Telegraph Avenue, Oakland, CA | website
Doña Tomás was one of the first upscale spots to open in the North Oakland Temescal neighborhood nearly ten years ago. It’s now a destination spot with Pizzaiolo and Bakesale Betty’s on the same block, across from the insanely busy parking lot for the Genova Delicatessan. It is a stone’s throw away from Rockridge which is an area so full of delicious restaurants and food purveyors, that good food is literally spilling over to the nearby neighborhoods. The restaurant uses local and organic meats, poultry, and vegetables in their kitchen whenever possible, and the specials menu changes with the seasons.
Although we had reservations for 6:00, we had to wait for almost an hour in order to be seated in their outside back patio, which was understandable because it was Friday, the weather was gorgeous and everyone wanted to be outside! The dining areas are split into different rooms, the red walled room has a small bar, the other front room has the cashier and grill, the courtyard in back spreads out to include another dining area in a open ground floor of a back loft.
We finally were seated and enjoyed thick, crispy chips dusted with a pungent crumbly cheese. The salsa was made from roasted pasilla chilis, with a runny consistency that is quite different from most.
Ceviche del Mercado ($13), fresh lime cured yellowtail, avocado, tomato, red onion, cilantro and lime in chilaca salsa (chilaca is a dried passila pepper). The thick salsa overpowered the dish and we could barely tell the fish from the vegetables!
There were three Mushroom Quesadillas (11), filled with sauteed morel and crimini mushrooms and cheese folded within housemade corn tortillas, griddled a bit and then topped with rich poblano cream sauce. This was one delicious dish – the chubby thick tortillas were crisp on the outside but still soft and chewy, which combined really well with the mushroom, cheese and sauce.
Tacos de Pescado (16.95), sauteed halibut on housemade tortillas, with fresh mango salsa
The fish was fluffy and really fresh with a beautifully grilled exterior. It was a perfect balance with the sweet, tart and savory salsa.
The tacos came with a separate bowl of Green Rice, which was dry and crumbly and well seasoned.
I have never had such delicious Carne Asada (18.50). The thinly sliced grilled beef was tossed with finely minced cilantro and served with fresh corn and mashed pinto beans.
The Niman Ranch meat was tender and juicy which was surprising since it was cut so thinly. There was no gristle or fat on it either, which is very unusual!
The corn was awesome, grilled until it was chewy and a little charred, then rubbed with fresh lime and sprinkled with spicy chilis that made my lips tingle.
Enchiladas Coloradito (16.95), enchiladas stuffed with Hoffman gamebirds chicken and cheese, topped with a red Oaxacan mole, served with sauteed kale and fried potatoes.
The sauce was spicy and thick, bordering on sweet but was very complex with roasted chilis, paired with the melted cheese and tender juicy chicken it was delectable.
We split a couple of desserts the ice creams and the sorbets to help us cool off. Nieve de Chocolate y Chile, (7.25) malted milk chocolate and chipotle chocolate chip ice creams served with chocolate sauces and whipped cream. This was our favorite dish of the night! It had interesting textures with the chocolate chips, sticky sauce, billowy whipped cream and a lot of flavor from the mexican spices and chipotle chips.
Scoops of Cilantro Sherbet and Mango-Passion Fruit Sorbet (7.25). The cilantro sherbet was cool with the soothing flavor of cilantro and neither sweet nor tart which helped to offset the fruit sorbet which was a little too tart.
As we left, I peeked into the bar, which was luridly red with neon lights, but business was brisk and the night was just starting…
The food is really delicious, although I think that there’s nothing wrong with lard and goopy cheese and wish that they used it a bit more here! You can tell that they use really good fresh ingredients and I’m coming back for the grilled corn and carne asada.