You have to smile at place where the bathrooms are identified as: “raMEN” and “raWOMEN.”
Itani Ramen takes its food seriously, but everything else with a sense of humor.
The second restaurant by Chef Kyle Itani of Hopscotch in Oakland, Itani Ramen opened a month ago in Oakland’s Uptown neighborhood.
I had a chance to try it two weeks ago when I was invited in as a guest of the restaurant. It happened to be a night when Itani’s good buddy, Chef Daniel Holzman of New York’s The Meatball Shop empire, happened to be helping out, serving dishes and chatting up diners. Holzman also assisted in the kitchen when Hopscotch first opened. And it’s his photographs of colorful street scenes in Japan that grace the walls of Itani Ramen.
Chef Brian Ikenoyama, Chef-Owner Kyle Itani, and visiting-Chef Daniel Holzman.
The long restaurant is industrial-zen looking with unfinished wood on the back wall that gives it an almost shoji-screen-like look. Packages of Japanese instant ramen and bottles of sake decorate shelves above the bar and open kitchen.
The film revolves around the clash of cultures that occurs when an Indian family opens up a restaurant in France directly across the road from a Michelin-starred French one.
If you’ve seen this charming film, you know the scene I’m talking about. It’s where the young Indian Chef Hassan (played by Manish Dayal) dares to cook an omelet for the matriarch of the French restaurant, Madam Mallory (played by Helen Mirren).
He pours beaten eggs into a pan, then adds chile, tomatoes and cilantro, as well as Indian spices. When the omelet is done, he carries it over to the skeptical Madame to try. We see only the back of her as she sits broodingly at the table, fork in hand, armed with the lowest of expectations. When she takes a bite, we see her back and head stiffen ram-rod straight, as she’s jolted to attention by the deliriously delicious omelet she’s never had the likes of before.
For every prix fixe meal sold, Sysco will donate $1 to Martha’s Kitchen, too. The San Jose organization provides meals to those in need.
Contest: One lucky Food Gal reader will win a $50 gift certificate to Mezcal Restaurant in downtown San Jose. Use it toward the $30 three-course prix fixe the restaurant is serving up for Dine Downtown San Jose, which includes options such as tortilla soup, grilled steak with chipotle sauce, and warm Oaxacan chocolate cake. Or use it another time.
Chef Octavio Gomez of Mezcal. (Photo courtesy of the restaurant)
Mezcal specializes in moles, as well as chapulines (fried grasshoppers). If you’ve never experienced the latter, this is the place to try them. Seasoned with garlic, salt and lime, they’re as crisp and addicting as potato chips. So, no need to be squeamish.
I’ve had many wonderful meals at restaurants, but never have I left at the end of an evening overcome with the emotions that I had at Trestle in San Francisco.
As Co-Owner Tai Ricci bid me adieu, I just wanted to hug her for dear life and implore, “Please, please be profitable and be around for a very, very long time!’
If you’ve found your eyes bulging out of their sockets at the stratospheric prices of some of the Bay Area’s tasting menus lately, you’ll find your peepers popping out at Trestle for another reason:
You’ll wonder how they do it — serving an extraordinary three-course dinner nightly for all of $35 per person.
The cozy, contemporary dining room.
We’re not talking a slap-dash affair, either. This is food, where it’s immediately evident that great care is taken. Soup is poured tableside by your server. The skin on a fish fillet is seared till perfectly golden and crisp as a perfect potato chip. Desserts are not just plopped into a bowl, but artfully arranged with whimsy.
When I was a kid growing up in San Francisco, it was not uncommon for my birthday dinner at home to consist of Chinese roast duck with plum sauce, followed by a St. Honore cake decked out with mini cream puffs.
Because Chinatown and North Beach bump up against one another, my Mom would often trek after work to pick up provisions for dinner from a nearby Chinese deli, then stroll over to an Italian bakery to buy my favorite cake.
Part Chinese, part Italian – it made perfect sense. And it was a most delicious way to celebrate. So much so that when the folks at Columbus Craft Meats invited me to create a recipe using one of their premium salami, I immediately thought of fried rice. Columbus was established in 1917 in North Beach, long before today’s craft salumi craze took hold. It’s what I grew up with, tucked into sandwiches or just nibbled by the slice out of hand.