La Sen Bistro, 2002 Salvio St., Concord. 925-363-7870; www.lasenbistro.com. Berkeley's beloved La Rose has moved to a prime spot off Todos Santos Plaza. The name may be new but the menu offers classic dishes, like steak tartare and soup l'oignon, for Francophile foodies. $$. (* * * on 2/21/13)

Gianni's Italian Bistro, 2065 San Ramon Valley Blvd., San Ramon. 925-820-6969, www.giannissanramon.com. The founder of the beloved Incontro restaurant has returned to his roots -- and the Italian restaurant's original venue. Cozy surroundings, great gnocchi. $$-$$$. (* * ½ on 2/14/13)

Padi, 2965 College Ave., Berkeley. 510-841-1608; www.padibayarea.com. Indonesian restaurants are rare here, but Padi offers authentic, fiery Sumatran comfort food. Don't miss the spicy "smashed" chicken thighs with sambal, and considerably tamer perkedel (mashed potato pancakes). $. (* * * on 1/24/13)

Bull Valley Roadhouse, 14 Canyon Lake Drive, Port Costa. 510-787-1135, www.bullvalleyroadhouse.com. This retro, rustic marvel mixes farm fresh, seasonal fare with pre-Prohibition era charm, Bee's Knees cocktails -- and a staff that hails from Slanted Door. $$-$$$. (* * * ½ on 1/17/13)


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Slow Hand BBQ, 1941 Oak Park Blvd., Pleasant Hill. 925-942-0149, www.slowhandbbq.com. A popular barbecue-centric food cart goes bricks and mortar at this new eatery that showcases smoky brisket, ribs, pulled pork and a terrific craft beer list. $-$$. (* * * on 1/3/13)

B-Dama, 4301A Piedmont Ave., Oakland. 510-420-1578, www.b-dama-geta.com. This cozy izakaya offers plenty of small plates, yakitori, kushiyaki, udon and sushi to savor, but it balances the bar-noshing scene with family friendliness too. $. (* * ½ on 12/27/12)

Plate & Vine, 1970 Diamond Blvd., Concord. 925-680-1700; www.plateandvinerestaurant.com. The Hilton has completely revamped its dining room and turned it into an organic, sustainable farm-to-fork venture with reclaimed barn wood decor and winery riddling racks, and dishes such as butternut squash risotto, braised short ribs and divers scallops in brown butter. $$. (* * ½ on 12/13/12)

Johnny Garlic's, 4920 Dublin Blvd., Suite 265, Dublin. 925-248-2347, www.johnnygarlics.com. Guy Fieri's popular, family-friendly Dublin eatery boasts flavorful steaks, ribs, pasta dishes and burgers. $$-$$$. (* * ½ on 11/22/12)

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)

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)

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)

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)

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)

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, this retro brasserie puts 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)