Upcoming Event: Book Launch Party for The 30-Day Vegan Challenge

Putting the words “book launch”, “party”, and “vegan” into one sentence may not be exciting to everyone, but my ears certainly perk up! See below for information on Colleen Patrick-Goudreau’s book launch party coming up on Sunday February 1, 2015 from 2-5pm at Encuentro Cafe and Wine Bar, 550 2nd Street, Oakland. Tickets are $25 per person, and there will be appetizers (vegan, of course), wine, and friendly faces.

30-day vegan challenge poster

Review: CommonWealth (Oakland)

Dude*. Commonwealth.

I keep hearing about this place. It’s at 29th and Telegraph in Oakland, and it’s a pub/cafe-type place that my friends like to go for Sunday brunch.  And it’s awesome. I finally went today and thoroughly enjoyed myself.

From the adorable pair at the bar speaking in their British accents (which I hope were real) to the decidedly British/Aussie (hence the name Commonwealth) fare and beverages (beans and toast, “cuppa” tea), this place was A) uber-cute, and B) good. We three ladies ordered three dishes and shared. And the light was fabulous so my photos look money. See?

french toast

French toast with “Golden” syrup. You know you want it.

… 

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Review: B

Atmosphere: 3/5  ♦  Service: 3/5  ♦  Food Quality: 2/5  ♦  Value: 3/5Times Visited: One  ♦ Will I Return?: Unlikely.

No, my keyboard did not break one letter into writing the title of this post. The proprietors of B Restaurant in Oakland apparently decided their time could be better spent on things other than coming up with an extravagant name for their establishment.

Bar and transom windows at B

B boasts floor to ceiling transom windows which give the space a modern open feeling. You can enjoy the view from the windows while sitting at the contemporary bar that serves a full range of cocktails…. 

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Review: Lake Chalet

Atmosphere: 4/5   ♦   Service: 4/5   ♦   Food Quality: 4/5   ♦   Value:3/5
Times Visited: A Few  ♦   Will I Return?:  Yes!

Happy Birthday to me… this is where I chose to spend my birthday this year with my family. Where’s a nice place that’s close to Hayward (my fam lives in Hayward), not too terribly expensive (I’m not that kind of birthday girl) and has food that all four of my super picky fams will enjoy (sorry guys, you know it’s kinda true)? The Lake Chalet.

For Mom: Lake Chalet is classy and upscale with nice views of the lake and outdoor seating. For Dad: It’s got a “normal” seafood/steak menu with things that are just short of the “art food” he so dreads. For Sister: The bar is nice and serves cutesy drinks, and the delicious-sounding choices on the menu make it difficult for her to choose though she’ll probably be happy with whatever she gets.

And for me: it’s a nice place with good service and good food. There. Birthday done…. 

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Review: Homeroom

Atmosphere: 3/5   ♦   Service: 2/5   ♦   Food Quality: 4/5   ♦   Value:3/5
Times Visited: Once  ♦   Will I Return?:  Yes please
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Wow, sorry, I’ve been gone for a bit. Friends in town and madness at work makes Angie something something…*

So, what’s been happening? Have you found other better blogs to read? Undoubtedly. Anyway, I’m typing today about one my favorite foods: macaroni and cheese. There’s a new mac and cheese restaurant in Oakland called Homeroom and it’s all the rage lately.

I’ve heard people talking about this place nonstop since it opened a few months ago. It was time for a try.

Some friends and I met up at Homeroom after work a couple weeks ago when it was super duper hot outside. The day was beautiful, but Homeroom has no air con. Which would normally be fine, but that day meant that we were a sweating, hungry bunch. And then we ate some hot, dense mac and cheese. It was not the best plan (ex: milk was a bad choice), but we made the best of it and still enjoyed ourselves. And it would have been a great day to enjoy one of their few tables outside (but we didn’t want to wait).

menu

Menu

The space is smaller than I expected, for some reason, but is decorated with cute and artsy items all revolving around a school/learning theme (we were in Homeroom, after all). The menu is a single page of paper with instructions on how to fold it into a paper airplane on one side, in case you feel so inclined. The choices are basic: 8 types of mac and cheese, a few sides of veggies, a handful of desserts, beer (including on tap), wine, and other drinks. I really appreciated the simplicity and easily made my decision to reminisce about Rome with the “The Exchange Student: Cacio e Pepe” and a side of carrots.

mac and cheese

Cacio e Pepe mac and cheese wins!

