For A “Bargain” Tasting Menu, Head to Commonwealth

Spring asparagus with an unusual potato salad at Commonwealth.

Spring asparagus with an unusual potato salad at Commonwealth.

 

If I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard a chef mention this restaurant as the place they most like to eat on their day off or as the establishment they’d most like theirs to emulate, I’d be doing very well indeed.

Such is the respect that Commonwealth has garnered.

The Michelin-starred restaurant opened in 2010 in an old donut shop in San Francisco. In fact, the Mission District restaurant not only sports the old donut mural on the side of the building, but possesses something truly rare in San Francisco — its own parking lot. It is a fairly small lot, though, so you still have to be lucky to snag a space.

Chef-Owner Jason Fox oversees the open kitchen in the compact dining room, which means it is worthwhile to make a reservation. My husband and I, who were invited to dine as guests of the restaurant on a recent Saturday night, saw a few walk-ins turned away because the restaurant just gets that booked.

Located in a former donut shop.

Located in a former donut shop.

Some bubbly to accompany the first couple of courses.

Some bubbly to accompany the first couple of courses.

While there is an a la carte menu, what really makes Commonwealth stand out is its tasting menu. In the Bay Area, where many tasting menus have prompted ire for their stratospheric prices that now reach well beyond $300 per person, Commonwealth’s is all of $85 per person ($140 total per person with wine pairings) for about seven courses. Even the “chef’s extended menu” is a relatively moderate $125 per person ($195 total per person with wine pairings) for about 14 courses, which is the option we went for.

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Artsy Flair and Regional Specialties at Tamarindo Antojeria

Executive Chef-Owner Gloria Dominguez making tortillas at her Tamarindo Antojeria Mexicana.

Executive Chef-Owner Gloria Dominguez making tortillas at her Tamarindo Antojeria Mexicana.

 

When Chef-Owner Gloria Dominguez opened her Tamarindo Antojeria Mexicana 13 years ago in the Old Oakland neighborhood that had more storefronts that were empty than filled, people thought she was crazy.

She more than proved them wrong, patiently waiting out the revitalization of the area, and in the process creating a stylish restaurant showcasing regional specialties. It’s such a draw that the likes of the Warriors coaching staff and its mega-star Kevin Durant dine there regularly.

“It was a struggle at first,” Dominguez recounts. “I was doing small plates. People were asking where are the chips like at Chevy’s. One person even thought we were doing Indian food. But I didn’t give up. I wanted to transport people to other regions of Mexico. Now, people come here to eat and say only their grandmother used to make food like this.”

The restaurant has two dining rooms, including this one right near the bar.

The restaurant has two dining rooms, including this one right near the bar.

Bold art on the walls.

Bold art on the walls.

Recently, I had a chance to take a taste for myself when my friend Ben, who blogs at FocusSnapEat, and I enjoyed dinner here. I paid our tab at the end.

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Lamb-Ricotta Meatballs You Won’t Be Able To Get Enough Of

Meatball heaven.

Meatball heaven.

 

There are people who stalk actors or politicians.

Me? I stalk chefs.

Not in the scary, restraining-order way.

But I admit to keeping my eyes peeled for them whenever I’m out and about.

So, it was with great pleasure that a few years ago while in New York, my husband and I spotted chefs Lee Hanson and Riad Nasr waiting for a table at the same restaurant we were dining in. Hey, it’s a sure sign that a place must be good if other chefs are dining there on their nights off, right?

And Hanson and Nasr do have exquisite taste. After all, the co-chefs earned untold respect at Balthazar and Minetta Tavern. This month, they opened their new Frenchette in Tribeca.

Given their pedigree, when I spotted their recipe a months ago for “Lamb-Ricotta Meatballs Braised in Tomato Sauce” in the Wall Street Journal, I knew it had to be a sure-fire winner.

It hit it out of the park in every which way.

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On Kids’ Cooking, Feel-Good Desserts and the Future of Literacy

Kids can learn how to decorate their own cookies and cupcakes. (Photo courtesy of The Village Bakery)

Kids can learn how to decorate their own cookies and cupcakes. (Photo courtesy of The Village Bakery)

Kids’ Cupcake and Cookie Decorating Class

The little ones will be in sugar heaven at this “Kids Cupcake and Cookie Decorating Class,” 2 p.m. April 28 at The Village Bakery in Woodside.

Executive Pastry Chef Janina O’Leary will guide kids through this hands-on class that will take them through glazing, frosting, piping and sprinkling.

The kids will take home their sweet creations, as well as a surprise gift from O’Leary.

The class is designed for kids 5 years and older. Kids are asked to arrive at 1:45 p.m. Parents can hang out there or drop off the little ones, then make a reservation to dine at the Village Bakery dining room next door.

Tickets to the class are $45.

Tapestry Suppers Presents An Afternoon with Sam Shem

Tapestry Suppers, which celebrates the myriad of immigrant cuisines in Silicon Valley, will host an intimate gathering, “Dream of the Other,” 12:30 p.m. April 28 in Palo Alto.

The brainchild of South Bay photographer Danielle Tsi, Tapestry Suppers brings people together to share authentic food and stories from all over the globe.

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At Old Kan, It’s A-OK

Old Kan -- aka OK -- serves up a more than OK time.

Old Kan — aka OK — serves up a more than OK time.

 

It seems that everything that Chef James Syhabout, Oakland’s shining son, touches turns to gold. It’s not just his Commis, which boasts two Michelin stars, the only restaurant in the East Bay to garner that illustrious ranking, it’s also the care he puts into his other more casual restaurants in the city.

Case in point: Old Kan Beer & Co.

This brewery-gastropub is in an old industrial area of the city off the beaten track. It’s welcoming from the get-go and feels like a genuine part of the community.

My husband and I visited one lazy, sunny Sunday afternoon, paying our own tab at the end. A DJ was spinning tunes outside. And a pop-up had been invited to grill Japanese street-food specialties on the deck.

Gotta love the logo.

Gotta love the logo.

A great place to take it easy on a sunny day.

A great place to take it easy on a sunny day.

Syhabout teamed up with Adam Lamoreaux, who founded the pioneering Linden Street Brewery in Oakland with his wife Alice. The Old Kan Classic goes down easy with a good hoppy kick of an IPA. The Old Kan Light Cream Ale is brewed with corn, and is light and refreshing.

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