Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Mid-Week Menu: A Provencal-Style French Bistro on Lakeshore, the New Phat Beets Market Location, and a Brick-and-Mortar for No No Burger

by Luke Tsai
Wed, Jan 29, 2014 at 8:47 AM

Welcome to the Mid-Week Menu, our roundup of East Bay food news.

1) A modern French bistro called Michel is coming to Oakland’s Grand-Lake neighborhood, in the space formerly occupied by the recently shuttered YaYu Ethiopian Restaurant (3343 Lakeshore Ave.). Co-owner Germain Michel told What the Fork that both he and partner Jean-Michel Fabregon hail from southeastern France, so their restaurant will have a Provencal influence, including several cocktails based on pastis (the anise-flavored liqueur). Michel also owns Amelie Wine Bar, a lounge-y watering hole in San Francisco’s Nob Hill neighborhood, and he said the Oakland restaurant’s wine program will be similar to Amelie’s. Foodwise, diners can expect traditional French cuisine with an emphasis on seasonal ingredients. Look for a mid-March opening. (Thanks to @BlueBottleBimbo for the initial tip.)

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Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Under-the-Radar Soup in Oakland Chinatown

by Luke Tsai
Tue, Jan 28, 2014 at 11:55 AM

The Lunar New Year is just around the corner, on January 31, and if you’re like me, maybe you you haven’t got your act together enough to find out the time and place of the nearest Chinatown street festival or lion dance parade. Maybe you’ve been deemed too old, or not Chinese enough, to partake in the straight-cash revelries of a red envelope exchange. Even still, the very least you can do to ring in the Year of the Horse is eat some delicious Chinese food this week, and what better place to do it than Oakland’s bustling, workaday Chinatown?

In the past year, I’ve written extensively about a few noteworthy newcomers — Tian Jin Dumplings, Classic Guilin Rice Noodles, and Hot Pot House. Here’s another under-the-radar pick for your consideration.

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Monday, January 27, 2014

A Hybrid Food Market for Grand Avenue

by Luke Tsai
Mon, Jan 27, 2014 at 8:54 PM

There’s no easy way to categorize the new restaurant-market hybrid that Doug Washington is planning for 3265 Grand Avenue in Oakland (the recently shuttered Monkey Forest Road spot), a project that combines elements of an artisanal food market, a beer-and-wine garden, a cheesemonger/charcuterer, a takeout counter, and a coffee shop — so, Rockridge Market Hall meets Gregoire meets Local 123.

Whatever you do, just don’t call it a food court, Washington joked.

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Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Mid-Week Menu: Actual Cafe Rolls Out New Dinner Menu, Copan Becomes Bowl’d BBQ, and Cholita Linda Prepares to Softly Open

by Luke Tsai
Wed, Jan 22, 2014 at 10:00 AM

Welcome to the Mid-Week Menu, our roundup of East Bay food news.

1) Sal Bednarz, owner of North Oakland’s Actual Cafe (6334 San Pablo Ave.), would like you to know that his business is no longer just a coffee shop: A couple of months ago, the cafe launched table service for both dinner and weekend brunch, and Bednarz recently rolled out a new dinner menu that he describes as a sit-down version of the menu at Victory Burger, Bednarz’s burger joint next door, which shares a kitchen with Actual Cafe. There’s a selection of burgers, plus some extra salads and appetizers (e.g. customizable mac ’n’cheese), with seasonal specials that vary from week to week. Sit-down table service is in effect during brunch hours (9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on weekends) and for dinner starting at 5 p.m. every day. Scroll to the bottom of the post for a link to last week's dinner menu.

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Tuesday, January 21, 2014

A Fisherman-Owned Fish Market

by Luke Tsai
Tue, Jan 21, 2014 at 2:00 PM

Berkeley is no stranger to progressive food-related business models — it is, after all, home to a barista-owned coffee shop (Alchemy Collective Cafe) and a cheesemonger-owned cheese shop (The Cheese Board Collective). Now, the city is also the site of a fisherman-owned fish market: Bonita Fish Market (1941 University Ave.), which was opened by a pair of active commercial fishermen, Hung Nguyen and Phat Vo, in downtown Berkeley in November. Although the shop is small and carries a limited, seasonally dependent selection of fish, Bonita is one of the most exciting new markets to open in the East Bay in years.

Nguyen and Vo, who both grew up in Berkeley, had sold fish to local fish markets and grocery stores for years, and Vo spent time working as a fishmonger at Monterey Fish Market and Berkeley Bowl. Nguyen said the two finally thought, “Why not open our own store and sell for ourselves, and bring the fish to the people?”