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Mua

Atmosphere: 4/5   ♦   Service: 3/5   ♦   Food Quality: 4/5   ♦   Value: 3/5
Times Visited:  Two  ♦   Will I Return?:  Sure
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Is it pronounced like what a cow says (mooo-a) or the way you say “me” in French (excusez-moi)?? I don’t know and, frankly, it doesn’t much matter since you pretty much get the gist either way. However you want to say it, Mua is located on Webster Street just next to 25th and Broadway in Oakland. This is one of these in-between neighborhoods that’s slowly growing to add to Oakland’s awesomeness — there are a some vacant building and unidentifiable/run-down businesses mushed in with sweet converted lofts, tiny art studios and chic restaurants and bars. Mua sort of dabbles a bit in all three of these latter fab categories.

Inside Mua

The main seating area of Mua seen from the stairs up to the mezzanine.

Mainly a restaurant space, Mua has a huge, open indoor space with a mezzanine where diners can enjoy the polished concrete floors, super high ceilings and artsy, graffiti-esque wall decorations. It’s a bit loud due to the vast cavern-like nature of the room, but it’s extremely lively and the waiters are all super “hip” with styled hair and posh tattoos.

Let’s talk food. I’ve been here twice and both times I’ve only partaken in the “small plates”. This is because the choices are awesome and I love sharing food. Here are the things I’ve tasted:

  • Caesar salad (standard, but yum)
  • Fried feta cheese-stuffed olives (as good as they sound)
  • Brussel sprouts with brown butter (yum!)
  • “Mac and Cheese” made with butternut squash and no cheese (amazing)
  • Shiitake mushrooms on crostini bread with herb goat cheese (delish)
  • Grilled prawns in butter (good)

    Mua food

    Cheese-less mac and cheese, shiitake mushrooms and fried olives.

Uh, yeah, see where I’m going here? Awesome choices. And I didn’t even get a bite of the tomato bisque and mini grilled cheese or beet salad or crispy tofu in black bean chili sauce yet. Wouldn’t mind swinging back for a nibble on those.

And for the meat eaters there’s stuff like broccolini with fingerling potatoes and bacon, chicken skewers, ahi tuna sashimi, fried chicken, blackened catfish…the list goes on and on. Most of those are main courses, however (although that’s not delineated on their website) not small plates. But still, yum, right? Total yum, as my mom would say.

Oh holy lord, let’s not forget the bread pudding!! I would never order such a thing, but I can’t get my way (read: chocolate cake) every dang time and sometimes I must relinquish. I am glad I did. This bread pudding — admittedly not anything like traditional bread pudding at all — was fabulous. Warm, tender cake with raspberries and sauce sprinkled on top — it was heavenly.

Mua Bread Pudding

Bread pudding topped with raspberries...mmmm....

They also have fun drinks and a full bar with a sweet happy hour that has specials on some of the foods as well as drinks. And supposedly they have a live DJ (sooo much better than a dead one, let me tell you) every night but Monday, though I don’t see how I missed this person both times I was there.

Drinks!

Some fun drinkie-pies at Mua.

It’s not the cheapest place in town, but I think it’s a good deal for the quality and creativity of the food, the lively atmosphere and the great location. If you’re out in Oakland, swing by Mua for a good time and great food!

Mua on Urbanspoon

Coach Sushi

Atmosphere: 3/5   ♦   Service: 2/5   ♦   Food Quality: 3/5   ♦   Value: 3/5
Times Visited:  One   ♦   Will I Return?:  Probably Not
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Coach can be found at 532 Grand Avenue in Oakland along an increasingly nice strip of shops and restaurants around the lake. Between the few strikingly crazed homeless folks and odd smell wafting from special parts of the lake, this area is extremely nice. And it’s nice enough currently to draw joggers, dog walkers and a plethora of normal people to make a visit wholly worthwhile and enjoyable. After a loop around the lake, our double-dating group settled on Coach Sushi for dinner, to which none of us had previously been.

I hate to steal the exact ratings from the sushi post just before this, but Coach happened to strike the same reaction from me as Hayward Japan Grill did. Which was not great. The odd thing was that Coach was packed with people on this Sunday evening at dusk, and I’ve heard from a friend since that he’s a big fan of Coach. Maybe we just hit it on a bad night. Either way, we didn’t have a great experience except for the company.

Coach sushi

The inside of Coach Sushi in Oakland.

