Michael Bauer Watch: What's He Got Against Oliveto?

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Coming up with a list of exactly 100 top restaurants out of the over 1700 in the Chronicle's review database must necessarily involve some tough choices, probably even some arbitrary ones. The first steps, however, seem simple. You'd start the list with the eight four-star places, and then add the 21 that have three-and-a-half stars. The hard part would be choosing among the remaining restaurants to fill out the list.

Which raises the question, why is this year's list missing five of the Chron's three-and-a-half-star restaurants?

Leaving out Erna's Elderberry House makes sense, since it's not in the Bay Area. Since Chez Panisse is on the list, maybe Chez Panisse Cafe doesn't need to be on there, too. Silks and Dry Creek Kitchen (Healdsburg) got new chefs de cuisine late last year, and Bauer hasn't published updates since.

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I can't see any similar rationale for dropping Oliveto (Oakland). Chef Paul Canales is at the top of his game, and the restaurant has if anything improved. By Bauer's own star ratings, it's better than 18 of the 21 places he added to the list this year. The other three-and-a-half-star Italian restaurants--Acquerello, SPQR, and Bistro Don Giovanni (Napa)--all made the list.

Maybe he's factoring in price. The guy implied in his blog recently that he knocked down Terzo's food rating half a star because he thought the prices were too high, which is just wrong since the Chron rates the food and price separately.

If he left Oliveto off the list because he thinks their prices are too high, he should knock down their overall rating down to three stars. Though in fact Oliveto's prices are lower than those at Acquerello.

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