Epic curious

Meet SN&R’s new food critic

Since we’re about to embark on a culinary adventure, it’s probably prudent to pile a few things on the plate, as it were. Expect no cowering behind the tattered veneer of objectivity. I had my fill of that during 19 years covering the state Capitol for the San Francisco Chronicle. Here, there are going to be opinions. Hopefully informed, but opinions nonetheless.

Together, we’re going to visit a cornucopia of restaurants, sample their fare, assess their servers and rank how good they are on a five-star scale. As shown in the margin to the left, the Powers That Be have ascribed different values to each star. Commencing with one star: Bad, So-So, Pretty Good, Very Good and Outstanding.

The rating system we’re going to employ is different.

The new five stars is “Epic”—the mightiest superlative in my 16-year-old daughter’s lexicon. At some point during a meal at an epic restaurant, there must be at least one moment of open weeping over the chef’s audacity or innovation.

Four stars is “Authoritative.” Such an establishment exhibits culinary grace augmented by smartly delivered service. Three stars is “Appealing”: “While the snarling, froth-mouthed waiter proved discordant, the rabid ambience was far outweighed by the wickedly scrumptious abalone in jade sauce.” Two stars is “Flawed With Moments.” One star assumes that somewhere there has to be a joint that’s worse. And, of course, the absence of any stars means we are fasting for world peace.

My opinions are informed by my prejudices.

Jimmy Buffett may play for gumbo, but I am a sushi slattern. I’m also a teppan trollop and a trull for Thai. I’m a grisette for good Indian cuisine, a strumpet for steak and a fish floozy. Pasta drives me positively wanton.

First and foremost, though, I’m a dim sum slut.

Take fair warning: We will find the gold standard for these angelic dumplings or gorge ourselves trying. Like the existence of other intelligent life in the universe, the odds are that somewhere in the diverse environs that comprise Alta California there is a shining sui mai on a hill, a temple awash in pouli tea where we may joyfully worship at the delectable altar of cheung fun, har gow and fung jeow.

The place doesn’t even need to use serving carts if the char siu bao kills.

Mom, Dad, Gramps or Grandma in the kitchen, preferably in person, is always better. If they live on through the legacy of a recipe, that’s a plus, too.

Besides the aforementioned food fetishes, my diet is schizophrenic. I am an omnivore by day, vegetarian by night. Upon completion early this summer of the book Skinny Bitch, Mrs. Lucas pronounced herself forever free of meat and, in the main, dairy. As the usual chef at Chez Lucas, I was informed that henceforth Mrs. Lucas would only be eating critters with no central nervous system. I inquired as to where we might find a Republican willing to lay down their life to accommodate her.

Rather than prepare two different evening meals, the three of us veg out. This has led to some delightful discoveries. Caponata, the Sicilian tomato and eggplant dip and crostini spread, proved an excellent pasta sauce. The leftover sauce, reheated and served as a side vegetable, was less appealing to our daughter, who observed that it resembled cat barf.

Further proof of the importance of presentation.

Ergo—if only in the interest of domestic tranquility—rooting out fine vegetarian or vegan dining establishments will also be a priority.

I’ve been using the word “we” because the editors suggested interesting persons accompany me on our reviews. Like ol’ Epicurus used to say: Find someone you want to eat and drink with before you find a place to eat and drink. Not to state the obvious, but who could be more interesting than SN&R readers?

So let us roam. Down the highways, up the byways, in the strip malls, on the river, a bounty of good eats beckon. Someone has to enjoy them all, and I’ll be damned if I can think of anyone more deserving than us.