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88 Sports Bar and Korean Grill (Alameda)

For those who are interested:

88 Sports Bar
2431 Central Ave
Alameda, CA 94501
b/t Everett St & Park Ave
Phone (510) 865-2344
Yelp lists hours as 11a - 2a, 7 days/wk
no website

Mar 30, 2014
jaiko in San Francisco Bay Area

Most immense porcino everr

oooohh, I agree with kungful. God, I remember when I bought a fine year of LB for less than $10. Aarggh.

Mar 30, 2014
jaiko in San Francisco Bay Area

Parents in town, help!

I think Robert has good suggestions; you really, really want to stay off the Bridge on a weekend.

If you do spent some time in the afternoon at Jack London Sq. or Chinatown, our new fav, Desco Italian, is open on Sundays with a light menu starting at 3p.

499 9th Street
Oakland, CA 94607

I'd be partial to Camino for brunch (with reservations!!); such a pretty restaurant inside, and the service is now very good.

3917 Grand Ave.
Oakland, CA 94610
Ph: 510.547.5036

Both are on OpenTable, I believe.

Mar 30, 2014
jaiko in San Francisco Bay Area

Gnocchi in Oakland area?

On the contrary - Jan 2013 we had the tajarin with crab and it was fine. July 2013 the tajarin with crab was so oversalted it was bitter with it – three of us tried it and all of us agreed it was simply inedible.

By June 2013 the oversalting on 1 of 2 starters and 2 of 3 entrees was so bad, even my salt-loving spouse agreed the food was seriously oversalted.

On all occasions we discussed this issue with the waiter and the manager. As I put it in Yelp, I do not want to be comp'ed on bad food. I want Oliveto's line cook, whoever was responsible - because it was clearly one specific line line cook - to stop ruining good food!

What was extremely sad about the oversalting issue was that we and some friends had attended the Whole Hog dinner at Oliveto in 2013 and everything was flawless. But two subsequent dinners became increasingly worse on the excessive salt. For the price, we were not willing to experiment further. It's a great shame; we love Chef Rhodehamel's flavors and conception. But the execution was too inconsistent for us to put up with.

Oliveto's gnocchi is soft, and assuming the line cook who was oversalting the pasta water has had his salt shaker restricted to four shakes instead of fourteen, it would be fine. For those who enjoy salt, there are salt cellars on every table at Oliveto. There is absolutely no excuse for oversalting in the kitchen.

For us, we were burned three times out of four visits in 2013. That is too many for the prices Oliveto charges. We personally prefer Desco/Oakland, but they don't have gnocchi on the menu so that would not be useful for the OP.

Mar 29, 2014
jaiko in San Francisco Bay Area

Gnocchi in Oakland area?

Depends. Do you like hard or soft? I normally wouldn't ask, except that I recently discovered a friend of ours (who is actually a terrific cook in her own right and a semi-pro baker) doesn't like the soft, pillowy gnocchi we do. She likes it firmer, more like the commercial kind.

Oliveto is off our list now after three dinners in 2013 that got progressively saltier despite conversations with the mgr each time. Yet when they do a dish well, it's fabulous; and they make a lovely (if small portion) gnocchi.

5655 College Ave @Shafter, Oakland
Ph: 510.547.5356 or reserve thru OpenTable

Mar 28, 2014
jaiko in San Francisco Bay Area

Fisherman's Pizzeria, S. F.'s Most Famous Pizza

Now we know - there is no law that says "truth in advertising" applies to words painted on an awning, LOL!

Mar 28, 2014
jaiko in San Francisco Bay Area

3 nights in Napa (foodie trip first wine secondary)

Good to know about Bottega. We haven't been back in over 18 months so things definitely do change!

We had just heard so much about Redd, but our meal was very poor there. The risotto had so much fake black truffle oil that over 10 minutes after I finished it, I realized I could still taste it in my mouth...and it wasn't pleasant. The chanterelles in the risotto were tasteless, unlike the chanterelles Etoile served the very next day.

