Matthew Odam at The Statesman visits Contigo's new vegetable-centric restaurant Gardner this week. (There is also a "multimedia" review for folks who prefer to receive information via photo slideshow.) The critic greatly admires the restaurant's ambition and much of its execution. On the 'Bites' section of the menu:
The bites may play into the stereotype of some diners' suspicious view of modern cuisine. The plates are artful in their simplicity and offer what they advertise: a bite or two of food. That means when you order a sunchoke custard ($5) brimming with seductive brown butter and topped with crispy onions that will hit the nostalgia centers of your brain, your spoon will only make a couple of passes. One man's "Saturday Night Live" sketch is another man's silky point of entry to a multi-course meal.
Brandon Watson at The Chronicle also reviews Gardner this week, where he finds an ecclessiastical vibe and accomplished cuisine. Watson, too, comes to the defense of Bites:
those who grumble have spent much time online, bemoaning the perceived value of those bites. Yes, they are true to their name, barely larger than an amuse-bouche. And yes, one can buy tacos at the same price point. One can also buy a Washington Redskins ticket, but neither will bring as much pleasure as Gardner's tiny baubles.
Rachel Feit at The Chronicle visits tiny new sandwich show Republic of Sandwich, where the house-made ingredients suggest great things for the new concept.
O'Donnell and Gardner roast their own turkey to make one of the brawniest club sandwiches ($9) around, with plenty of thick slabs of bacon, roasted onions, and herbed mayonnaise. Their pastrami is brined and smoked in-house and paired with mushrooms to produce a spectacular Rueben sandwich ($9). Then there are the pulled pork sandwiches (try the one served with rapini, peppers, and provolone, [$9]) served on crusty rolls flown in from Amoroso's in Philly, which are sloppy in the extreme, but so tasty you just don't care that you have juice dribbling down your chin.
Austin Monthly's new critic Jolène M. Bouchon, announced to much fanfare, also files her first review. Her take on Dai Due covers only a single visit, made in October. On the beef rib:
The large, curving bone and massive amount of meat seems comical, but it makes sense for a restaurant that so reveres its ingredients. You're eating beef, from a cow. Why shouldn't your dish resemble it? The rib meat was buttery-tender, and the accompanying tart and savory kimchi made for an excellent counterpoint not just for the flavor contrast, but for the digestive balm fermented veggies offer a belly full of beef.