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Captain & Corset in Oakland Uptown

For those who are fans of Chef Uong's cooking (Pican 2012-2014), she has temporarily taken over the kitchen at Revival/Berkeley at Amy Murray's request. Will be there until mid-June.

about 20 hours ago
tre2012 in San Francisco Bay Area

Petaluma for dinner?

Good call on Wild Goat Bistro. I thought it was small but per your description Speakeasy is even tinier! We had lunch at WGB on our Oct 2014 trip and really enjoyed it. Found it similar to, maybe not quite as good as, Hole In The Wall/Sebastopol.

about 20 hours ago
tre2012 in San Francisco Bay Area

Petaluma for dinner?

Our friends live in Petaluma so we hook up periodically and occasionally can talk them into going out. Has been a while since we were at Risibisi and that was for lunch. We thought it was okay, not remarkable enough that we'd go out of way for them.

Our friends adore Rosso's and are especially fond of their mozzarella bar, but when we're traveling we tend to avoid food we can get just as well at home (in Oakland). I'm sure the pizza is every bit as great as they say it is - it was Rosso's who gave them the tip to use a special Italian hard-wheat flour that is normally sold only to the trade in 55-lb bags! (and our friends do make a great BBQ-grilled pizza dough with that flour)

Le Bistro - a little frustrating. Chef Basso is Italian, trained in classic French cuisine. It's really more Continental (I'm dating myself with that, but oh well) than French. We loved it in 2012, although the menu is limited and Basso is a dour sort for an Italian. That's okay, we want our chefs to cook, not glad-hand...but a return visit in 2014 found almost exactly the same menu. Average starters, very good entrees, the one good change was desserts had improved substantially. Not large portions but sufficient with good quality and excellent execution.

We just found it a little frustrating that he had changed so little of the menu. I don't approve of the new trend towards 'we must change our menu daily' concept, but there's no seasonality to his cooking. The Caprese salad variant is on there whether it's January or July. Nonetheless in two visits (including some friends) we have tried every one of his entree dishes, and all were extremely good, especially the pasta and the lamb tenderloin.

By way of reference: Our favorite French restaurant is La Folie/SF, and we'd rate Le Bistro just a tad behind Chapeau!/SF and Walter Hansel Bistro/Santa Rosa.

We will go against the grain and say we weren't overly pleased with Central Market in 2012. The fried items were greasy and underdone - the fried squash blossoms were terrible compared to the ethereal version done by Artisan Bistro/Lafayette, for example. And the lamb cabbage rolls with preserved Meyer lemon was a generous serving, but too much lemon overbalanced the dish badly. Scallops were excellent, but the risotto cake accompanying it was as greasy and bad as the squash blossoms. A fried fritter in an otherwise good corn soup showed us that all the way across the board, the kitchen could not handle a deep fryer properly. The ingredients were very good quality, but the inconsistency and overly aggressive flavors - especially compared to Le Bistro which is very classic haut cuisine in its seasoning - weren't to our style.

Mourad (from Aziza) [San Francisco]

>>maybe twice the size you'd get in Michelin-endurance menus.>>

Oh, I have to remember that phrase of yours, Robert. Love it!

Pamir Afghan [Dublin]

Nope - boneless cutlets, very well executed.

Pamir Afghan [Dublin]

We tried Pamir Afghan because Yelpers said they had very good service, and indeed they do (we were on a schedule and couldn't linger). Very clean, small casual place. We have since been back and can vouch it's one of the better Afghan kebab places we've encountered.

The Buranee Badenjan was yummy. Traditionally I guess it's puréed as a dip, but here you received slices of sautéed eggplant, braised with saffron, chile and onions until soft, then drizzled with yoghurt. It's a bit oily, but we really liked this. The sauce has some tomatoes and a nice tartness from sumac. It's like an Afghani caponata, only better. This makes an excellent accompaniment to the drier kabob dishes.

Their lamb kabob was amazing. More like cutlets, with a terrific marinade. The mantu (dumplings) had a great red sauce with dollops of cooked yellow lentils, made for a great combination.

Just stay away from the "Sheer Chai Hot." It's tea-based, but is **pink**! Tastes just like Nestle's Strawberry Quik - that artificial berry taste, yuck. The regular tea is fine.

The really ugly escalator up to Koi Palace Dublin hides most of Pamir's signboard. Pamir is on the ground floor, just behind it & to the left.

Pamir Afghan Restaurant
4288 Dublin Blvd., Dublin, CA

Pietisserie opens in Lake Merritt [Oakland]

Thanks for the correction - wish they would allow a longer period for edits by the original author, sigh.

Jaynelle and I were emailing and she said Pi Day (March 14th) was a huge hit and she was exhausted! - but happy, LOL.

Will have to try her savory tarts, we love eggy/buttery goodness.

