In case you had the impression this might be a normal week in at least some sphere, sorry, but no: Chronicle food critic Michael Bauer wrote a love letter review to a Taco Bell naked chalupa. Then there's the rough time restaurants have been having, with a report of 60 Bay Area establishments having closed since September. We also took a moment for a reminder that NAFTA is to thank for, say, such joys as plentiful Coronas and Modelos in the US. Otherwise, it was mostly business as usual: Hawker Fare announced it would close its original Oakland Location, leaving chef James Syhabout with his Valencia Street location. We learned that restaurants are purchasing inspection do-overs through a pilot program.
Colletta Gelato opened in SoMa, the already decorated La Taq won an honorary James Beard Award, and we delved into the prohibition-era speakeasy pasts of Cafe du Nord and Elixir. We also took a moment to catalog the 10 best neighborhood bistros in town. The rest:

China Live, the multi-level extravaganza of a food hall and restaurant project on Broadway in Chinatown, tells Inside Scoop that it's opening on February 24, a day after the annual ChinaSF fundraiser. It's been more than three years in the making and beset with delays — it was originally going to open in March 2015, and back in November of 2016 it was looking toward a January timeframe, in time for the Chinese New Year, but here we are. The centerpiece of China Live, which has drawn comparisons to New York's Eataly, is to be the fine dining restaurant Eight Tables.

There was plenty of excitement going around in December when we learned Vietnamese chef-restaurateur Khai Duong, previously of Ana Mandara, which shuttered in 2012had a homecoming in store. Duong, a chef with a Cordon Bleu pedigree, has now opened his Khai Vietnamese Nouveau according to Hoodline, a Design District bistro exclusively offering a $95 ten-course tasting menu.

Are they, or aren't they? Locol, the healthy fast food concept from Daniel Patterson and Roy Choi, was the subject of much consideration this month after a highly negative review from New York Times critic Pete Wells. Hoodline reported that Locol's long-planned first location in the Tenderloin, which was in fact delayed and leapfrogged by locations in Oakland and Watts, was being abandoned. A for-lease sign was on the door and a representative for the Mayor’s Office of Economic and Workforce Development said Locol was indeed out, but looking for another TL location. But then Eater called up a partner in Locol who told them the lease was still good, as far as he knew, and that they had just been experiencing two-years of power grid problems in the former grocery store space. He doesn't know how the "For Lease" sign made it to the window where it still hangs. Okay...

The Lee brothers of Namu Gaji are debuting Namu Claypot, which has been bound for Divisadero and the former Jay's Cheesesteak space since November 2015, as of March according to Hoodline, but of course that could get pushed back. Meanwhile their Namu Noodle, which is popping up in the Sunset as we wrote last week, is getting its permanent location in the Dogpatch by the end of 2017.

Ginger Elizabeth Chocolates, beloved in Sacramento according to the Sacramento Bee, will open a location in Cow Hollow. “Going to San Francisco has been a goal since before we even opened our retail store,” owner and namesake Ginger Elizabeth Hahn told the Bee. The San Francisco location is hoping for a June opening.

The Upper Haight cocktail wizards at the Alembic have revealed a new dinner menu, to be enjoyed in its expanded dining room. Eater has ahold of that, which is from new executive chef David Faro. Don't worry: Those jerk-spiced duck hearts are still on there.

San Francisco's Dominique Crenn (Atelier Crenn, Petit Crenn), about whom much ink has been spilled, gave an interview on Longreads. Even if you think you've got a handle on her after that Chef's Table episode or whatever, give this a read for lines on being dubbed a "female chef" like "I mean, we don’t say 'male chef.' We say 'chef,'" and a further peek into her background and aspirations.

Garden Creamery, at 20th Street on the corner of Lexington, is opening this weekend for vegan ice cream. These folks already have a food truck in the works, Mission Local explains, and that on Saturday at noon they'll start scooping from their brick and mortar location.

The cook at the Hayes Valley wine bar Birba was hospitalized after becoming the victim of an attack that left him injured according to a recovery fund launched by the business. "Your generous donation will assist him with some of the financial burden he will incur due to the incident," they write.

alaMar kitchen of Oakland has reopened under its new counter service format, and "Its all been great," chef Nelson German tells Inside Scoop. "Better than I anticipated even." Mostly the same menu as before, plus a Make your own poke bar has been a hit with Millennials, it seems "it’s the younger demographic that’s definitely more into the concept," German added. "I had a feeling about that coming in.”

