Comfort in a bowl — matzo ball soup at Grand Lake Kitchen.
If you’re walking up to Grand Lake Kitchen in Oakland for the first time, it’s easy to spot yards before you get there. Just look for the line.
Especially for brunch on weekends, there is always one.
But just put your name in, give your cell phone number, and you can mosey around nearby Lake Merritt until you get a text that your table is ready. That’s what my husband and I did one recent Sunday, paying our tab for the meal at the end.
Because our wait was about 20 minutes for a table in the early afternoon, we just missed enjoying the brunch menu by about 5 minutes. Drat, because there are some especially intriguing items on it that I was hoping to try, including the Savory French Toast ($14) made with rye bread that’s dipped in porcini batter. How good does that sound, right?
A line almost always means that a place has got to be good.
Instead, we contented ourselves with the afternoon menu, that’s served from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m.
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.
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.
Sweet, savory, and spicy — these aren’t your childhood Cracker Jacks by any stretch.
Juhu Beach Club in Oakland may be shuttered now, but its spirit lives on in “The Juhu Beach Club Cookbook”
(Running Press) by Preeti Mistry with East Bay food writer Sarah Henry, of which I received a review copy.
Mistry has vowed that Juhu Beach Club, which she ran with her business partner and wife Ann Nadeau, will rise again in some form, though details are scarce at the moment.
In any event, you can still enjoy her cooking at her very fun Navi in Emeryville with its unique pizzas, toasts and cocktails.
Born in London and raised in suburban Ohio, Mistry, a former “Top Chef” contestant, is an inventive, inspired cook who is adept at remastering comfort food with bold Indian flavors and flair. On her trips to her ancestral country of India, she fell in love with street food. There’s a playfulness in her food that reflects that.
That’s evident in recipes such as “Shrimp Po’Bhai,” “JBC Fried Chicken & Doswaffle,” “Chai-Spiced Bacon,” and “Bloody Meera.”
Take her “Desi Jacks.” This revved up version of caramel corn is featured at Navi. It’s even free during the daily Happy Hour, 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. daily.
This is a snack that’s sure to get the party started.
Chef Tiyo Shibabaw at her Teni East Kitchen.
What’s an Ethiopia-born chef doing cooking Burmese food?
Living out a delectable dream, that’s what.
Tiyo Shibabaw, born and raised in Ethiopia where her parents run a hotel and restaurant, always knew she wanted to be in the hospitality industry.
But it wasn’t until she moved to the Bay Area that she found her calling in Southeast Asian cuisines, most notably after going to work at Burma Superstar. Although she started there as a general manager, it wasn’t long before she began apprenticing in the kitchen. She was soon tapped to open the Burma Superstar in Alameda, followed by one in Oakland.
After 10 years, she left the fold to step out on her own, opening her Teni East Kitchen in 2016 that’s named for her mother.
As she explained when I was invited in last week as a guest of her restaurant, she fell in love with the deep, complex flavors of Burmese cuisine that are multi-layered thanks to its judicious use of spices much like in Ethiopian cooking.
Chef Paul Canales holding his finished squid ink paella at Duende.
Last week, I got a lesson in paella-making from the source: Chef-Owner Paul Canales of the Duende in Oakland.
And what a delicious and inspired one it was.
After all, the Uptown restaurant is all about Spanish and Basque food spotlighting the best of Northern California’s bounty. Duende features four paellas on the menu, including the very popular Arroz Negro, made with squid ink for an unmistakable bold color.
Along with a handful of other food writers, I crowded into the restaurant kitchen to watch Canales demonstrate that dish. The Moors brought rice to Spain, he explained, and paellas first gained popularity in the 1840s in and around Valencia. Canales’ father is of Basque heritage, a region that didn’t necessarily specialize in risotto. But it’s a specialty Canales has long loved, and studied, having traveled throughout Spain.
Paella can be made with various Spanish rices, as well as short or broken Spanish pasta.
Saffron from northern Iran.
Like Italian risotto, it’s a dish that’s really all about the rice, with the toppings accentuating it, but not smothering it.