Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Preeti Mistry to Close Juhu Beach Club

by Janelle Bitker
Wed, Sep 20, 2017 at 11:20 AM

Get your pavs for what might be the last time in Oakland. - ANDRIA LO
  • Andria Lo
  • Get your pavs for what might be the last time in Oakland.

Juhu Beach Club, one of Oakland’s most beloved and critically acclaimed restaurants, will close in the coming months.

Chef-owner Preeti Mistry announced the news yesterday via Eater, explaining that she will sell her restaurant space in Temescal in order to dive into new projects. She’s on a roll right now after shout-outs from Anthony Bourdain and national food magazines, not to mention Navi Kitchen and her first cookbook coming out next month.

“There will be a 3.0, we can’t totally talk about it yet but it’s not going away,” Mistry told Eater. “I’m not going away.”

By “3.0,” she means Juhu will live on in another iteration. It started out as a pop-up, then moved to its current home in Temescal, and the next might be in another city.

So, this is a sad day for the neighborhood but not in the same way as, say, Hawker Fare's closure. Mistry isn't closing because she can't afford to stay in Oakland anymore. It's that her fresh take on Indian cuisine proved so popular, she needs space to grow.

To be clear, the sale hasn’t happened yet, and it will likely take some time. That said, if you’ve been craving some of Mistry’s crispy, sticky-sweet Manchurian cauliflower, you might want to head over soon.

Juhu Beach Club, 5179 Telegraph Ave., Oakland,

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Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Shihlin Taiwan Street Snacks to Open in Berkeley with Giant Slabs of Fried Chicken

by Janelle Bitker
Tue, Sep 19, 2017 at 12:41 PM

Fried chicken, spotted at the Shihlin Night Market in Taipei. A new Berkeley restaurant will serve its own version. - COURTESY OF SOON KOON VIA FLICKR
  • Courtesy of Soon Koon via Flickr
  • Fried chicken, spotted at the Shihlin Night Market in Taipei. A new Berkeley restaurant will serve its own version.

One of the most famous food destinations in Taiwan, Shihlin Night Market is a sprawling mass of street vendors selling the likes of stinky tofu, oyster omelettes, and bubble tea. The narrow alleys go on forever, and even over the course of several hours, it’s impossible to taste even half of the offerings.

This weekend, an international chain will softly open its first East Bay shop that pays homage to that very night market: Shihlin Taiwan Street Snacks (2521 Durant Ave., Ste. E, Berkeley).

Shihlin Taiwan Street Snacks already has locations in Australia, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Singapore. The Berkeley restaurant joins Milpitas as the second branch in the United States.

The menu is pretty short but the main attraction is, indeed, something that draws long lines at the Shihlin Night Market in Taipei: da ji pai, a whole, deep-fried chicken cutlet. On the menu, it’s called XXL Crispy Chicken ($7.99) due to its giant size. Usually, it’s prepared with pounded chicken breast, but Shihlin Taiwan Street Snacks also has a leg and thigh option. Ultimately, this dish is all about the satisfying, carnal crunch and salty/spicy balance. For more on Taiwanese fried chicken, check out this good explainer from former Express food editor Luke Tsai. Unfortunately, the only other spot to offer da ji pai, Oakland’s Chick & Tea, has closed.

Other menu highlights include oyster mee sua (noodle soup with oysters), braised meat rice (otherwise known as lou ru fan, served with an egg and pickled vegetables), and sweet potato fries dusted with plum powder.

During the shop’s soft opening on Saturday, Sept. 23, and Sunday, Sept. 24, folks will get a free drink — think winter melon tea or smoked plum juice — with the purchase of one XXL Crispy Chicken.

Shihlin Taiwan Street Snacks, 2521 Durant Ave., Ste. E, Berkeley,

(510) 529-4166,

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Vegan Donut Gelato Delivers Plant-Based Comforts

by Janelle Bitker
Tue, Sep 19, 2017 at 8:00 AM

These doughnuts look suspiciously normal. - JANELLE BITKER
  • Janelle Bitker
  • These doughnuts look suspiciously normal.
In the hopes of encouraging more folks to go vegan, Sam Kang turned to doughnuts.

