Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Mid-Week Menu: Howden Market Softly Opens, Cafe Eugene Brings Pacific Northwest Cuisine to Albany, and Penrose Launches Brunch

by Luke Tsai
Wed, Dec 30, 2015 at 12:50 PM

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

1) One of the big trends of this past year was an explosion of one-stop market-restaurant hybrids that opened, or were slated to open — some more successful than others. Oakland’s latest, Howden Market (1630 Webster St.), is slated to open officially the beginning of next week, on January 4, but word on the street is that the market is in soft opening mode this week. Run by the folks behind the Spice Monkey restaurant next door, the market-deli-cafe will sell a mix of fresh produce, coffee, to-go foods, spices, and house-made sauces.

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Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Best Bites of 2015

by Luke Tsai
Tue, Dec 29, 2015 at 1:19 PM

Nan gyi thoke. - BERT JOHNSON/FILE PHOTO
  • Bert Johnson/File photo
  • Nan gyi thoke.
In 2015, I learned that straightforward California cuisine can still surprise and delight; that the classics are classics for good reason; and that while expensive, high-concept tacos might win my begrudging respect, the down-home taco will always have my heart.

After a year’s worth of delicious dishes eaten at new (or new-to-me) East Bay restaurants this year, here are my ten favorites, listed in the order in which I discovered them:

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Friday, December 18, 2015

Emeryville's CommonWealth Micropub to Close on Saturday

by Luke Tsai
Fri, Dec 18, 2015 at 10:43 PM

Full English breakfast at CommonWealth Micropub. - STEPHEN LOEWINSOHN/FILE PHOTO
  • Stephen Loewinsohn/File photo
  • Full English breakfast at CommonWealth Micropub.
Are you a fan of pint-size watering holes and superlative British pub food? Here's sad news, then: Emeryville's CommonWealth Micropub (3986 Adeline St.) will have its last day of business on Saturday, December 19. The sister establishment to the original CommonWealth Cafe and Pub (2882 Telegraph Ave.) in Uptown Oakland was open for less than a year. 

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Thursday, December 17, 2015

Mid-Week Menu: The Dock Shifts Gears, Rockridge Gets Another Italian Restaurant, and Lucky Three Seven Hosts a Free Food Day

by Luke Tsai
Thu, Dec 17, 2015 at 9:00 AM

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

1) With Commis having garnered its second Michelin star and Hawker Fare humming along like a well-oiled machine, James Syhabout continues to turn his attention to his third restaurant, The Dock (95 Linden St.), which has undergone a series of menu changes and concept tweaks in the past couple of months. Earlier in the fall, the restaurant had introduced a new prix-fixe option. It's unclear whether Syhabout and chef de cuisine Geoffrey Davis will keep that option moving forward, but Inside Scoop reports that The Dock will now shift away from its original small plates focus, moving toward a “supper house” menu format that’s set up more traditionally, with starters, entrées, and so forth. The restaurant is also now baking its own bread and biscuits in-house.

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Wednesday, December 16, 2015

AS B-Dama’s Chikara Ono Plots a New Sushi Restaurant in Swan’s Market

by Luke Tsai
Wed, Dec 16, 2015 at 11:18 AM

Chikara Ono. - BERT JOHNSON/FILE PHOTO
  • Bert Johnson/File photo
  • Chikara Ono.
These days, Chikara Ono doesn’t get behind the stove as often as he used to, but among his devotees, the chef is legendary — particularly for his skills with raw fish. At AS B-Dama (907 Washington St., Oakland), the popular izakaya-style Japanese restaurant located in the Swan’s Market food court, Ono plays more of a supervisory role — expediting orders and bringing dishes out to customers.

Longtime customers who have been wanting to taste more of Ono’s food might soon get there wish: The chef is opening a new sushi spot in Swan’s Market, just steps away from AS B-Dama. The yet unnamed restaurant will be located in a former bubble tea shop at 536 9th Street — next door to the Mexican eatery Cosecha, in a stand-alone space that’s separate from the larger “food court” area. 

