Monday, July 31, 2017

CUESA Brings Summer Cocktails Series to Jack London Square

by Janelle Bitker
Mon, Jul 31, 2017 at 8:05 AM

Fun under the sun, CUESA style. - COURTESY OF VALTER FABIANO
  • Courtesy of Valter Fabiano
  • Fun under the sun, CUESA style.

For nearly a decade, CUESA hosted its Cocktails of the Farmers Market series solely in San Francisco. Now, it’s venturing across the bridge to Jack London Square.

It’s fitting, given that CUESA is the non-profit operator of the Jack London Square farmers’ market. And with the farmers’ market moving to Jack London Square’s Palm Plaza Sunday, August 6, Oakland's first Cocktails of the Farmers Market — taking place Wednesday, August 2 — will double as a housewarming of sorts for the market’s new location.

Dubbed “Party Under the Palms,” the event will see East Bay bartenders working with peak-season peaches, plums, berries, and more from the farmers' market. CUESA would typically host these outdoor happy hour events three times a year in San Francisco, and the goal is to continue them in Oakland based on interest.

Tickets cost $55, with proceeds supporting CUESA’s education initiatives and United States Bartenders Guild’s development programs. Guests will receive three full-size cocktails, unlimited sample-size drinks, and hors d’oeuvres.

The lineup is stacked, with bartenders from the likes of Penrose, Sidebar, and Starline Social Club. Belcampo (which is opening in Jack London Square later this year), Blind Tiger, and Le Cheval are among the restaurants providing grub.

Wednesday, August 2, 5:30 p.m., Jack London Square Palm Plaza, tickets available here.

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Friday, July 28, 2017

Prop C Heads to Lakeshore Avenue With All the Fried Chicken

by Janelle Bitker
Fri, Jul 28, 2017 at 8:09 AM

Fried chicken meets kale salad. - COURTESY OF PROPOSITION CHICKEN
  • Courtesy of Proposition Chicken
  • Fried chicken meets kale salad.

San Francisco fast-casual restaurant Proposition Chicken has its sights set on Oakland.

The second Prop C location will open at 3260 Lakeshore Avenue on September 13, offering a mix-and-match menu centered around air-chilled Mary’s free-range chicken. It's also likely to be the first in a series of expansion moves — the owners are looking at Lakeshore to become a model for future locations around the Bay Area.

Prop C comes from Ari Feingold, Elizabeth Wells, and Maxwell Cohen. Feingold and Cohen both own the popular carnival-themed, comfort food hub Straw in Hayes Valley. Wells owns Southpaw BBQ and Brewery in San Francisco’s Mission district.

  • Courtesy of Proposition Chicken
  • Wing me.

The Lakeshore location will operate in the same fashion as the original. Diners will first select fried chicken, rotisserie chicken, or crispy tofu (here known as fake chicken). That protein is then either stuffed into a sandwich with spicy slaw; placed on top of a kale salad; or served alongside a cucumber-tomato salad and buttermilk biscuit. Other options include wings, chicken strips, and matzoh ball soup. Expect to pay $10-$13 for your meal.

The team is also testing out some to-go family meal options (read: a whole chicken), which might be ready when the restaurant opens or be added down the line.

Aesthetically, the Lakeshore restaurant will feel similar to the San Francisco location but feature some unique additions, mostly playing on the chicken theme. For example, there promises to be a giant chicken photograph by artist Ernest Goh and a wall of eggs made of apple crates filled with white egg cups.

You might still be thinking, “What the hell is air-chilled chicken?” Most processed chickens are cooled down a la cold water, which washes away some of the flavor. So, in theory, air-chilled chickens should be tastier.

Proposition Chicken is scheduled to open September 13, 3260 Lakeshore Ave,

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Thursday, July 27, 2017

Japanese Ramen Legend Ippudo Opens in Berkeley

by Janelle Bitker
Thu, Jul 27, 2017 at 8:00 AM

Karaka Spicy ramen at Ippudo. - JANELLE BITKER
  • Janelle Bitker
  • Karaka Spicy ramen at Ippudo.

For ramen geeks, Ippudo hardly needs an introduction. The chain first opened in Fukuoka, Japan, in 1985, eventually expanding into 13 countries. The Ippudo in New York City opened in 2008 and remains legendary for its long lines and milky, Hakata tonkotsu ramen.

