Slacker’s Guide to New Year’s Eve in Oakland

Yesterday I noticed that a couple of friends were surprised that today is the last day of the year, so in salute to procrastinators, slackers, nose-down workers and non-noticers of the area, let’s round up whats going on in Oakland tonight! As of this posting (8am Oakland Standard Time):

Bocanova: “TIERRA Y MAR” / $58 In addition to the regular dinner menu, there is a 4-course Surf & Turf menu, including a complimentary glass of bubbly. The main course: Roast Dungeness Crab with garlic, chile flakes & olive oil and Dry Aged Featherbone Steak with spiced salt & anchovy butter. Menu

Camino – Still some early reservations left! Read about it and reserve here: Choucroute Royale!

District$75 prix fix still has reservations!

Haven$85 prix fix still has reservations!

Lungomare – Two seatings available, choices in three courses $50, $65, Info here!

Plum – Gatsby New Year: $90-95 PER PERSON : OYSTERS with “poor mans caviar”: squid ink, saffron granita, CONSOMME smoked egg yolk, herbs, “WALDORF SALAD” chicken terrine, pickled grapes, walnuts, greens, SOUFFLE CRAB butter, LAMB braised greens, jus, “BAKED ALASKA” vanilla cake, citrus salad, blood orange ice cream, honey meringue Reservations available!

Ramen ShopParty! Get tix here!!

Spice Monkey – Oysters on offer for lunch and dinner!

Tribune Tavern – Two seatings available $45, $65 More info here!

As well, all your favorite local watering holes will be open for a midnight toast: Check out the scene at Ruby Room, 355, Radio, Merchant’s Saloon, The Layover, Penelope, The Trappist, Cafe Van Kleef, Luka’s, Heinolds First and Last, Dogwood, Bench and Bar, Make Westing, Mua, Toast, Ben and Nicks, Ye Old Hut, George and Walts, McNalleys, Baggys by the Lake, Conga Lounge, The Graduate, Barclay’s, Kona Club, Cato’s, The White Horse, Kerry House and Somar are just a start…

Happy New Year, Oaklavores!!!

Ramen Tomo: YUCK-itori!

It’s pretty rare that bad service hits my radar. Having worked at restaurants, I can see when a server is particularly busy or overtaxed by one table or another. When inactive service combines with cold and mediocre food, it deserves to be talked about. On the second visit to Ramen Tomo on Telegraph, Yakitori was our mission. We ordered Asahi beer and sake, eight or so stick sets and got excited for dinner. I was excited because the last time I went with a group of four, we were served quickly and the service was attentive.

The beer never came, and the small sake was gone in about 10 minutes never to be refilled or asked about, sadly. The sticks started to arrive, first the bacon and enoki and pork belly/chestnut. The pork belly came first(YES!). It was cold(NO!). Not room temperature, but intentionally cold(AUGH!). I was thinking maybe this was a special weird preparation that only they knew about? Trying to stay positive, I asked about it:

Me: So the pork belly sticks, are they meant to be cold?

Server: (Wide eyed) NO. What?

Me: Yeah they were cold, like refrigerator cold. Is it supposed to be like that? I thought maybe it was a new way of making it?

Server: (Still wide eyed) NO. It’s supposed to be hot, cooked.

He then brought us sticks that were slightly more caramel colored than the first, saying “This is how they are supposed to be.” Luke warm with no char. Hmm, not sold on that one. In fact, the only things we got any slight char on were the bacon with enoki and scallops and jalapeno which were sadly dry. It literally looked like someone had taken a lighter to one side of them, a dotted black edge on one side of the scallops.

We were tempted to walk out after no one would come to the table after 15 minutes of inactivity and pleading eye contact, also 30 minutes without drinks. Standing around the kitchen talking about vacation hours, none of the service staff looked around to check anyone’s dinner.

When one of us got up to leave, the waitress came over. She didn’t seem to notice when we said the food was not good.

