Weekly Dish: All Fired Up
New eatery openings; sizzling new chefs and menus; an anniversary picnic; and, holy Boss Hawg, a new Sauced location!
courtesy of Rancho Cantina
Just last week, Dish announced that Fuego, a fiery nuevo latino restaurant, will open next month in Walnut Creek. This week, I can report that something similarly spicy and inspired is expected to open Friday in Lafayette: the long-awaited Rancho Cantina. We East Bay denizens are lovin’ on our Latin!
Describing its menu as “wood-fired Californio spirited cuisine,” Rancho Cantina may be the ideal place to get the whole enchilada of rustic, early California ranch food and more, from south-of-the-border comfort cuisine items (carne asada, chile rellenos, and nachos), to innovative Spanish-inflected dishes such as fig-leaf wrapped rockfish, adobe brick chicken and guisado, a braised lamb dish with cumin and guajillo peppers.
Personally, I like the sounds of the escabeche de pescado, a Spanish fish specialty that Rancho Cantina will serve in a chaparral herb pesto. Ay, caramba! Sounds great, right? Chef Jorge Hernandez is manning the fire. A full bar including sangrias, tequilas, and mescal will be available. Can’t wait to check it out.
New Mediterranean In Walnut Creek
Also opening this week is the second location of Yalla Mediterranean, a personal fave of mine. I have to admit, I was not much of a fan of Daphne’s Greek Kitchen, the packaged-tasting gyros restaurants that had proliferated throughout West Coast shopping malls before they were bought out and closed last fall. Since then, the old Daphne’s locations have been transforming, like stunning Greek goddesses, into Yalla Mediterranean.
The first location opened in December in downtown Pleasant Hill, and the Walnut Creek location (in Ygnacio Plaza across from Heather Farm) opens Thursday. I just can‘t seem to get enough of Yalla’s fresh salads (beet, tabouleh, eggplant, carrot, and more) served up with falafel and skewered meats. Check out previous Diablo Dish coverage of Yalla here.
New Pizza In Livermore
The new stone-fired pizza restaurant, Cravings, opened last week on First Street. I stopped by the other evening, and was impressed by their colorful salads and pizza.
New Sushi In Alamo
Our new eateries have taken us from Latin America to the Mediterranean, and now let’s travel east to RJ’s Fusion, an Asian-fusion eatery spooning up a medley of Japanese, Korean, and Thai flavors in Alamo. Owner/chef Ricky Jiang, and his wife Rebecca opened their hot spot last Thursday, and by the look of things, their woks have been firing on all cylinders since. In addition to generous sushi and sashimi platters, and small plate tapas selections such as the Japanese Hot Rock (Kobe beef with a creamy sesame sauce served on a Himalayan salt rock), Jiang is crafting eclectic entrées including the grilled pork chop with ginger sauce and the Singapore seafood stew, a dish that reminds me of the singing noodles at Chow Lafayette. Check out their space-age website or just stop by to exercise your chopsticks soon. RJ’s Fusion is on a roll!
Walnut Creek is getting a new Japanese restaurant named Izakaya Jun in the space of the former Locust Street Deli next to Massimo’s. I caught up with Japanese-born owner Jackie Kiyoshi, who is excited to open an authentic Japanese small-plates restaurant similar to those he went to as a kid. Kiyoshi owns a ramen shop in San Jose called Kahoo, but this is his first full-service restaurant venture. Menu items will include sushi and sashimi, as well as grilled fish, yakatori, and more. Kiyoshi is hoping to open by the end of April. No website yet, so stay tuned here for details.
New Chefs and Menus
I finally had a chance to check out the new dinner menu from recently arrived Sunol Ridge chef Evan Perlick in Walnut Creek. Dining at the community table by the front window with a fellow food critic, we both had high expectations for a chef hailing from Arcadia, the San Jose steakhouse of widely acclaimed chef Michael Mina. We were not disappointed.
After just a few bites of the house-made waffle cut potato chips and onion dip (made with real caramelized onions instead of soup mix), we both felt that Perlick had found the sweet spot for the beer-focused Sunol Ridge. As we worked our way through the retro-inspired menu, we loved the homey but elegantly presented shepherd’s pie with beef short ribs. In fact, I found myself liking the looks of so many of the dishes around us that I plan to head back soon to try more: the beef carpaccio Caesar, perhaps, or the country pork rib eye chop with molasses glaze—or maybe something from the impressive selection of grilled fish and steaks.
