Monday, October 29, 2012

Two Oakland Restaurants

Oakland, California, October 28, 2012—
AT DINNER TONIGHT it occurred to me this wasn't California cuisine; neither was lunch today, when we had the lamb ragù so badly photographed below. These are East Bay restaurants, well in the wake of Chez Panisse, characterized by thoughtful menus, excellent ingredients, solid execution.

For all that, the roast pork at the left here, with its sauerkraut, instantly rang a bell: it took me back to Bofinger in Paris, where I had exactly the same plate — one of the Hundred, by the way — but in a less cozy setting, and with much snootier service, and a considerably higher price. Well, not completely exactly; Bofinger would never have placed those rosemary needles on the meat; and fingerling potatoes are more a California thing than a French one, seems to me. Whatever: This was a delicious entrée, preceded by a good mixed green salad with figs, almonds, and fromage blanc. I enjoyed it.
Zöld Veltlini (Veltliner), Mátyás & Zoltan Szoke (Màtra, Hungary), 2011 (dry, stern, a good match to the pork)
• A Coté Restaurant, 5478 College Avenue, Oakland; 510.655.6469ragu.jpgEarlier in the day we'd had a festive brunch with three other couples — good friends and family, all gathered to see Einstein on the Beach in Berkeley afterward. I knew I'd have a big dinner, but a nearly-five-hour avant-garde opera demands stamina, and stamina requires nourishment. I opted for this lamb ragù, beautifully slow-cooked on an open hearth in the style of this fine restaurant (one of the Hundred), delicious red-lentil mash, bitter greens and crème fraîche on the side, a poached egg on top — a fine plate. Warmed up with Tequila, tomato, lime, and chile powder.
Pfneiszl Kékfrankos (Hungary), 2010: deep and serious
• Camino, 3917 Grand Avenue, Oakland; 510-547-5035

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