42nd and Market Street in Oakland | 510.350.7489 | website
hours: 5:30PM-9:30PM Tues – Sat
A while back my friend Brenda who writes Bites & Bourbon forwarded an announcement about a new restaurant in Oakland that was developing a menu serving rustic fare that is influenced by California seafood and ranches, Pacific Rim flavors, and New Baja cuisine and culture. We both have made the pilgrimage down to Baja (she, me) to sample the awesome seafood and suggest you do too, it will blow your mind. But for now, there is Salsipuedes in Oakland which is named after a sparkling bay along a stretch of pristine Baja coastline near Ensenada, where the best seafood dreams come to life. It is a collaboration between Jay Porter, who also owns The Half Orange in Fruitvale, Luis Abundis of Nieves Cinco de Mayo and Bradford Taylor of Oakland’s Ordinaire wine shop and Chef Marcus Krauss, who comes from 3 star michelin rated Restaurant at Meadowood.
The restaurant is located on the corner of a quiet street in a transitional neighborhood. Inside it has a casual, seaside atmosphere with white tiles and cool blue walls. There’s a large communal table in the middle, bar seating around the open kitchen, and a table in the back that looks like a work area, but seems to be a cozy private nook. The atmosphere reminded me of Muelle 3 in Ensenada which is on the waterfront, around the corner from the famous Mercado Negro seafood market.
It’s a small cozy space full of rustic elegance.
Our first dish, the Tempura Sea Beans ($8) served with a squeeze of rich kewpie mayo. The tempura batter was thick, dense and crunchy, with the texture of Ruffles potato chips, surrounding tender and succulent sea beans, which are described to be sea salty intense, with a sort of grassy asparagus aftertaste. I was bewitched by the crunchy texture and could not stop dunking the bits into the kewpie mayo.
Here is the Tiradito of black cod ($18), a Peruvian dish of sliced raw fish that differs from ceviche as it does not use onion and is served immediately so that it does not cure or cook in its acidic bath. The luscious fresh fish was drenched with yuzu ponzu (a bright and zesty sauce made from soy sauce, vinegar and yuzu which is a Japanese citrus that is highly prized for its aromatic zest and tart juice) and garnished with slices of serranos and sprinkled with chili powder which added an irresistible heat.
The Beef Tongue ($15) was garnished with spare dots of sea urchin, seaweed, spicy green salsa, and served on a grilled cactus paddle. I could only see two dots of urchin… is this just for color? I wanted more urchin! The beef was tender and juicy and its richness was made extra fabulous with the spicy salsa and marinated cactus paddle.
The Octopus Melt Bao ($15) were tender Chinese buns stuffed with spicy braised octopus, pieces of shrimp, crunchy chicharones, and melted mozzarella. This was delectably moreish and was over all too soon as the buns were pretty small and consumed in just a few bites. We split this between three, I think each person needs to have their own bun.
I was excited to try the Drowned Fried Chicken Torta ($13) which features chicken katsu (a chicken cutlet that is breaded and fried) with wakame (seaweed salad), kimchi and tonkatsu sauce, a dark and intense Japanese-style bbq sauce. The sandwich which was made with some very compelling ingredients but did not excite the tastebuds very much, it needed more drama – more sauce, more something…
We tore into the roasted black cod collar ($22) marinated with sake lees and white miso, one of my favorite preparations. The marinade is a traditional Japanese treatment called kasuzuke, in which fish is marinated in sake lees, which are the solids that remain after making sake, then broiled or grilled which gives it a wonderful aroma and distinct sweet-savory flavor. The collar is the equivalent of a neck, it is a cut from along the fish clavicle, right behind the gills, running from top to bottom (including stiff pectoral fins along the way), with especially rich meat along the belly. When cooked correctly it is a delight – a variety of meaty textures, tender flesh, crispy bits, meltingly rich skin. It is the fish equivalent to ribs, full of flat bones which make the flesh so flavorful, and yes, you are allowed to use your hands to eat this most excellent dish!
For dessert we shared the Rose petal ice cream with rhubarb and pickled strawberries in jasmine tea, it was light and refreshing, an interesting study in contrasts with the pickled berries and bitter tea.
The bill came to $40 per person, which was a little pricey considering that I was the only one with an alcoholic beverage and that was just a beer. The tiradito, bao and nopales dishes all had the flavors we were looking for, but the chef is taking it in a different direction than just Baja-med and many of the dishes had a distinctly Japanese inspiration. We ate well and I enjoyed the dishes we ordered and look forward to see how the menu develops over time. There’s this dish of roasted corn ($12) that is served with sweet hominy ice cream and trout roe that I just have to go back to try, I hope it’s still on the menu! The place was bustling by the time we left, a good sign for the neighborhood.