The last time I went I had the spicy ramen and some sticks. Adding grated garlic at the table was a nice touch, but they don’t do that anymore- they came around with a container of pre-grated garlic. Who knows when that was prepared?

There’s just too much good food in Oakland to come back here.  We also tried to hit B-Dama on Piedmont for a corrective sticks bite and found that they no longer serve yakitori!! Nooooo! After two letdowns, we went to Ippuku  in Berkeley for corrective, blazing hot, smoky sticks and velvety unfiltered sake- ending the night on a high note.

Dear readers, what are your favorite smoky meat and veg sticks in Oakland??

Dinner Down at The Forge

This dinner was so overdue… A while back when they had first opened, I had a quick chat with the “Pizza Hacker” about domain names and such, but hadn’t made it over for a full meal. It’s been months! So inspiration struck- and I’m glad it did. The Jack London promenade on a sunny Summer evening is a beautiful place. The fog hadn’t rolled in and there was no chill to the air! In case it gets there (and it usually does), there are cocktails, fire pits and a wine list ready to warm you and yours.

We ordered a beer and a bottle of wine to split, and perused the menu. We settled on fried cheese curds, smoked chicken wings and two pizzas: a margherita with arugula and a farm egg, and a mushroom pizza that had sausage as a welcome addition.

 curds                  wings

The crispy cheese curds were all we wanted them to be – light then chewy but not heavy in the least. We tried the marinara and also the blue cheese sauce from the wings for a full cheese-on-cheese experience. Like tissue paper on a campfire, they were gone instantly. The smoked wings were a less messy departure from “wings” in general. The smokiness of the meat was there but not blowing out any taste buds and the fat had been rendered out well to keep the grease factor down. These may be the perfect wings!

The pizzas were lovely- so thin, so thin. A friend and I just debated about how thin crust pizzas get soggy and my take on that was that it is physically impossible for the crust to stay crisp, given the sauce and ingredients… So if you want to complain about “soggy” pizza, don’t order thin crust! My crust edges were dipped into the Forge’s dilly version of ranch for a decadent end to the feast.

Service was quick, and they let us linger over our wine after the bill had come. They were doing a great business that evening, and it should continue.

pizza2

Three of us got out of there stuffed and with a decent buzz for $35 plus tip!! Dinner was economical and totally worthwhile. Oaklavores, go have a seat and watch the world pass by. It’s like a weeknight summer stay-cation…

Tribune Tavern Opens!

cocktail

Extra, Extra! Read all about it!

The Atmosphere: Gorgeous details like steam-punky chandeliers, sliding Scramsburg winery doors, pressed tin ceiling and wavy glass behind the bar made the space a fun one to look around and admire. The bar area was a bell ringer for loudness but once ensconced in the booths things quieted to a level where we could converse happily.

The Dranks: There are cocktails, plenty of beers, and non-boozy offerings- such as a refreshing lemongrass cooler: perfect a hot opening evening!

The Chomps:
   

The trotter and cheek fritters were nothing short of amazing, crispy on the outside and filled with piggy goodness. The favas didn’t seem to add or subtract to them, they were just sorta there, sprinkled about and the puree just didn’t seem to marry to the fritters.

The welsh rarebit was bowl moppingly good- beery and cheesy, crusty and crunchy.

fries    chicken

The guilty fries were *not* your standard soggy sloppy carb load. The fries beneath the cheesy beer and pulled pork were crisp,crunchy and soft in the middle. The crown of pork was a soft tuft – light pulled pork? How does it happen?

The chicken was well fried and extremely lightly battered, accompanied by soft, vinegar spiked mustard greens. These greens were so good, I have thought about them at least two times since consuming them. How were they cooked so perfectly?? Inquiring minds want to know!

ribs    lamb

For a flavor punch in your face: the short ribs. Served in a smallish looking bowl, these fake out the eater into thinking, “Hey, what is this?? I ordered a main course!”  They must have been slow cooked a long time, as the jus/demiglace/meat concentrated flavors had intensified to a fever pitch. The grits beneath and horseradish cream flowed together, forming another savory hit.