The pork belly was way too sweet for us. Even my spouse, who has a super sweet tooth, admitted the caramel belonged in very tiny quantities over a very large bowl of white rice. The pork was thin-sliced and griddled into chewy bacon, which is not how I like my pork belly.

Spouse's leek soup was over the top rich, and that's saying something from people who stock their frig with Irish butter and super-heavy organic whipping cream on a weekly basis. We love rich food, but there is a point over which it obscures flavors, and Redd went over that line.

It was topped by our very nice waitress saying to me, in all earnestness, "Oh, all our cheese are semi-soft - except for the ones that are harder!" Since she was able to describe all the available cheeses accurately (even the hard cheeses, LOL), she had clearly tried them. But that line just capped a meal in which every dish was off-balance to our taste.

I'm willing to believe that it could have been that particular day for the kitchen to be "off". It really wouldn't have taken much for each of those dishes to be wonderful. But there's so many restaurants in the Bay Area to try, as we all know a new place only has one chance to impress. Redd flubbed three of three dishes, so we went on to the 'next on the list', so to speak.

NOTE to OP: August is a particularly harrowing month in Napa. It's the biggest influx of tourists and our experience has been that even weekdays are crowded. Weekends are snarl-inducing messes. Travel time between places is definitely longer than off season (mid-Oct to mid-May).

The service tends to suffer as well because there are a lot of waitstaff hired only for the high season. The stress of the crowds means they really don't have a lot of time to chat.

I'm not saying you won't have a good experience, just that you need to be aware of what you're going to be facing. Napa is an entirely different place in the off-season, compared to July/August.

And you don't need to worry as much about layers, because it's probably going to be hot. Nights cool down to pleasant, though.

Mar 28, 2014
jaiko in San Francisco Bay Area


I can't speak to their martinis, but although we feel Townhouse/Emeryville has slipped somewhat, they still do an excellent prime rib, Wed-Sat special. Small end, firm texture, perfect medium-rare. Go early; when they run out, that's it until the next time. If they have the au gratin instead of mashed potatoes, get the sub of gratin, but it's not always available.

5862 Doyle St. @Powell, Emeryville
They are on OpenTable
Ph: 510.652.6151

Mar 28, 2014
jaiko in San Francisco Bay Area

3 nights in Napa (foodie trip first wine secondary)

We go twice a year, several days at a time. No experience with Farmhouse or Farmstead, I'm afraid. Others here can give you tips on those two.

I prefer Auberge for lunch. The view is stunning on a nice day. At night you won't see anything. Of course, that's assuming there is room on the patio (only 4 tables) and it's warm enough to sit outside, LOL.

I've eaten at Market and Redd and wouldn't go out of my way to return to either one. OK but not great. We'd rank Market over Redd; Market is very similar to Mustards in the large portion/over the top thrust, but the ingredients are good quality and what they do is better executed than Mustards, Redd, Brix, or Giovanni. Because of the large portion size you can split salads and even entrees at Market, making it a reasonable cost that's hard to find in the Napa Valley.

Better than Market or Redd is Bottega altho their salads always seem a little tired. But the meat and pastas are very well handled at both lunch and dinner. The goat milk panna cotta is lovely. We appreciate their consistency, not easy to do when a zillion busloads of tourists are showing up every year.

Bouchon is wonderful when "up" as is La Toque, but both suffer from erraticness and when they are "down" they are a real waste of $$$.

Ca'Momi is more our style: didn't care for the charcuterie and their crowded tables drive us nuts, but the sweetbreads, oxtail, and baccala were divine, as well as those lovely pastries.

I've had people here diss me for recommending Etoile @Domaine Chandon, but we loved it during a lunch last year. If you can't get into TFL and don't want to risk Meadowood, you could try Etoile. That has been the best meal we've had since La Bourgogne/SF closed thirty years ago...but then, we're suckers for French food, even over Italian (smile).

Hope the weather is good when you go, since you didn't mention when you're coming. Be aware that the winds can be very cool indeed, even gusty and chilly, all the way through mid-May, even on a beautiful sunny day. Layer, layer, layer - that's our mantra in Northern CA!

Mar 26, 2014
jaiko in San Francisco Bay Area

Healdsburg - dinner one night?

