The following are shortened versions of recent reviews of Bay Area restaurants which garnered ratings of * * ½ or more. The date the original review ran and its overall rating are in parentheses.
Opa!, 1532 N. Main St., Walnut Creek. 925-891-4700, www.opawillowglen.com. This loud, spirited taverna offers authentic Greek souvlaki, moussaka, mezzes and enough flat-screen TVs to delight any sports enthusiast. $$-$$$. (* * ½ on 11/1/12)
Rangoon Ruby, 445 Emerson St., Palo Alto. 650-323-6543, www.rangoonruby.com. In an area with restaurants representing all corners of the globe, Rangoon Ruby has added upscale Burmese cuisine to the mix. The chefs hail from the East Bay's Burma Superstar and the tea leaf salad is a delight for the senses. $$. (* * on 10/18/12)
Blackhawk Grille, 3540 Blackhawk Circle Plaza, Danville. 925-736-4295, www.blackhawkgrille.com. A gorgeous redesign and new, modern tavern menu -- including blue crab cakes, steak frites and a killer butterscotch bread pudding -- have given new life to this Blackhawk classic. $$. (* * * on 10/18/12)
District Oakland, 827 Washington St., Oakland. 510-272-9110. This stylish uptown eatery sets the bar as the whiskey lounge by which others will be judged. Flavorful tapas, such as Moroccan lamb meatballs and spinach and fontina arancini, and fine service round out the experience. $$. (* * * on 10/11/12)
Lokanta, 443 Main St., Pleasanton. 925-223-8074, www.eatlokanta.com. This bar and grill offers cocktails, mezes and Mediterranean entrees -- moussaka, pistachio-crusted snapper, grilled salmon and kebabs -- in a brick-lined bistro setting. $$. (* * ½ on 10/4/12)
Le Cigare Volant, 328 Ingalls St., Santa Cruz. 831-425-6771, www.bonnydoonvineyard.com. Bonny Doon Winery's restaurant boasts a chef from Baume, fun, creative, artfully presented dishes and great kitchen views from the chef's counter, plus an incredibly thoughtful, educational wine list. $$-$$$. (* * * on 9/27/12)
Soleil's African Cuisine, 1544 Webster St., Alameda. 510-228-6747, www.soleilsafricancuisine.com. Tucked inside the Frog and Fiddle Bar, this warm, welcoming Alameda eatery offers plate-lickingly-good food from western and southern Africa, and can make any dish vegetarian. Don't miss the saka-saka and anything with coconut milk-based sauce. Save room for the banana beignets. $$. (* * * on 9/13/12)
Hopscotch, 915 San Pablo Ave., Oakland. 510-788-6217; http://hopscotchoakland.com. This trendy, tiny eatery serves up great cocktails and inventive American food with a Japanese sensibility. Don't miss the beer-steamed clams and the sweet potato gnocchi. $$. (* * * on 9/6/12)
Skates on the Bay, 100 Seawall Drive, Berkeley. 510-549-1900, www.skatesonthebay.com. This freshly renovated waterfront restaurant features a new raw bar, reliable seafood classics mixed with inventive new eats, and gorgeous bay views. $$$. (* * * ½ on 8/30/12)
Comal, 2020 Shattuck Ave., Berkeley. 510-926-6300, www.comalberkeley.com. This Berkeley Arts District eatery boasts a stylish warehouse-chic interior, mezcal flights and terrific regional Mexican food from Oaxaca and the Yucatan, including street tacos, ceviche and lamb barbacoa. $$. (* * * ½ on 8/23/12)