On Friday, July 28, Ippudo opens for the first time on the West Coast. The Berkeley branch, located at 2015 Shattuck Ave., will be the 17th Ippudo in the world, and likely the first of several in California. Another is already planned for San Francisco. Ippudo regional director Masaki Ogawa said the company’s goal is to open 300 restaurants outside of Japan by 2025, including more in the United States.

The Berkeley restaurant sports a contemporary, industrial look with wood, red, and black accents, and a kitchen strikingly enclosed in glass. Think of the atmosphere this way: The restaurant bills itself as “Japanese ramen noodle brasserie.”

At a media event yesterday, Ogawa emphasized that Ippudo is all about the marriage of ramen and premium sake. Ippudo will offer eight sakes by the glass along with other Japanese beers and beverages.

Ippudo's most popular appetizer, the pork belly buns. - JANELLE BITKER
  • Janelle Bitker
  • Ippudo's most popular appetizer, the pork belly buns.

Four ramens form the core of Ippudo’s menu: shoyu ($13) and three variations on tonkotsu, the broth of which is made by boiling pork bones for 18 hours. You can go classic ($14), “modern,” topped with an umami-rich miso paste ($15); or spicy ($16). Of course, all bowls come with pork belly, bean sprouts, mushrooms, and scallions, with options to add extras that could easily up the price $20. All versions are served in heavy bowls intended to keep its contents piping hot.

There are also a slew of appetizers, rice bowls, and desserts. The most famous of the non-ramen offerings are the steamed pork belly buns ($9), a lighter take on the Taiwanese classic.

There is nothing on the menu that is unique to the Berkeley location yet, but Ippudo representatives said new items might be added down the line.

While most local ramen houses use the ubiquitous Sun Noodle brand, Ippudo makes its own thin, straight noodles inside the Berkeley restaurant. It’s a complicated process — including intense monitoring of the temperature and humidity — until the noodles are finally cut and rested for two days before landing in a diner’s bowl.

A final note: Ippudo won’t provide to-go containers for leftovers, so if you’re a dainty eater, bring your own tupperware.

Ippudo opens to the public July 28, 2015 Shattuck Ave, Berkeley.

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Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Subrosa Coffee Expands its Reach in North Oakland

by Janelle Bitker
Wed, Jul 26, 2017 at 3:43 PM

  • Courtesy of Christopher Sturm, ghostfotographics

Longfellow has a new coffee shop, but it will probably look familiar to folks in the neighborhood.

That’s because it’s the second location of Subrosa Coffee, and the first Subrosa sits just a few blocks east on the southern tip of Temescal.

While Temescal’s Subrosa (419 40th St) is a 200-square-foot, standing-room-only cafe, the Longfellow edition (4008 Martin Luther King Jr Way) reaches 400 square feet  still cozy and personal, but big enough for a few bar stools.

“It’ll give us the opportunity to do more,” said owner Catherine Macken.

Macken already found a way to do a whole lot with her original cafe  flea markets, block parties, pet adoption days, and more, spilling out onto the sidewalk  and she plans to continue with more events in Longfellow.

  • Courtesy of Christopher Sturm, ghostfotographics

“The goal was to stay true to our approach, which is approachable and community-oriented, while still serving excellent coffee,” Macken said.

In Longfellow, Macken is brewing De La Paz and Linea, which are both roasted in Oakland  a change from San Francisco’s Four Barrel at the Temescal location. Subrosa also serves treats from Firebrand Breads and Pepples Donuts.

The new Subrosa, decked out in warm wood and blue tile, soft opened on Friday. The grand opening party takes place from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday, August 13, with a photo booth, pop-up by Tacos Oscar, and art on view by Michael Milano. Subrosa will continue to showcase local art via The Chetwood, the Oakland-based art residency program.

Subrosa is open 7 a.m.-6 p.m. Mon.-Fri., 7:30 a.m.-6 p.m. Sat., and 8 a.m.-6 p.m. Sun. 4008 Martin Luther King Jr Way,

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Monday, July 24, 2017

Draw Billiard Club Approaches its Downtown Berkeley Unveiling

by Janelle Bitker
Mon, Jul 24, 2017 at 2:50 PM

Draw Billiard Club's pool hall is literally underground. - JANELLE BITKER
  • Janelle Bitker
  • Draw Billiard Club's pool hall is literally underground.