Bravas Tapas, just off the Square. Not quite as authentic as it was when first open; food is a little "wetter" with little drizzles of sauces. But the flavors are still good, quality is excellent, service was outstanding. Our friends had not had Spanish tapas before and were wowed.

The patio is the way to go, in good weather.

Mar 24, 2014
jaiko in San Francisco Bay Area

best cheap eats in the Berkeley / Oakland area

Just me, I'm not a fan of Le Bedaine or Khana Peena. I did really enjoy the Kama Sutra border art around the skylight though! That was, ummm...unexpected.

Our only contribution to a 'cheap eats' thread would be Red Sea's lunch buffet. You have to deal with the red palm oil; they use a lot of it. We're fond of it so no problem for us. The injera is made that morning so it's much fresher at lunch than at dinner.

Do NOT try ordering off the menu. We cannot figure out why they are so slow, plating food that is often right on the buffet for less than $7/pp, but they are. We spent over 90 minutes on our first visit, watching people sit down, stuff themselves silly with plates of food, and zip out while we were still waiting, waiting, waiting.....

The quality is moderate, the seasoning depends on which relative is cooking, but it's an amazing bargain. We get their only smoothie, the Red Sea fruit juice, which ups the bill a bit, but no biggie.

When they're "on", the zigne (spicy beef red curry) and the okra are excellent. The doro alicha (chicken yellow curry) is usually the boneless tibs but very occasionally will be the bone-in wot, which my DH loves.

Mar 24, 2014
jaiko in San Francisco Bay Area

The epicenter of Chinese dining in the East Bay is...Dublin?!

Yes, there's a huge influx of Chinese into Contra Costa. We lived in the SF Richmond when the first "new Chinatown" was established, then watched as the restaurateurs followed the wealthier Chinese down the Peninsula.

Now those Chinese are aging and their kids (us Boomers and Gen Xers) came to the East Bay for cheaper RE prices.

Mar 18, 2014
jaiko in San Francisco Bay Area

san mateo and south

We're not budget constrained, and we don't get over there very often. But we do make it over once or twice a year. Our personal favs are:

San Mateo
- Vault 164 for that the bacon/Gruyere with the Caesar slaw. The fries are average and the other 2 burgers are good but we prefer the bacon/Gruyere. They trim the brioche bun to fit the patty. Only Hole In The Wall/Sebastopol ranks as high on the Burger Scale for us.
- Three (formerly Astaria). Excellent brunch; the hash was outstanding. And the Humberto's Inferno is back as a special - woohoo! The BEST fried flaming cheese ever; nobody does it better (only available when Humberto, the waiter, is working that evening).
- Central Park Bistro. Modest, nice little Mediterranean bistro. You have to like olive oil, they do use it on everything, LOL.

- Taste in Mediterranean. A basic deli but their cacik and baba ghanoush are two levels above every other deli we've tried on both sides of the Bay. Get it with the lamb chops, which are better than the kebabs. And the vegetarian stews are amazing. Skip the latkes, tho.
- NE Lobster Market and Eatery. We flipped over this one, but we are sadly lobster-deprived in Oakland, LOL. When we return we would order a bowl of the corn-lobster chowder, the Dungeness crab melt, and 2 orders of the lobster cocktail (NOT the lobster claws, which come unshelled). One order we'd eat with the housemade cocktail sauce which is non-horseradish, spicy hot and delicious. One order (which is 4 small halves from 'chicken' lobster tails) would get put on the crab melt sandwich for a totally decadent lunch. Swoon-worthy!

Redwood City
- Bay 223. We adore them for Continental breakfast. Every individual coffee order is a full 4-cup French press of super-strong coffee, and with those croissants hot out of the oven, there is no better pastry around. None. Their butter-rich croissants beat Bouchon and even our second-croissant fav, Parker-Lusseau in Monterey. When the almond croissants are hot out of the oven, the filling is creamy-soft and oozes out beguilingly. You can buy the croissants in the little store, but these really are true croissants. They go stale fast, so toasting them is best if you can't sit down and eat them on site. DO NOT GO to the hotel Sofitel if anything is going on at Oracle; 223 gets slammed then because it is their preferred hotel.

