Drip Line: West Oakland

Last week I attended a dinner with fifteen other Bay Area social media bloggers and influencers at a new coffee shop and restaurant called Drip Line. Drip Line is located in a part of town that I honestly don’t frequent without a purpose, West Oakland. Chef Nora Dunning has created a menu that reflects a fusion of her Singapore roots and her Northern California home. We all got to sample five dishes.
Kaya toast is a popular Singapore breakfast, and at Drip Line, this dish is elevated a few ways. Using house made brioche, it comes with a side of pandan infused coconut butter and a coddled egg with chives and soy sauce. With the recent popularity of adding an egg to any dish and making it sexy, I think coddled eggs may be trending next. And the best part of the Kaya toast is that amazing butter.
Gado Gado is an Indonesian dish that mixes together multiple ingredients with a sauce. We had ours with a variety of fresh, local, seasonal vegetables, red quinoa, root chips, a poached egg, peanut sambal, and lime. I especially enjoyed the textures that the small amount of red quinoa and the homemade root chips provided. 

Shrimp and grits at Drip Line is influenced by Chef Nora and her husband who is originally from the South. The creamy coconut grits are complemented with sambal shrimp, a fried egg, and micro herbs. This was one of my favorite dishes, but too rich not to share.  

It appears that most Asian cultures have some form of chicken and rice plate. This one infuses California to it with a tumeric brown rice and an Asian pear herb and fennel salad. The boneless chicken thighs also cooked with a honey glaze that adds an overall sweetness. The bone broth can be poured on the plate or drank separately.  
Laksa was a treat as this was the first time it was being served at Drip Line. This version of laksa included rice noodles, tofu puffs, tempeh, asparagus, pea sprouts, mint, cilantro, sambal, lime, and curried broth. The depth of flavor runs deep in this bowl of laksa.
Drip Line resides within walking distance to the neighboring Fusebox and Brown Sugar Kitchen which gives new purpose to frequent West Oakland.  They’re open M-F from 7am-5pm.  

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Genji: Grilling up Lunch

I have never been to Japan, but I would imagine that there would be a lot of eateries like Genji Japanese Restaurant that service busy office workers. Apparently, the restaurant recently moved from Downtown Oakland to Uptown Oakland, making it really easy for me to get to Monday through Friday. There are some food items already prepared that you can grab and go, but they also have a menu of items that are made to order.  You can choose to eat at one of their tables or take away.

 On my first visit, I picked up a side of seaweed salad and a side of cucumber wedges from the refrigerator. I brought it up to the friendly cashier and placed an order for an una-q which were five pieces of unagi (eel) sushi roll. It was a light and enjoyable lunch. I would skip the cucumber wedges in the future as it was bland even with the sauce.  

My coworkers got the unagi teriyaki from the grill which equates to two pieces of eel over rice.  All their teriyaki grill plates come with a side of edamame and a slaw. The charbroiled eel was delicate and flavorful and the rice was cooked to perfection.  
On another visit, I ordered the chicken teriyaki. I have been in search of a good chicken teriyaki for a long time and have found it here at Genji. They grill up Mary’s free range chicken and coats it with a delicious teriyaki sauce.  

One of my colleagues splurged and got the Angus rib eye teriyaki. She ordered it medium well. It was cooked through which I normally do not like. I like my beef cooked medium rare. I had a piece of her steak and was shocked how good it was. The flavor of the teriyaki sauce just disguised how cooked it was. She absolutely loved her plate.

My other colleague was looking for a lighter plate so she got shrimp teriyaki. The shrimps were fresh and plump. It is great that Genji has the variety of grill options so you can order what you are in the mood for. Now that I have done my taste test, I would likely alternate between the unagi teriyaki and the chicken teriyaki in the future.

Weekday Breakfast at 900 Grayson, Berkeley

This month has been full of birthday meals for me. 900 Grayson is the address and name of a popular spot for weekend brunch in Berkeley. It has been a few years since the last time I attempted to eat there. I recall that the wait time was very long for Saturday brunch so my party dined elsewhere. My birthday landed on a weekday so it was a good time to finally try 900 Grayson for a birthday breakfast as my friend and I didn’t have to wait for a table.
I like how 900 Grayson names all their plates. I have heard so much about the fried chicken and waffles that I had already planned on ordering this. The description of the Demon Lover is spicy buttermilk fried all natural chicken paillard, buttermilk waffle & old-fashioned cream gravy or Vermont maple syrup. I actually ordered both the gravy and the syrup as I didn’t want to miss out on one or the other. Two huge pieces of fried boneless chicken breast fillet arrived on top of a buttermilk waffle. The chicken had a crispy outer batter and was moist on the inside. I cut bite sized pieces of the chicken and waffle and dipped them into gravy, syrup, and hot sauce. This gave me a well rounded flavor burst of savory, sweet, and spice.  

 My friend who lives in Berkeley frequents 900 Grayson regularly and ordered her personal favorite, the Tom Boy. The Tom Boy is poached eggs, potato, Fuji apple & parsnip corned beef hash, and Acme bread. I am a big fan of corned beef hash as well so I was a bit jealous as her plate arrived. I had a sample of her dish. The chunks of beef were hearty and delicious and I enjoyed the unique addition of using apple and parsnips. I can see why this is her favorite. 
 

900 Grayson is run by two brothers, Chris and Anthony. This family owned neighborhood restaurant maintains it’s popularity by continually putting out great food and providing great service. Breakfast at 900 Grayson was a perfect beginning to a happy birthday.

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.

Hurray for Afghan Food in Oakland

My book club recently read Khaled Hosseini’s book “And The Mountains Echoed” which partially takes place in Afghanistan. I was pleasantly surprised to find that we didn’t have to travel to get Afghani food for our meeting place. Kamdesh Afghan Kabob House located at 14th Street and Harrison near Oakland Chinatown opened about two years ago. Although I walked by it a lot because it is near my workplace, I didn’t think much of it because it replaced a very mediocre Korean restaurant.

I became really excited about eating at Kamdesh after reading the yelp reviews. Our party shared some mantoo, which are Afghan dumplings filled with ground beef, onions and seasonings, topped with yoghurt sauce and sautéed vegetables. They were fantastic.
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It was fun to watch one of the cooks wrap them with lots of love. It reminded me a lot of how Chinese wontons are made.
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Each of us ordered our own lunch plates. One of my friends and I agreed to split two plates. She ordered the eggplant borani which is eggplant with garlic and onions topped with a zesty yoghurt sauce, which came with basmati rice. The eggplant was completely tender and bursting with flavor.
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I could not go to a “Kabob House” and not have some kabobs, so I ordered the chicken thigh kabobs. They were charbroiled to perfection and came with a grilled tomato and basmati rice. The kabobs were juicy and delicious. I was quite happy.
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To tell the truth, I rarely ever think of eating Afghan food, but I think Kamdesh will soon be added to my repertoire.