The lamb sausage, spinach and chick peas was infused with yummy Zatar-ish spices, adding a North African bent to the table.

With stuffed bellies we looked at the desserts and had to decline.  We chatted with the owner Chris who came around to say hi and welcome everyone. Planning to return, we wished him luck with the latest in the family of food venues he is parenting and planning. There are a few more in the works, too. With this guy and his amazing team of 200+ around,  Oakland is showing no signs of stopping the presses!!

The Price: $35 a head for a full belly and a drink!! Yes!

Next: I’ll be back with friends to do a potted meats only meal, and with more friends to hit the patio on a Saturday afternoon for the sausage platter and a pitcher or four!

Hop over to Hopscotch!

hopscotch

Good things come in small packages, so too is the case at Hopscotch.

A friend and I have been dying to get over to Hopscotch, and finally made it on a drizzly evening. We were welcomed into the small space by friendly front of house staff, a theme which continued all night.  The genuinely sweet waitstaff did not rush us as we took our time- we had an intense chat going and took a moment to look over the offerings.

An amuse appeared in the form of raw scallop with pickled radish, seaweed, flaked salt and perhaps saffron threads? The spoon was fishy, and neither of us liked it. I love a good crudo, and a scallop’s sweetness can really shine if they are fresh. This treatment did not honor the scallop, and we moved on. Like when you take that first hop in hopscotch and wobble- this was our quick start.

The chili paste long beans with spot prawns were a solid effort. Thin beans were cooked thoroughly cut to “date food size” and coated in a combo of shrimp and chili pastes. A good volume of heat, but not a long after burn. Four bites of white spot prawn swam through the red and dark green beans.

My friend had the fried chicken which was just as crunchy on the outside and juicy on the inside as you ever would want. It was boneless: always appreciated, and served with a chrysanthemum slaw. She joined the clean plate club- oh we both did.

The gingered duck gnocchi were calling my name. Served atop brown butter creme fraiche and a sweet potato puree then sprinkled with scallion slivers, the soft nuggets were pan seared at some point to each have a crunchy edge. Duck shreds were hidden between the gnocchi to marry the dish with ginger.

The frozen lemon bar was a refreshing light end to the meal. A frozen custard on top of shortbread served with a light lavender creme fraiche brought smiles to our faces- remembering that flavor from times in our pasts.

If you are looking for a quiet evening, this may not be a great choice when there are louder parties sharing the space. There was not much sound absorption in the room, and this is a rare comment because we are generally the ones getting shushed! A wine list on the chalkboard provides options of both white and red- the waitress we had was helpful with her descriptions. The cocktails looked very inviting – we plan to return and try other dishes and wrote off the amuse as a minor loss of balance in the game.

Love in Oakland: Valentine’s Day 2013

Ah, love is in the air… and even if it isn’t, there are many comforting Oakland dining options to check out anyway! You may just meet someone asking about the specials… Prix-fixe and a la carte options abound Thursday night and all through the weekend. Holler if we are missing any festive offers!

BayWolf
3853 Piedmont Avenue
Oakland, CA 94611
They love love there at BayWolf and more than that they love food. Go celebrate hearts, food and wine with them for a delicious three-course meal for $68 per person.

Bellanico
4238 Park Blvd
Oakland, CA 94602

Offering a four course Prix Fixe menu for $65.00 per person with an optional wine pairing.

Bocanova
55 Webster Street
Oakland, CA 94607

Come enjoy the four course Valentine’s menu for two for $45 per person. They also have their regular a la carte menu available.

Camino
3917 Grand Avenue
Oakland, CA 94610

Celebrate Valentine’s Day at Camino. Romantic dinner for 2 or celebrate with ALL THE ONES YOU LOVE. $80 fixed menu. Optional wine pairing.

