Fried chicken with corn on the cobb — Basque-Japanese-style at Duende.
When you hear that Duende in Oakland just put fried chicken on the menu, you might scratch your head for a moment, thinking how is that a Spanish dish?
Turns out it is.
In the land of paella, gazpacho and croquettes, fried chicken definitely has its place. That’s what I learned last week, when I was invited as a guest of the restaurant with other media to try the new offering.
As Chef-Owner Paul Canales explains, his father, who is of Basque heritage, would often fry chicken in olive oil in the morning, then let it sit out to cool to room temperature before the family ate it, garnished with a squeeze of lemon, for an early dinner, hours later.
Chef-Owner Paul Canales in the kitchen.
Canales was inspired to put his version of fried chicken on the menu when an employee brought in some take-out Japanese karaage for staff meal. Canales considers the Japanese-style fried chicken the gold standard for fried chicken because of its light yet shatteringly crisp exterior.
After experimenting, he came up with a rendition that marries Japanese and Spanish sensibilities in one superlative crunchy bite.
You can’t miss finding this place.
Its name means “nest” in Spanish, and NIDO is very much a comforting place in every sense.
This Mexican restaurant was opened in Oakland in 2012 by husband and wife, Cory and Silvia McCollow.
It’s colorful and energetic, with a homespun air, as if a bunch of friends got together in a modern-day barn-raising to build a restaurant. Candles in mismatched glass containers give off a warm glow inside, along with a mini disco ball at the front that creates a party-like verve. The bar is built from repurposed wood pallets, giving it a “Gilligan’s Island” can-do look.
On Sunday nights, the restaurant offers a more truncated menu, dubbed “Sunday Night Tacos & Margaritas.” It’s super popular, too, as I found out, when I went a week ago, paying my own tab at the end. Even before the doors opened at 5 p.m., there were already more than half a dozen people lined up to get in.
Chips, salsa and guacamole.
A cocktail made with black vermouth.
The short and sweet menu encompasses two starters, two large plates, two taco choices, and chips with salsa and guacamole.
Tempeh and spaetzel at Millennium that taste like beef stroganoff.
Recently, I dined with a companion at a vegan restaurant.
No, it was not with my husband, aka Meat Boy.
But even he enjoyed the leftovers I brought home afterward.
That tells you just how satisfying the cuisine is at Millennium in Oakland.
In fact, the majority of diners there are not strictly vegan. But they are lured by the creativity of Chef Eric Tucker’s dishes.
Millennium first opened in 1994 in San Francisco before moving to the Rockridge neighborhood across the Bay in 2015.
Even on a Monday night, typically a slow time for most restaurants, the dining room was packed.
Fried oyster mushrooms.
My friend Sheila (also not a vegan) and I started with a big pile of Coriander and Arborio Crusted Oyster Mushrooms ($13.95). The Italian risotto rice used in the coating gives the mushrooms a heavier and toastier tasting crust. Pick one up and dip into the sweet-spicy habanero jam. It’s perfect finger-food.
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.