My niece, whose recommendations I trust because she's as good a cook as I am, recommends:

- Mingalaba Burmese

- Gochi Fusion Tapas

Mar 18, 2014
jaiko in San Francisco Bay Area

Visiting from Washington

I'd think you could get away with "shorts and sweats" at most restaurants outside SF's downtown, but I wouldn't risk the Financial District or Union Square. Lunch maybe, dinner, probably not.

Also, it gets cold enough at night that shorts just aren't seen around most areas, altho it's a lot warmer in the Mission than it is out on the Embarcadero!

Mar 17, 2014
jaiko in San Francisco Bay Area

Napa trip report Feb 2014

I'm actually getting caught up on my 5-months-behind-posting-reviews on Yelp, and when a friend asked for some recommendations on going to Napa because we were just there in late February, I pulled this from the very long full reviews I had. One of the downsides of age [smile], if I don't write it all down I forget the details! Forgive the length, but this covers all six places we went.

Napa 2014 February
We travel 1-2x/yr on midweek, 3-day trips (retirement is wonderful, lol). As usual we ate a mix of old (visited at least once before) and new (to us) restaurants. All were at least good, which has not always been our experience, but only two were excellent, as follows.

Best to worst, they ranked:
1. Ca'Momi
2. Solbar
3. The Grill @Meadowood
4. Market
5. Browns Valley Mkt (deli)
6. Brix

Ca'Momi: Hated the space, loved the service and food. The patio worked out great for us, because we could spread our many dishes over a four-top instead of crammed onto their minimal two-tops. Our best meal in the NV, barely beating out Desco/Oakland as our preferred Italian. And we are suckers for bigne and ciambellina (okay, along with Ca'Momi's crackerbread, sweetbreads, and oxtail ragú). But if you want to take a large quantity of those luscious whipped cream beauties home, one has to go separately to purchase the pastries ASAP. What they have in the case is what they have made for the entire day – and it's not a large display case. If you're just having one or two for dessert after a meal, the waiter can get it for you. But we came with an ice chest and ice, and bought at least a pound of these treats. With the loss of Borgo Italia's pastry chef, we can't get these in Oakland and believe me, we miss them! Our friends, not surprisingly, adored us upon our return home when we shared the goodies.

Solbar: We've always enjoyed Solbar. It would have ranked with Ca'Momi this time if we hadn't ordered a poorly conceived entrée, the Lucky Pig. I left feedback through OT that the dish really needs rethinking. The sauce was especially poor. Our starters were flawless, as usual. I always forget the spa menu is not your typical "rabbit food"; these are done with superb ingredients and great execution. They offer clean intense flavors and good-sized portions. A simple chicken noodle soup was a masterpiece of roasted bone broth, properly clarified, with delicate poached chicken breast in neat dice and mini-farfalle. Solbar remains a bright, open, relaxing dining room. The service is superb, some of the best in the entire Valley.

The Grill @Meadowood would rank a bit higher with us if it hadn't cost so much, and if the entrées had been salted properly (some items had too much salt and some had none at all). Also, we went for dinner and this restaurant seems better for lunch. There is nothing to see outside in the dark and the DR is surprisingly generic and awkward for such an upscale resort. The food was uneven: some of it was unexciting and generic, but some dishes showed a creative brilliance that caught us by surprise. A soup of baby turnips and macadamia nuts sounded strange but it was amazing – and we don't like turnips! An asparagus flatbread was perked up with thin shavings of raw rhubarb in another wonderful combination.

Market: It reminded us of Mustards, except that we liked it better. But the comfort food is just a bit oversized and excessive, with too much of the "more is always better" attitude. It's designed to impress and overwhelm, not to entice or intrigue the gourmet. The crab dishes are very generous but my crabcake was overwhelmed with too much beurre blanc. Crab Louie was good but again, too much dressing, too many minced shallots. Porcini ravioli tasted more like shiitake with too much tart red wine. Still, it's a good value with those oversized portions, and the service was very good.