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Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Brewpub Pioneer Bill Owens’ Next Big Idea Is to Go Even Smaller

by Luke Tsai
Tue, Dec 15, 2015 at 8:40 AM

Bill Owens, at the start of a 17,000-mile road trip. - BILL OWENS
  • Bill Owens
  • Bill Owens, at the start of a 17,000-mile road trip.
It isn’t exactly normal for a 77-year-old man to spend three months crisscrossing the country by himself in a leased Volkswagen Passat — zipping down freeways at an average speed of 85 miles an hour just so he can check out some agave distillery in Colorado he heard was experimenting with making apple brandy using crowdsourced, “found” apples. Then again, Bill Owens — the eternally curious founder and president of the American Distilling Institute and a legend in the East Bay craft brewing community — isn’t your typical 77-year-old.

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Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Mid-Week Menu: Starline Social Club Goes Burmese, Cafe 88 Is Closed, and Two New Ramen Shops Gear Up to Open

by Luke Tsai
Wed, Dec 9, 2015 at 1:23 PM

Grocery Cafe's funky tea leaf salad. - BERT JOHNSON/FILE PHOTO
  • Bert Johnson/File photo
  • Grocery Cafe's funky tea leaf salad.
Welcome to the Mid-Week Menu, our roundup of East Bay food news.

1) In what may be the unlikeliest restaurant collaboration of the year, the Starline Social Club (2236 Martin Luther King, Jr. Way, Oakland) — the highbrow bar-food specialist — will now serve mostly Burmese dishes by way of East Oakland hole-in-the-wall Grocery Cafe (2248 10th Ave.), Inside Scoop reports. Apparently, chef Austin Holey will assume a more advisory role at Starline, and, under the tutelage of Grocery Cafe owner William Lue, the bar’s remaining kitchen staff will start cranking out samosas and tea leaf salads (while keeping a handful of popular bar-snacky items on the menu).

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Tuesday, December 8, 2015

How the Kuciukai Crumbles: Alameda Now Home to the Only Lithuanian Bakery on the West Coast

by Luke Tsai
Tue, Dec 8, 2015 at 12:21 PM

The seven-layer honey cake known as medutis. - MAMA PAPA LITHUANIA
  • Mama Papa Lithuania
  • The seven-layer honey cake known as medutis.
When Vaidas Sukys first opened Mama Papa Lithuania (1241 Park St.) in 2013, I wrote about how the quaint little restaurant in Alameda was the only Lithuanian restaurant on the entire West Coast — the only place I knew of in the Bay Area where a potato dumpling lover could throw back a couple of Svyturys lagers and munch on dark rye bread imported from a village in Lithuania.

Now, Sukys is once again on the cutting edge of the Bay Area’s Eastern European food scene: About a month ago, he opened Mama Papa Lithuania Bakery (1239 Park St.) — apparently the only full-fledged Lithuanian bakery on the West Coast — in a space formerly occupied by a barber shop, right next door to the restaurant.

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Juhu Beach Club Goes Global with New Hong Kong Location

by Luke Tsai
Tue, Dec 8, 2015 at 9:00 AM

The interior of Juhu Beach Club's newly opened location in Hong Kong. - JUHU BEACH CLUB
  • Juhu Beach Club
  • The interior of Juhu Beach Club's newly opened location in Hong Kong.
For fans of Juhu Beach Club (5179 Telegraph Ave., Oakland), Temescal’s hot-pink purveyor of fragrant Indian curries and slider-like pavs, it will come as no surprise that the wildly popular restaurant would eventually open a second location — but in Hong Kong?

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Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Mid-Week Menu: Souk Savanh Reopens, Dominique Crenn Consults on Berkeley Brasserie, and a Chez Panisse Chef Leaves for Japan

by Luke Tsai
Wed, Dec 2, 2015 at 1:07 PM

Nam kao at Souk Savanh - BERT JOHNSON/FILE PHOTO
  • Bert Johnson/File photo
  • Nam kao at Souk Savanh
1) Last week, I had to scrap a review when a restaurant — Oakland’s Grand Fare — closed suddenly during the short span of days between my phone interview with the chef and the day the story was supposed to run, marking just the second time that’s ever happened during my tenure at the Express. The first? When the Laotian restaurant Souk Savanh (1927 International Blvd., Oakland) got shut down by the health department in May, just days before my enthusiastic review was supposed to drop. But on this latter front, I have good news to report: Souk Savanh reopened two weeks ago.

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