Category Archives: Restaurants

Take Five with Chef Gloria Dominguez About Closing Her Oakland Restaurant And New Beginnings

Chef Gloria Dominguez, who nutured Tamarindo Antojeria Mexicana for 14 years. (Photo by Eva Kolenko)
Chef Gloria Dominguez, who nutured Tamarindo Antojeria Mexicana for 14 years. (Photo by Eva Kolenko)

Chef Gloria Dominguez was nearly set to sign a lease for a restaurant space in Tucson, AZ in 2005 when her architect son Alfonso called to stop her. He had found the perfect place in Old Oakland, a Victorian with soaring ceilings and immense possibility. No matter if the neighborhood was rather a ghost town back then with empty storefronts all around, Gloria and Alfonso believed in it.

They put their heart and soul into creating Tamarindo Antojeria Mexicana. They transformed the space into a vibrant oasis with a pressed tin ceiling, vivid canvasses, and artsy white-washed wood chairs that Alfonso made himself. He created what’s thought to be the first Mezcal-focused bar in the area, serving up inventive cocktails to be enjoyed as old black and white Mexican movies projected on one of the walls of the lounge. Gloria attracted crowds, including the coaches and players of the Golden State Warriors, for her authentic chiles en nogada and chicken mole.

But now after 14 years, they plan to close the restaurant, following notice from their landlord that their rent was not only going to increase, but that they were limited to a two-year lease.

The restaurant’s last dinner service will be Nov. 30. After that, the restaurant will be available for private bookings through the end of December. The bar will be open during limited hours, 5 p.m. to 9 p.m., Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays until the end of the year. And a special mezcal and tequila tasting on Dec. 8. Tickets are $55 each.

I had a chance to get to know Gloria when I profiled her in my cookbook, “East Bay Cooks: Signature Recipes from the Best Restaurants, Bars, and Bakeries” (Figure 1). Last week, I had a chance to talk to her about the restaurant’s impending closure and what the future holds.

Q: How hard of a decision was this to make?             

A: Very, very difficult. Every day, I couldn’t sleep. It really hurt my son, too. There are so many beautiful memories here – all the graduations, proposals, bridal showers and weddings that were celebrated. People have been coming by with tears in their eyes and choking up.

Sometimes I think that things happen for a reason, though. I think better things will come along. Some investors who are doing projects in San Francisco and Walnut Creek have already approached us. We haven’t made any decisions. We’ll just see how it goes. We don’t want to rush into things.

Q: You still have your other restaurant in Antioch?

A: Yes, Taqueria Salsa, which we opened in 1988, which is much more casual. When we first opened, it was going to be everything with masa – like gorditas and sopes. But then we started selling burritos for the students and the Kaiser employees. Everyone always wants burritos. They are the Mexican burger. (laughs)

Q: When Tamarindo closes, what will you do with your time?

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Tartine’s Sweet Potato Tea Cake with Meringue

Not your average loaf cake.
Not your average loaf cake.

A tea cake is a tea cake is a tea cake — until Tartine gets its hands on it.

Like a basic little black dress that turns extraordinarily chic with the right broach or necklace, this sweet-potato loaf cake goes from fundamental to fancifully froufrou enough to be the life of the party, thanks to a halo of torched meringue.

“Sweet Potato Tea Cake with Meringue” is from the new “Tartine: A Classic Revisited: 68 All-New Recipes + 55 Updated Favorites” (Chronicle Books), of which I received a review copy. It’s by co-founders Elisabeth Prueitt and Chad Robertson of the famed Tartine bakery founded in San Francisco, with locations worldwide now.

It’s a revised edition to their original book that came out 13 years ago. Of the 122 recipes, 67 are new, including one for Tartine’s ever-popular “Morning Bun.” There are also more recipes that use less sugar and more global flavors, as well as more gluten-free ones.

A few of these recipes are indeed for ambitious bakers, including a sleek, contemporary “Buche de Noel.” The majority of them, however, shouldn’t intimidate most home-bakers. “Black Tea Blondies with Caramel Swirl,” “Cranberry Upside-Down Cake,” and “Brioche Jam Buns” just entice you into the kitchen.

Imagine your favorite pumpkin bread, but made with sweet potato instead. That’s what this moist, tender loaf cake is like. But it goes one better by getting a cloud of meringue on top that gets swirled with the cake batter to produce pretty streaks in it.

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Where’s the Beef At Gozu? It’s In Practically Everything

At the new Gozu -- dining is like theater with the kitchen its stage.
At the new Gozu — dining is like theater with the kitchen its stage.

