Commonwealth

22 01 2012

Dude*. Commonwealth.

I keep hearing about this place. It’s at 29th and Telegraph in Oakland, and it’s a pub/cafe-type place that my friends like to go for Sunday brunch.  And it’s awesome. I finally went today and thoroughly enjoyed myself.

From the adorable pair at the bar speaking in their British accents (which I hope were real) to the decidedly British/Aussie (hence the name Commonwealth) fare and beverages (beans and toast, “cuppa” tea), this place was A) uber-cute, and B) good. We three ladies ordered three dishes and shared. And the light was fabulous so my photos look money. See?

french toast

French toast with “Golden” syrup. You know you want it.

beans and toast

“Bubble and Squeak” on the menu is really just vegetable mash, beans, and toast. Yum.

veggie pie

Veggie Pie. ‘Nuff said.

So, those are the things I ate. And I think the photos accurately depict the deliciousness contained in each dish. The place was cute, small, and cozy. The music was loud-ish, and we asked the waitress to turn it down, like the old folks that we are. I also got a cappuccino and an Odwalla OJ to make sure my personal bill wasn’t under $20. Fully worth your bruncherly** attention.

Also, we all shared this, though I wanted it all to myself:

scone

Currant Scone of Doom. Ok, I named it that, but it was reminiscent of a dessert it was so good. Almost as good as a chocolate dessert, even.

*I have been recently alerted to the fact that I use the word “dude” a lot in my speech patterns. I’m not sure how I feel about this, but I think I’ll take it to mean that I’m really awesome. Which is how I take most comments.

**This is a word. I am using The Force on you right now.





B

1 09 2011
Atmosphere: 3/5  ♦  Service: 3/5  ♦  Food Quality: 2/5  ♦  Value: 3/5

Times Visited: One  ♦ Will I Return?: Unlikely.

No, my keyboard did not break one letter into writing the title of this post. The proprietors of B Restaurant in Oakland apparently decided their time could be better spent on things other than coming up with an extravagant name for their establishment.

Bar and transom windows at B

B boasts floor to ceiling transom windows which give the space a modern open feeling. You can enjoy the view from the windows while sitting at the contemporary bar that serves a full range of cocktails.

Truffle french fries (moved out of arms reach of everyone at the table to keep eager fingers out of the picture)

Although the menu is known for pizzas, the real can’t-leave-without-it dish is the truffle french fries. Tossed in truffle oil and garlic, with sides of ketchup and mayonnaise and deep-fried to a give a wonderfully crispy exterior with a pillowy interior, these were the highlight of the meal.

Margherita pizza.

Pizza bianca.

Now to the reason why the restaurant was recommended in the first place: the wood fired oven pizzas. Unfortunately with all the hype they were given they had a lot to live up to, and they fell woefully short. The margherita pizza was blackened on much of the crust, and the bottom was comprehensively carbonized. The bianca looked as though it had been thrown together with no care in an attempt at extreme expediency at the sake of quality. And both of the pizzas came to the table lukewarm which quickly morphed into fully cold.

One of the highlights of the restaurant was the live jazz music that started to play soon after we arrived. The music gave a fun feel to the place, but was unfortunately played at night club volume. During the meal our server came to our table when he saw us yelling at one another and asked if the music was too loud, when we let him know that it was, he said it would get quieter soon and it promptly made absolutely no volume change for the rest of the meal.

Overall the atmosphere and french fries were great, but not enough to overcome the disappointing pizza and screaming-at-the-people-right-next-to-you volume music. Additionally, this meaty dish was highly regarded by our dinner companion:

Some people like meat. And this picture is beautiful.

*This post courtesy of The Boyfriend! I would like to note that if the music had been quieter (or not there), or if we had come for the music, and if our pizzas had been improved, this place would have been pretty awesome. I think we might have just had an unfortunately timed visit. Que sera, sera, no?

B Restaurant on Urbanspoon





Lake Chalet

7 08 2011
Atmosphere: 4/5   ♦   Service: 4/5   ♦   Food Quality: 4/5   ♦   Value:3/5
Times Visited: A Few  ♦   Will I Return?:  Yes!

