When some chefs get a review they're not nuts about from the Chron's longtime food critic Michael Bauer, most seethe quietly, worried, perhaps, about standing up to the man that's reputedly the most powerful food writer in San Francisco. Not Hapa Ramen owner and noted social media firebrand Richie Nakano, however! No, not at all.
We got reviewed! It was (kinda) good! I mean I was a lifetime c average student so— Richie Nakano (@linecook) March 14, 2015
In reference to Bauer's discription of some menu items as employing "techniques Nakano no doubt learned at one of the Western restaurants where he previously worked":
"Western restaurant" kinda racist tho tbh— Richie Nakano (@linecook) March 14, 2015
Referencing the photo at the top of this article, Nakano tweeted:
Every new printing of our menu gets a new fun fact. Today's is a real gem @ Hapa Ramen https://t.co/1RY4ugqLpj— Richie Nakano (@linecook) March 15, 2015
@linecook hi Rickie!— Adam Carstens (@adamcarstens) March 16, 2015
(I misspell things a lot, too, and have to scramble to fix my typos. It happens, we're all human. And, to Bauer's credit, the error was eventually corrected.)
So how critical is this review? Is this a case of that thing where a single negative comment will overwhelm buckets of positive remarks?
Well, it wasn't a savaging to the level of Crystal Jade's, but it's definitely mixed, with as much criticism as praise. (I can't speak to its "accuracy," as if one could regarding something as individual as food. However, my esteemed colleague Jay Barmann says that he really likes Hapa's fried chicken steam buns and "the vegetarian/miso ramen is fantastic.")
A greater question might be if a ramen joint could possibly expect much more than 2.5 stars from as traditionally entrenched a critic as Bauer. A 2013 review of Oakland's Ramen Shop, for example, couldn't possibly be more glowing, but only clocked in at three stars. As Nakano notes, the Ramen Shop's style is "vastly different" from Hapa's, so perhaps this is an apples to oranges comparison? But we're just talking, here.
Of course, Hapa's Sunday night menu (as seen above) isn't the first time someone's brought up Bauer's three-decade tenure as food critic as implication that the Chron might need a change. An anonymous food writer blasted Bauer to Eater last year:
Michael Bauer needs to go. The New York Times has a great system where they cycle in new talent every few years, which keeps things fresh (and about as anonymous as possible in this day and age). Looking beyond the fact that he's been doing this same job for three decades, is recognizable to absolutely everyone, and is good pals with so many local chefs and restaurateurs, the guy is simply an awful, awful writer. Let's also not forget that his long-time partner has invested in several San Francisco restaurants, all of which, unsurprisingly, receive great reviews and frequent praise, all while not being publicly disclosed by him or the Chronicle. Talk about journalistic integrity.
Update: Michael Murphy, Bauer's long-time partner, writes in regarding the remarks published in Eater that I quoted above. Here's what he has to say:
For the record: neither Michael (Bauer) nor myself (Michael Murphy) have any investment in any restaurant (in San Francisco- or anywhere).
I have seen some various comments from time to time...they are completely untrue..but rather than get into the mud with people who are attempting to discredit Michael or defame me....I have just let it go....(Well, till now.)
To be clear= I have absolutely NO INVESTMENT in any restaurant.
SFist regrets republishing Eater's — or, more accurately, the anonymous food writer quoted in Eater's — error.