Much like you wouldn’t expect to a half chicken set before you at a yakitori restaurant, don’t come to the new Gozu in San Francisco craving a brontosaurus-sized steak.

Nope, you won’t find that here.

Unlike so many Wagyu-focused restaurants of late in the Bay Area, this one doesn’t focus solely on the primo primal cuts. Instead, Chef-Owner Marc Zimmerman employs a nose-to-tail philosophy here, making use of far more parts of the Japanese specialty-breed, heavily marbled cow than a typical steakhouse ever would.

You’ll find him burning the bones as charcoal, rendering the fat to make sauces and to preserve vegetables, and using lean cuts to even make a house-made version of shoyu.

Charcoal-grilled skewer of the flat-iron of Hokkaido A5 Wagyu Snow Beef.
Charcoal-grilled skewer of the flat-iron of Hokkaido A5 Wagyu Snow Beef.

Zimmerman got the idea for this unique restaurant about five years ago when he was the chef at Alexander’s Steakhouse in San Francisco. He would regularly travel to Japan to source Wagyu from farmers there. But back then, he was only buying the loins, which prompted the farmers to question when he would buy the entire animal. After all, a farmer can’t make a living by only selling part of a cow. The only way to maintain a sustainable business is to make use of every bit of what you’re raising.

It got Zimmerman thinking, and agreeing that it only made sense to buy the entire animal.

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Behind the Doors of Hiroshi in Los Altos

A5 Wagyu sando at Hiroshi in Los Altos.
A5 Wagyu sando at Hiroshi in Los Altos.

It’s a good bet that not many ordinary mortals have dined at Hiroshi in downtown Los Altos.

After all, when it opened its doors two years ago, it was easily staked a claim to being the most expensive and most exclusive restaurant in the Bay Area. That’s because the Japanese restaurant, which essentially acts as your own private restaurant, serves only eight diners per night — at $400 per person on up, excluding tax, tip and beverages. What’s more, whether you were a party of six, four or two, you had to pay the full price of eight diners.

Hand-cut Japanese crystal known as Edokiriko.
Hand-cut Japanese crystal known as Edokiriko.

But Hiroshi recently changed that policy, making the restaurant more accessible and affordable. Well, sort of. The 10-course dinner now starts at $575 per person, exclusive of tax, tip, and beverages. But you need only a minimum of four diners to make a reservation now.

Owned by Chef Hiroshi Kimura and Japanese businessman Iwata Tsuyoshi, the restaurant has hosted the likes of Google co-founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page, as well as other tech titans.

Chef Hiroshi Kimura.
Chef Hiroshi Kimua.

This summer, the chef hosted an intimate group of six food writers, including yours truly, to experience his traditional Japanese cuisine served against a backdrop of dazzling art and plateware in a serene dining room dominated by 16-foot raw-edge table, fashioned from an 800-year-old zelkova tree, the same type of wood used to construct Japanese temples.

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A Sneak Taste of Mentone

Michelin three-starred Chef David Kinch awaits the opening of his new Aptos restaurant.
Michelin three-starred Chef David Kinch awaits the opening of his new Aptos restaurant.

Although a 2019 opening was expected for Chef David Kinch’s newest restaurant, Mentone in Aptos, eager diners will have to wait a little longer.

Like most under-construction restaurants these days, permit approvals have taken longer than expected. So, Mentone will likely open in the first half of January 2020 instead.

That’s what Kinch confirmed last week, while hosting a pop-up at Manresa Bread in Campbell, where he debuted some of the lusty, soulful food he’ll be serving at Mentone, the first Italian restaurant by this Michelin three-starred chef.

A few pastries remaining in the case at the start of the pop-up.
A few pastries remaining in the case at the start of the pop-up.
The dining room at Manresa Bread in Campbell set with more tables for the Mentone pop-up.
The dining room at Manresa Bread in Campbell set with more tables for the Mentone pop-up.

“People think I’m purposely delaying the opening to build more suspense,” he says with a laugh. “But that’s not true. It’s out of my hands.”

Yes, after conquering the highest echelons of fine-dining with Manresa, artisan bread-baking with Manresa Bread (Los Gatos, Los Altos, and Campbell), and the spirit of the Big Easy with the Bywater in Los Gatos, Kinch is turning his attention to the cuisine of the Italian and French Riviera, from which Mentone gets its name. It’ll also be the first restaurant on the “other side of the hill” of Highway 17 for Kinch, who has called Santa Cruz home for decades.

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