Happy Birthday to me… this is where I chose to spend my birthday this year with my family. Where’s a nice place that’s close to Hayward (my fam lives in Hayward), not too terribly expensive (I’m not that kind of birthday girl) and has food that all four of my super picky fams will enjoy (sorry guys, you know it’s kinda true)? The Lake Chalet.

For Mom: Lake Chalet is classy and upscale with nice views of the lake and outdoor seating. For Dad: It’s got a “normal” seafood/steak menu with things that are just short of the “art food” he so dreads. For Sister: The bar is nice and serves cutesy drinks, and the delicious-sounding choices on the menu make it difficult for her to choose though she’ll probably be happy with whatever she gets.

And for me: it’s a nice place with good service and good food. There. Birthday done.

This particular Tuesday evening in July was one of the very few “hot” days we’ve gotten here in the SF Bay this year. The outdoor seating was in full swing, and while we had reservations, there was still going to be a 45 minute wait to be seated outside. Between the prospect of evening mosquitoes and suspecting that the cold would creep in as the night went on, I choose to sit inside at our reserved table (much to mom’s dismay I’m sure, but she kept on smiling since it was my birthday*).

Still with lake views, we took our seats at one of the many inside tables — the Lake Chalet is a huge facility with multiple dining areas, banquet facilities, a gondola dock, a gift shop, and two full bars (three if the outdoor seating is in effect). Perusing the menu, mom insisted that we order an appetizer. Who am I to object? We enjoyed their calamari which was crispy and delicious, along with a few of their signature cocktails.

For dinner, we had a variety of foods at the table. Mom went with Luis’ Chopped Chicken Salad, Dad had the Red Wine Braised Beef Short Rib, Sister got the Whole Roasted Cracked Crab, Boyfriend got an Ahi Tuna Burger with Fries, and I ordered the Roasted Sea Bass. It was quite a feast, please, enjoy with us:

Everyone enjoyed their meal thoroughly… I heard some rumblings from Dad regarding the short rib, but I don’t remember the issue. Perhaps the polenta wasn’t very flavorful? Sister’s crab was good but hardly “deconstructed to help with ease of eating” per the menu’s promises; there was still much wrenching and shiny-fingered picking to be had. My sea bass was wonderful, and Boyfriend’s ahi burger was great.

For dessert Mom grabbed some creme brulee and sister and I split a chocolate molten cake that was as heavenly as a birthday dessert should be. If nothing else, go for the molten cake.

Overall the evening was merry, the service was attentive (they even catered to our repeated whimsical moves back and forth from the patio to the indoor seating area), and the food was really good. I love the Lake Chalet and I’d highly recommend it.

*Which is funny, shouldn’t it be the mom who gets what they want on their kids’ birthday? I mean, she was really doing all the work that day. Although I guess I didn’t really have a choice in the matter.

Find Lake Chalet on Zagat.com here

Lake Chalet on Urbanspoon





Homeroom

23 04 2011
Atmosphere: 3/5   ♦   Service: 2/5   ♦   Food Quality: 4/5   ♦   Value:3/5
Times Visited: Once  ♦   Will I Return?:  Yes please
___________

Wow, sorry, I’ve been gone for a bit. Friends in town and madness at work makes Angie something something…*

So, what’s been happening? Have you found other better blogs to read? Undoubtedly. Anyway, I’m typing today about one my favorite foods: macaroni and cheese. There’s a new mac and cheese restaurant in Oakland called Homeroom and it’s all the rage lately.

I’ve heard people talking about this place nonstop since it opened a few months ago. It was time for a try.

Some friends and I met up at Homeroom after work a couple weeks ago when it was super duper hot outside. The day was beautiful, but Homeroom has no air con. Which would normally be fine, but that day meant that we were a sweating, hungry bunch. And then we ate some hot, dense mac and cheese. It was not the best plan (ex: milk was a bad choice), but we made the best of it and still enjoyed ourselves. And it would have been a great day to enjoy one of their few tables outside (but we didn’t want to wait).

menu

Menu

The space is smaller than I expected, for some reason, but is decorated with cute and artsy items all revolving around a school/learning theme (we were in Homeroom, after all). The menu is a single page of paper with instructions on how to fold it into a paper airplane on one side, in case you feel so inclined. The choices are basic: 8 types of mac and cheese, a few sides of veggies, a handful of desserts, beer (including on tap), wine, and other drinks. I really appreciated the simplicity and easily made my decision to reminisce about Rome with the “The Exchange Student: Cacio e Pepe” and a side of carrots.

mac and cheese

Cacio e Pepe mac and cheese wins!

carrots

Mmmm... carrots...

