Wednesday, May 28, 2014

A day at the park…

Oakland, May 26 2014—

…WITH FRIENDS, watching our team — the Chicago Cubs — beat theirs, the San Francisco Giants. So lunch could be no other than a Polish-style hot dog with mustard, catsup, onions, sauerkraut, and pickle relish (for oneneeds one's vegetables), and a beer. Draft Stella Artois. This is San Francisco, after all.

THEN DINNER IN A PLACE new to us, one we will certainly return to. For one thing, we could actually converse comfortably, thanks to ingenious acoustical engineering. More to the point, the food was absolutely delicious — Mexican cuisine, but attentive to the mysterious and elusive flavors and textures of Yucatàn, as I recall them — dimly, I grant you — from forty years ago at least, when we chanced on a restaurant called, I think, El Faisan, in Tijuana. 

The four of us shared many things, but I particularly enjoyed an item called De Ese: Hoja santa (Piper auritum), also known as "root beer plant" but tasting, at least in this version, nothing like root beer — a velvety heart-shaped leaf about the size of the palm of your hand, it was wrapped into an enchilada, with Anasazi bean purée and puya salsa and a scatter of grated cheese. Truly mysterious and memorable. 

I liked also a roast duck enchilada with mole coloradito and crème fraîche, and the "bitter greens" salad that was a version of Caesar salad but with grated Manchego, chopped almonds, and seived hard-boiled egg, and a roast-chicken tamal involving mole negro, rajas, corn, and nettles.

Dessert! Arroz con leche, smooth and surprising with cherries and toasted pistachios; and a deep, dark, so er chocolate pudding, quite dense, with just the right complement of whipped cream. Mexican with style and substance.

Mencia, Viña Reboreda, Ribeiro, 2011

• Comal, 2020 Shattuck Avenue, Berkeley; 510-926-6300

1 comment:

Curtis Faville said...


Comal is certainly what it sets out to be--a stylish Mexican restaurant and bar.

If you didn't try the cocktails, you have a treat in store the next time you visit. They have invented some very exotic mixes!

After four dinners there, we've become familiar with the food, which is seeming now less innovative than it might be.

Will Americans ever appreciate the level of Mexican cuisine which Rick Bayless describes in his television show visits south of the border? We still live in the smashed beans and rice phase of imported Mexican fare.

"The future, Mr. Gitts, the future!"