Revival Bar & Kitchen: Downtown Berkeley

On a recent weekday night, I had dinner with a friend at Revival Bar & Kitchen in Downtown Berkeley. It was our first time dining there, but we both knew we had been to this location before. Revival has been there for about five years, but before that it was a Restaurant called Downtown.    

The bar was pretty busy when we arrived. I had reservations so we were seated in the main dining area which was less busy at the time. I had a bad taste in my mouth at the start because we were told we couldn’t participate in the happy hour menu unless we were at the bar. I ended up skipping on the cocktail and went straight for a glass of wine to compliment my dinner.  
The menu lists small plates, large plates, sides, and cheeses. After reviewing the menu, we decided to order a bunch of small plates.  
Our first dish was the chopped curly kale caesar salad. I’ve noticed kale salads are becoming popular on menus lately. Revival’s version had kale, quinoa, almonds, fennel, avocado, turnip, romanesco, and pecorino cheese tossed in an anchovy vinaigrette. This beautiful salad was fresh, crispy, and deliciously flavorful. I really enjoyed all the textures. My friend absolutely loved it and tried to get the recipe. The chef told her the key is massaging the kale. 
 Our next dish was the fried soft shell crab. I hardly ever see this on a menu unless I’m at a Japanese restaurant so I wanted to give this a try. The crab was laying on top of a deviled egg sauce, lentils, and mushrooms. The crab was good, but the deviled egg sauce really elevated the dish.  
 We ordered the housemade lamb sausage meatballs. It came with a two bean succotash, green harissa, and smoked habanero honey. These meatballs were quite unique. They were coated, dense, and had exotic flavors.  
 My favorite dish was the spicy mushroom pho flatbread. It had yam purée, housemade ricotta, savoy cabbage slaw, porcini gastrique, fried onion, and serrano chili. The combination of ingredients on this flatbread was perfectly harmonious.   
 For dessert we shared the rhubarb upside down cake which was complimented with a carrot sorbet, puffed black rice, and buttermilk ice cream. This creative plate was really fun and pleasing to the palette.
 At the end of dinner the Warriors game was coming to an end so we moved to the bar to watch the last few minutes. I ordered a Cactus Red Cider which had a very pretty color. It was a bit on the sour side, but enjoyable.  
 We had a great dinner at Revival Bar & Kitchen. The chef is creating dynamic dishes that are both creative and delicious. I highly recommend dining here. It would make the perfect spot for pre-theater dining in Berkeley.

Be Greek for a Day: Oakland Greek Festival

 

This weekend is the Oakland Greek Festival, an annual festival held at the Greek Orthodox Cathedral in the Oakland Hills.   I am embarrassed to say that this is my first year attending even though it’s been held in my hometown for 43 years!   If you look to the East and into the hills from practically any vantage point in the Bay Area, you can locate the Mormon Temple.  The Greek Orthodox shares a space right below it.  So now that you know where it is, bring your cash so you can exchange it for tokens to spend at vendor stations selling food, drinks, desserts, or gifts. 

I love Greek lamb chops so knew I would be having some with a glass of red wine from Greece.  I was a bit shocked by the size of them, but then quickly realized I had plenty of room to try other items.  The lamb was good, but a tad salty.  It was good thing I had the piece of bread that came with it and my wine.
 My next course was grilled haloumi cheese.  The cheese is grilled and placed on grilled pita bread and topped with a slice of tomato and some type of vinaigrette dressing.  This was really tasty and much more impressive than the lamb chops.  
 I also picked up one of my favorite soups, avgolemono, a chicken rice soup with egg and lemon.    The soup is meant to be tart.   I always enjoy it because it’s comforting to me and I was not disappointed.  
 Now it was time to search out the desserts.  I had contemplated getting the loukoumades,  golden fried dough bathed in honey and cinnamon.  Instead, I was brought to the dessert room where they were making fresh Greek coffee. 