Browns Valley Market: We love perusing delis but BVM disappointed us by reducing the variety of Saag products they offer. In 2012 they had some Saag charcuterie we had never seen before, but on this re-visit those products had disappeared and only ordinary stuff was available. They now use a lot of Boarshead products, which are not our favorite. BVM is famed for their sandwiches for those who are picnicking. We are rating them a little higher than we otherwise would because their "cheese guy" turned us on to a fabulous soft cheese, Castelbelbo. It's a mixed sheep/goat/cow milk cheese, and delightful! I picked up a perfect Fromage d'Affinois; sadly, their St. Andre was past its prime. They also carry Bouchon baguettes, so we bought some Columbus prosciutto to have with cheese and the bread for dinner that evening. BVM only offers Boarshead and Columbus for prosciutto, so we picked the Columbus as the best of a bad pair. It won't replace Parma in our hearts, but it's decent, a plus given for being very lean, and has an attractive black pepper aroma. There's La Quercia but only in pre-wrapped packaging.

Brix: Its decline was anticipated with the departure of Chris Jones and no one named to replace him. Consultant David Cruz has also left as of Jan 2013. But nonetheless a shocker after three great meals here over the 2011-2013 timeframe. The food was good, don't get us wrong. The ingredients remain top-notch and both front and back staff are total pros. But there's no vision or passion driving the menu. When Jones was in the kitchen, after a meal we would have a hard time deciding what we liked best. As far as we know no one knows where Jones has gone, or even why he left. Brix is like Angelé: the good chefs never seem to stay more than a year or two, and that's not a good thing. If the Kellehers can find another good chef, there's no reason why Brix couldn't return to the higher ranks again. It's a gorgeous dining room, btw – they did a bit of remodeling when Jones left (June 2013). Always beautiful in the daytime, but now it has a warmer feel and better layout in the center, so we think it would be as handsome for dinner as it is for lunch.

Mar 17, 2014
jaiko in San Francisco Bay Area

Visiting from Washington

Unique to our area: if you can get to Berkeley for the afternoon, reserve the chocolate "tour" at Alegio Chocolates. You will never look at chocolate the same way again: http://alegio.com/corallo-chocolate/t...

It's inside a little food mall court: an informative video tour along with a wonderful comparative chocolate tasting. Corallo's chocolates aren't like any others in the world - he's quite an OCD fanatic about his cacao beans!

Corallo's chocolates are sold in only a few locations around the world, and the tour/tasting is only done in the Berkeley location. It's something very few Bay Area locals have done, much less tourists.

We're Michael Recchiuti chocolate fans (another SF local, available at the Ferry Plaza bldg and his Chocolate Lab cafe in SF), but Alegio's tour was hands-down the best and most educational experience we've ever had.

In fact, if you have the time, check out some of the various food tour companies - Googling brought up seven companies with a wide range of choices. Good exercise and a lot of fun!

Bring lots of $$$. Prices here are about 25-30% higher than in Seattle.

The only Asian food I'd recommend to you is some good dim sum. Yank Sing if you're downtown; Koi Palace in Daly City if you want to drive to a suburb just south of the city (similar to driving from Seattle to Mercer Island). Otherwise, the Japanese and SE Asian (Thai/Viet) is no better here than in Seattle.

I do think we have better bakeries here, but you will want to know whether recommendations are about bread bakeries or pastry bakeries. Sometimes people are looking for something specific and not all of the great bakeries do both equally well.

We love Seattle; my maternal relatives live all over the city. The food certainly has improved from when I first visited in the 1970's. On our last trip in 2012 (our 12th visit) we flipped over Olivar on Capitol Hill; went there twice in two days.

Have fun and send some of that rain down our way, okay? Stop hogging it all, LOL!

Mar 14, 2014
jaiko in San Francisco Bay Area

Iyasare (former O Chame space) [Berkeley]

We had dinner at Iyasare the night before Bauer's 3-star review appeared in the Chron.

Very different than O Chame. More upscale, feels intensely personal. We did not admire Yoshi's food but Kamio is clearly feeling liberated and stretching the boundaries of what Americans expect from a Japanese restaurant.

