Michael Bauer Reaches Back to 2010 to Come Up With His Ten Best New Restaurants of 2011
Mr. Bauer admits that when he began compiling his best new restaurants list in the fall he "thought the dining scene had stagnated," but he says he came around to seeing that "2011 was a pretty good year after all." You wouldn't really know it from the final list, however, on which three of the restaurants opened in 2010 (Ragazza, Cotogna, and Mission Chinese Food), one was a reopening in a new location (Piccino), and one restaurant didn't even close or reopen, it just got a new chef (Fifth Floor). So basically, he could only come up with five new-new restaurants worthy of his best-of, which points to the idea that maybe it wasn't such a great year after all.
Granted, Cotogna opened late enough in 2010 that Bauer's review fell in early 2011, but Mission Chinese and Ragazza opened in July and September of 2010, respectively, and he just took his time getting around to them.
Notable among the places he snubbed: Locanda, which was a pretty big mid-year opening from the Delfina team, and has been wildly popular despite a middling review from Mr. Bauer; Atelier Crenn, which earned a Michelin star in its first year and which he gave a shout-out to in this earlier blog post, despite not loving it in his review; and Boxing Room, which got a similar shout-out, leading us to believe it might get included. And yes, pizza is still part of a winning formula in Bauer's book. We're even a little surprised Cupola isn't on here. Anyhow, it is what it is. Below, the ten he chose.
Bar Terra ("Lissa and Hiro Doumani made a brilliant move when they divided Terra restaurant and tapped into the cocktail culture by turning one side into Bar Terra.")
Cotogna ("Cotogna has become my favorite go-to Italian restaurant ... Given the impeccable service and stylish surroundings, with large windows overlooking the tree-lined streets, it's one of the best deals in the city."
El Paseo ("While it took a while for the place to find its groove, a recent revisit showed the kitchen is cooking on all burners under chef Preston Clark.")
Fifth Floor ("[David Bazirgan's] cooking incorporates those seemingly contradictory rustic and refined elements that only those creating at the highest level can achieve.")[Editor's Note: Bauer also refers to the remodel of the restaurant, which technically occurred a couple years back under the tenure of Jennie Lorenzo.]
Mateo's Cocina Latina ("[Chef Mateo Granados is] now turning his attention to the foods of his homeland, creating a Yucatan-inspired menu that comes straight from his heart.")
Mission Chinese Food ("Few local restaurants have received more national publicity as this restaurant ... [and here comes his sidenote for the sake of the elderly and persnickety, and the reason he ignored the place at first ... ] Even though the food is three stars, the surroundings definitely are not; if cleanliness is next to godliness, this place is hell.")
Nojo ("[Chef Greg Dunmore's] food is so good it will make even frequent travelers to Japan take note.")
Park Tavern ("If there could ever be a replacement for the long gone but lamented Stars, which defined San Francisco dining in the 1980s, it is Park Tavern.")
Piccino ("Rachel Sillcocks, who has worked at Nopa and at Cyrus in Healdsburg, is in charge of the kitchen and oversees the stellar pizzas ...")
Ragazza ("Sharon Ardiana followed up her wildly popular Gialina with this Divisadero Street pizzeria featuring an expanded menu.")