Friday, February 17, 2017

A new restaurant

Oakland, California, February 16, 2017—
NORMALLY ONE WOULD WAIT a few weeks at least before visiting a new restaurant, but this one was opened eight days ago by seasoned professionals (they have operated another, a few miles away, for a number of years) in a hallowed locale (Bay Wolf, the previous occupant, was in business there forty years or so).

We dined with another couple. The other three ordered almost identically and were less than perfectly satisfied with their main courses: I escaped the problem by sticking to two appetizers and a side dish, beginning with the curiously presented poached tuna you see here. The three semicircles are slices of radish, lending a pleasant crispness and edge to the dish, which also profited from the sweet butter beans, cooked to just the right texture. The tuna was slow-poached in olive oil, also to the optimal point. That's a scatter of mizuma garnishing the plate, which was lightly bound with a salsa verde. The whole thing was in perfect balance, not one flavor too many; and for an appetizer it seemed a generous serving, and effective visually, drawn in a crescent at the edge off an otherwise bare plate suggesting there'll be more to come.

With it, a very nice Martini. In fact it was billed as a "Wooster": gin, vodka, a wash of dry vermouth, a spot of absinthe, garnished with a mint leaf. I requested the vodka be omitted, and was quite happy with the result.

I continued with steak tartare: the beef hand-chopped and mixed with chopped red onion, capers, and chives, bound with Hollandaise sauce. I do prefer shallots to onion, and would have ground in a bit of black pepper: but this was really a very nice version of tartare. At table (and before and afterward) we talked about food, and cuisine, and restaurants: just what is it we want? I want pleasure and interest, but if I can have only one I'll take pleasure — this is why I tend to favor cuisine bonne femme over haute cuisine, especially these days when so many restaurants seem to be out to astonish their patrons. These two appetizers, right in the main stream, were perfectly composed. There was an osso buco on the menu, for example, that had escargot in its sauce: what's that all about? Why add so foreign an element (flavor, texture, source) to so traditional and perfect a dish?

The desserts arrived: apple hand pies; meringata. They looked like biological specimens, and they weren't tasty enough to overcome the visual problem.

Nebbiolo, Poderi e cantine Oddero (Langhe), 2013: very nice indeed
The Wolf, 3853 Piedmont Avenue, Oakland; +1 (510) 879-7953

RESTAURANTS VISITED, with information and rating: 2016      2015     2017

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