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Monday, January 20, 2014

The Analog Age

by Luke Tsai
Mon, Jan 20, 2014 at 9:30 PM

This might be the era of Google Glass, but sometimes it can be nice to turn back the clock — at least that’s the idea behind Analog, a new restaurant coming to downtown Oakland at 412 14th Street, just off Broadway. According to chef-owner Sean Asmar, the restaurant’s theme will be a celebration of analog media — of VHS cassette tapes and record players and old cathode-ray-tube television sets.

Why the obsession with all things analog? The 28-year-old Asmar isn’t old enough to remember the heyday of vinyl and VHS, but the New Hampshire native said he’s been fascinated with those media for as long as he can remember. Besides, as a music lover and musician himself, Asmar wanted to celebrate 45s and LPs before they become lost to history forever.

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Thursday, January 16, 2014

Why Not Take Mass Transit to Oakland's Restaurant Week?

by Julian Mark
Thu, Jan 16, 2014 at 1:40 PM

If you're looking to get a taste of Oakland’s fourth annual restaurant week and don’t want to deal with parking — or driving home after enjoying a few cocktails — AC transit is offering a guide to bus lines that will get you to the event’s many destinations.

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Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Mid-Week Menu: A New Food Market Takes Shape on Grand Avenue, Olde Depot Closes, and Fist of Flour’s new ‘Doughjo’ Opens

by Luke Tsai
Wed, Jan 15, 2014 at 7:20 AM

Welcome to the Mid-Week Menu, our roundup of East Bay food news.

1) Soon after I reported the shuttering of the Grand Avenue coffee shop/high-end furniture store Monkey Forest Road (3265 Grand Ave., Oakland) last week, I heard rumors that Charlie Hallowell and his business partner, Richard Weinstein, had bought the space and were planning either to turn it into a food market or an outdoor patio for Hallowell’s still-new restaurant, Penrose, next door. As it turns out, the rumor was partly true: Hallowell confirmed the purchase, but he told me that he’s had his hands full, having taken over as the full-time chef at Penrose (the subject of this week’s restaurant review) since the beginning of the year. So, Hallowell and his partner decided to lease the space to Doug Washington (a partner at Salt House and Town Hall in San Francisco), with the idea that Washington might turn it into a kind of “Oakland Bi-Rite,” as Hallowell put it.

Washington spoke to Inside Scoop about the project, tentatively named Grand Market, which sounds to me a little bit more akin to The Pasta Shop than Bi-Rite Market per se: a food market with different counters selling carefully curated cheeses, charcuterie, baked goods, and so forth — plus a big outdoor area where there will be coffee and booze for sale, as well as seating. ETA is at least five months from now.

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Tuesday, January 14, 2014

‘Odd’ Bagels Might Be the Best Gluten-Free Bread We’ve Tasted

by Luke Tsai
Tue, Jan 14, 2014 at 11:30 AM

When Brent Woodard was diagnosed with a gluten intolerance last spring, the thing he missed the most wasn’t pizza, beer, or spaghetti. No, what Woodard was most loath to give up was his morning routine: a cream-cheese topped bagel and a cup of coffee — “my idea of perfection,” he said.

Subsequently, the Oakland-based stay-at-home dad sampled every gluten-free bagel he could get his hands on, including those produced by established gluten-free bakeries like Udi’s and Oakland’s Mariposa Baking Company. But he found that all of the available options were subpar — not real bagels so much as vaguely bagel-shaped “bread rings” or dinner rolls with holes. So Woodard, a former IT specialist who had never before worked in the food business, got busy in the kitchen. By the fall, he had not only come up with a recipe for a gluten-free bagel that satisfied his own cravings, he’d also launched a new food startup, Odd Bagel, dedicated to bringing his creation to the masses. Now available at Berkeley Bowl West, Saul’s Restaurant and Delicatessen, the online marketplace Good Eggs, and a handful of other retail locations, Woodard’s bagels have slowly garnered a loyal following in the Bay Area’s gluten-free community.

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Monday, January 13, 2014

The Best Deals of Oakland Restaurant Week

by Luke Tsai
Mon, Jan 13, 2014 at 5:10 PM

Oakland’s fifth fourth annual restaurant week kicks off this week, with more than fifty participating restaurants that will offer $20, $30, or $40 prix-fixe menus during the ten-day promotional period, which run from January 17 to 26.

For the restaurants, Oakland Restaurant Week is a chance to lure in new customers who might later become regulars. Diners, for their part, can take the opportunity to try new restaurants that might normally be out of their price range. There are bargains to be had, though it’s fair to note that not every prix-fixe is created equally. We figured it would be a public service, then, to scour the list of participants in an effort to identify the best deals.

Here are some of the ones that caught our eye:

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