One of the East Bay's most anticipated 2013 openings, Duende, hit the uptown Oakland scene running last month and has been drawing crowds ever since. Chef Paul Canales and GM Rocco Somazzi have created an all-day destination, offering coffee and small bites in the bodega during the day, and a Basque-inspired tapas and shared-plates restaurant at night complete with live music. So how's this ambitious venture turning out so far? The Early Word has the answers.
The Atmosphere News: Most Yelpers agree that the ambience is top-notch. Julina B. says "the space absolutely rocks! It's artistically thoughtful with mixed textures, colors, art, high ceilings, and great music," and Aya C. likes the "high ceilings and the open feel" and says the "lighting is perfect—not too dark, not too bright." Chowhound Robert Lauriston describes it as a "pretty place with a lively atmosphere" and lauds its "good noise control," although Yelper Christine L. disagrees, saying it's "too noisy—not a good place for a romantic night out." [Yelp, Chowhound]
The Food News: Schuyler Bailey of 7x7 says Canales' dishes "feel familiar but finessed, with traditional dishes executed to perfection." East Bay Dish's Christina Mitchell says her favorite dish is "the savory-sweet pebrots farcits (stuffed piquillos, lamb, currants, cumin, pine nuts)," and she was also impressed by the chocolate tart: "every component was perfectly executed and the sum was even greater than its parts." The overwhelming favorite in the Yelpiverse seems to be the albondigas (otherwise known as meatballs). Alice Z. calls them "the star of the night...the absolutely perfect, most delicious thing I've put in my mouth in quite some time." Catherine R. describes them as "springy and light" and "well flavored," and Matt R. says they're "nothing less than revelatory." [7x7, East Bay Dish, Yelp]
The Paella News: The pork paella isn't the standout it should be, according to most Yelpers. The dish was Aya C.'s "least favorite," Alice Z. found it "bland and completely underwhelming," and Jorge E.A. found it "really disappointing." However, Mark C. thought it was "fabulous" and Peter V. described it as "incredible." [Yelp]
The Drink News: East Bay Dish tried a few cocktails: the Finch, which "was light and complex," and the Suffering Bastard, which was "more subtle and intense." Chowhound Robert Lauriston enjoyed the "very good wines on tap," and Yelper Aya C. seconded their "great wine selection" and added that "they make good drinks." [East Bay Dish, Chowhound, Yelp]
The Bodega News: Kristen Crouse-Orser of Sprudge.com had nothing but love for her visit to the bodega, calling both the churros and her barista "perfect." Her cappuccino was "visually stunning and perfectly made" and the churros, "along with other choices like salted chocolate cookies and cardamom teacake, are made in-house and serve as a good reminder of how awesome it is to be a coffee shop attached to a working restaurant." [Sprudge]
The Price News: All this goodness seems to come with a high price tag, especially for Oakland. Yelper Sarah O. thinks "they need to reevaluate how much they are charging for the food" and A.D. says "the food is a little pricey, considering the portion size." East Bay Dish called the experience at Duende "a good one, but also kind of expensive." [Yelp, East Bay Dish]
· All Duende Coverage [~ ESF ~]