Chef-owner Paul Canales, who spent 15 years in the kitchen at Oliveto before striking out on his own with Duende, will expand with a new French restaurant on the ground floor of the Kissel Uptown Oakland hotel in the coming months. As the San Francisco Chronicle announced last year, the upcoming restaurant will be called Occitania, a reference to the Occitan langa d’oc, or linguistic region, that spans the southern third or-so of France plus parts of Spain, Monaco, and Italy. In terms of the restaurant, that means Canales and chef de cuisine Brandon Cavazos will harness northern California’s freshest ingredients to feature in dishes such as cassoulet, ratatouille, and bouillabaisse.
The restaurant isn’t expected to debut until later this spring, but those who want a first taste of Canales’ French-inspired cuisine can get a preview of the menu at two upcoming pop-ups hosted at Duende in March and April. The first of the two events will zero in on the southwestern portion of France, where common ingredients include wild mushrooms, walnuts, duck, lamb, and chestnuts — and of course, there will be cassoulet. In April, the chefs will shift over the Provence, the region slightly to the east, which is known for cooking that features seafood, vegetables, olives, and aromatic herbs.
Canales opened the much-anticipated Duende in Uptown Oakland in early 2013 after earning recognition for his work at Oliveto in Rockridge, where he cooked for 15 years before leaving in 2010. It’s remained a strong contender the in Bay Area’s Spanish dining scene in the years since, known for the hip atmosphere — design firm Arcsine handled the interior and will return to work on Occitania, the Chronicle reported — and signature dishes like fideua and paella.
Both Occitania preview pop-ups will cost $65 for a four-course set menu with the option to add $40 beverage pairings from co-owner and wine director Rafe Gabel. The first dinner will take place on Thursday, March 17; the second event will be on Wednesday, April 13. Both event start at 6:30 p.m. A limited number of seats will be available for each event. Reservations can be made on the Duende website.