It’s been a slow couple of years for Jason Kung and Paul Revenaugh. The pair have been working on their dream bar/restaurant/pool hall since 2015, but given the venue’s setting — in the basement of a historic building in downtown Berkeley — permitting hasn’t been easy.

But the end is in sight: Draw Billiard Club (64 Shattuck Square) is set to open next month, according to Kung.

The space looks nearly finished, with a classic-looking bar and open kitchen taking over what used to be Morgan’s Cafe on the first floor. The main attraction sits underground: 15 retro pool tables spread across 8,000 square feet.

“You can go to a bar with a pool table, but we’re providing an experience,” Kung said. The big difference is full service at all the pool tables, so “you don’t have to leave your game, wait in line for a drink, and come back 15 minutes later.”

With its basement setting, Draw Billiard Club is meant to have a speakeasy vibe, with 1920s decor to match. While the art deco influence is clearly present, it’s not overdone or cheesy. The place also offers plenty of quiet nooks and cozy seating areas for those looking to grab a bite or drink without a round of pool. Another notable choice is the near-lack of televisions. The upstairs and downstairs bar areas each have one small screen.

“We’re not a sports bar, but we love the Warriors,” Kung said, laughing.

In addition to a full bar, Draw will serve a small food menu focusing on individual-sized, Chicago-style, deep-dish pizzas. There’s no executive chef yet, but the pizza recipe comes from Revenaugh. Local businesses such as Emeryville’s McLaughlin Coffee Company and Alameda Point Craft Soda will also be represented.

Kung wouldn’t elaborate on price point — for the food or pool — but says it’ll be in line with competition in the area.

Kung and Revenaugh have both lived in the East Bay for ages. They opened another pool hall, Broken Rack Billiards, in Emeryville in the ‘90s, and Revenaugh went on to open The Sunny Side Cafe in Berkeley. After stepping away from those businesses, they reunited for this project.

The goal is for Draw to feel like a little getaway — “kind of like going to Las Vegas,” Kung said, “but in a good way.”

Draw Billiard Club will be open from 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. next month. 64 Shattuck Square,

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Friday, July 21, 2017

Izakaya-style Shinmai Opens Tonight in Oakland

by Janelle Bitker
Fri, Jul 21, 2017 at 2:46 PM

Ocean trout at Shinmai. - PHOTO COURTESY OF JEREMY CHIU
  • Photo courtesy of Jeremy Chiu
  • Ocean trout at Shinmai.

When I get chef Jerrod Doss on the phone, he wants to make one thing really clear: His new Oakland restaurant Shinmai may be an izakaya-style restaurant, but it’s only Japanese in concept.

“I wouldn’t want to say we’re a Japanese restaurant, nor would I feel comfortable saying that,” explained Doss, who has experience at fine-dining destinations such as Chez TJ, Aziza, and The French Laundry. “We are inspired by and driven by influences of Japanese culture and cuisine, and we want to highlight some of the traditions of an izakaya restaurant and put our spin on it  a Northern California or Oakland spin.”

Doss officially opens Shinmai (1825-3 San Pablo Ave, Oakland) tonight. It’s a spacious, 3,400-square-foot restaurant with 100 seats and high ambitions in a part of Uptown that recently saw the departures of similarly high-end restaurants Ozumo and Pican.

Doss is determined to beat the odds.

“I’m a really stubborn artist type by nature. I’ll do whatever it takes to make sure we’re a little different or have that edge,” he said.

With his fine-dining background, Doss says diners can expect Michelin-level execution and plating. At the same time, “the last thing I want is for this restaurant to feel stuffy or pompous,” he says.

Shinmai is owned by Yingji Huang, who also owns Montclair’s Kakui, and Andy Liu, who will lead the ramen efforts at Shinmai. Huang, Liu, and Doss all live in Oakland.

Shinmai's main dining room. - PHOTO COURTESY OF JEREMY CHIU
  • Photo courtesy of Jeremy Chiu
  • Shinmai's main dining room.