He ran a plant-based Vietnamese restaurant in Sunnyvale for eight years before getting burnt out. After a short break, he figured vegan-izing one of the most common American comfort foods would do wonders for converting the masses.

Enter Vegan Donut Gelato (411 E 18th St.), which softly opened earlier this month just east of Lake Merritt. It’s Kang’s second location — his first vegan doughnut shop launched in Modesto last December. Rapid expansion wasn’t and still isn’t his primary goal, though.

“When we opened in Modesto, a lot of people came from Oakland and asked us to open,” Kang said.

He thinks Oakland’s central location will help him reach the vegan community across the Bay Area. But vegans aren’t actually his prime demographic — he’s hoping to feed the masses.

“I want it to feel just like a normal doughnut shop,” he said. “I don’t want to be fancy. I want people to feel comfortable. I want it to feel familiar.”

The place does feel like your standard, no-frills doughnut shop. The display cases are stocked with all the usual suspects: raised, cake, holes, twists, fritters, and more, with a healthy dose of chocolate glaze and rainbow sprinkles.

It’s stands in stark contrast to Pepples Donut Farm, Oakland’s only other all-vegan doughnut purveyor, which focuses primarily on cake doughnuts in unusual flavors like green tea or kaffir lime. The price point at Vegan Donut Gelato is also slightly lower: raised and cake doughnuts go for $2, and maple bars hit $2.50, for example.

Kang wouldn’t reveal the secret to his doughnuts, only vetoing my guesses at alt-milks, flax seeds, garbanzo beans, and egg replacers. I sampled a single raised doughnut hole and found it not quite as airy and soft as non-vegan recipes but pretty darn close.

The gelato will be made in-house with an almond milk base, but the machine hasn’t arrived yet. It’s coming from Florida, and with Hurricane Irma, Kang isn’t sure when it’ll make its way here.

Plant-based living wasn’t always so important to Kang, but he’s from Indonesia, where folks tend to eat vegetable-focused meals with small amounts of meat and lots of tempeh — quite different from the typical American diet. He’s been vegan for the last 25 years and hopes to convince more people to join him.

“Our main goal is to spread this lifestyle,” he said. “I don’t
want to do protests. I just want to give people doughnuts.”

Vegan Donut Gelato, 411 E 18th St., Oakland,

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Monday, September 18, 2017

Itani Ramen Goes Izakaya

by Janelle Bitker
Mon, Sep 18, 2017 at 10:45 AM

  • Photo courtesy of Itani Ramen
  • Feast.

Uptown’s Itani Ramen (1736 Telegraph Ave.) recently overhauled its dinner service, abandoning the counter for a full-service, izakaya experience. That comes with a slightly redesigned space and new menu, focusing on Japanese small plates in addition to its usual ramen fleet.

New items include an excellent giant squid, which is flown in from Japan, bathed in ginger, and grilled whole; a charming arrangement of tangy cucumbers and funky kimchi; and wrap-your-own spicy tuna hand rolls, jazzed up with wakame. There are also a few new rice bowls (chicken katsu with cabbage, spicy mustard, and half an egg, for example) for those looking for a bulkier option that’s not ramen. Don't worry: you can still order gyoza loaded with bonito flakes and those addictively crispy pig ears, too.

Owner Kyle Itani said he wanted to make dinner feel more relaxed and social — a full liquor license, which Itani just applied for, should help with that. Up next is a plan to turn the private dining room in the back into a swanky lounge.

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Thursday, September 14, 2017

Nestlé Buys Blue Bottle Coffee

But the company will continue to operate out of its Oakland headquarters.

by Janelle Bitker
Thu, Sep 14, 2017 at 10:27 AM

  • Courtesy of Blue Bottle/Facebook

Today, Oakland's Blue Bottle Coffee announced it’s selling a majority stake to Nestlé.

