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Weekly Dish: Box & Bells Opens

Box and Bells opens in Oakland; Fuscion replacing Trattoria Lupetti in Orinda; A la Mar comes to Uptown; nation's largest Indian chain headed for Dublin; and more in this week's Dish!


Photo courtesy of Ethan H., Flickr

Open, at last. It’s been a long time for curious foodies waiting for James Syhabout’s newest venture, Box & Bells, to open in Rockridge. But news breaks this week (and tipped off last week in the Dish), that his gastropub concept is debuting Wednesday, nearly a year later than originally anticipated.

Inside Scoop gets the scoop on what sounds like an interesting menu. Per Syhabout, it’ll be a departure from the more refined Michelin-starred Commis. Rather, he says he and the restaurant’s executive chef Benjamin Coe (formerly chef de cuisine at Commis) will be getting back to basics with more straightforward, meat-centric pub fare, albeit with some gourmet flourishes. There will be an emphasis on small plates, and many of the dishes unveiled during the pop-up preview earlier this year have made the cut, including fried chicken with oyster mayo, poutine with blood pudding gravy, and boudin blanc (pictured along with saurkraut and corned beef in a photo from that dinner). There will also be a novel, French onion soup–inspired take on a burger. (CLICK HERE to check out the full menu.) Open for dinner Wednesday through Sunday to start, Box & Bells has just 49 seats, but 30 will be reserved for walk-ins (always nice). There’s a back patio that will be opened sometime down the line (presumably when the weather warms up again), that has another two dozen seats.

Well, I’m excited …

5912 College Avenue, Oakland, (510) 923-2000, boxandbells.com.

And in case you’re wondering about Oakland’s other much-anticipated opening, Charlie Hallowell’s bar and grill concept, Penrose & Sons … I happened to overhear a staffer at sister restaurant Boot & Shoe Service across the street on Grand Avenue (I wasn’t eavesdropping, I swear …) that Hallowell is cautiously targeting a November 15 launch. 

Chicken tacos from MexCalOne of the last big vacancies in little Orinda’s underrated downtown has been filled at last. A couple years after Trattoria Lupetti shut down, the space at 65 Moraga Way will be taken over by a fusion Mexican restaurant called Fuscion. The owner, Jose Barajas, is the same person behind the new California-Mexican fusion restaurant MexCal recently opened in downtown Danville. Barajas told me that, like at MexCal, he will be using sustainable, organic ingredients whenever possible. Befitting the new restaurant’s larger, more prominent setting, however, Fuscion will offer a bit more of a fine-dining flair with food that’s Mexican inspired, but that mixes in Peruvian and Italian influences as well. It’ll be a quick turnaround, too, as Barajas is hoping to open up by the last week of November.

There’s another new restaurant headed for Uptown Oakland. Replacing the former Noble Café at 100 Grand Avenue, alaMar (“to the sea”) is a seafood concept from chef Nelson German. Owners aren’t quite ready to divulge specifics, but the website is live and describes the menu as centered around “crustacean boils and unique eats” using locally-sourced and sustainable ingredients. “Rustic, artisanal sandwiches” for lunch, Sunday brunch, and a full bar are also on the docket. A brief scan of Nelson’s LinkedIn page reveals that he served recently as executive chef at Marbella and Supperclub in San Francisco. Estimated opening date will be early 2014. alamaroakland.com.

Don’t think of chain restaurants and Indian food as in the same category? Well, former software engineer Raj Gowlikar has been breaking new ground, opening up more than 30 locations of his Paradise Biryani Pointe across the country in the last five years, making it the largest Indian chain eatery in the U.S., according to Forbes. And now, it appears the East Bay will get its first taste of the restaurant’s signature biryani--a popular Indian dish with basmati rice, spices, and meat or vegetables. A recent liquor license posting lists Paradise Biryani Pointe as the restaurant that will be taking over for the recently shuttered Little Home Thai in Dublin’s Tralee Village center. paradisebiryanipointe.com.

Also in Dublin, Hunan House at 7111 Village Parkway closed. It will be replaced by Rahma Mediterranean Market. The market and halal deli will be relocating from Dublin Boulevard and expanding to include a new restaurant.

The Wine in Time 2.0 series is one of those dining experiences almost completely unique to Oliveto—which is, to say, a restaurant with both longevity and curiosity. In 2007, owner Bob Klein stashed a bunch of older-vintage Italian red wines—mostly Barolo and Barbaresco—with the intention of aging them and then revisiting them once they reached their prime. Well, six years later, with the restaurant as busy as ever, Oliveto is cracking open those bottles for a series of six consecutive Monday wine dinners starting November 4. Guests will get a chance to taste and compare four different vintages, all nearly more than ten years old, presented by a guest sommelier, and paired with a special menu from executive chef Jonah Rhodehamel. Pretty cool. CLICK HERE for the full schedule

Spoon Rocket, the fresh-made meal delivery company that recently started up in Berkeley and Emeryville, is expanding its delivery service to downtown Oakland this weekend. Made fresh in Berkeley kitchens, Spoon Rocket’s meals consist of a daily, changing herbivore and omnivore options at a cost of $6 to be delivered within 15 minutes. Expansion to San Francisco is next. spoonrocket.com.

On the ABC liquor license report watch, a couple interesting places applying to serve booze: Aunt Mary’s, the popular breakfast/brunch spot in Temescal, and the über-foodie Bica Coffeehouse in Rockridge.

More news on the 510 front …

► Berkeleyside tips off that Eureka restaurant, the burger-centered small chain (10 locations) opened in downtown Berkeley at 2086 Center Street. It boasts 30 craft beers on tap, 21 small-batch American whiskeys, and food made with locally sourced ingredients, plus live entertainment and plenty of televisions. The menu will include a dozen or so burgers, plus apps, salads, sandwiches, and entrees. eurekarestaurantgroup.com.

► Bistro Laison’s dressed-down spin-off Petit Cochon (first reported on heredebuted at 1801 Shattuck Avenue, a couple doors down from owner Todd Kneiss French eatery, located just off the UC Berkeley campus. The menu will offer more casual grab-and-go items such as baguettes sandwiches, tartes, and salads, plus some specialty items imported from France.

► Per the East Bay Express, Kingston 11, a new Jamaican eatery, is set to debut in uptown Oakland at 2270 Telegraph Avenue around November 15. And the whole animal sourcing, meat-centric Marrow from ex-Jon’s Street Eats founder Jon Kosorek has launched weekend brunch service this Saturday and Sunday from 10:30 to 2:30. 

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