The opening menu is fairly short, with small, shareable izakaya plates costing $5-$15, and two ramen options at $15 apiece. There are recognizable Japanese dishes and ingredients, but nothing reads particularly traditional. Doss expects the menu to change often and reflect the seasons but always have a few core offerings. He predicts one of those to be the fried chicken ($13): boneless, skin-on thighs marinaded for 24 hours in soy sauce, worcestershire, sake, and apple cider vinegar; dredged in potato starch; fried; and served with lemon, herbs, a tartar sauce made with miso paste, and a barbecue sauce spiked with Korean hot sauce gochujang.

The worcestershire comes from Doss’s upbringing in rural New Mexico, visiting his grandparents’ farm and eating lots of corn, potato salad, and barbecue. Expect other hints from his past embedded in the food.

Or, as Doss summarizes: “small town roots, Oakland funk, and artistic integrity.”

Shinmai opens at 5 p.m. Friday, July 21. 1825-3 San Pablo Avenue, Oakland,

Friday, July 14, 2017

Daniel Patterson to Transform Oakland's Haven into Alta CA

by Janelle Bitker
Fri, Jul 14, 2017 at 1:29 PM

Pork-sumac meatballs at Alta CA. - COURTESY OF ALTA CA ON FACEBOOK
  • Courtesy of Alta CA on Facebook
  • Pork-sumac meatballs at Alta CA.

At last, some news about Haven.

In March, Daniel Patterson “temporarily closed” Haven (44 Webster St, Oakland), his high-end American restaurant in Jack London Square. Today, Eater SF ran a feature on Patterson’s efforts to expand his San Francisco concept Alta CA, which currently has two locations, potentially into a national empire. Buried in the story was a nugget of news for us East Bay dwellers: the shuttered Haven will become an Alta.

“I don’t think that’s a big surprise,” Patterson told Eater.

Now, what can we expect from Alta in Oakland? If it’s anything like the locations in San Francisco, we’re in for a laid-back, California-style restaurant with extremely aesthetically pleasing food  the sort of place where you can go bold with smoked pork trotter or opt for a more familiar lineup of deviled eggs, a burger, and ice cream. San Francisco Chronicle critic Michael Bauer gave the original location three out of four stars in 2015, calling it “a destination worth seeking out.”

According to the Chronicle, Oakland's Alta is shooting for a spring 2018 opening.

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Kainbigan Team's New Restaurant Craft & Spoon Opens Next Week in Uptown Oakland

by Janelle Bitker
Fri, Jul 14, 2017 at 9:18 AM

Craft & Spoon owners Michael Schlieke, Aima Paule, Charleen Caabay, and Christine De La Rosa. - COURTESY OF CRAFT & SPOON
  • Courtesy of Craft & Spoon
  • Craft & Spoon owners Michael Schlieke, Aima Paule, Charleen Caabay, and Christine De La Rosa.
When Charleen Caabay won Food Network’s Chopped, she put her popular Filipino comfort-food restaurant Kainbigan on hiatus and took off for the Philippines.

“Going to the Philippines was like a little reset to get my creative juices again, see what I want to be doing with restaurants,” Caabay told the Express.

Somewhat surprisingly, that inspiration didn’t lead to a new Filipino restaurant.

Next week, chef Caabay will open her second restaurant, Craft & Spoon, with partners Christine De La Rosa (also of Kainbigan), Aima Paule, and Michael Schlieker. Formerly Uptown Juice, Craft & Spoon will have two entrances at 1629 Broadway and 1634 Telegraph in Oakland.

During soft openings earlier this month, folks came in expecting Filipino food and were instead met with panini and kale salad. Where was the lumpia? Where were the garlic noodles?

“I know it may be a shock to some, but it is a different restaurant,” Caabay explained.

Craft & Spoon’s menu is a full collaboration with Paule, who also owns Hey Bü Kombucha. And while there are some Filipino hints on the menu — there’s a grain bowl with yellow adobo and Filipino-style cured chicken tucked into a panini — the goals for Craft & Spoon are decidedly separate from Kainbigan.

Simply put, the queer-owned restaurant wants to serve the Uptown community. That means local artists showcased on the walls, a food incubator model, and, primarily, affordable lunch offerings in an area where there are surprisingly few.