Kitchen Istanbul | San Francisco

Our Turkish friends like it as well - they went to Troya and returned a second time after the name change to Kitchen Istanbul. Said the cook is the same.

These are the same friends who turned us on to Lokanta in Pleasanton (beet salad is very fine; the yoghurt with honey dessert is KILLER) and Tarla Grill in Napa (the kunefe is Tarla's best dessert). These three are the only Turkish restaurants they make return visits to - and the mother is an amazing cook, so we always listen when they tell us to go somewhere!

Frozen organic Thai coconut water in Bay Area?

Kenji Lopez-Alt of SeriousEats.com just did an article you may want to look at:

Alton Brown is in town, what would you recommend him to eat?

I wouldn't recommend anything to him. He thinks the best pizza in the world is in Des Moines, IA, a mac'n'cheese jalapeno pizza, accompanied by some sort of tiki drink. Ugh....

A French Bakery coming to SF/North Beach

Marcia G./Tablehopper reports there is another addition to the (unofficial) croissant war in Northern CA: "New French Bakery Coming to North Beach: Un Fil à la Patte". This seems a preliminary news release; the necessity of pulling permits to install the bakery into a former shop-only location in SF will make this a long haul.

So for those "in the know" about these things, how are Breton butter croissants different from, say, the tender soft Parisian style?


NYT Mark Bittman finds the Monterey Market. [Berkeley, Ca]

Agree re apples. They need really good winter chill, and we just don't get enough here. Especially these past few years, LOL!

One year we visited friends/family in CT and MA in late April/early May. The dogwoods were yet to bloom, just tulips being blown over. Trees had that hint of color that said in two weeks you'd see tiny green leaves appearing.

We had left 70+ degree weather in Oakland, the asparagus were long gone, the spinach leaves were already toughening up a bit.

Eating in several top-rated Boston restaurants was, ummm, interesting. Nothing but cabbage and turnips, and even those had hefty amounts of meat in them. But those lobsters sure were cheap and good [smile].

NYT Mark Bittman finds the Monterey Market. [Berkeley, Ca]

Monterey Market is no longer run by the original owners. My sister, who has shopped there for decades, says it isn't as good now that it's run by the brother-in-law. MM no longer accepts excess backyard produce from customers, I believe, so that source of serendipitous finds might be gone.

Nothing but Forgettable Fancy Tasting Menus at Bay Area French Influenced High End Restaurants - RANT

>>there are a lot of not-worth-my-time-and-money high end French-influenced restaurants in the Bay Area, regardless of format.>>

I don't think there actually ARE that many 'French influenced' restaurants. To me, a lover of the old La Bourgogne in the '70's, who ate at Le Petite Chaya/LA when nouvelle cuisine hit the US in the '80's, who watched the devolution of Cyrus from a brilliantly creative a la carte menu to a hugely disappointing, stultifying tasting menu after Keane got hipped on Japanese food, most of the claims of "French influence" are bogus. They're claiming it to sound legitimate for charging large sums of money for very little food in dubious combinations, created with all the passion of a moneylender.

As Nash and Kirk point out above, many of the greatest French chefs feel no need to inflict the tyranny of "no choice tonite" dining upon their customers.

Did you ever eat at Fifth Floor when David Bazirgan was cooking? It never seemed to me that most foodies did. Yet he was brilliant, and for those two years was the best updated Cal-French food in Northern CA, far surpassing anything Cyrus was doing at the time. We considered him easily the equal-but-different peer of La Folie's Passot. But the location (no street presence), the reputation (Fifth Floor had previous chefs who were flops), and lack of publicity by the hotel, eventually did him in. Bazirgan gave up and now produces sloppy bar food for Dirty Habit, which is hugely successful in profits, if not in culinary experience.

Like La Folie, you could do a tasting menu or a la carte at Fifth Floor, and both were always superb. Also, there was none of this "the whole table must do it" nonsense. That REALLY annoys us!

With the demise of Etoile/Yountville, where Perry Hoffman also did amazing, beautiful French-inspired cooking (at dinner; he stopped doing lunch well before Etoile closed), only La Folie and Auberge du Soleil appeal to me as upscale Cal-French cooking with true Gallic spirit. These are places where one can still find both a tasting menu as well as an a la carte menu.

Saturday Night Dinner for One

I think Shakewell and Michel are pleasant, but my spouse and I feel they are not as good as Camino, which in turn is not nearly as interesting as Mourad or Keiko would be, to someone who has eaten at Commis several times.

Wow, that was a piece of backwards logic, LOL! Hope it made sense.

driving from the bay area to monterey bay next friday - where do eat along the drive?

Just a very slight correction, although it should show up properly on any search engine: Passionfish is in Pacific Grove, not Monterey. Only open for dinner, and they have (finally!) added an excellent coffee for after dinner. No espresso, just coffee and the aforementioned teas.

