Side Dish: Calavera’s Wood-Grilled Snapper
Day of the delicious.
There are few restaurant dishes as dramatic as whole fish, and the wood-grilled snapper at Calavera (which opened Saturday in Oakland) is a show-stealer.
Darkly charred with crisp skin and redolent with black garlic, the snapper is as juicy as fish can be, with just the faintest pink where flesh meets bone. And when left with nothing but a head, a tail, and a glistening spine, the plate becomes a poignant symbol of Calavera, a modern Mexican restaurant whose name references the colorful sugary skulls popular during the Day of the Dead.
Located in The Hive, an urban mall and community-gathering place, Calavera has a great bar offering half a dozen imaginative margaritas, including my favorite, the sweetly complex agua de sandia (watermelon water), and the chillingly smoky and chile-spiked Mezcalara.
And what better snack to go with these cocteles than some fried grasshoppers—which eat like spicy dried chiles—sprinkled over a scoop of cold, chunky guacamole (not watery in the least).
Even if you skip the fish, meals here can be an adventure: We grazed on goat, octopus, and mole chicken tacos served in chewy tortillas that bespeak quality and authenticity.
2337 Broadway, Oakland, (510) 338-3273, calaveraoakland.com. Dinner daily.