ratings are mostly within reason. Some of the components are even somewhat objective like the price rating and noise rating, even though the criterium for $$$$ is hopelessly outdated.

                                                          My major problem with his star ratings is not that I disagree about half a star up or down, which would be normal; my problem is that he somehow tries factor in "value" into the overall rating without having a disciplined formula for doing so. And why would you need to do so? If you know the quality of the food, service, ambience, etc, as well as the price level, anyone with even a single digit IQ should be able to figure out the "value" part.

                                                          Even so, I don't find the star ratings too bad. It's the complete arbitrariness when it comes to the Top-100 list (or 113 or 107 or whatever) and how it correlates to the star ratings that I find confusing and annoying.

                                                          1. re: nocharge

                                                            Okay, but that's just rehashing the complaints. No doubt there's plenty to gripe.

                                                      2. re: dunstable

                                                        a couple of thoughts, now that he's done:

                                                        1. He seems to have given up whatever pretense he had that he was anonymous. He talked about the different service levels he gets when he is recognized, vs. when he isn't. Kokkari was a place he singled out as a place where he usually isn't recognized.

                                                        2. The subject of Yelp reviews came up, and his criticism of them was that Yelp reviews were usually about the service, which he thinks should be a concern secondary to the food. This is fair, and would also justify (well, sort of) his lack of anonymity when dining for reviews: he may get better service, but unless the restaurant knows he's coming, the food will probably be about the same as everyone else's.

                                                        3. The topic of Chinese food came up, and again he name-dropped Cecilia Chiang. He said it is his friend Cecilia Chiang who complains to him that there are no good Chinese restaurants in SF. He's done this enough times that I am taking this as his tacit acknowledgement that he either doesn't know or doesn't care enough about Chinese cuisine to delve into it. Which I guess is fair... perhaps this is what Kaufman is for.

                                                        1. re: dunstable

                                                          Did Bauer talk about the different service levels he received when he was recognized and not at the same place? He has written several reviews where one visit a mess and another great in which he did not suggest that might have been a factor.

                                                          "unless the restaurant knows he's coming, the food will probably be about the same as everyone else's"

                                                          Rationalization. If it's a new restaurant of the type Bauer reviews, they know he'll show up after the usual interval, and everyone's on their toes. After he's spotted the first time they expect him to return two more times within a week or two. (And if he doesn't they know they're not getting more than three stars, despite the Chron's claim that ratings are based on three visits rather than Bauer's snap judgment.)

                                                          La Suite and Tres Agaves are standout examples of how a highly inconsistent place can snow Bauer by giving him better food and service than they're capable of providing to their average customer.

                                                          1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                            Yes, he said that sometimes he is recognized at Kokkari, but usually he isn't, and he said there is a noticeable difference in service. He didn't attempt to reconcile this with his review-writing (and mostly the callers were only interested in plugging their favorite local joints).

                                                            "Rationalization. If it's a new restaurant of the type Bauer reviews, they know he'll show up after the usual interval, and everyone's on their toes. After he's spotted the first time they expect him to return two more times within a week or two. (And if he doesn't they know they're not getting more than three stars, despite the Chron's claim that ratings are based on three visits rather than Bauer's snap judgment.)"

                                                            A good point. Ah well, it is what it is...

                                                          2. re: dunstable

                                                            I think the food can be quite different for a reviewer. I went to Bar Agricole when they first opened with a critic and another time with a celeb as well as several times with friends and the portions we got of the dishes when I was with the critic and the celeb were larger overall, the portions of the proteins were larger & better prepared and the quality of the food was better than when I went minus the celeb or the reviewer and I know they knew who the celeb was as they mentioned it and I'm pretty sure they knew who the critic was.

                                                            Also I don't understand a reviewer thinking service isn't as important as food, it affects the food and it's what makes dining in restaurant different than just hiring a private chef or cooking yourself.

                                                            1. re: tjinsf

                                                              My favorite restaurants make things I don't have the skills or equipment to make at home, or that are too much work to cook myself, or make them better than I can.

                                                              Food is more important than service. If a place has mediocre food, who cares how good the service is? There are lots of places that make great food where service is an afterthought.

                                                              Bauer has written a lot of reviews that spent more time talking about the service than about the food, and the Chron rating system has separate ratings for food, service, atmosphere, noise, and price (though as discussed above Bauer sometimes factors price into all of the others except noise).

                                                              1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                                I would moderate the statement.

                                                                When reviewing, I prefer to know the shining points of a restaurant. Sometimes it's food. Sometimes it's atmosphere & service. To get column inches, they probably need both.

                                                                A well balanced review will give you a view of both, and flattening that into an overall "star rating" - I would put food above atmosphere & service, and I dislike that M Bauer seems to rank service more highly than I do - and he's getting a very different service experience than I am.

                                                        2. I recently ate at Nido and was not impressed with either the service or the food.

                                                          I won't be taking Bauer's advice in the future.

                                                          4 Replies
                                                          1. re: RBCal

                                                            What did you have at Nido?

                                                            They make some of the best Mexican food I've had outside of Mexico. Service is friendly and above average for places in its price range.

                                                            http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/886109

                                                            1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                              The Huarache Distrito Federal and my companion had the Chilaquiles.

                                                              My egg was cold and my companions egg who prefers the yolk solidly cooked had to return it. They got the egg wrong even the 2nd time. If they can't cook an egg to order the chef is inexperienced.

                                                              1. re: RBCal

                                                                The huarache DF I had was great.

                                                                I can see why your eccentric friend was unhappy, but the kitchen having a lot of trouble overcooking an egg is a good thing for the rest of us.

                                                            2. re: RBCal

                                                              I have to agree. Several months after having eaten there, all I can remember was that I found the food unimpressive (I think maybe posole was one of the dishes we had) except that I liked my agua fresca. And our server was distinctly awkward.

                                                            3. Bauer posted a favorite "dish" from each of the his top 100 restaurants. Unlike other lists, e.g., 7x7s top 100, he's mostly upfront when his picks are seasonal and in some cases lists categories of items instead, e.g., pastas, that a restaurant excels at.

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

                                                              People will have different favorites than Bauer at these places, but are any of the dishes he picked bad or inconsistent? For the few dishes on the list that I've eaten, there's only one I'd be hesitant at recommending to someone and even that's pretty damn good (Gialina's Atomica, which tastes great, but the center gets soggy).

                                                              4 Replies
                                                              1. re: hyperbowler

                                                                Whoa, looks like they really changed the duck b'steeya at Aziza. It used to be circular -- now it looks like an egg roll??!

                                                                1. re: Torina

                                                                  An "egg roll with duck sauce" anyone?

                                                                  I wonder if that's the wrong picture or if he asked for them to cobble together a one-person-sized b'steeya--- recent Yelp photos show the normal $22 b'steeya.

                                                                  1. re: Torina

                                                                    The longer tasting menu has smaller courses, so he came up with a sort of mini-eggroll-basteeya.

                                                                    1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                                      oh, phew!