It’s the third major third-wave coffee company to sell to a larger corporation after Portland’s Stumptown Coffee Roasters and Chicago’s Intelligentsia both sold to JAB Holdings, best known for acquiring Peet’s Coffee & Tea. Hipster coffee is clearly going the way of craft beer.

Blue Bottle will still continue to operate out of its Oakland headquarters, though, and CEO Bryan Meehan and founder James Freeman are staying on.

Over its 15 years in business, Blue Bottle has already spread beyond its Bay Area beginnings with cafes in New York, Los Angeles, and Tokyo. By the end of the year, 25 new cafes are due, including in Washington, D.C., Miami, and Boston. The deal with Nestlé means even more cafes and roasteries are coming on an international level and, according to a press release, plans to develop new coffee technology.

Perhaps most relevant is the expansion in consumer packaged goods. Currently, you can find Blue Bottle cold brew cans, pre-ground coffee, and New Orleans iced coffee cartons in some grocery store aisles.

So, is Blue Bottle going to go the way of Starbucks? Ironically, when Blue Bottle was purchased by venture capitalists a few years ago, Freeman insisted that selling to a major corporation was not the plan.

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Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Grand Bakery Rises Again

by Janelle Bitker
Wed, Sep 13, 2017 at 12:01 PM

  • Courtesy of Grand Bakery via Instagram

Just in time for the Jewish High Holidays, Grand Bakery is back in business.

The storied kosher bakery on Grand Avenue closed in December 2016 after more than 50 years of supplying Oakland with some of the best challah, coconut macaroons, and Hamentashen around.

This year, New York native and former Grand Bakery regular Sam Tobis bought the business and transformed it into a primarily wholesale operation, as first reported by J Weekly. Starting Thursday, Sept. 14, folks can call for special orders of round challahs and the like for Rosh Hashanah and pick them up at The Food Mill (3033 MacArthur Blvd.).

That means the familiar storefront on Grand isn’t coming back, but you can still find the same kosher treats at a slew of grocery stores in the East Bay, including Piedmont Grocery, Farmer Joe’s, Berkeley Bowl, and Oakland Kosher.

Grand Bakery, 510-465-1110,

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Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Catered To You's Fish Sandwich Focus of New Short Film

by Janelle Bitker
Tue, Sep 12, 2017 at 8:00 AM

Oakland filmmaker Tony Nguyen has been frequenting Catered To You for the past eight years, hooked on owner Teena Johnson’s fried fish sandwich.

He decided to make a short piece about Johnson and her Uptown, Oakland takeout window — an idea originally focused on what he thinks is the best fish sando in town (former Express food critic Luke Tsai was quite taken with it as well) but grew into a meditation on the rapidly changing neighborhood.

Fresh Frozen premiered at DocLands, a new documentary fest in San Rafael, and hit film festivals on the East Coast as well. Its local debut took place during Nguyen’s Oakland Shorties screening at the New Parkway Theater earlier this summer.

Now, you can watch the film on YouTube. The narrative is slightly outdated, as Nguyen stresses Uber’s recently abandoned plan to open an Oakland office as a cause for concern over Catered To You’s future. Still, Johnson’s lease is up next year, and displacement stories have become frighteningly common.

“That’s a big question mark,” Nguyen said.

Nguyen typically focuses on Asian-American stories — his past films include Giap’s Last Day at the Ironing Board Factory, a movie about his mom that aired on PBS, and Enforcing the Silence, a documentary about a Vietnamese man murdered in San Francisco. Exploring Asian-American and particularly Vietnamese-American identity is still his primary interest, but Fresh Frozen certainly proves the potential for more Oakland-focused works in the future.

“I’m open to telling stories about anyone and everyone,” he said.

