Although it considers itself a wine bar, Michael Bauer considers Oakland’s Perle “a full-blown restaurant with an extensive wine list” and a fully though-out menu that ranges from charcuterie and raw bar “pearls” to main courses. Owned by former Fleur de Lys somm Marcus Garcia, Bauer says the wines alone are worth the trip across the bridge and chef Rob Lam (Butterfly) shows “refined technique” on menu items like a poulet roti of chicken breast wrapped around confit leg. The aforementioned charcuterie is “exceptional,” Bauer notes, and a humble hanger steak gets dressed up with pommes dauphinoise and foie gras béarnaise. On the other hand, things got a little too decadent when Bauer reached the oysters supreme: half shells piled on with uni, caviar, black truffle and foie.
Also making its way across the bay from Fleur de Lys is Hubert Keller’s signature mushroom cappuccino soup, which maintains its “elegant and rustic” quality in Lam’s kitchen. Overall, Lam’s “stylish” food “is a surprise given the more casual space,” but Perle is a two and a half star neighborhood restaurant that sets itself apart.
While Bauer’s output has taken a backseat as the rest of the Food + home section covers the disasters in Wine Country, the critic himself posted some updated thoughts on Contigo in Noe Valley (“remains a great place for Spanish food”) as well as three neighborhood Italian spots: Dopo, Delfina and Gialina. The critic also Instagrammed his tuna melt.
Speaking of Gialina, chef/owner Sharon Ardiana recently debuted a third sister restaurant in her family of rustic Italian pizza joints and the Weekly’s Pete Kane beat Bauer to press with the first review. For the most part, Kane says Ardiana hits all the right notes as its Gialina in Glen Park and Ragazza on Divisadero: creative topping combinations on sturdy crusts with “a good chew” and inventive, seasonal salads, plus some heartier main courses. The only problem is that the place is occasionally “a little too casual for its own good” and the paper napkins can bring down the level of sophistication of date night in Noe Valley. Either way, order the The Whole Shebang dip assortment and don’t miss the “standout” burrata pie with preserved lemon.
In Fruitvale Village, beloved Taquria Campos has become La Casita now that Nolberto Martinez Jr. has taken over from his aunt and legendary menudo chef Ana Maria Campos. Although Martinez brings a much younger vibe to the space, things are pretty much the same, Express critic Janelle Bitker reports. “The menudo still draws crowds,” Bitker says, as it did when then-critic John Birdsall called it the best tripe soup in Oakland a decade ago, and Martinez takes care not to cut corners on items like the “positively glorious” made-to-order tortillas.
While those tortillas definitely elevated Bitker’s taco experience at La Casita, the restaurant is still focused on the Jalisco-style soups that made it famous: The pozole with nixtamal and two crispy tacos is “one of the best deals in the East Bay” and the goat birria is “also a superlative rendition.”
In Berkeley, Bitker also checked out Maker’s Common the latest from the team behind Mission Cheese and a restaurant funded by a Direct Public Offering that attracted 165 different investors. More than just a cheesemonger, the shop includes a small market with locally sourced goods and a kitchen that’s focused on “really great ingredients” more than chef-y flair.
A few sandwiches and the “crispy-gooey” mac ’n cheese are carried over from Mission Cheese, but the best dish is unique to the East Bay: fried chicken brined in whey — an often wasted cheesemaking byproduct — that gives the final product a “sublime,” subtly milky flavor with a well-seasoned crust. For vegetarians and omnivores alike, Bitker recommends the “creamy, savory” Ashbrook gratin that lets the titular cheese stand out amongst chard and potatoes. Although the dinner menu is still changing, Bitker notes the attentive staff and the flexible management are quick to meet the needs of their diners and the neighborhood at large, making the restaurant’s community focus feel “wholeheartedly legit.”
- The Morris Is More Than Its $100 Dollar Duck [ESF]
- High-profile Perle brings a destination spot to Montclair Village [SF Chronicle]
- Noe Valley’s Ardiana Is the Pizza Church [SF Weekly]
- Pozole, Birria, and More Homey Cooking at La Casita [East Bay Express]
- Maker’s Common Is a Restaurant Truly for the People [East Bay Express]