Speaking of steak, there’s a new menu (and newish chef) at Oakland’s Bourbon and Beef. Chef Mark Scott has completely revamped the menu at this Rockridge eatery that recently rebooted as a steakhouse. Scott and owners Abraham and Nick Masarweh have launched a sizzling new menu delivering an impressive line-up of grilled steaks and chops, as well as pasta dishes like the decadent and delicious porcini mushroom-filled ravioli with filet tips in creamy blue cheese truffle sauce (a hold over from Scott’s New Jersey roots, he tells me.)
The same fab red leatherette booths are still there, and they make for the perfect perch to lean back and sample an innovative cocktail or something wet from the abundant selection of American (you guessed it!) bourbons. Old Rockridge neighbors of mine tell me the weekend brunch is definitely worth rambling down for, too.
UPDATE: Damien Jones is the new chef at Bourbon and Beef.
The clever team at Revel Kitchen and Bar in Danville has just announced an “Urban Picnic” to celebrate its one-year anniversary. Chef Curtis deCarion tells me he is excited about the barbecue-themed celebration that will unfold from 1 to 4 p.m. this Sunday, March 29.
To mark the occasion, deCarion has planned three different types of sliders: the 12-hour smoked brisket with an apple slaw and pepper jelly; the lamb Mediterranean with cumin, Aleppo pepper, and a cucumber-garlic Tzatziki; and the chipotle-braised pork shoulder with roasted tomatillo sauce. Wow!
Deviled eggs, warm olives, spiced almonds, shelling bean salad, and more will be available in abundance. And maybe the best part of it all is that it will set you back only $20.14. Like I said … clever, right? Craft beer will be served for $3.24 to celebrate the March 24 date that Revel opened.
Speaking of Revel, those bar managers get around to all the best cocktail spots! Or so it seemed on a recent evening when I saw Revel beverage manager Ryan Simpson enjoying a hand-crafted cocktail at the wonderful Elevé restaurant in Walnut Creek.
In January Dish, I announced that Sauced BBQ and Spirits in Livermore was looking for a Petaluma location, and now I can share the news! Sauced is opening a 6,300 square-foot space for its second location (that’s huge, folks!) in the former Tres Hombres restaurant space in downtown Petaluma's Badin Street Theater District. Accompanied by 25 wide-screen TVs as well as live music, the Sauced boys plan to serve the same boss-hawg menu that has won many a heart in Livermore.
I was there last week after a great day at the Livermore Barrel Tasting, and I’ve gotta say, it’s been a long time since I was willing to stand in line at a restaurant just to get in the door. Spilling out onto the streets, the crowds were so friendly and upbeat that no one seemed to mind. Clearly, the food is worth waiting for. Especially because Sauced has a couple of new menu items: the Hella Cali salad with chopped brisket, blue cheese, fried onion strings, and greens served with a not-to-be-believed BBQ ranch dressing; and the Unholy Cow, a half-pound angus burger with pastrami, pepper jack, thousand island, and yes—you guessed it—fried onion strings. I can’t wait to go back again for more of the cool live music and hot barbecue at Sauced.
Speaking of a getting sauced (or hosed, as the case may be), maybe you’ve heard about the dozens of California wineries that are now on the hot seat for producing wine with dangerously high levels of arsenic. The Wine Institute is claiming that arsenic is a naturally occurring substance, while other industry insiders are not so sure. Time will tell but for now, here’s the most extensive list I’ve found of wines that we might want to avoid until the verdict is rendered.
Things are heating up in Livermore at Nottingham Cellars. This Friday, March 27, from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m., Nottingham is hosting a special tasting of the Grenache varietal. Start with a little history about one of the main grape varietals grown in the Rhone region of France, and end with a lot of fun, including vintage tastings (wines made from grapes from the same vineyards from different years) of wines from the famed Ghielmetti vineyard.
At Draeger’s Market in Blackhawk Plaza, there’s a beer tasting with Mendocino Brewing Co. on Saturday, March 28, from 2 to 4 pm in the cooking-school room. The tasting features six beer “varietals,” as well as cheese and apps for $10. There will also be a demo of Boar’s Head Meats.