Although it is not kaiseki, it actually reminded me strongly of the (long, long gone) Kansai/SF, which had the best kaiseki my family has ever had. We went three times before Kansai closed and still mourn its passing.

There were six of us. This space is hard for parties over 4; three tables have to be shoved together so they were over 20 min. late seating us when a couple of people lingered at their table long after it was cleared, futzing around with their smartphones.

Conversely, a lot of the food is best shared by 5 or 6 diners; the plates contain small individual portions but the overall amount of food is generous. We had 11 dishes; everybody found something they liked.

Chef Kamio's Sake-Jime is what reminded me so much of Kansai (Gobo-smoked salmon, wasabi marinated apple, compressed cucumber (in long thin slices), yuzu-pepper dashi). It wasn't the dish everyone liked best. It wasn't spectacular or exciting or drop-dead-stunning. What it was....was subtle, complex flavors that were perfectly balanced. It was the essence of shibui, that elusive quality of a whisper. It was masterfully Japanese, and in concept and execution such is rarely seen in US Japanese restaurants. It is as far from dunking a wet sushi roll in gobs of virulent green wasabi as one could get.

The generally agreed winners/losers were:
- Winners: Uni risotto. Kakiage tempura. Unagi salad (a brilliant riff on the French salad Lyonnaise).
- Losers: Apple Seaweed salad (this is a warm weather dish, and serving it in February was strange). Nasu Miso (the eggplants were creamy and delicious, but...well, just eggplant).
- Maybes: Ika-Maruyaki (one person loved it, the others thought it plain. To me this dish points up the one real weakness of Japanese cooking--their sauces are uninteresting, just variants of the same few ingredients). Dungeness Crab Okonomi Pancake (two of us loved it; most were indifferent. It's not a traditional okonomi, tasting more like an upscale, more solid version of chawan mushi). Sendai Gyutan (beef tongue was chewy, thinner edges were actually rubbery. Great rich 'steak' taste, but again, sauces were dull miso variants).

My spouse had an issue with the Sendai Gyutan. In the interests of not making a fuss - this came last and we were mostly full and looking towards the end - he said nothing. But afterwards we agreed that although we ordered a double order of the Sendai Gyutan and were charged for it, he and I found it very, very hard to believe that a full 10 oz. of beef tongue was on that board.

The service was good, nothing remarkable. The front of the house seemed inexperienced for such a sophisticated restaurant and was clearly fumbling a little.

The kitchen does an excellent job of pacing the plates and putting the courses in order. Normally that's the waitstaff's responsibility but we got the feeling that at Iyasare it's the kitchen that directs the meal. Not a problem when it's done so well as it is here.

Summary: we would all go back. The quality is excellent, the execution outstanding, the concept imaginative and exciting. I liked O Chame and was sorry to see it close. But this is way beyond anything I'd expected from a former chef at Yoshi's. When my brother comes up next time from LA with his Japanese-born wife, we will make sure to take them to Iyasare (as a change from La Folie, LOL).

Mar 13, 2014
jaiko in San Francisco Bay Area

Best "Local" Seafood Restaurants in Bay Area? Coming from a distance and need FIX!

Should you go up to visit Sonoma Cty, Bravas Tapas in Healdsburg makes a terrific octopus dish, lightly dusted with Ceylon cinnamon. We eat octopus often and theirs is so far the best we've had. Amazing concept/execution.
Bravas Tapas
420 Center St, Healdsburg, CA 95448
(707) 433-7700/also OpenTable

One of my niece's favs is:
La Mar Cebicheria
Pier 1 ½, the Embarcadero, SF.
Website & menu: http://lamarsf.com/

Mar 13, 2014
jaiko in San Francisco Bay Area

Indian catering in the Oakland/Berkeley area?

You will have to arrange for pick-up yourself, but Juhu Beach Club caters, although I don't know what the menu is like.

Mar 08, 2014
jaiko in San Francisco Bay Area

Ruth's annual birthday dinner dilemma -- 2014 edition

We love Pican, but it is really much better for weekend brunch than any lunch or dinner. Less crowded, less frantic, and Chef Uong still presides in the kitchen. Fabulous French-inspired sauces on the brunch items.