You can take a look at the soft opening menu here, though Caabay promises more additions with the grand opening. In addition to lunch, Craft & Spoon will dabble in late-night eats and, eventually, add breakfast, and maybe even dinner.

Those food-incubator efforts are still in development. In addition to being a home for Paule’s kombucha, Caabay imagines opening the kitchen up to fellow chefs and sharing resources with local vendors.

Meanwhile, Caabay already has plans for a third restaurant, at 3000 San Pablo Avenue. However, unlike other reports have suggested, it probably won’t be another Kainbigan.

And as for the original Kainbigan, Caabay also isn’t sure when she’ll reopen it. For now, she’s just excited about the possibilities with Craft & Spoon.

“Closing was a big sacrifice but it made for a bigger reward,” she says.

Craft & Spoon, 1629 Broadway and 1634 Telegraph, Oakland,

Editor's Note: An earlier version of this story stated Craft & Spoon would open on Saturday, July 15. The opening has been slightly delayed, but Caabay hopes it will still happen within a week of the originally planned date.

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Wednesday, July 12, 2017

The Temple Club: A New Kind of Traditional Vietnamese Restaurant Coming to Oakland

by Janelle Bitker
Wed, Jul 12, 2017 at 1:49 PM

Goi ca, a Vietnamese crudo. - GEOFFREY DEETZ
  • Geoffrey Deetz
  • Goi ca, a Vietnamese crudo.

After 16 years in Vietnam, chef Geoffrey Deetz is back in Oakland and ready to unveil his first local restaurant since he left in 2000: The Temple Club at 2307 International Boulevard, in what used to be Bakeshop Oakland. He expects to open in three to four weeks.

Naturally, the Temple Club is Vietnamese. But Deetz promises a decidedly different style of Vietnamese restaurant for the East Bay. It will offer a short menu, focusing on dishes from central Vietnam, along with some from the north. Instead of a cocktail bar, he envisions a juice bar. And once a week, he plans to host a special themed dinner, offering just one entree, like so many restaurants do in Vietnam. Expect loads of accompaniments — herbs, pickled vegetables, sauces, crushed nuts — specific to dishes you can't find at other area restaurants.

“We’re gonna serve the food exactly the way it’s served in Vietnam,” he says.

Before his move to Vietnam, Deetz was known for restaurants such as Spettro on Lakeshore Avenue, Gulf Coast Oyster Bar in Old Oakland, and Dragonfly Teahouse in Berkeley. In Ho Chi Minh City, otherwise known as Saigon, he went on to open a number of restaurants, including the much-lauded Black Cat.

Fast-forward to 2016, and Deetz returned with the goal of bringing his adoration for Vietnamese cuisine to Oakland diners — along with getting his young, half-Vietnamese kids an education in the United States.

The Temple Club will feature a large mural in a similar aesthetic to post-war propaganda posters that were plastered across Vietnam in the 1970s — not the ones picturing bombs and guns, rather, promoting community efforts. There will also be a mezzanine, upstairs patio and open kitchen.

Deetz will start out just serving lunch, eventually expanding into dinner — with beer and wine — within a few months. He anticipates a price point of $5-$14 per dish, with smaller portions meant to be shared. That said, someone could also come in and just get a bowl of mì quảng (a dry noodle dish topped with shrimp, pork and rice crackers) and call it a meal. Don’t be surprised if there's no pho.

“If you want to talk about Vietnam’s most popular noodle dish, it’s instant ramen,” Deetz quips.
Shrimp and pork banh cuon with chả lụa. - GEOFFREY DEETZ
  • Geoffrey Deetz
  • Shrimp and pork banh cuon with chả lụa.

Instead, you might see more French influence — again, as it is done in Vietnam and not in a ‘90s fusion style. His signature dish will be one he first tried in the 1980s and still adores: goat curry, served with warm bread, butter, pate and a small salad.

When Deetz talks about this dish, and Vietnamese food and culture in general, it’s with an intense, palpable reverence. When I asked if he had any thoughts on cultural appropriation, given his role as a white guy opening a Vietnamese restaurant, he brushed it off as a non-issue. His stance in a sentence: “We all cook each other’s food, and that’s a good thing.”

The Temple Club will be located at 2307 International Boulevard. Follow along on Facebook for updates.

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