District
827 Washington St.
Oakland, CA, 94607
(510) 272-9110

On Valentine’s Day, Feb. 14, District in Oakland will be open from 4:00 PM to 2:00 AM serving the regular a la carte menu, plus $1.00 oysters all night (instead of just during happy hour), chocolate fondue for two (from the regular menu), and a special cocktail called the Dolce Valentine ($10) made with vodka & allspice, topped with sparkling wine, & garnished with a dried rose petal. There will also be live musical entertainment from Dirty Cello. Reservations accepted for groups of 6 or more.

Haven
44 Webster Street
Oakland, California 94607
(510) 663-4440

PRIX FIXE $75 PER PERSON | $65 PER PERSON VEGETARIAN OPTION | OPTIONAL $40 WINE PAIRING
Things that come in pairs and aphrodisiac:
CHICORIES – pear, avocado, cinnamon
ROUGET – parsnip, green garlic, roscoe’s potatoes
QUAIL – farro verde, trumpet mushrooms, mustards
CHOCOLATE CREMEUX – banana, almond

Hopscotch
1915 San Pablo Ave. @ 19th St.
Oakland, CA 94612

$45 Prix Fixe menu & regular menu available all week long. Now taking reservations!

Lake Chalet
1520 Lakeside Dr.
Oakland, CA, 94612
(510) 208-5253

On Valentine’s Day, Lake Chalet serves the regular lunch & dinner menus plus a la carte dinner specials including Season’s First Delta Asparagus with Prosciutto di Parma, crispy poached farm egg and white truffle oil; Spinach and Ricotta Agnolotti with prosciutto soffritto; “Heart” Beets with Bellwether Farms ricotta, shaved radishes, and balsamico; Grilled Filet Mignon with bone marrow crust, glazed early spring vegetables and red wine sauce; and Chocolate Budino with espresso whipped cream.

Kincaid’s Bayhouse
1 Franklin Street
Oakland, CA 94607

Celebrate Valentine’s Day All Weekend Long – Thursday Feb 14th through Sunday Feb 17th – with a romantic lunch or dinner.

Mezze
3407 Lakeshore Avenue
Oakland, CA 94610

5-course Prix Fixe Dinner with Bubbly Toast. $70 p/p for reservations before 6:30 pm. $80 p/p for reservations after 6:30 pm.

Oliveto
5655 College Ave.
Oakland, CA 94618
(510)547-5356

$95 6 course prix fixe + tax and 18% service charge ~ wine pairings will be available ~ corkage $25

Plum
2214 Broadway Street
Oakland, CA 94612

Please join us for a very special price fixe Valentine’s Day Menu at Plum.
Four Courses with options for $70 per person.

Scott’s Seafood
2 Broadway
Oakland, CA 94607

Celebrate Valentine’s Day, and through the weekend, at Scott’s with a delicious 3-course Steak & Lobster entree served with a glass of sparkling wine for $75 per person.

Z Cafe and Bar
2735 Broadway
Oakland, CA 94612

“MADE WITH LOVE” Dinner: $40/person. Starter: Dungeness Crab + glass of champagne. Entree Choice: Dry Aged Rib Eye, Chicken Piccata, Champagne Risotto. Dessert: Blackberry Sorbet

Chabot Space & Science Center
ASNT-Golden Gate Section Sweetheart’s Dinner

Friday, February 15, 2013 at 6:00 PM
This is a Public ASNT-GGS Event. Members, Spouses, and our Friends will enjoy an evening of Romance, Astrology, and NDT. The evening will begin with a private catered dinner in the Galileo room at the Chabot Space Center. Then continue about the facility to night school. And then walk about the observatory and take a look at the stars.

Plum Bar: Opened Friday!


Plum Bar at Broadway and Grand Ave. is open starting Friday November 11! Check the twitter update for the menu- there will be much press, and many amazing drinks to be sure…