Nick's Next Door, 11 College Ave., Los Gatos. 408-402-5053, www.nicksnextdoor.com. This offshoot of the very popular Nick's on Main woos the crowds with risotto croquettes, rib-eye steak with marrow, and chocolate-peanut butter mousse, then tucks the bill inside a copy of -- appropriately -- "The Food Lover's Companion." $$-$$$. (* * * on 8/14/12)
Sauced, 2300 First St., #120, Livermore. 925-961-1300, www.saucedbbqandspirits.com. More upscale than your typical BBQ joint, Sauced pays homage to the nation's barbecue hot spots, with St. Louis cut spareribs, Carolina pulled pork, Texans' favorite beef brisket and Kansas City-style sauce. Plus, cocktails. $$. (* * * ½ on 8/9/12)
American Oak, 2319 Santa Clara Ave., Alameda. 510-521-5862, www.americanoakalameda.com. This utterly cool restaurant and lounge offers something for everyone -- terrific burgers, fresh seasonal fare, eclectic cocktails and whiskey and rye flights. $$. (* * * on 7/26/12)
Barbacoa, Orinda Theatre Square, Orinda. 925-254-1183, http://barbacoaorinda.com. Adorned with Day of the Dead murals, this laid-back neighborhood restaurant offers antojitos, street tacos, barbacoa and other regional Mexican fare, as well as a tequila bar and patio dining. $$. (* * * on 7/12/12)
Honor Bar, Grill & Cocktails, 1411 Powell St., Emeryville. 510-653-8667; http://honorbar.com. This modern speak-easy specializes in artisanal cocktails, local microbrews and terrific pub grub, including a crawfish boil and grilled steaks. Table service is limited and sound levels are high. $$. (* * * on 6/21/12)
The Corners Tavern, 1342 Broadway Plaza, Walnut Creek. 925-948-8711, http://cornerstavern.com. Upscale comfort food -- don't miss the ale-battered fish -- plus a hip, eclectic vibe and massive roll-up doors make this New American tavern the place to be on a warm, balmy evening. $$-$$$. (* * * on 5/31/12)
Terra Mia, 4040 East Ave., Livermore. 925-456-3333, www.terramialivermore.com. This popular Italian trattoria delivers fresh Calabrian flavors, thin-crust pizzas, flavorful pasta dishes and plenty of neighborhood charm. $$.
(* * * on 5/24/12)
Incanto, 1550 Church St., San Francisco. 415-641-4500, http://incanto.biz. Chef Chris Cosentino is known for his way with offal and his salumi-making skills. The Italian menu features sweet breads, tuna heart, lamb neck and other nose-to-tail fare. $$-$$$. (* * ½ on 5/17/12).
Santorini, 105A Town and Country Drive, Danville. 925-743-1035; www.santorinidanville.com. Despite its name and Aegean decor, Santorini -- which is run by the same people behind Walnut Creek's Silk Road -- showcases a broad array of Mediterranean and Middle Eastern dishes, including pomegranate chicken, skewered meats, Persian stews and truly addictive house-made pita and dipping oil. $$. (* * * on 4/26/12)
Lone Tree Thai, 5401 Lone Tree Way, Brentwood. 925-516-3343; www.lonetreethai.com. Fast, friendly service and a few enticing, flavorful dishes are the hallmark of a great neighborhood Thai place, and this one delivers. The Name Kow Tod salad is a stunner, kids will love the satays, and vegetarians will be delighted to know that every dish can be tweaked for them. $$.
