New Pub on the Block: Aisle 5

Aisle 5 is a newly opened pub located in Oakland’s Grand/Lakeshore District. They serve twenty craft beers on tap and have a food menu focused on cooking from a wood fired oven and grill. Aisle 5 is Tina Wadhwa’s first business venture and she is likely the first East Indian woman to open up a pub in the area.  
I stopped by a couple weeks after they opened and had some trouble navigating through the business. The way things work is that you order at the counter, get a number, claim a seat, and your food comes to you. This might work well in a food court, but for me it didn’t at Aisle 5. My friend and I ordered drinks first. I got a refreshing local cider from Healdsburg and my friend had a glass of wine. We sat down and took a menu with us. When we decided on what to eat, I had to get back in line at the counter to order and it was five or six people deep. I can say it was partly my fault since I didn’t know what I wanted to eat from the start and wasn’t prepared for the “food court system.”

Nonetheless, our food came and I was happy. Chef Mark Scott is behind the pub menu. The first item that arrived by number was the chimichurri shrimp and it was wonderful. It was grilled to perfection and included a tomato and cucumber salad that was a nice companion piece. It was my favorite dish of the evening.

We also shared the smoking duo which is both chicken wings and baby back ribs. You get to select the sauces for both meats. I went with buffalo wings and habanero baby back ribs. The chicken wings fell flat for me because it was not crispy leaving a very soft rubbery skin. The ribs however was a redemption as they were cooked well and packed a lot of flavor. I really enjoyed the apple jicama slaw. If that is a definition of slaw, this would be my favorite preparation. At one point, Chef Mark stopped by to say hello, so I took the opportunity to inquire about the slaw. He revealed that he added a little honey to sweeten this side dish. 

With Boot and Shoe Service next door and The Star on Grand across the street, I was a bit wary about ordering pizza from Aisle 5. But they had the wood fired oven and an extensive pizza menu, So I wanted to give it a try. I got the smoked sausage and mushroom pizza. Sure the toppings were good, but I was pleasantly surprised by the flavor of the pizza crust. I even ate some of my friend’s leftover pizza crust (she is watching her carbs). I wouldn’t say that the pizza is better than Boot & Shoe Service, but it is an excellent alternative in the neighborhood.

I’m really hoping that Aisle 5 considers the feedback and hire some excellent wait staff to pull everything together. They’ve got a lot going for it- great food and drinks, perfect location, and a nice space.  
*Disclosure- this meal was comped, but writer has made every effort to remain objective.


Celebrating a Year in Oakland: La Parisienne

La Parisienne is a cute, bright French bakery located on Grand Avenue in Oakland. It celebrated a one-year anniversary this weekend. 

When you walk into La Parisienne, you are confronted with a display of artful desserts. When you follow the window display down the side, you will find many other French baked goods. Part patisserie and part boulangerie, the founders and chef comes directly from Paris, France.
The first visit I made to La Parisienne was shortly after they opened. I had coffee and was introduced to chouquettes. Chouquettes are made from light pastry dough and topped with pearl sugar. The sugar doesn’t melt and stays in form. When you bite into a chouquette, you start out with a little crunch and then the texture becomes slightly soft, airy, and eggy where it is hollow inside. These are bite sized deliciousness.

I have tried three types of croissants at La Parisienne – regular, chocolate, and almond. I found the almond croissant to be quite special. I usually get them warm because they make small batches and sell out fairly quickly.  
Today I picked up one of the beautiful individual desserts to bring to visit my sister. She enjoys fruit, so I selected the berry tart. I had a bite and thought the custard filling was deliciously creamy and light.  
I am happy that La Parisienne is celebrating a successful year. With prices a bit higher, I wasn’t sure it could stay afloat. It’s not a place I would frequent all the time, but I like to support the small businesses in Oakland. There are plenty more variety of desserts to try.

Penrose: A Triple Threat

First he brought us Pizzaiola, next he brought us Boot and Shoe Service, and then Charlie Hallowell brought Penrose to Oakland. The latter restaurant and the non pizza restaurant is where I celebrated my birthday on Tuesday, November 4, also Election Day. I spent the day in Sonoma and got home in time to vote and then have dinner with my BFF. We walked a short distance from her place to Penrose located on Grand Avenue. I had been looking forward to trying this restaurant and as I walked in, I became more excited. The combination of brick walls and wood furniture in the open space provided a warm inviting environment. For a Tuesday night, Penrose was bustling.

With a pretty extensive drink menu, I opted for a Pimm’s Cup to celebrate the occasion. Happy Birthday to me!
Hog Island sweetwater oysters on the half shell were on the menu. The Miyagi oysters came with a rose mignonette sauce and were really nice.
We shared a salad mix of arugula, frisée, beets, toasted almonds, and ricotta salata. It was fresh and light, simply what a salad should be.
Grilled Monterey bay squid served with avocado, peppers, chili, lime, and cilantro came next. This dish had a Mexican flare. I enjoyed the flavor very much and the avocado was super smooth and delicious.
I wanted to try their flatbread so ordered the version with extra virgin olive oil and sea salt. It was actually really good. I liked the grill marks, the crisp and chewiness, and the simple flavors.
They were out of the grilled whole trout, but replaced it with a whole grilled black cod. It came with a yellow pepper yogurt sauce and green beans. It was quite tasty. I really enjoy the concept of eating whole fish.
Our waitress helped debone it and did a wonderful job.
After careful consideration, we ordered two desserts. My best friend wanted the sugar pie pumpkin flan with smoky pimenton candied pepitas. This seasonal flan was smooth and delicious. I only had a bite because I was so full.
I love ginger and ordered the ginger molasses cake with roasted apples & crème fraîche. It was dynamic! The cake was deliciously moist, the apples were a nice compliment, and the creme added that sweetness that goes so well. IMG_1383.JPG
It was an awesome birthday meal! Thanks, Jwo!