Both of which were the table winners. I love ordering the winner. Other dishes ordered at our table included: Classic, Mac the Goat, and Mexican Mac. I forgot to ask for mine to be covered in delicious bread crumbs, but it was still wonderful. The others that I tried were good, but not nearly as good as mine. I thought the Mexican Mac was the weak link, but I’m not really a fan of spicy or cilantro, so there.

mac and cheese

Mac and Cheese with bread crumbs

mac and cheese

Little Mac (classic mac but in a smaller bowl)

mac and cheese
Mexican Mac

My carrots were drizzled in some delicious lemony oil that was fab. The broccoli at the table came with ranch and hence was immediately awesome. The desserts are cute and quirky and my “homemade oreos” were 1000 times better than real oreos. But I don’t love real oreos, so that’s not a difficult statement for me to make. Boyfriend’s peanut butter pie was reportedly “interesting” and perhaps not as successful as he has hoped. But I appreciated their innovation with this item.

cookies

Homemade oreos with sea salt

pie

Peanut butter pie

That day, the place was packed to the brim with a waiting list. I’m not sure if they were shorthanded, but the service was not great. The server himself was very pleasant when he was there, but he rarely came by and we found ourselves wanting things with no one to ask more than once. Another friend of mine enjoyed a dinner there a couple weeks later and raved about the service, so maybe we were just there on a bad night.

I definitely love the idea of a restaurant based exclusively on macaroni and cheese. And I like what these ladies have done with the place. I didn’t think the food was as amazing as I’d hoped, but I think my expectations were higher than the moon, so I forgive. I’d definitely go back and I’d recommend to friends who love cheesy goodness.

*Reference this Simpson’s episode.





Mua

19 12 2010
Atmosphere: 4/5   ♦   Service: 3/5   ♦   Food Quality: 4/5   ♦   Value: 3/5
Times Visited:  Two  ♦   Will I Return?:  Sure
___________

Is it pronounced like what a cow says (mooo-a) or the way you say “me” in French (excusez-moi)?? I don’t know and, frankly, it doesn’t much matter since you pretty much get the gist either way. However you want to say it, Mua is located on Webster Street just next to 25th and Broadway in Oakland. This is one of these in-between neighborhoods that’s slowly growing to add to Oakland’s awesomeness — there are a some vacant building and unidentifiable/run-down businesses mushed in with sweet converted lofts, tiny art studios and chic restaurants and bars. Mua sort of dabbles a bit in all three of these latter fab categories.

Inside Mua

The main seating area of Mua seen from the stairs up to the mezzanine.

Mainly a restaurant space, Mua has a huge, open indoor space with a mezzanine where diners can enjoy the polished concrete floors, super high ceilings and artsy, graffiti-esque wall decorations. It’s a bit loud due to the vast cavern-like nature of the room, but it’s extremely lively and the waiters are all super “hip” with styled hair and posh tattoos.

Let’s talk food. I’ve been here twice and both times I’ve only partaken in the “small plates”. This is because the choices are awesome and I love sharing food. Here are the things I’ve tasted:

  • Caesar salad (standard, but yum)
  • Fried feta cheese-stuffed olives (as good as they sound)
  • Brussel sprouts with brown butter (yum!)
  • “Mac and Cheese” made with butternut squash and no cheese (amazing)
  • Shiitake mushrooms on crostini bread with herb goat cheese (delish)
  • Grilled prawns in butter (good)

    Mua food

    Cheese-less mac and cheese, shiitake mushrooms and fried olives.

Uh, yeah, see where I’m going here? Awesome choices. And I didn’t even get a bite of the tomato bisque and mini grilled cheese or beet salad or crispy tofu in black bean chili sauce yet. Wouldn’t mind swinging back for a nibble on those.