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Monday, September 11, 2017

Original Pattern Brewing Nears Its Debut in the Jack London Area

by Janelle Bitker
Mon, Sep 11, 2017 at 2:10 PM

Max Silverstein, Ryan Frank, and Caitlin O’Connor (from left to right) make up two-thirds of the Original Pattern team. - JANELLE BITKER
  • Janelle Bitker
  • Max Silverstein, Ryan Frank, and Caitlin O’Connor (from left to right) make up two-thirds of the Original Pattern team.

Ryan Frank and Max Silverstein met in brewing school eight years ago. Max was married to his college sweetheart Margie Silverstein. And Frank would soon hit it off with an old acquaintance from college, Caitlin O’Connor, on a beer-related trip to the Czech Republic.

The two couples stayed in touch over the years, eventually settling in the Bay Area. Many homebrews later, they decided to go into the beer business together.

They’re the four owners of Original Pattern Brewing Company (292 4th St., Oakland), which is scheduled to open by the end of this year in the Jack London neighborhood. The brewery is still in the build-out phase, but the 5,500-square-foot building already shows tons of character. The exposed brick walls crawl up to a ceiling so tall you can barely see it — or maybe that’s just because it’s covered in skylights.

The plan is to have an open floor plan, where the bar sits in between the seating areas and the tanks, so “you’re gonna feel like you’re in the brewery,” Frank said.

Frank is the head brewer, and he’s got some serious credentials: five years at 21st Amendment Brewery, closing out his tenure as director of brewery operations. He was a major part of 21st Amendment’s move to San Leandro, which means he’s already known what to expect with Original Pattern in the early construction stages. But the jobs are very different. He described his work at 21st Amendment as akin to “manufacturing,” whereas he’ll get to brew the stuff of his dreams at the new brewery.

Indeed, the Original Pattern crew plans to offer a wide variety of styles — both traditional and experimental — though the initial focus will be on Belgian and farmhouse ales. Expect to see sours and barrel-aged beers as well as renditions of old European brews, such as an English ale, Helles lager, or Kölsch. There will be six to 10 beers on tap at a time — an effort to ensure optimal freshness and always have something new to try. Beers will also be served in the appropriate glassware. The owners recently held a taste test with dozens of different glasses to find the right combinations.

Frank also envisions rolling out some fun concepts, such as an international lager series showcasing styles from various countries but with non-traditional additions — for example, a Japanese lager infused with cherry blossoms.

Frank, Max, and O’Connor each emphasized how they want to expose longtime beer drinkers to new styles just as much as a non-beer drinker. They feel passionately that there is at least one beer out there for everyone.

That means educational components — and the appropriate glassware for each beer — as well as a cozier atmosphere, despite the large, industrial venue. They’re working with a designer on custom furnishings, including a large communal table and booths upholstered with leather. As Max quipped: “No hard metal chairs.”

Max and Margie live in Palo Alto, where they still hold down their day jobs. But Frank and O’Connor reside in Oakland, and they’re excited to serve their city.

“We want to make this a community spot,” O’Connor said. “A place where people feel really comfortable.”

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Friday, September 8, 2017

Proposition Chicken to Open a Second Location in Oakland

The Hayes Valley restaurant is coming to Lakeshore Avenue.

by Matt St. John
Fri, Sep 8, 2017 at 1:54 PM

Fried Chicken with sweet buttermilk biscuit at Proposition Chicken. - COURTESY OF PROPOSITION CHICKEN
  • Courtesy of Proposition Chicken
  • Fried Chicken with sweet buttermilk biscuit at Proposition Chicken.
Oakland chicken lovers will soon have another option for their poultry cravings. After four years of running their San Francisco location in Hayes Valley, Proposition Chicken is opening a second location in Oakland (3260 Lakeshore Ave.) next Wednesday.

If the name didn’t give things away, the wall-sized, rooster photo dominating the restaurant’s casual dining room most certainly will. Theses guys and gals are chicken fanatics. And while its owners have some Bay Area, barbecue credibility — co-owner Elizabeth Wells also owns Southpaw BBQ in San Francisco — don’t expect hamburgers or pork sliders. This is purely a chicken affair.