 It was a difficult decision but I was sold on the galaktobureko, milk custard with layered phyllo dough and honey.  I enjoyed the crispy texture of the phyllo against the soft custard.  It was very sweet and quite rich, so I packed my leftovers. I didn’t enjoy the coffee.  Even with the addition of more sugar, I never got it to the right balance.  As I got the bottom, I was left with a thick black residue.  I should have just had a regular cup of coffee.
 With some hits and misses, it is still a fun event learning about Greek culture.  It’s a great place to people watch as everyone is getting their Greek on with food, drinks, music, and dancing!  There is a lot to explore that if you can’t get it done in one weekend, there’s always next year.
The Oakland Greek Festival runs through today (11am-9pm).  Entry fee is $6 for adults and free for kids 12 and under. If you bring a can food donation, you can get $1 off.  If you bring a ticket stub from any A’s home game from April 28 through May 17, you can receive free admission.  I’m not sure what will be left, but it’s also free after 5pm today.  

Fist of Flour Doughjo: Ain’t No Martial Arts Studio

Fist of Flour Pizza Company launched in 2010 as a food truck. At the time, it rented a kitchen in Berkeley to conduct all their food prep. In January 2014, they opened what they call a “Doughjo” on the corner of MacArthur and Maybelle Street in the Laurel District of Oakland. Fist of Flour Doughjo is not a martial arts studio, but a pizzeria and the location where they do all the prep work for their two traveling food trucks.
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At Fist of Flour Doughjo, you can order pizza by the slice or order whole pies that are 14″ or 18″. They have a number of specialty pies or you can build your own pizza.
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They also have a lunch special from 12-4pm daily where you can get two slices of pizza and a soda or one slice of pizza, a salad, and a soda for $7.

I ordered a 14″ Classico, one of their specialty pizzas which has pepperoni, cremini mushrooms, chopped garlic, tomato sauce, fresh and aged mozzarella, and basil. I waited about ten minutes for my pizza to be made. The pizza was thin with a crispy crust and the blend of toppings were complimentary in flavor.
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I’m happy to have the “Doughjo” in the neighborhood and to see this pizza business thrive.

Plan to Go: Plan Check Kitchen + Bar

I’m at the Burbank airport waiting for my extremely delayed flight. Instead of being negative, I am reflecting on my favorite meal of the weekend in Los Angeles. Hands down it was dinner on Friday evening at Plan Check Kitchen + Bar. It’s not a fancy restaurant, but a gastropub in the Beverly Grove, a pretty hip area in L.A. It was a last minute decision to go there and was anything but planned.

My friend and I started out with cocktails and shared a few items. Feeling like balancing our meal, I ordered the kale caesar salad which was made up of chopped kale, hearts of palm, parmesan cheese, and croutons in a caesar dressing. The kale was crunchy, but not tough. It was a bit heavy on the parmesan, but after a quick toss was quite tasty.
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I ordered the smokey fried chicken to share which came with yam preserves and spicy pickled okra. The chicken was crisp, tender, and permeated a smokey flavor. The smokey flavor was unusual and I loved it.
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My friend ordered the short rib pot roast which came with a bone marrow turnover. I tasted the short rib and it was good, but not special.
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I was excited about the turnover, so my friend gave me half. It is an interesting concept to put bone marrow in a turnover. I thought the pastry was dry and the marrow lacked flavor so I was disappointed in this dish.
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I was a bit intimidated with the description of the chefs favorite burger which has cheese two ways, bacon two ways, a fried egg, hot sauce, and ketchup leather. I decided to go with it and I was so glad I did. It was probably one of the best burgers I have had in my life. It was juicy and balanced in both flavor and texture. I liked the idea of the parmesan crisp on the burger. I also really enjoyed the ketchup leather. Imagine a fruit roll up made out of ketchup. I thought it was pretty cool because you don’t need to worry about ketchup dripping on you. I gave my friend half so he could enjoy it too.
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Plan Check Kitchen + Bar is fun and innovative. With three locations in the Los Angeles area, I highly recommend it for locals and visitors.

Head to Alameda for Authentic Italian 

My BFF and I took my sister out last night to celebrate her birthday.  The birthday girl wanted Italian food and suggested Trabocco Kitchen and Cocktails located at Alameda South Shore Center.  It was my first time here and honestly my expectations were pretty low.