And for the meat eaters there’s stuff like broccolini with fingerling potatoes and bacon, chicken skewers, ahi tuna sashimi, fried chicken, blackened catfish…the list goes on and on. Most of those are main courses, however (although that’s not delineated on their website) not small plates. But still, yum, right? Total yum, as my mom would say.

Oh holy lord, let’s not forget the bread pudding!! I would never order such a thing, but I can’t get my way (read: chocolate cake) every dang time and sometimes I must relinquish. I am glad I did. This bread pudding — admittedly not anything like traditional bread pudding at all — was fabulous. Warm, tender cake with raspberries and sauce sprinkled on top — it was heavenly.

Mua Bread Pudding

Bread pudding topped with raspberries...mmmm....

They also have fun drinks and a full bar with a sweet happy hour that has specials on some of the foods as well as drinks. And supposedly they have a live DJ (sooo much better than a dead one, let me tell you) every night but Monday, though I don’t see how I missed this person both times I was there.

Drinks!

Some fun drinkie-pies at Mua.

It’s not the cheapest place in town, but I think it’s a good deal for the quality and creativity of the food, the lively atmosphere and the great location. If you’re out in Oakland, swing by Mua for a good time and great food!

Mua on Urbanspoon





Coach Sushi

4 09 2010
Atmosphere: 3/5   ♦   Service: 2/5   ♦   Food Quality: 3/5   ♦   Value: 3/5
Times Visited:  One   ♦   Will I Return?:  Probably Not
___________

Coach can be found at 532 Grand Avenue in Oakland along an increasingly nice strip of shops and restaurants around the lake. Between the few strikingly crazed homeless folks and odd smell wafting from special parts of the lake, this area is extremely nice. And it’s nice enough currently to draw joggers, dog walkers and a plethora of normal people to make a visit wholly worthwhile and enjoyable. After a loop around the lake, our double-dating group settled on Coach Sushi for dinner, to which none of us had previously been.

I hate to steal the exact ratings from the sushi post just before this, but Coach happened to strike the same reaction from me as Hayward Japan Grill did. Which was not great. The odd thing was that Coach was packed with people on this Sunday evening at dusk, and I’ve heard from a friend since that he’s a big fan of Coach. Maybe we just hit it on a bad night. Either way, we didn’t have a great experience except for the company.

Coach sushi

The inside of Coach Sushi in Oakland.

This place is small and cozy as so many sushi places are. The menu was a conglomerate mess of choices with an organizational process that would confuse a schizophrenic. That is to say, the visual layout was terrible and the sections were scattered and placed in no discernible order, which made it very hard to wrap my mind around exactly what my choices were for dinner. I finally just gave up, stopped on the page I was on and chose something. I’m not sure if everyone else was annoyed by this as much as I was (I’m particularly sensitive to a terribly packaged menu), but I found it heinous.

Having said that, the choices, if you could sort through them, appeared highly varied and often creative. What scared me a bit, however, was when I ordered my salmon sashimi donburi and basically had to spell it out for the waitress because she said she’s never had anyone order that. Great.

salmon sashimi donburi

My salmon sashimi donburi from Coach Sushi, which was quite good.

The food was decent but not fabulous. At our table there was a sashimi dinner, a carrot-avocado roll and a spicy tuna roll in addition to my donburi. All were reported to be acceptable but nothing special. We did not appreciate that they did not come out even near the same time, which makes eating in a group a bit of a challenge when you’re not sharing food.

The sashimi was not a whole lot for the price as compared to some other restaurants and was of mediocre quality. The carrot-avocado roll was a combination our fully-vegetarian friend had not seen before and was excited about. The tuna roll was decent. My donburi was actually quite good: a generous amount of raw salmon and assorted pickled veggies over rice. I found it quite enjoyable.

sushi

Spicy Tuna Roll and Avocado Carrot Roll came on the same plate even though the people that ordered them were sitting kitty corner to each other. Grumble.

Also, the miso soup was good and the chop sticks were the nice kind which makes any Japanese meal more enjoyable.