This place is small and cozy as so many sushi places are. The menu was a conglomerate mess of choices with an organizational process that would confuse a schizophrenic. That is to say, the visual layout was terrible and the sections were scattered and placed in no discernible order, which made it very hard to wrap my mind around exactly what my choices were for dinner. I finally just gave up, stopped on the page I was on and chose something. I’m not sure if everyone else was annoyed by this as much as I was (I’m particularly sensitive to a terribly packaged menu), but I found it heinous.

Having said that, the choices, if you could sort through them, appeared highly varied and often creative. What scared me a bit, however, was when I ordered my salmon sashimi donburi and basically had to spell it out for the waitress because she said she’s never had anyone order that. Great.

salmon sashimi donburi

My salmon sashimi donburi from Coach Sushi, which was quite good.

The food was decent but not fabulous. At our table there was a sashimi dinner, a carrot-avocado roll and a spicy tuna roll in addition to my donburi. All were reported to be acceptable but nothing special. We did not appreciate that they did not come out even near the same time, which makes eating in a group a bit of a challenge when you’re not sharing food.

The sashimi was not a whole lot for the price as compared to some other restaurants and was of mediocre quality. The carrot-avocado roll was a combination our fully-vegetarian friend had not seen before and was excited about. The tuna roll was decent. My donburi was actually quite good: a generous amount of raw salmon and assorted pickled veggies over rice. I found it quite enjoyable.

sushi

Spicy Tuna Roll and Avocado Carrot Roll came on the same plate even though the people that ordered them were sitting kitty corner to each other. Grumble.

Also, the miso soup was good and the chop sticks were the nice kind which makes any Japanese meal more enjoyable.

The service was the worst part, however. Not only did we not receive water refills but once in about 2 hours, two of four of us found bits of ants in the water. Extra protein, sure, but we were neither grateful nor amused. I’m not a freak-out-when-something-is-out-of-place-with-my-food sort of person*, so I actually just kept drinking. Don’t judge me.

They have a special sake drink that comes in a small bamboo box and which I think is all-you-can-drink for a fixed price. My friend ordered this, but it never came. Fortunately the waitress realized this later, apologized and asked if she still wanted the drink (she said no thanks) and it wasn’t on the bill. Still, not impressing us at all with the attention to detail.

And finally, it took about a half hour for someone to bring us our bill, which was ok since we were chatting together as friends do, but this was the clincher on my feeling of terrible service at this place. Maybe it was a bad night, maybe we had a careless waitress, maybe she misinterpreted our conversation for a desire not to have the bill delivered, who knows. We didn’t have a great experience and (I’ll say it again) there are too many great sushi places to waste time on poor ones.

*I am, however, a complain-about-it-on-the-internet person, as so many of us are nowadays, so take that.

Coach Sushi on Urbanspoon

Spettro

Atmosphere: 3/5   ♦   Service: 3/5   ♦   Food Quality: 4/5   ♦   Value: 3/5
Times Visited:  One   ♦   Will I Return?:  Yes, please
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SpettroSpettro can be found at 3355 Lakeshore Avenue in Oakland and is one of a huge many awesome restaurants which I’m only just finding out about in this area. Seriously, Oakland is pretty awesome. Our friends described this place as Mexican/Italian fusion, but after seeing the menu, it pretty much looked like Italian to me.

A variety of delicious-sounding salads; entrees including chicken marsala, chicken or eggplant parmesan, oven braised lamb and chicken risotto along with pastas and pizzas will start any mouth watering. Seriously, it was super hard to choose between the salads and the pizzas…so Friend #1 and I split one of each. This was a fabulous choice.

Spettro

Inside Spettro, Oakland.

Despite my continual urge to order a Caesar, I deferred to a Marblehead salad of “Tender Butter Lettuce, Tart Green Apples, Candied Walnuts and Crumbled Bleu Cheese In a Bleu Cheese Vinaigrette”. Yeah, it was worth it. Seriously though, there are quite a few salads to choose from that sounded DE-licious. Oh, and you can choose a small, medium or large size for any salad which is so, SO nice of them.

salad

Marblehead Salad from Spettro, Oakland.

