Dine

Osmanthus

"Osmanthus is a modern-classic Asian restaurant located on College Avenue in Rockridge, Oakland. Our kitchen focuses on an array of Chinese Regional dishes, Japanese and South-East Asian flavors. We create bold flavors through casual dishes. A full bar serves craft cocktails inspired by Asian ingredients."

That's their description and here's mine in a word - ADDICTIVE!

Seriously, I've been there twice, once for lunch and once for dinner, and I'm hooked!

To be fair, I must admit I have addictive tendencies for the transportive qualities for all foods Asian - Chinese, Japanese, Burmese, Vietnamese, Indonesian, Thai, Korean - I crave it all.

I especially love the big, bold, complex flavors of this cuisine when it merges with what I like to call "California sensibilities". Basically that means, access to and use of the finest raw ingredients, an obsession with presentation, an unwavering dedication to ambiance - all in perfect concert with no sign of breaking a sweat.

Osmanthus has this, plus amazing cocktails, and is fast becoming a new favorite escape on College Ave.

A few stand-out items include: brussels sprouts with salt pork and honey-sriracha, prawns with coconut milk and mint leaves, dan dan noodles with ground pork and peanuts, and salmon with purple yam and curry.

I highly recommend you start with the single most addictive thing on the menu - the green tea leaf salad - a Burmese staple and something I could eat every single day of the week. I also recommend you check out Burmese Superstar for this intoxicating mash up of exotic tastes and textures.

For libations, if you like gin and ginger, and I do, I recommend the Ms Grant - as in Ms Ginger Grant from Gilligan's Island. Speaking of a stylish escape.


Playing with fire at Penrose

With Oakland outcrop #3 well underway and rave reviews rolling in, there's clearly no stopping restaurateur extraordinaire Charlie Hallowell - he is on fire!

And just like the ubiquitous open-hearth concept, the buzz for each and every venue just gets hotter and hotter. With reviews like this one in the March issue of 7x7SF, I'm not telling anyone anything new by declaring NOTHING about this franchise is flash in the pan.

Every detail is so enticing, so hip and so spot-on it kills me. The space is perfect - stunning actually, the drinks are perfect, the vibe is perfect, the food is perfect - the grilled flat bread is so much so it will make you cry. Hell, the name is even perfect.

Pizzaiola and Boot & Shoe Service both elicit very similar reviews, which usually translates to a very similar wait time - long. But I've said it before and I'll say it again - this is definitely food worth the wait!

 

Juhu Beach Club

Loving this new "vacation spot" in the ever-burgeoning Temescal Triangle. The casual yet lively vibe coupled with the best flavors of Mumbai street food will make you forget you're in Oakland from the moment you walk in.

The bright pink, floral wallpaper screams we're here to have fun, and the friendly service and accessible menu will ensure that you do!

The Desi Jacks are a great starter - sweet, salty, spicy popcorn, peanuts and pistachios and The Pavs, or sliders, are a must -  especially the Vada Pav with fried potato, pickled onion and pepper chutney, as are the Masala Fries with Tamarind Ketchup. If it's curry you crave they have those too - the JBC Whole Chicken Leg served with lemon rice, raita, kachumber salad and pickles is amazing!

An excellent selection of beer and wine on tap, plus tasty coolers and chai guarantees you'll have an appropriate chaser for all those incredibly exotic spices - and what's a vacation without chasers?

Hopscotch

Off the beaten path and off my radar, but I finally made it into this über-hip joint lurking on the outskirts of the ever-booming Uptown district.

It was this article in Oakland Magazine that put it back on my to-dine list, but this review by Michael Bauer that sealed the deal. 

From the moment you walk in the door, you'll question whether or not you're cool enough to be there but don't be put off by that - serious substance awaits. I love the retro diner decor and the coziness of this tiny space. There are maybe a dozen tables and it's only a matter of time before there's a line out the door.

The bartender, sporting a poofy hairstyle to match that retro diner vibe, mixes up some tasty artisinal cocktails. I had the Corpse Reviver no 2 because I'm obsessed with absinthe right now - especially the one from the folks at St George Spirits.

Oh, and last but not least the food, described as "Japanese comfort food", sounds like an oxymoron I know. I for one do not seek out sushi when only mashed potatoes will do, but trust me when I tell you Kyle Itani's take on "diner food" goes well beyond merely comfort.

The Smoked Kampachi Crudo goes down as one of the best raw fish dishes I've ever had and the Manilla Clam Hot Pot while completely different is equally delicious. The Pork Chop with lardo, bamboo shoots and crispy garlic knocks it out of the park and the Skillet Roasted Striped Bass is a close second if in fact you need more fish.

The finale - a butterscotch pudding, could go toe-to-toe with Flora for creating a cult following with a tiny bowl of creamy scorched sugar - and that is saying something. 

Honor Kitchen & Cocktails

Emeryville has it going on when it comes to trendy cafes, attracting start-ups and behemoths alike, shopping and deluxe cinemas, but not so much when it comes to a hip dining and nightlife scene. This place is sure to help with that shortcoming.

Honor clearly strives to be über-cool but in such a refreshing, low-key way you might not notice. The sense of ease starts with the fact that you can find parking right outside the door - no easy feat in the SF Bay Area, especially if the restaurant is worth a visit in the first place.

A cozy atmosphere, engaging soundtrack - Motown the first visit and Zeppelin, Sabbath and The Who the second, tasty artisanal cocktails, a hardy, small-plates menu, tub of beer AND pinball make this an honorable establishment indeed.

The Honor Cheeseburger and Hand-Cut Kennebeck Fries are a must. The other stand-outs include: Warm Burrata - I pretty much make it a rule to order this whenever I see it on a menu, the Pot of Brandade and of course, the Grilled Shishito Peppers. If you have any room, their Caramel Pot De Creme is worth a try.

As far as cocktails go, the list is inventive and reasonable - at least I consider $10 per drink for high-quality ingredients reasonable. I like The Von Tesse - vodka, st.germain, mathilde poire, absinthe, peychaud's and lemon.

If you're really thirsty upon arrival, the self-serve bucket of beers is very handy and with brews like Old Milwaukee in the can it's sure to appeal to the hipster in all of us.

Honor provides the perfect pre or post-movie pit stop. Plus what's not to like about a place that declares they honor great music, great atmosphere and honorable folks?