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Four Restaurants We're Crazy For

We check out Cafe Eugene, Itani Ramen, Miminashi, and Fénix.

Cafe Eugene.


Cafe Eugene
Oregon native Ryan Murff pays tribute to his home state at this smart, laid-back spot. He and executive chef Chris Laramie have devised a menu that moves from smoked salmon with marinated cucumbers and lemon-chive cream cheese to a rice bowl tossed with a pesto-like evergreen sauce and tiled with seared duck breast. While it isn’t always clear what distinguishes some dishes from California cuisine, the kitchen’s handle on the cooking is never in doubt. 1175 Solano Ave. (at Stannage Ave.), 510-647-9999
—Josh Sens

Itani Ramen
Ramen, a dish of a thousand faces, assumes multiple guises at this urban-chic counter-service shop from Hopscotch chef-owner Kyle Itani. The ever-shifting menu features four types of ramen, ranging from the familiar (shoyu, shio) to more exotic iterations such as nanban-zuke, a cold soup plucky with pickled sardines. Every version can be customized with toppings—or bolstered on the side by gyoza or rice bowls that are tasty but too small to stand alone as meals. 1736 Telegraph Ave. (near 18th St.), 510-788-7489

The charcoal-grilled flavors of yakitori have arrived in downtown Napa, courtesy of former Oenotri chef Curtis Di Fede. An equal-opportunity employer of poultry parts, Di Fede turns out skewers of chicken hearts, skin, and necks on a menu of Japanese pub grub that includes kimchee fried rice with blood sausage and asparagus and clay pot pork stew fragrant with grapefruit, fennel, and nettles. In keeping with the cooking, the light-wood interior is more Eastern temple than modern farmhouse. 821 Coombs St. (near 3rd St.), 707-254-9464

Following a fire that shut down its open-flame restaurant TBD, the Mercer Restaurant Group (AQ) has erected a new concept in its stead. Billed as full-service Mexican, the restaurant is centered on large, shareable plates accompanied by a dozen “little tastes.” Grilled octopus comes pillow soft and perched on a wobbly bed of fried chickpeas, while pork shank is slow-cooked with agave and ancho chilies. There’s guacamole garnished with cilantro flowers, warm tortillas, and the sense that while none of it is particularly authentic, it’s all agreeable enough. 1077 Mission St. (near 7th St.), 415-431-1826
—Rebecca Flint Marx


Originally published in the July issue of San Francisco

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