Mar 06, 2014
jaiko in San Francisco Bay Area

Geezers Want Great Dinner in Oaktown

If they are "meat & potatoes" people, I'll offer an unusual choice: The Terrace Room at the Lake Merritt Hotel (which is now a senior's residence). The slightly-faded 1940's nightclub-turned-DR still has the hand-painted pastel mural of a "frozen in time" 1956 Lake Merritt scenic view. Looking out onto the Lake at nighttime is absolutely lovely.

We ate there in 2009; thought it was just okay but the atmosphere was great. Returned in late 2013 to have dinner with a friend who now lives there, and was surprised by how much better the cooking had gotten. The plates are generous (half-portions are not listed but available upon request) and the meats - lamb sirloin and flat-iron steak were excellent (note the kitchen tends to cook meat to the 'well-done' side, so insist upon the "rare side of medium-rare" and it will be perfect MR).

The food is not fancy in concept, but neither is it fashionably scant. Every plate has a starch, a meat, and a vegetable. As The Terrace Room is the dining room for the senior facility residents, they are careful about excess salt, leave off the rich sauces, and they cook their vegetables to that perfect in-between where it's not mushy or unpleasantly half-raw. The starter salads were nicely handled. Dessert is weak; but we asked for extra bourbon on the bread pudding w/bourbon caramel and they obliged with a real wallop! Coffee is Peerless and properly strong, good both reg & decaf.

Overall we were very pleased with our dinner at The Terrace Room. It's a wonderful old-style room, with pleasant and attentive waitstaff who seem a bit better trained than previously. The view is unexcelled, day or night, and all the entrées were executed with more consistency and skill than a good many flashier new restaurants we've gone to.

We rank Terrace Room a B+ on food, but they get up to an "A" when you include that unique DR. There's nothing else like it in Oakland. We personally dislike Lake Chalet Seafood Bar & Grill, which we consider only good for drinks. We had such an incredibly unpleasant experience with their waitstaff during a family dinner a few years ago (all the way from reception stand to getting the bill) that all of us vowed never to return.

Mar 06, 2014
jaiko in San Francisco Bay Area

Joseph Schmidt Chocolate Bowls - SUBSTITUTES?

Wow, I ran across a chocolatier who might work for the OP's 2014 Christmas gifting. The site is on Etsy.com, and I was led there by a link on a food blog. If you scroll down to the seventh row, the "oyster shells" are stunning; dead ringers for 'the real thing'!

The feathers and mushrooms are pretty gorgeous too. The company gets five-star reviews from buyers, so I hope the OP will check in again and see this. Maybe it will help:

Mar 02, 2014
jaiko in San Francisco Bay Area

Napa/Sonoma/Calistoga Dining Recommendations

Thanks for the correction - I crossed my dates as DST begins 3/09 and ends 11/02!

Mar 01, 2014
jaiko in San Francisco Bay Area

Tosca bought by Spotted Pig (NY) team [San Francisco]

That's an interesting thought. I know that many restaurateurs hate OpenTable due to cost but also because they see a lot of no-shows.

I saw some OT stats a couple of years ago and there were fewer no-shows in Northern CA, percentage-wise, than anywhere else OT serves. The no-show percentage in NYC was much higher than the Bay Area, I think. I wonder if that affected mgmt's decision?

If Tosca/OT insisted on a credit card deposit for a reservation, that wouldn't stop or bother me. Quite a few restaurants do that nowadays.

Feb 28, 2014
jaiko in San Francisco Bay Area

Napa/Sonoma/Calistoga Dining Recommendations

You certainly can't go wrong at Solbar, Solage's restaurant (altho stay away from the Lucky Pig entree; Asian food for non-Asians that just didn't come off well). We've gone twice and both times been surprised at how wonderful the spa dishes are, beautifully made and flavorful.

The chicken-noodle soup had a superb dark brown broth of roasted chicken bones and dried mushrooms, properly clarified. As good as anything I make at home, and I'm one of those people who always has a 1/2-gallon container of naturally gelled homemade stock in the frig.

