Broccoli tamale at Rich Table.
Rich Table is one of those restaurants that confounds.
In the best of ways.
What other place thinks of threading whole sardines through potato chips? Or baking levain bread with dough infused with Douglas Fir? Or tossing a tangle of pasta with sauerkraut and pastrami?
Only this San Francisco establishment founded by husband-and-wife chefs Evan and Sarah Rich.
No wonder this casual, relaxed place has earned a Michelin star.
Step inside the casual Michelin-starred restaurant.
A little bathroom humor on the bathroom wall.
Even before garnering that honor, Rich Table was always a tough place to get a reservation. It’s even more so now. But plan ahead to score a table and you will be richly rewarded, as my husband and I and our friends were on a recent Sunday night. We paid our own tab at the end, but Chef de Cuisine Brandon Rice did send out a parade of desserts on the house at the end.
Another year, another 365 days of satisfying the appetite. Which eats do I still dream about? Which would I go back to just for another sublime taste?
These are my Top 10 dishes of the year (in no particular order). Here’s to 2019 — and more unforgettable meals to come!
Real-deal Black Forest cake at Gaumenkitzel. (photo by Carolyn Jung)
Gaumenkitzel in Berkeley is named for the old-fashioned German term for “delicious and precious.”
The restaurant is both those things personified.
It was opened in 2011 by husband-and-wife Kai Flache and Anja Voth, who hail from Hamburg, Germany.
You can’t miss the restaurant on San Pablo Avenue, what with its sunny mustard-hued facade. It’s the place for comforting, rib-sticking fare, along with what’s likely the largest selection of German beers and wines in the Bay Area.
Recently, I met my brother and sister-in-law for dinner, paying our own tab at the end.
The happy-hued exterior. (photo courtesy of Gaumenkitzel)
Flache revamped and designed the colorful, almost Scandinavian-like, clean-lined space, which used to be a lighting store. Voth is the head chef. She takes great pride in the fact that everything that can be made in house, is. That means even milling her own flour to make bread daily, flaking her own oats for granola, jarring her own jams, and culturing her own yogurt.
Spicy Korean-style fried chicken snuggled inside steamed buns at Cin-Cin.
A lot of changes have been underfoot in the past year or so at the ever-popular Cin-Cin Wine Bar & Restaurant in Los Gatos.
First, founder Lisa Rhorer, a former marketing professional-turned-sommelier, sold the restaurant that she opened in 2008 to husband-and-wife Pasquale and Andrea Romano. With Pasquale already a co-founder of her second Los Gatos restaurant, Centenove, it was a fitting choice.
Second, a new chef came on board in May. Executive Chef Chris Velasquez is a familiar face in the South Bay, having worked at Alexander’s Steakhouse in Cupertino, Plumed Horse in Saratoga, The Table in San Jose, and Orchard City Kitchen in Campbell.
On his “free time,” Velasquez also teams with Chef John Shelsta (who’s especially famed for his kouign-amann and other buttery pastry delights) on pop-up Sunday brunches at Zola in Palo Alto, where Shelsta is manning the kitchen.
Head Chef Chris Velasquez.
Velasquez invited me in as a guest of the restaurant recently to see what he’s been up to. He revamped the menu, which used to be primarily centered around small plates. Now, he’s added more entrees and larger portions all around.
A perfect dish of wild salmon at Limewood. (Photo by Carolyn Jung)
With so many independent restaurants to choose from in the East Bay, why drive to one in the Oakland hills in a fancy hotel?
Because at sunset the view is killer.
And it’s a chance to experience history.
Limewood Bar & Restaurant is located inside the majestic Claremont Club & Spa, a 103-year-old historic landmark spanning 22 acres of greenery on the Oakland-Berkeley border.
You can’t miss the sprawling, castle-like structure when you glance toward the hills. It’s as imposing as it is impressive.
Even if you’re not splurging on a night’s stay at the luxury hotel, you can still enjoy a meal at the restaurant with its open kitchen, clubby atmosphere and bank of large windows.
The historic Claremont Club & Spa. (Photo courtesy of the Claremont)
Arwi Odense, hotel executive chef; Joey Hattendorf, Limewood executive chef; and A.J. Thalakkat, executive pastry chef, all joined the property less than two years ago.