The service was the worst part, however. Not only did we not receive water refills but once in about 2 hours, two of four of us found bits of ants in the water. Extra protein, sure, but we were neither grateful nor amused. I’m not a freak-out-when-something-is-out-of-place-with-my-food sort of person*, so I actually just kept drinking. Don’t judge me.

They have a special sake drink that comes in a small bamboo box and which I think is all-you-can-drink for a fixed price. My friend ordered this, but it never came. Fortunately the waitress realized this later, apologized and asked if she still wanted the drink (she said no thanks) and it wasn’t on the bill. Still, not impressing us at all with the attention to detail.

And finally, it took about a half hour for someone to bring us our bill, which was ok since we were chatting together as friends do, but this was the clincher on my feeling of terrible service at this place. Maybe it was a bad night, maybe we had a careless waitress, maybe she misinterpreted our conversation for a desire not to have the bill delivered, who knows. We didn’t have a great experience and (I’ll say it again) there are too many great sushi places to waste time on poor ones.

*I am, however, a complain-about-it-on-the-internet person, as so many of us are nowadays, so take that.

Coach Sushi on Urbanspoon





Spettro

14 08 2010
Atmosphere: 3/5   ♦   Service: 3/5   ♦   Food Quality: 4/5   ♦   Value: 3/5
Times Visited:  One   ♦   Will I Return?:  Yes, please
___________

SpettroSpettro can be found at 3355 Lakeshore Avenue in Oakland and is one of a huge many awesome restaurants which I’m only just finding out about in this area. Seriously, Oakland is pretty awesome. Our friends described this place as Mexican/Italian fusion, but after seeing the menu, it pretty much looked like Italian to me.

A variety of delicious-sounding salads; entrees including chicken marsala, chicken or eggplant parmesan, oven braised lamb and chicken risotto along with pastas and pizzas will start any mouth watering. Seriously, it was super hard to choose between the salads and the pizzas…so Friend #1 and I split one of each. This was a fabulous choice.

Spettro

Inside Spettro, Oakland.

Despite my continual urge to order a Caesar, I deferred to a Marblehead salad of “Tender Butter Lettuce, Tart Green Apples, Candied Walnuts and Crumbled Bleu Cheese In a Bleu Cheese Vinaigrette”. Yeah, it was worth it. Seriously though, there are quite a few salads to choose from that sounded DE-licious. Oh, and you can choose a small, medium or large size for any salad which is so, SO nice of them.

salad

Marblehead Salad from Spettro, Oakland.

Though I really did have my eye on a pasta dish (dude, pesto eggplant lasagna…hard to resist!) we settled happily on a Lofaro pizza: “Thin Crisp Crust Brushed With Garlic Olive Oil Topped With Roasted Shitakes, Spinach Mushrooms, Goat Cheese, Roasted Garlic And Mozzarella”. Cannot go wrong there, as far as I’m concerned. And, indeed, we did not. It was delicious. Everything was delicious.

pizza

Behold the glory of the Lofaro Pizza from Spettro, Oakland

Friend #2 ordered the chicken risotto with which he appeared pleased. Our salad and pizza was gone without a second thought (oh, garlic, you’re soooo good)…and we were on to dessert. I think I got caught up in the moment (and the dessert menu posted on the wall across from us) as I don’t typically order dessert. Since we couldn’t decide between the offerings we chose to all split an ice cream covered brownie and a peach crisp.

risotto

Smoked Chicken Risotto from Spettro, Oakland.

I’m not a fan of fruit crumbles, so I took my mandatory bite of crisp and quickly moved on to the brownie and ice cream wholeheartedly. For $5 each, both desserts were pretty plush, but I must admit that I was sorely disappointed by the brownie. It is, in fact, the very reason I rarely order brownies: it was dry, hard, and seemed old. I have no idea if it was actually old or overcooked or what, but it was not terribly satisfying. As it was the only thing on our table that I didn’t absolutely love, I did pardon good ‘ole Spettro for the single blunder.

brownie

Brownie and ice cream from Spettro, Oakland.

crumble

Peach Crisp from Spettro, Oakland

The service was good but nothing terribly special. I did love the atmosphere: smaller, single open room with brick walls and strings of lights spider-webbed over the room. Upscale dining and great food with medium prices…I like you, Spettro.

Spettro on Urbanspoon








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