Parker-Lusseau Bakery is as good as ever. We stopped by Bechler's Patisserie in PacGrove which has the same Yelp rating as PL, and were appalled. The bakery goods were abysmal, big and cheap. A shame, the dining room is large and pleasant; service is excellent. In no way does the quality of croissants or cakes compare to Parker-Lusseau.

Inexpensive and small wedding desserts

I can second CupKates' cupcakes. We don't normally like cupcakes but the CK's are phenomenal: moist with great flavors, not super-sweet like others. The tiramisu was so good, even non-coffee lovers were fighting for them.

My niece used them for her wedding also. She provided great little plastic figures (almost everybody was a gamer) and CK added them to each cupcake. Huge hit!

Sunday brunch for Easter

Pican's not a buffet, though. Don't know if that's important to the OP. Also, last year the chef was Sophina Uong; the new chef is Robert Sapirman who is slowly changing the menu.

Also, if you want quiet at Pican it's best to see if you can reserve seating in that small room off to the side of the kitchen, along the Broadway frontage. In the main dining room it can be noisy when full, and I would expect for Easter it will be.

Sunday brunch for Easter

Although it's a beautiful setting, we think the teas are much better at Lovejoy's/SF and its sibling Lovey's/Pacific. Best of all is the tea at the Pardee Museum/Oakland, but that is reservation only, parties of 4-12 max, produced by the museum volunteers.

But there is nothing quite like the magnificence of the Garden Court and its associated Pied Piper, admittedly. I love the stained glass panels produced by the long-gone SF firm United Glass.

Imm Thai, Berkeley

Just FYI for others perusing this thread: Ran Kanom in San Pablo has closed as of Feb 2015. The owner still has her smaller take-out space in the Pacific East Mall aka 99Ranch Mall, Richmond.

Nothing but Forgettable Fancy Tasting Menus at Bay Area French Influenced High End Restaurants - RANT

Dustin -- Thank you for an excellent overall analysis, and I agree with you (altho, does Vegas even HAVE a chance of developing its own cuisine? LOL!).

>> Chefs like cooking in this style because it shifts the focus from ingredients and technique to their imagination and creativity.>>

YES, oh yes! You hit it on the nose. We have seen too many increasingly ridiculous, over-the-top combinations of ingredients, simply in the name of "creativity". Just because you're the first to do it, doesn't make it good!

Visit to Bay Area

I'm sure you'll get a lot of responses. What fun! Here's our suggestions:

Michael Warring in Vallejo, SE of Napa
Amazing Modernist tasting menu. We infinitely preferred it to Commis/Oakland. Delightful, tiny, intimate, and charming. My DH said he even preferred it to Aubergine/Carmel, which is extraordinary since we think very highly of the Relais & Chateaux restaurants (Aubergine was where he said he finally "got" the whole idea of a tasting menu).

We visited Michael Warring in February. Not easy to find, directions on website, or: The restaurant is right off Hwy 80, but it's in a golfing community called Hiddenbrooke. You go through a guard station (not manned, but camera-secured) and end up in a medium-sized upscale middle-class development. To say there is no foot traffic – let alone a signboard – is understating the case. Bennington Ct. is the first right past the guardbox, in a tiny commercial plaza where there are four or five mini-stores with a small parking lot. One is an Ace Hardware; Michael Warring's restaurant is opposite the Ace.

The most thorough review of Warring is the only professional one I could find, from Harvey Steiman of Robert Parker's Wine Spectator, back in 2013: http://www.winespectator.com/blogs/sh....

The tasting menu has grown and is currently six courses, with a modest price increase to $69/pp. Wine pairings are $33 or you can do a beer pairing for $21. Seatings are taken for 5:30, 6:30, 7:30 and 8:30 p.m., Wed-Sun. A credit card is required to hold your reservation.

Warring grew up in nearby Benicia, and received his culinary training at the Culinary Institute of America in New York. He's worked at restaurants such as Auberge du Soleil in Napa Valley and Bouchon Beverly Hills, but was anxious to strike out on his own.

As we were pretty much the only customers at 5:30 p.m., we had the chance to talk to him for a few minutes. He's been open for three years, and says he just signed an extension for another three years. The rent is modest, not surprisingly, and it's nice to hear he's doing well enough to be confident about the future.

The menu changes daily; sometimes quite a bit, sometimes just a little – there was significant difference between the Wednesday menu and Thursday menu, but not so much between Thursday's and Friday's. His girlfriend/SO Ali serves the food and wine with enthusiasm and charm, and we agree with Mr. Steiman – you really do feel like you're in someone's home.

