In Sunday's Chronicle, resident food critic Michael Bauer lavished some hefty praise on the new Mission restaurant Lazy Bear — which also happened to figure on our Best New Restaurants list last week. He says that chef David Barzelay — a former lawyer with no culinary training when he launched his underground dining club in 2009 — is "a talented chef who can stand tall with the best," and "a master at... gentle roller-coaster rides on the tongue."

Lazy Bear just opened this past summer in the former Hi Lo BBQ space on 19th Street, offering a dinner party format similar to what Barzelay and his team were doing at the pop-up. The space allows for a two-stage meal with the first part beginning upstairs on the mezzanine with cocktails, wine, and a set of canapés and small opening courses, most of the beautifully plated despite the informal setting, which only has a few low tables, several couches, and a few standing tables.

The second phase moves to two long dining tables downstairs — where, if you come for the later, 8 p.m. seating, the first seating is still finishing their dessert courses while you're upstairs — and continues with about eight more courses, all presented to the entire room at once.

Bauer is charmed by this format, and says, "Even if you don’t like communal tables, you can’t help but participate, because the meal really does feel like a dinner party."

He adores dishes like a Dungeness crab and crab consommé dish with brown butter and persimmon; and some slow-braised short ribs cooked in beef fat that are "rich as Wagyu beef."

Bauer notes the convivial atmosphere that seems to keep guests wanting to linger, which "as any veteran host knows [is] the sign of a successful party." And he rewards Barzelay with something very few restaurants can claim right out of the gate: three and a half stars. The often particular Mr. Bauer wasn't even that impressed with Saison during its first three years in business, so consider this high praise.