A Vietnamese feast at Temple Club in Oakland

by foodhoe on February 21, 2018

2307 International Blvd, Oakland, CA 94601 | 510-479-3680 | TempleClubOakland.com

So there I was, driving up and down International Blvd in Oakland’s San Antonio neighborhood (which is somewhere in between Fruitvale and Lake Merritt), looking for a sign.  It is a long dark stretch that is mostly marked no parking because it is a landing strip for gigantic Oakland transit buses, so I was reluctant to get out without knowing where I was going. And where was that you’re wondering? I was looking for the Temple Club, a newish restaurant that is getting a lot of attention, considering it is so off the beaten path.  I mean, I really can’t imagine Michael Bauer, the food critic for the Chronicle hanging out in the hood.  So yeah, I drove up and down a few  times before I finally noticed the sign on the only building with the lights on.

I joined my friend Christina of East Bay Dish and her meet up group for dinner because I can’t resist it when someone says Let’s go together so we can taste everything.  That is my favorite way to explore the menu – more people means more food!  The walls are painted with bright and vivid colors, I loved the wall art.  And the menu is also full of bold and exciting flavors that changes daily depending on what’s available.

The chef Geoffrey Deetz spent the past 16 years in Vietnam where he opened or consulted for a number of eateries, in both Saigon and Hanoi. He wants to showcase food exactly as it’s served in Vietnam, small plates intended to be eaten family-style with rice, a type of cooking that is apparently hard to find on the menu of most pho- and banh mi-centric Vietnamese restaurants.  I was glad that there were more than ten of us so we were able to order a lot, prepare your eyes!

I got the Make your own lime soda kit ($3), a bottle of fizzy water, a small cup of simple syrup, a few fresh lime wedges and a cup of ice.

Goi Cuon Nem Chua ($9.50), spring rolls filled with housemade grilled sour pork sausage, black pepper, sesame leaf, baby greens, rice noodles with sesame and served with a rich pork liver sauce.  The sausage had crunchy gristly bits and I loved the fresh flavors from the perilla leaf wrapped up with the lettuce and the fried shallots added a sweet earthy flavor and aroma.

The Tom Chien Com, were kind of crazy looking, bright green and covered with rice krispies.  This was some deep fried bliss, juicy shrimp, covered in a crunchy batter that has a hint of stickiness when you bite in, served with an exhilarating honey-chili dipping sauce ($12.95)

Goi Sua, Jellyfish, chicken green papaya, cabbage, herbs, toasted peanuts, sesame seeds and spicy garlic fish sauce with shrimp crackers ($14.50).  This is salady with brilliant flavors from all the fresh herbs and nuts, and so good scooped up with the crunchy shrimp crackers.

Goi Bo Hoi An, Tamarind marinated beef, green papaya, cherry tomatoes, onion, banana flower and herbs in a tamarind fish sauce $14.75.  Another salady dish but with totally different ingredients and flavors. [click to continue…]


A Oaxacan feast at Agave Uptown

by foodhoe on February 19, 2018

2135 Franklin St. Oakland | 510.288.3668 | website

We had a great meal at Agave Uptown recently, the latest restaurant from Chef Octavio Diaz who brings traditional Oaxacan food with a focus on authentic mole and mezcal to the hip Uptown section of Oakland.  The chef has another Oaxacan eatery called Agave Mexican Restaurant and Tequila Bar and is co-0wner of Casa del Mole, a grocery and taquería both in Healdsburg.  The new location is on the first floor of the Kapor Center for Social Impact whose mission is to narrow gaps in opportunity and access for underrepresented communities.  The dining room was designed by Arcsine, the design firm that did Calavera, Duende and Walnut Creek’s Teleferic, all stylish and artfully designed.  The bar dominates the entrance, featuring an array of small-batch mezcals, Mexican craft beers and wines from Sonoma County.  The counter is lined with bottles of the bartender’s handcrafted syrups, infusions, mixers and additives that are necessary to make their mezcal-based libations and artfully balanced cocktails.

Mezcal is made in small batches, the leaves are cut off agave plants by hand into a pineapple shape, then roasted in underground fire pits which creates smokey flavors, then crushed, mixed with water to allow fermentation and finally distilled into the smokey smooth spirit that has become the drink of the moment.  There is a full bar, but you should focus on the mezcal based cocktails, which offer intriguing interpretations of the classics along with inventive and beautiful new creations.

We dined as guests of the restaurant and enjoyed learning about mezcal and mole while pondering the striking mural by Lapiztola, an art collective based in Oaxaca who also did the murals for La Guelaguetza in SoCal.  The artists create a compelling piece that symbolizes the restaurant’s dedication to authentic cuisine, the creation of mezcal, social empowerment, and community.

We began with cocktails, Mr. K had a Bloody Mary made with mezcal, which had definite smokey undertones and was topped with a scoop of spicy salsa.  I usually stick with wine or beer, but felt adventurous and tried the Amor Mixteca made with mezcal, pomegranate liquor, lime, orange and chipotle essence, garnished with dehydrated citrus that looked like sparkling jewelry and was rimmed with a lip smackingly spicy, sparkly mixture of salt and chili.  The bartender checked in with us later to see what we thought of the cocktails.

Everything on the menu sounded delicious and we wanted to try as many Oaxacan dishes as possible.  We  began with the Oaxacan Salad a lovely plate of delicate butter lettuce, slices of avocado, mango, toasted sliced almonds, heirloom tomatoes, radish and tossed with a bright and vibrant mezcal passionfruit vinaigrette then sprinkled with crunchy amaranth seeds.  It was light and refreshing, lots of excellent flavors and textures.

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Dinner at Mockingbird in Oakland

January 17, 2018

416 – 13th Street, Oakland | 510.290.0331 | website We’re halfway through Oakland Restaurant Week which runs through two weekends from January 11-21, so there’s still have time to get out and take advantage of some great dining deals.  This year there are 70 restaurants offering special lunch and dinner prix-fixe menus or other dining […]

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Fabulous lunches to warm your belly at Mixed Grain in Walnut Creek

January 7, 2018

1546 Bonanza Street, Walnut Creek 94596 | 925.938.5959 | website | menu There are a surprising number of very good Korean restaurants out in Coco county, but this is my favorite one (of the type that doesn’t involve cooking yourself).  It’s tucked away on a side street off Locust in downtown Walnut Creek where the […]

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An urban refuge at Herlen Place

December 16, 2017

334 Grant Avenue (at Harlan Place), San Francisco | 415.391.0207 | website | Open 8am-9:30pm It’s the holiday season so you have every reason to be in Union Square right now either for shopping or to immerse yourself in the holiday spirit by enjoying the giant Christmas tree glittering with thousands of lights, the huge 25-foot glowing […]

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Roar Winemakers Dinner at MKT restaurant

November 12, 2017

Years ago, Mr. K and I were introduced to Roar wines at Benu Restaurant when the sommelier recommended a bottle of their Pinot Noir; rounded, velvety and utterly delicious.  We’ve been fans ever since and I signed up to their mailing list in order to have access to their limited production wines which sell out very quickly. […]

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Sultan’s Brunch, Istanbul Modern in SF

September 24, 2017

1096 Union St, San Francisco 94133 I have been following Laura & Sayat on Instagram for quite some time and finally managed to book a seat at their Sultan’s Brunch which offers a fascinating and delicious introduction to Turkish cuisine.  I’ve never been to Istanbul and am not very familiar with the food, and only know […]

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