Calavera Restaurant | 2337 Broadway, Oakland | 510.338.3273 | website
Open Sun-Thurs 5:30 to 10 pm | Fri-Sat 5:30 to 11 pm
Mr. K and I went to a special brunch served family style last week at Calavera restaurant in Oakland. It was organized by the folks at Tasting Table and was described as a recovery brunch to start the weekend, a feast of 5 courses served alongside unlimited chalices of Belgian beer for $25 a person. We had an excellent dinner there a couple of months ago that you can read about here, and I couldn’t wait to go back for more of their amazing and delicious house-made tortillas.
We were seated at one end of a long communal table (with assigned seating) and ended up with no neighbors on our end of the table, so we had huge platters of food to ourselves. I was mesmerized by the display of brightly painted whimsical folk art that is suspended overhead.
The event was sponsored by Stella Artois and I have to say that they really kept our glasses full during the entire meal. It’s a good thing that the menu featured Chilaquiles which are believed to help revive one after an evening of excess, so we got a jumpstart on our recovery…
We began with bowls filled with their housemade corn tortilla chips along with mounds of rich creamy Guacamole Verde sprinkled with micro cilantro and salty queso fresco. Their chips have a crisp and crunchy texture and vibrant flavor that are out of this world good because they are made fresh from start to finish! The kitchen soaks then grinds dried corn to make masa which is then formed into tortillas in a hand press, and they have a dedicated tortilla cook, who cooks the tortillas on the wood-fired comal (griddle). We ate more than one basket between us and almost finished up 3 servings of guacamole.
Next came plantain fritters, gorgeous globes fried to a dark mahogany with crisped caramelized edges, served over smokey Black Bean Chipotle-Piloncillo Salsa. Inside the fritter was sweet and sticky like pie, which was quite tasty dunked into the smoky chipotle sauce.
The last of the appetizers arrived, Sopes De Huitlacoche, little crispy masa cakes topped with Roy Burns farm corn truffle, also known as corn smut or Huitlacoche, a fungus that grows on ears of corn whose culinary use dates back to the Aztecs. When cooked, the Huitlacoche turn deeply inky black and fragrant, and were artistically drizzled with salsa verde, serrano chilies and topped with thin slices of green onion.
Then came scrambled eggs and smoked salmon on those delectable housemade tortillas, drizzled with epazote crema and topped with green onion.
This was Mr. K’s favorite dish, it was full of lovely, comforting flavors and so good topped with a bit of the guacamole…
Chilaquiles Rojo is one of my all time favorite breakfasts, and to have them made from the fabulous house-made nixtamal totopos (fried tortilla chips) has ruined me for life… The tortilla chips are fried until crisp and brown around the edges, then simmered in spicy salsa for a few minutes until tender but still crisp in the center, then topped with fried eggs, tangy crema, and salty cheese. It is one of the world’s great breakfasts that has long been touted for its ability to revive the body, mind, and soul from a hangover.
We got our own big plate and dug in, the first bites are the best because the tortilla is still quite crunchy and covered with the spicy sauce and melted cheese. I loved it dunked into the broken yolks from the eggs, and over time the chips absorb the sauce and soften but still have a little bit of their addictive crunch.
The last entree arrived, a huge bowl piled with Pollo Con Mole Poblano, cornish game hen covered in mole poblano sauce. I don’t think I’m a mole hater, but I admit that I was still obsessed with the chilaquiles and I only remember thinking that the sauce was kind of sweet and that I would much rather finish up our plate of the chilaquiles… It’s no wonder that we were so full after all of that cerveza!
The epazote rice was unfortunately clumpy and not cooked all the way through, so it was a good thing that we were too full to care!
I sampled the Arroz Con Leche De Cabra for dessert, a scoop of rice pudding made with goat’s milk, that had a distinctive tang, drizzled with huckleberry mole, and crunchy bits of candied almonds. Not too sweet, and it was a bright tonic to our jaded tastebuds.
Now that I have sampled their chilaquiles and I see they have pozole and refried beans on the brunch menu, we definitely are going back! It’s a lovely welcoming space, has the world’s best chips and there are a ton of new places nearby to walk off your meal and explore.