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Diablo Dish: August

Meet Corners Tavern’s new chef; an oyster bar is on the horizon for Oakland’s Jack London Square.


Corners Tavern / Photo by Susan D. Yelp.com

Corners Tavern in Walnut Creek has a new executive chef. The restaurant didn’t have to go far to find him, either, promoting Gavin Schmidt, who has been with the upscale gastropub since it opened two years ago. Schmidt, who brings culinary experience from high-end San Francisco kitchens including Coi, Campton Place, Fifth Floor, and Aqua, doesn’t plan any drastic changes to Corners’ contemporary American fare. Rather, he’ll concentrate on making the food a bit simpler and more approachable while maintaining the focus on quality local ingredients.

He also plans to put his butchering skills to good use by practicing butchery, breaking down whole animals and incorporating all the meat into the menu. This was part of the inspiration behind the restaurant’s new Weeknight Suppers, featuring hearty dishes such as slow-roasted pork butt, smoked coffee-rubbed brisket, and grilled leg of lamb. The menu, which includes a starter and dessert, is available Monday through Thursday for $30 per person. As for the man he replaced? Esteban Escobar left to become executive chef at Town Hall, the flagship restaurant of Mitchell and Steven Rosenthal, Corners’ original owner-operators.

Allen Shi, who runs popular Chinese restaurant YiPing in San Ramon and Sichuan Fortune House in Pleasant Hill, plans to take things up a notch in Pleasanton. His China Lounge, which is set to debut in the Rose Pavilion shopping center at 4220 Rosewood Drive, will serve authentic, spicy Sichuan-style fare. Shi labels it the most high-end concept he’s attempted, investing more than $1 million into the interior and importing an expert chef from China to train his kitchen staff. The food will showcase quality ingredients, including heritage breed Hampshire pork and cage-free chicken, and the 4,500-square-foot restaurant will have a full liquor license and dedicated bar menu.  

From Chinese to Taiwanese. Over in Uptown Oakland, Taiwan native Stacy Tang is planning a fast-casual lunch-only concept, serving a streamlined menu of Taiwanese fare such as minced braised pork rice and beef noodle soup served bento box–style with side dishes. Taiwan Bento takes over the space previously meant for Taiwanese noodle house Pi Dan, the plans for which were abandoned after the passing of owner Allison Chen. Look for an opening this month.

Also in Uptown Oakland: Michelin-starred chef Daniel Patterson is shaking things up, morphing his Plum restaurant into Ume. The new, more informal concept emphasizes shareable Japanese-influenced small plates that can be churned out quickly to cater to the neighborhood’s music and show–going crowd. Just a couple doors down, 2212 Wine Bar has transformed into Captain & Corset, serving a new American bistro menu put together by Picán chef Sophina Uong. Finally, Off the Grid has debuted a new weekly food truck market on Monday evenings next to the Fox Theater.  

Rick Hackett is planning a new modern oyster bar concept with a 30-seat waterfront patio, right next door to his Bocanova in Jack London Square. Set to open by late summer, Jack’s Oyster Bar & Fish House will offer a seafood-focused menu featuring dishes such as innovative chowders, ceviches and crudos, whole fish of the day, and homemade fish and chips, in addition to the 20-seat raw bar.

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