The Good Food Awards went down last Friday, and Inside Scoop has a list of the winners. The awards ceremony was held with Alice Waters and Nell Newman hosting, and of the 193 winners in categories from beer to charcuterie to pickles to oils, winners included plenty of local talent including the likes of Lev's Original Kombucha for its Black Currant Kombucha concoction and Sufferfest Brewing Company for its nearly gluten-free pilsner.

Contraband Coffee is opening in SoMa, Inside Scoop says they'll be doing business as of January 30 at the Uptown space formerly occupied by Mockingbird.

Three-year-old Romper Room on Maiden Lane is going to shutter, Hoodline reports, and Saturday the 28th, tomorrow, will be its final night. A new bar is set to take its place soon.

Cannabis company Somatik partnered with Ritual coffee roasters to create a pot-infused cold brew, the Chronicle reports. “We landed on a coffee that’s really smooth, has kind of a chocolatey flavor, and has some top notes of citrus and currant,” says Somatik's CEO.

Eat Chinatown, a new campaign to encourage and educate diners in Chinatown, is launching as the city celebrates Chinese New year and will last through April according to KTVU. It includes a photo exhibit that provides historical context to contemporary businesses. "Hopefully, this exhibit will shine a light on their backstory to tell the history of these spaces and the community of Chinatown," Andria Lo, the photographer for the Eat Chinatown campaign, tells the news channel.

As we learned in December, the NYC Korean BBQ chef Deuki Hong had decamped to San Francisco, and the first taste of his food will be at Sunday Bird, a pop up station in the Boba Guys space at 1522 Fillmore. That, Eater now writes, will start on February 4, with later than usual hours. Eater also has the menu, which is centered on 24hr brined twice fried Korean-style chicken chicken and includes sides like honey butter bao-scuits.

This Week in Reviews

Marcia Gagliardi of Tablehopper gave a review of RTB, a pop-up in a financial district fast-casual restaurant, Dabba, from Chef Rodney Wages, last seen as the chef de cuisine at Atelier Crenn. His $89 menu, which is a warm-up for what he plans will be a real-deal, full-time restaurant, features dishes like an aebleskiver filled with grilled broccoli "and prepared like a takoyaki ball," and tortellini en brodo with smoked porcini and shiitake gel plus "thick shavings" of smoked foie gras. "Yes, all of these ingredients are catnip for the gourmand set," Gagliardi concedes," And it becomes clear why he runs the pop-up on Sundays and Mondays—so industry folks can come by." At the end of the day, end, Gagliardi says "worth it." She "dug the energy and DIY aesthetic with a strong personal POV—because that’s how they roll at RTB. I like SF being a bit scrappy and chic at the same time.

Pete Kane for the Weekly took "the plunge" at Onsen. As he explains, this "Japanese spa-restaurant in the former City Automotive building in the Tenderloin, is anything but gimmicky. Maybe your first mental image is of shrimp tempura in the steam room, but from top to bottom (and from dry sauna to cold plunge) this model is a paragon of elegance." Also, you don't eat shrimp tempura in a steam room. You actually enjoy items in the front dining area like a "stunning rice porridge with a pickled quail egg," and an "equally fantastic" soft egg custard with crab. "Onsen makes me giddy, because it’s beautiful and well-executed — but most of all, because it’s unique."

For his update review this week, when he wasn't chowing down on naked chicken chalupas, Michael Bauer swung back to one of this perennial favorites, Bar Agricole, which has gone through yet another chef change in recent months. Under chef Seth Stowaway, who worked under Brandon Jew when the place first opened, Bauer remains totally impressed with the execution on everything, saying the "salads still shine" and says that "The fry was so intense on the crab that I could eat some of the shell." Wow! He still raves about the cocktails, and says the place "continues to set a very high bar." The verdict: three stars.

And for his Sunday review, Bauer gives his take on new Indian-by-way-of-New-York-and-Melbourne spot Babu Ji on Valencia (in the space most recently home to Nostra Spaghetteria). Bauer dined in the New York location in December and he attests "that the food in San Francisco is brighter, with complex layers that unfold with each bite." Like Pete Kane before him, he's a fan of the Colonel Tso’s cauliflower, and like Kane he recommends the tasting menu. Bauer also raves about a marinated and roasted whole rainbow trout. But, he says, "the question remains: Will they break the jinx of the location?" His conclusion: two and a half stars.