The service was really good.  We were immediately given warm bread to dip in olive oil and balsamic vinegar and were asked what we wanted to drink.  We each ordered cocktails.  I really enjoyed my “Milano Mule” which is their twist on a Moscow Mule.  It had Hangar 1 Mandarin Blossom vodka, saffron, and ginger beer and it was delicious.  
We started with a Caesar salad that wasn’t actually on the menu but it caught our eye when another table ordered it.  It was simple, but tasty.  We really liked the boiled egg that was included.   

 We had two antipasti.  One was the carpaccio which is raw, grass fed beef tenderloin with lemon, olive oil, shaved parmesan, and arugula.  Another very simple and delicious dish.  The meat was so tender that it melted in my mouth.  

 The other antipasti appeared much more complicated.  We had the polipo e patate which is grilled octopus with two kinds of potatoes, celery, lemon, and olive oil.  This was probably my favorite dish of the evening.  I loved the meaty char on the octopus.  
 My BFF picked the special rotisserie of the day which was duck.  It came with polenta and spinach.  The skin wasn’t crispy like Peking duck, rather fattier like a roast duck.  It had a deep rich flavor that was enjoyable.
 My sister ordered the agnolotti di zucca which is house-made pasta filled with butternut squash, walnuts, brown butter sage sauce, and parmesan.  I was pretty excited about it because you can see through a window where fresh pasta is being made.  I loved the texture of the pasta on the agnolotti, but the filling and sauce was a bit heavy and boring.  This was probably my least favorite dish, but I would still consider trying other pasta dishes here in the future.

 I ordered the pollo alla contadina, the wood-fire chicken with an herb and chili flake marinade.  It came with potatoes and root vegetables.  I asked to substitute the root vegetables with the green beans, but they accidentally substituted spinach.  I was ok with that.  The chicken had crispy skin and tender juicy meat that made me happy.   

 I would be remiss not to mention the wine we had that complimented our dinner.  My BFF did a great job selecting the montepulciano and it was a perfect pairing for our meal.  

 For dessert, they brought out a free tiramisu for the birthday girl.  It was exceptional and I can’t remember ever having a better one.  

 We also had the zabaglione, an Italian custard cream with fresh fruit.  I personally thought it was a bit on the thin side and didn’t enjoy it as much as the others at the table.  I would’ve liked more tiramisu.  

 In summary, we had a great experience at Trabocco.   I think we had a pretty good sampling of foods, but I did watch pizzas coming out to tables that looked amazing.  I’ll definitely be back for more as this was just an introduction to delicious authentic Italian food in Alameda.

DIY: Homemade Potstickers

I have been attending these fabulous themed cooking parties and last night we had a Shanghai dinner.  I wanted to make potstickers from scratch which I have never done before.  Potstickers are a form of Chinese dumplings.  I have made wontons, a different kind of dumpling, so I figured it shouldn’t be too difficult.  I found an old recipe that I had photocopied many years ago from a Chinese cookbook.  

Ingredients to make about 50 potstickers:

  • Potsticker wrappers (My packages came in 25 so I used 2 packs)
  • 1 lb ground pork
  • 2 cups of chopped Napa cabbage
  • 1/4 cup of chopped yellow onion
  • 1 green onion
  • 2 tbsp finely chopped ginger
  • 2 tsp soy sauce
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp sesame oil
  • 1 tsp Chinese rice wine
  • 1/2 tsp sugar
  • 2 tbsp corn starch
  • Vegetable or other high heat oil for frying
  • Chicken stock

Place pork in a large bowl.  Add salt, soy sauce, sugar, rice wine, corn starch, and ginger and mix thoroughly.  Now blend in the cabbage and the two types of onions evenly.  Your filling is complete.   

 

Place about 1 1/2 tbsp of filling in the center of each wrapper.  Wet around the entire edge of the wrapper.  Fold dumpling over in half and make pleats from left to right while sealing.  Once sealed, stand the dumpling up to shape the bottom flat so it becomes three sided.   

   

Repeat until you run out of wrappers or filling.  If you don’t want to cook them all, these freeze very well. Place them on parchment paper and don’t let them touch each other for the initial freeze.  