We loved Ca'Momi but would save it for dinner. The food is on the hearty side; if you have some starters you would be wise to share an entree. My spouse couldn't finish his oxtail rigatoni after we had the baccala and the sweetbreads, and he's a big eater (the kind who can knock off a 24-oz rib eye by himself).

Because the days are shorter (even with DST beginning on 3/02), you might want to go someplace with a pretty view for lunch. We ate at The Grill at Meadowood Resort, and in the daytime it would be charming. At night it's an undistinguished DR; not to mention a nightmare driving that road in the dark!

The food at The Grill was surprisingly good - second only to Ca'Momi @Oxbow on this trip - with an amazing turnip-macadamia soup and an asparagus flatbread with thin shavings of raw rhubarb that knocked our socks off.

Service at both was excellent, as is usually the case if you go in the off-season. BTW, the Solbar waiter recommended on our next trip we try French Blue/St. Helena - the long-time Solbar chef de cuisine, Ryder Zetts, moved over to be the new executive chef at French Blue (FB restaurant is NOT associated with Solage Resort per se, but the Solbar restaurant agreed to take over mgmt of FB).

So French Blue is on our list for next time - if you happen to try it, please do report back.

Have fun and hope it doesn't rain on you, even if we do need it (smile)!

Feb 28, 2014
jaiko in San Francisco Bay Area

Okonomiyaki in the East Bay?

Iyasare's version is very delicate, very soft. Currently with Dungeness crab, Yama imo, shiitake, savoy cabbage, bonito flake, mentaiko aioli, chili ponzu. Chef Shotaro Kamio's cooking at Iyasare is tending towards the subtle with clean natural flavors, very light on the sauces and the salt - in fact, on the one we had this past Friday (Feb 21st) you could hardly taste the aioli or ponzu.

Our party (all Asians) loved the uni risotto, for example, but a couple of non-Asian friends who love Japanese restaurant food, were dining separately at the same time we were, and thought the uni risotto was too bland and dull.

Feb 26, 2014
jaiko in San Francisco Bay Area

Town of Napa dining

Have to agree: we were just there, loved Ca'Momi (the food, not the cramped seating and more-expansive-but-drafty patio) - the baccala won my Portuguese-Chinese DH's heart even over La Salette's codfish fritters, and the Roman-style sweetbreads knocked our socks off, as good as anything Fleur de Lys ever gave us.

And ooooh, those bigne and ciambellina - yummmmmmm! We brought a pound of those beauties home (all eight flavors) and loved every one of them.

We ate at Solbar, Brix, Market, and The Grill @Meadowood, and Ca'Momi was by far the best of all of them. Oenotri is permanently off our list after a spectacularly bad meal May 2013. We were very sad about that, our first meal there was phenomenal.

Feb 26, 2014
jaiko in San Francisco Bay Area

Tcho Chocolates moving to Berkeley

Yet another food vendor comes to the EBay: Tcho says it's outgrown its home on SF's Embarcadero and couldn't find anything bigger that was suitable for its all-in-one office, warehouse and factory. They hope to open in their new quarters - the Marchant Building on 3100 San Pablo Ave., Berkeley - sometime in April 2014. A bigger retail store will be added as well.

Berkeleyside Nosh had the link from the SF Business Times:

Feb 25, 2014
jaiko in San Francisco Bay Area

Trattoria Siciliana [Berkeley]

Agree that dipping sauce is phenomenal. First time we tried it, like you about 10 or 15 yrs ago, my DH was finally converted to the idea that EVOO could be just as good with bread as butter is!

They used to sell it, in fact. I remember buying a couple of bottles as Xmas presents one year. Anyone know if they still sell the stuff? Very pretty, the layers of herbs and color from the hot pepper flakes, in nice little glass decanters.

Feb 24, 2014
jaiko in San Francisco Bay Area

Beaver Creek Smokehouse (Martinez)

Thanks for the extensive write-up. I will keep this one in minds for the rare times we are in the area. My DH loves BBQ but hates smoke, so this sounds right up his alley.

Feb 23, 2014
jaiko in San Francisco Bay Area