(* * ½ on 4/19/12)
Himalayan Flavors, 1585 University Ave., Berkeley. 510-704 0174; www.himalayanflavors.com. There's considerably more than the usual vindaloos among the savory offerings here. This fare will open your eyes to the cuisines of Bhutan and Nepal, from momos and noodles to vegetarian dishes. $-$$. (* * ½ on 4/12/12)
Rumbo al Sur, 4239 Park Blvd., Oakland. 510-479-1208; www.rumboalsurrestaurant.com. Pan-Latin American heat, bold flavors and a cozy dining room add up to a memorable evening at this small-plates place, the newest venture from the people behind A Cote. $$. (* * * on 4/5/12)
YiPing, 2416 San Ramon Valley Blvd., Suite 140, San Ramon. 925-838-7188; http://yipingrestaurant.com. Bold and spicy Sichuan specialties, local, organic ingredients and a smartly crafted wine list set YiPing apart. Among the memorable dishes: stir-fried cumin lamb with red bell peppers and jalapeños, house-made pot stickers and incendiary Dan Dan noodles. $$. (* * * on 3/29/12)
Sportivo, 2132 Center St., Berkeley. 510-705-1801; http://sportivobarristorante.com. A block from BART, this cozy Sicilian eatery offers flavorful, hearty food -- thick-crust Sicilian pizzas, pasta and antipasti -- made with high quality, imported ingredients. $$-$$$. (* * ½ on 3/15/12)
Kobe Japan, 1918 Oak Park Blvd., Pleasant Hill. 925-705-7065; www.kobejapanrestaurant.com. This teppanyaki restaurant provides plenty of tasty fare, as well as Benihana-style spatula acrobatics and fiery spectacles, making it a winner for families and the after-work crowd. $$-$$$.
(* * ½ on 3/8/12)
Faz, 1111 Broadway, Oakland. 510-272-1111; www.fazrestaurants.com. The newest in Faz Poursohi's chain of Mediterranean restaurants brings Persian, Italian and Greek specialties -- including cannelloni, kebabs and pasta -- to Oakland's City Center.
$$. (* * ½ on 3/1/12)
El Sacromonte, 2062 First St., Livermore. 925-371-1173; http://elsacromonte-usa.com. This artsy, romantic newcomer to Livermore's dining scene offers fabulous decor, artwork from Guadalajara and authentic, gourmet Mexican fare that's the polar opposite of Tex-Mex. Sip a high-end margarita or a little pinot noir as you sample the ceviche, artistically plated entrees and delicious desserts.
$$$. (* * * on 2/23/12)
Haven, 44 Webster St., Oakland. 510-663-4440; www.havenoakland.com. This Jack London Square restaurant is Daniel Patterson's follow-up to his popular Uptown spot, Plum. With executive chef Kim Alter at the helm, the menu features artfully prepared, nouvelle California fare, with an emphasis on gorgeous, seasonal vegetables and creative technique. $$$.
(* * * ½ on 2/9/12)
Coco Cabana, 4500-C Tassajara Road, Dublin. 925-556-9055; www.cococabanadublin.com. This tapas, tequila and wine lounge sways to a Latin-American beat, with flavor-infused small plates, south-of-the-border-inspired entrees and a lively vibe to match. $$-$$$. (* * * on 2/2/12)
Creek Monkey Tap House, 611 Escobar St., Martinez. 925-228-8787; http://creekmonkey.com. In a city that practically rolls up its sidewalks when the courthouse closes, a casual gastropub with extended hours is pretty darn heavenly. Add in locally grown farm-fresh fare, burgers, mac and cheese. $-$$. (* * * on 1/5/12)
Kadupul, 8939 San Ramon Road, Dublin. 925-556-3170; www.kadupul.us. Pakistani and Indian curry joints abound, but Kadupul is on a mission to introduce the cuisine of Sri Lanka -- along with all its Malaysian, Thai and Dutch influences. There's classic biryani for less adventuresome diners, but don't miss the banana leaf-wrapped lamprais with spiced meat and saffron rice. $-$$. (* * * ½ on 12/15/11)