To cook the first batch of dumplings, heat a non stick skillet over medium high heat.  Pour about 3 tablespoons of vegetable oil into the skillet.  Once the oil heats, brown each side of the potstickers.  

  

Pour about 1/2 cup of chicken stock into the skillet.  Cover the pan and turn the heat to low so the dumplings can cook thoroughly.  In about 8-10 minutes the liquid should have evaporated.  The dumplings will begin to caramelize on the bottom and stick to the bottom of the pan which is why they are called potstickers.  Remove the cover and the potstickers should get crispy again and come off easily.   

These dumplings taste great dipped in a black vinegar/ginger or a hot chili oil. 

The potstickers were enjoyed by all.  Here are some of the other fantastic creations from last night. Thanks to the hosts and all the “chefs” for another successful dinner!

 

Parlour: More than Pizza

The opening of Parlour has been a long anticipated wait for me.  It’s located in Uptown Oakland a block and a half from where I work.  Imagine the suspense of knowing a new restaurant is going to open up in your neighborhood and they are remodeling the space.  The entire front entry is made of glass and wood from top to bottom.  For well over a year, those windows were covered with paper and I was intrigued about what was going on in there.  

Parlour finally opened on March 25.  I tried to walk in two days after the opening and couldn’t get in earlier than 9:45pm.  The restaurant pretty much encourages reservations.  Now that I know you can make reservations on Open Table, it works for me.  I made an early and same day reservation last week for me and two friends.   

We started with cocktails, after all it was really 6pm our time!  I had a drink called a Foxtail which is made up of rye, lemon, pomegranate molasses, and mint.  It was delicious.

 

Our first starter was purple asparagus with pancetta, farm egg, sherry gastrique, and parmesan.  My friends were wondering why the asparagus was green.  I thought maybe if you cooked the purple asparagus, it would turn green. We asked the waitress and she told us that they actually ran out of purple asparagus.  We still enjoyed these tremendously.  Each ingredient was cooked beautifully and complimented each other.  

 

We also ordered the meatball appetizer which is made of pork, veal, and beef.  The tender flavorful protein was outstanding.  They came with some crostini which I was happily dipping into the sauce.

 

What came out next was a plate that was compliments of the chef.  It was the vitelli tonnato which is pastrami tongue, crispy capers, celery hearts, and tuna aioli.  It was definitely not something I would order.  It was actually pretty tasty, but something I didn’t have to have.  We think the chef brought it to us because of the asparagus incident.  The purple asparagus appetizer did have a $15 price tag on it which I thought was pretty outrageous.  

 Funny thing about purple asparagus is that I saw it at the Farmer’s Market yesterday and it is pretty pricey. I did some further research and learned that purple asparagus tends to lose its color after cooking and can turn green.

 Parlour has a wood fired oven so we ordered a couple of pizzas.  The first one was a pepperoni and castelvetrano olives.  These are my favorite olives and I think it’s genius to out them on this particular pizza.  The pepperoni was cooked crispy just like I like them.  Yum and it looked like Christmas.  

The other pizza was the basic margherita pizza.  It was good but it was slightly unbalanced as far as the mozarella is concerned.  The crust on the pizzas were more on the crispy side.  

 I was with some big eaters so we also ordered the duck egg chitarra.  Chitarra is a pasta similar to a spaghetti.  This pasta came with cured kumquat, slow cooked duck ragout, and pecorino.  I was getting quite full so just had a small amount.   The flavors and textures were excellent.  

 

There is always room for dessert.  I picked the olive oil cake with blackberry preserves and vanilla chantilly cream.  The cake had a springy texture different from other olive oil cakes I’ve eaten.  I thought the blend of slightly tart preserves and creamy sweetness added to the cake was delicious.  

 

The other dessert we had was the smoked pear crostata with a brown butter caramel and a bay leaf semifreddo.  The operative word is smoked.  I couldn’t get passed the smokey flavor.  It was eaten up so I figure someone enjoyed it.  It was definitely interesting and probably innovative.

 Overall, Parlour is great!  I guess I can say it was worth the long wait it took to open.  Right now they serve dinner only, but I heard they will be opening for lunch in a few weeks.  Being so close to work, I’ll be back.