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The Oakland Berkley Book March 2013 61 Oliveto 5655 College Ave., 547-5356, Oliveto’s place at the pinnacle of Bay Area Italian cooking is safe with Jonah Rhodehamel. The young executive chef continues the restaurant’s tradition of taking stunning ingredients and preparing them with style and creativity. Pasta and salumi are always house-made here, and impeccable. The menu changes regularly, but you can’t go wrong with any of the pastas; we particularly loved the agnolotti dal plin, a stuffed pasta with rapini, as well as an off-the-hook frisée salad dressed with both Riesling wine and toasted coriander. One of the prettier restaurants in the East Bay, the space is urban but warm, and always accented with a hugely dramatic flower arrangement. Service is totally professional, and don’t miss the restaurant’s special theme dinners, which celebrate ingredients such as tomatoes, seafood, truffles, and the humble yet mighty hog. Restaurant: lunch Mon.–Fri., dinner daily. Café: breakfast, lunch, and dinner daily. 234$$$ Picán 2295 Broadway, 834-1000, This popular Uptown Oakland restaurant successfully integrates the freshness of California cuisine with the comforting goodness of Southernstyle cooking. The California collards are sautéed, rather than slowly cooked, and tossed with onions, garlic, and red chilies, as well as a splash of vinegar. The most popular dish on the menu takes three days to make: the incredibly tender and juicy buttermilk fried chicken, its crunchy dark-golden crust full of savory flavor. Picán’s commitment to consistency and detail clearly shines through, from tender, meaty pork ribs, which are smoked in-house, to the Low Country shrimp and grits, with lightly sweet Worcestershiregarlic gravy. The Sunday brunch— including beignets, fried chicken Benedict, and biscuits and gravy—is a comfort food treat, and don’t forget to check out Picán’s extensive collection of single-batch bourbons. Lunch Mon.–Fri., dinner daily, brunch Sun. 2345$$$ Pizzaiolo 5008 Telegraph Ave., 652-4888, pizzaiolooakland. com. When chef-owner Charlie Hallowell, a former Chez Panisse cook and pizza-maker (pizzaiolo means pizza-maker), opened this restaurant in a brick-walled building in Oakland’s trendy Temescal district, word spread fast among food lovers. Traditional Neapolitan pizzas—thin-crusted, blistered beauties—are the specialty of the house, and some of the best in the Bay Area. You’ll also find icy daiquiris, among other excellent artisanal cocktails. The non-pizza section of the highly seasonal menu is just as good, featuring brightly flavored salads, including one with tuna confit and white beans; seasonal appetizers such as fried squash blossoms filled with sheep’s milk cheese in summer; and entrées like the braised pork shoulder. The vibe is hip but kid friendly. There’s even bocce in the back. Dinner Mon.–Sat. 14$$ Plum 2214 Broadway, 444-7586, Brainchild of Daniel Patterson, Plum is a great place to go for a lively atmosphere and original food with plenty of international influence. The hip, modern space is welcoming, and Patterson’s goal of providing high-concept, fine-dining cuisine at affordable prices is executed brilliantly. Under new chef Manfred Wrembel, the menu is a bit more approachable and less fussy, if still spiked with plenty of adventuresome oddities like black garlic, beef tongue, and smoked lentils. Wrembel’s also added a bit of a German twist, like the über-rich baked spaetzle appetizer with apple, dandelion, and cheddar. The Plum burger, making a welcome transition from the adjoining bar menu, is In-N-Out gone gourmet with its squishy bun slathered in creamy aioli and melt-in-yourmouth fresh-ground chuck. Service is informed, and desserts are a must-try. Sit at the counter overlooking the kitchen to see the silent chefs carefully crafting the intricate meals. Dinner daily. 15$$$ Rumbo al Sur 4293 Park Blvd., 479-1208, rumboalsurrestaurant. com. Sister restaurant to Rockridge’s popular À Côté, Rumbo al Sur brings a similar small plates concept but with Latin flair. Sit at the large central bar staffed with liberally pouring bartenders—it’s the generous, beating heart of the restaurant— or in one of the cozy nooks and dining rooms segmented throughout. Wherever you sit, it’s hard to go wrong with the accessible, seasonal menu that spans Central and South America. The beet salad displayed a commitment to quality ingredients, the positively luminescent Coke Farm beets balanced with refreshing grapefruit, salty queso fresco, and bitter watercress. The chicharrón de pollo appetizer, addictive nuggets of crispy, tender chicken served with a wonderfully creamy aji amarillo sauce, is a must-try, as are the hearty chiles rellenos. The cocktails and all-Latin wine list are fun, too. Dinner Tues.–Sun. 245$$ Soi4 Bangkok Eatery 5421 College Ave., 655-5421, soifour. com. This cool-cat sophisticate looks the part of a hipster hangout, with its airy, high-ceilinged dining room and sparse touches of jungle vegetation. And some dishes on its extensive, varied menu are well worth a try. Any of the six types of satay will do you (nine for lunch): chicken, steak cubes, mushroom, eggplant, scallops, and calamari. The stir-fried tiger prawns are also a knockout, their succulence accentuated by a complex accompaniment of spices. The wine list is interesting, especially for an Asian restaurant; selections range from Riesling Kabinett to a Fisticuffs 2007 Cabernet. An expanded beer list includes 12 offerings from Mexican to Asian brands. Lunch Mon.–Fri., dinner nightly. 24$$

The Oakland Berkley Book March 2013
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