Cypress, 1388 Locust St., Walnut Creek. 925-891-4197; http://cypresswc.com. With its masculine decor, killer wine program and old-school dishes, such as oysters Rockefeller, Cypress is a retro brasserie with contemporary spins on classics, such as roasted chicken and grilled New York steak. But the winning dishes are the ones with chef Rick Delamain's French touches. $$$. (* * * on 12/8/11)
Sons & Daughters, 708 Bush St., San Francisco. 415-391-8311; http://sonsanddaughterssf.com. From amuse bouche to dessert, this San Francisco restaurant with a newly minted Michelin star raises creative, playful, seasonal fare to an art form. Five-course tasting menu (about $75 per person). $$$$$. (* * * on 11/17/11)
Handles Gastropub, the Pleasanton Hotel, 855 Main St., Pleasanton. 925-399-6690; www.handlesgastropub.com. The food's a little uneven at this comfortable gastropub but the vibe is warm and welcoming -- it's where every grown-up Pleasantonian will want to hang out -- the burgers are great, and the selection of local beers and wines is top notch. $$. (* * ½ on 11/17/11)
Kacha Thai, 1665 Mt. Diablo Blvd., Walnut Creek. 925-988-9877; www.kachathai.com. This handsome restaurant is date-friendly, but welcomes families, too, with its fresh spin on traditional Thai items. Don't miss the piping-hot gourd of pumpkin curry, and be sure to try the ever-changing chef's specials. $$. (* * * on 11/10/11)
Joshu Ya Brasserie, 2441 Dwight Way, Berkeley. 510-848-5260; www.joshu-ya.com. This old sushi-boat mainstay has been made over into a fresh Japanese brasserie, offering seasonal fare and sustainably sourced sushi at affordable prices. Don't miss the jalapeño pork belly soba. $$. (H H ½ on 10/21/11)
Lin Jia Asian Kitchen, 3437 Lakeshore Ave., Oakland. 510-835-8322; www.linjiakitchen.com. This polished, but casual eatery offers a blend of healthful and indulgent dishes, with ingredients sourced from feel-good farmers markets and Berkeley Bowl. Don't miss the shrimp rolls, dumpling soup and spicy canton noodles.
$-$$. (* * ½ on 9/16/11)
54 Mint Rosticceria & Formaggi, 785 Oak Grove Road, Suite 4, Concord. 925-969-9828. This unassuming little place, an offshoot of its much-buzzed-about big sister in San Francisco, offers authentic, lovingly prepared Italian fare -- 11 antipasti, 11 primi e secondi. The wet, buttery Mozzarella di Bufala alone will transport you to a cobblestoned piazza. $$$. (* * * on 9/9/11)
Anh Hong, 2067 University Ave., Berkeley. 510-981-1789; www.anhhong.com. The family that owns this restaurant originated Vietnam's iconic "seven courses of beef," so you won't find a better version anywhere. And the make-your-own wraps, filled with brilliantly fresh herbs, are top-notch. $-$$. (* * ½ on 9/2/11)
Patxi's Pizza, 3577 Mt. Diablo Blvd., Lafayette. 925-299-0700; www.patxispizza.com. The notion of Chicago-style deep-dish pizza has been transplanted into this hip, upscale venue with wonderful pan pizzas, great cornmeal crusts and fresh ingredients. Skip the appetizers. Focus on the 'za. $$. (* * ½ on 8/26/11)
Tender Greens, 1352 Locust St., Walnut Creek. 925-937-5100; www.tendergreensfood.com. You order at the counter at this casual, organic, farm-to-table place, but the fare -- lavish salads, grilled meats and terrific sandwiches -- couldn't be more seasonal, delicious or wallet-friendly.
$. (* * ½ on 8/19/11)
Rudy's Can't Fail Cafe, 1805 Telegraph Ave., Oakland. 510-251-9400; www.iamrudy.com. Rudy's -- named after a song by the Clash -- serves fare as American as MTV and BLTs. This is comfort food at its most comfortable, with tasty burgers, BLTs with avocado, grown-up milkshakes and more delights for Fox Theater-goers and regular Joes alike.
$. (* * ½ on 8/12/11)
Oyama Sushi, 3651 Mt. Diablo Blvd., Lafayette. 925-283-6888; www.oyama-sushi.com. This Japanese restaurant offers two dozen types of nigiri/sashimi and a wide array of beautiful and imaginative rolls, with pan-Asian flair.