The simple menu allows them to focus on freshness and consistency. All of their chickens are free-range, antibiotic-free, and take 48 hours of brining, prepping, and marinating before they hit your plate.

The restaurant serves their chicken three ways: fried, flipped (24-hour rotisserie roasted), or fake, if meat isn’t your thing. You can get it in a sandwich, in between a baked roll with spicy slaw and mayo ($10.75), or in a salad, with kale, romaine lettuce, black pepper Parmesan dressing, and other fixings ($11.75). You can also get it as an entree with a sweet buttermilk biscuit and a tomato cucumber salad ($12.75). The fried chicken comes in a gluten-free option as well.
Bone broth at Proposition Chicken. - COURTESY OF PROPOSITION CHICKEN
  • Courtesy of Proposition Chicken
  • Bone broth at Proposition Chicken.

And wing fans need not worry. The restaurant serves traditional buffalo wings, with classic blue cheese dressing, as well as honey-mustard style and BBQ ($7.75). Sides include hand-cut fries with crispy sage and malted mayo ($3) and chicken bone broth, made in-house ($7.75). The restaurant will also serve beer and wine.

Founder and co-owner Ari Feingold, who also owns Straw in Hayes Valley, said he came up with the idea for Proposition Chicken in 2012, when he heard a certain fast food restaurant’s views on gay marriage.

“It all started as a big ‘F- you’ to Chic-fil-A,” said Feingold. “I’m serious.”

Now the restaurant's name makes much more sense.

The restaurant’s official opening is Wednesday, Sept. 13, but if you want a sneak peek, they are giving away free chicken sandwiches on Sunday, Sept. 10, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.

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Chick’n Rice Brings Americanized Thai Street Food to Downtown Berkeley

by Amyra Soriano
Fri, Sep 8, 2017 at 10:02 AM

Khao mun gai tod and khao kha moo. - AMYRA SORIANO
  • Amyra Soriano
  • Khao mun gai tod and khao kha moo.
A new fast-casual restaurant centered around khao mun gai — a Thai street food traditionally consisting of poached chicken, rice, and a fragrant broth flavored with ginger, garlic, chilies, and soy sauce — opens tomorrow in Downtown Berkeley.

Chick’n Rice, located at 2136 Center Street (between Shattuck and Oxford), will offer not just poached chicken but also fried chicken and braised pork — all served with rice, cucumbers, cilantro, sweet-and-sour sauce, and a side of chicken broth. A vegetarian tofu option will also be available.

The restaurant is the vision of John Keh and Chavayos (Bob) Rattakul of Tenyuu Restaurant Group in Thailand, who met while Keh was traveling in Southeast Asia and fell in love with the chicken dish. Keh, along with co-owners Jason Wang, Shawn Tsao, and Vince Cao, are cofounders of Caviar, the food delivery app.

According to Keh, the team traveled around Thailand searching for the perfect flavor combinations.

“Some people might think it’s too spicy or the soybean paste is too strong,” Keh said at a media preview party on Wednesday, Sept. 6. After exploring the country, “Bob” and the team came up with the Chick’n Rice menu. “Our goal was to create something American fitting,” said Keh.
Co-founder John Keh in front of the restaurant. - AMYRA SORIANO
  • Amyra Soriano
  • Co-founder John Keh in front of the restaurant.
Aside from meat, rice, and broth, Chick’n Rice also offers ice cream with sticky mango rice and refreshments like Thai iced tea, lychee juice, and coconut water. Optional add-ons include a soy-marinated egg, greens, and extra of anything.

“We’ve created a menu for all types of taste palettes.” Keh said. “For something saltier, they can try the moo [braised pork] or for something sweeter, the gai tod [fried chicken].”

With its minimalist, farmhouse-chic decor and intimate seating just steps away from the UC Berkeley campus, it’s an ideal place to grab lunch between classes.

Keh says they’re hopeful their new restaurant will take off. “If all goes well with this, we’re hoping to open one up somewhere in the South Bay,” he said.

Chick’n Rice opens to the public today.

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