Michael Warring
8300 Bennington Court, Vallejo, CA
Phone for reservations: 707.655.4808
Reservations are taken Wednesday - Sunday from 10 am to 4 pm, up to one month in advance; dinners served on the hour.
Menus change daily: http://www.michaelwarring.com/#pages/...

China Village in Albany may not have been open last time you were here; they were closed for remodeling for quite a long time. They are a CH favorite so search and you'll get a lot of details. Stay away from the Cantonese dishes, however. Although the chef started out doing Cantonese food, he long ago switched to Sichuan and the Cantonese food at China Village is abominable. I wish he'd just take those dishes off the menu. Service is average.

China Village
1335 Solano Ave. @Ramona, Albany, CA

Although not in Berkeley, my family is very fond of The Barrel Room/Oakland's Rockridge. They change their food AND wine menu quarterly; it's currently French but will change very soon, possibly by the time you arrive. We have gone to both the Spain/Portugal menu and the French, and loved both. Service was excellent:

The Barrel Room
5330 College Ave
Oakland, California
(510) 655-1700

We just ate at Toast, which is similar but not identical. A wine bar that also serves food, but the concept/region doesn't change like Barrel Room does. Menu is small but nice, changes daily. We found the food lighter (TBR is somewhat meat-centric) but overall not quite as well executed. But the white bean spread, and the chocolate-bourbon cake dessert, are very fine.

Toast Kitchen + Bar
5900 College Ave. @Chabot, Oakland, CA

Welcome back and have fun!

Sources for not-your-average picnic food in the East Bay?

Also: Grand Lake Kitchen
576 Grand Ave., Oakland 94610 ph: 510-922-9582

They're small so I don't know what they'd suggest for that big a crowd; they do catering as well as take-out.

Moving to the Bay Area!

You're right about the garage necessity; tremendous amount of casual crime connected with cars. One of the favs is stealing stickers and/or the license plate, and periodically teams troll through neighborhoods to steal the catalytic converters.

Yes, parking is getting worse, but I like to go into SF every once in a while to remind myself that it's NEVER as bad here as it was in our old neighborhood!

Book Group Dinner this Wednesday at 7pm

I'll be very interested in your report back. We have not been to Tribune Tavern since Tracey Belock left (she and her husband are opening Chowhaus up in Oakland's Montclair Village, in the old Montclair Bistro space) and Michael Luong took over the TT kitchen. Hope all goes well!

Book Group Dinner this Wednesday at 7pm

Oh, I see. Yes, you're quite right about A16 being quieter than Pizzaiolo! I also find Cafe Rouge loud, and not a very comfortable restaurant, somehow. I'm always a little relieved to be out of there.

Tasting menu for neanderthals?

It's hard to leave hungry at La Folie - Passot loves his meat and when my visiting brother ordered the lamb chop a couple of years ago, we all stopped and actually stared at it! None of us had ever seen a lamb chop that large and perfect, and we are a family of hard-core carnivores from Chicago, LOL.

We feel dessert is the weak point at LF so we do a 4-course, skip the sweets entirely and just end with one of their fine cappuccinos. Lovely!

BTW, if you like lobster Passot does a killer lobster risotto. Very tiny serving, but it's super-rich and absolutely amazing.

Moving to the Bay Area!

You might want to consider that if you are within easy distance of Kaiser Hospital on Howe St. (parallel to Piedmont Ave.), the free Kaiser shuttles go to/from the MacArthur BART station. My spouse takes it all the time; you don't need to be a Kaiser member, either (although we are):

Also consider Emeryville, as its Emery Go-Round is also free, and expands the BART MacArthur Station service area quite a bit (the website has a useful map). Hours are shorter than the Kaiser shuttles, though:

Moving to the Bay Area!

My spouse did the reverse commute for 17 yrs - 26th & California in the Richmond district out to the Lake Merritt BART HQ. If he was lucky it took an hour each way; more usually it was 1.25 to 1.5 hrs EACH WAY. He got a lot of reading done, LOL! The only reason it was affordable was that since he worked for BART, he rode it for free and only had to pay for the Muni pass.

Find something in Oakland; you'll reduce a lot of stress with a short commute!

Lily's House now Happy Valley Restaurant? [Lafayette]

According to Diablo Dish today (March 4th), this Happy Valley is Szechuan, not Cantonese:

New Lafayette Chinese
Diablo Dish by Sarah Hare (Link & excerpt follows)

"...(re:) Happy Valley Restaurant on Mount Diablo Boulevard...chatted with the new owners (no connection to the Happy Valley restaurant in Oakland, although they did own the Happy Valley restaurant in Berkeley until it closed last year). Owner Amy Yee and her nephew, Adrian Siu, have taken over the former Lily’s House location, serving what she describes as Szechwan-style dishes. Yee tells me the most popular items include the Kung Pao prawns, the honey-glazed beef, and the crispy ginger chicken. "