$-$$. (* * ½ on 7/29/11)
Ottavio, 1606 N. Main St., Walnut Creek. 925-930-8008; www.ottavio-osteria.com. This stylish osteria offers authentic Venetian flavors and plenty of delights, from Bellini cocktails to pappardelle with fava beans and artichokes, wild boar ragu and various seafood dishes. $$-$$$. (* * * on 7/22/11)
Disco Volante, 347 14th St., Oakland. 510-663-0271; http://discovolanteoakland.com. Amusing cocktails, great food and live music make this casual, eclectic eatery -- the name is a nod to a James Bond villain's yacht -- a fun first-date venue. Don't miss the avocado tacos, house-made sausage on a pretzel bun and buttermilk panna cotta. $-$$. (* * * on 7/8/11)
Ippuku, 2130 Center St., Berkeley. 510-665-1969; www.ippukuberkeley.com. This upscale izakaya and kushiyaki-ya offers a vast sochu selection, authentic bincho-grilled yakitori and small plates -- including a chicken tartare-like tori yukke -- that are tailor made for noshing as you sip and socialize. $-$$ per small plate.
(* * * on 6/17/11)
Federicos Tapas and Wine Bar, 30971 Courthouse Drive, Union Landing Shopping Center, Union City. 510-441-0900; www.federicoscafe.com. An independently owned restaurant in a sea of chains, Federicos offers diverse, fresh, global flavors in a setting that evokes a little tango-dancing, Latin vibe. Don't miss the ceviche, chicken mole tacos, eggplant tower and signature ravioli. $ for small plates.
(* * * on 6/3/11)
Pear Street Bistro, 2395 San Pablo Ave., Pinole. 510-741-8875; www.pearstreetbistro.com. This upscale neighborhood bistro offers a warm, welcoming vibe, vibrant bar scene and some great small plates and dinner specials. Don't miss the mini-BBQ pork shanks and slaw. $$. (* * ½ on 5/20/11)
Homeroom, 400 40th St., Oakland. 510-597-0400; www.homeroom510.com. This playful eatery is all about mac 'n' cheese, with nine varieties of that comfort food fave, plus other nostalgic delights, including homemade Oreos. Low prices, a relaxed vibe and a great little wine list -- plus menus sporting paper airplane instructions -- add up to a very fun night out. $. (* * * on 5/6/11)
Casbah Mediterranean Kitchen, 1770 First St., Livermore. 925-243-1477; www.casbahexotic.com. This family-friendly neighborhood cafe specializes in flavorful, inexpensive Mediterranean and Middle Eastern flavors, from gyros to samosas and kebabs. Vegetarians will be particularly delighted by the array of choices. Adding to the fun: Belly dancers perform Thursdays and Sundays. $$. (* * ½ on 4/15/11)
Zen, 2642 Pleasant Hill Road, Pleasant Hill. 925-287-8899; www.zenrestaurantca.com. This small, smartly decorated restaurant on the border of Pleasant Hill and Martinez offers fresh, affordable Chinese food but needs to punch up the flavor on its Pan-Asian offerings. $$. (* * ½ on 4/8/11)
Forno Vecchio, 680 Main St., Pleasanton. 925-425-0099; www.fornovecchio.com. This family-owned Italian restaurant offers a warmly enthusiastic welcome and some great dining options, including a tasty Italian Wedge salad with crispy pancetta and crumbled Gorgonzola, and divine gnocchi. $$. (* * * on 3/25/11)
Frances, 3870 17th St., San Francisco. 415-621-3870; www.frances-sf.com. Chef Melissa Perello turns fresh, seasonal ingredients into something exquisite, yet decidedly unfussy at this chic restaurant, which has made best-of lists from coast to coast. Her bacon beignets are deservedly famous, but the rest of the menu delights, too. $$-$$$. (* * * ½ on 3/4/11)