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Chron Critic Awards Theodore Rex Four Stars

Alison Cook misses Oxheart, but finds its successor a worthy contender

Theodore Rex/Yelp

Theodore Rex has earned a four-star review from The Chronicle’s food critic Alison Cook, although it was hard-fought battle to land in her good graces.

Cook kicks off this week’s review with a poetic account of Theodore Rex’s tomato toast, a dish she describes as “craveable” despite her initial apprehension toward the restaurant. “It took me a while to warm to Theodore Rex, with its jokey name that pays tribute to Yu’s young nephew,” Cook writes. “I couldn’t quite figure out how to put a satisfying meal together out of the small sharable plates, the small less-sharable plates and the quartet of bigger items that function as entrees. Or that a couple of the dishes back then left me cold.”

It reportedly took Cook five visits to really get Theodore Rex, over which she saw that some of the menu’s less-compelling plates eventually evolve into better versions of themselves. She praises the restaurant’s revamped 28-seat dining room and its casual vibe.

“Most of all, I have come to appreciate that the food produced by Yu and his kitchen team, headed up by the very capable Jason White, still pushes the envelope on flavor, texture and technique,” she writes. “The dishes may look simpler, less structured than they did at Oxheart. But like that tomato toast, behind even the most rustic-looking plate is a hidden history of exacting process and painstakingly sourced ingredients.”

Eater’s own national food critic, Bill Addison, was equally enthralled by Theodore Rex, calling it one of America’s most exciting restaurants. Like Cook, Addison mourned the dishes and tasting menu format at Oxheart, but found that Theodore Rex’s inventive plates were equally praise-worthy.