Though I really did have my eye on a pasta dish (dude, pesto eggplant lasagna…hard to resist!) we settled happily on a Lofaro pizza: “Thin Crisp Crust Brushed With Garlic Olive Oil Topped With Roasted Shitakes, Spinach Mushrooms, Goat Cheese, Roasted Garlic And Mozzarella”. Cannot go wrong there, as far as I’m concerned. And, indeed, we did not. It was delicious. Everything was delicious.

pizza

Behold the glory of the Lofaro Pizza from Spettro, Oakland

Friend #2 ordered the chicken risotto with which he appeared pleased. Our salad and pizza was gone without a second thought (oh, garlic, you’re soooo good)…and we were on to dessert. I think I got caught up in the moment (and the dessert menu posted on the wall across from us) as I don’t typically order dessert. Since we couldn’t decide between the offerings we chose to all split an ice cream covered brownie and a peach crisp.

risotto

Smoked Chicken Risotto from Spettro, Oakland.

I’m not a fan of fruit crumbles, so I took my mandatory bite of crisp and quickly moved on to the brownie and ice cream wholeheartedly. For $5 each, both desserts were pretty plush, but I must admit that I was sorely disappointed by the brownie. It is, in fact, the very reason I rarely order brownies: it was dry, hard, and seemed old. I have no idea if it was actually old or overcooked or what, but it was not terribly satisfying. As it was the only thing on our table that I didn’t absolutely love, I did pardon good ‘ole Spettro for the single blunder.

brownie

Brownie and ice cream from Spettro, Oakland.

crumble

Peach Crisp from Spettro, Oakland

The service was good but nothing terribly special. I did love the atmosphere: smaller, single open room with brick walls and strings of lights spider-webbed over the room. Upscale dining and great food with medium prices…I like you, Spettro.

Spettro on Urbanspoon

Shashamane

Atmosphere: 3/5   ♦   Service: 3/5   ♦   Food Quality: 3/5   ♦   Value: 3/5
Times Visited:  One   ♦   Will I Return?:  Happily
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Named after a town in Ethiopia, this Oakland restaurant at Broadway and 25th is one of the nicer Ethiopian venues I’ve been to. Shashamane is easy to miss from the front but has a clean, nice interior with hundreds of flags from around the world circling the rim of the large, open dining room and connected bar. I have to admit, these flags provide a lot of entertainment and trivia; I can identify far fewer world flags than I would have imagined.

shashamane restaurant

Bar area with world flags at Shashamane in Oakland.

tables

Seating area at Shashamane in Oakland.

Their menu seemed typical to me, though I really don’t know what most of the dishes are from place to place. And it doesn’t matter, all you need is the Combo (the Beatles were wrong, incidentally, about the Love thing). The Veggie Combo for me, or the Meat Combo if you’re the carnivorous type.

sambusas

Veggie sambusas from Shashamane in Oakland.

Friend #1 ordered some veggie sambusas to start and we shared a veggie combo for our main meal. Sambusas are like samosas at an Indian restaurant—miscellaneous spiced mush inside a crunchy, deep fried, flaky dough shell. You really can’t go wrong. I thought these were ok; for some reason I didn’t love the mix of lentils and spices inside, but they were still pretty good. My friend loved them.

ethiopian food

Veggie Combo at Shashamane in Oakland.

The combo was pretty standard and included all colors of mush, as expected. Nothing was terribly spicy on our plate, and the salad was good. The quantity was also good; we were nice and full at the end.

tibs

Tibs at Shashamane in Oakland.

Friend #2 ordered a tibs dish; spiced meat with some veggies. It’s a bit like Ethiopian stir fry but heavy on the meat. He wanted it extra spicy and was apparently satisfied with the side of flaming hot sauce provided. Despite his initial hesitation at Ethiopian cuisine (this was his first try), he appeared satisfied.

This place isn’t quite as cheap as some other Ethiopian places, but that’s probably because it’s a bit nicer. All the pages were present in my menu, for example, and there’s a price to pay for that. Still, it was priced well for the quantity of food we received and for how impossible it would be for me to make this at home (I find that to be a factor—Ex: when I pay $6 for a grilled cheese I don’t find it to be as great of value as when I pay $6 for Indian food).

I hope to see you again, Shashamane, though I hope no one ever asks me to pronounce your name out loud.

Shashamane on Urbanspoon

Mijori

Atmosphere: 3/5   ♦   Service: 3/5   ♦   Food Quality: 5/5   ♦   Value: 3/5
Times Visited:  One   ♦   Will I Return?:  Yes, please!
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MijoriMijori is a Japanese restaurant and sushi bar just north of 580 on Grand Avenue. There’s actually a whole strip of good stuff right there on Grand that I’ve really never explored but looks fun. And, I don’t entirely fear for my safety right there, so that’s always good.

We hit up Mijori with friends on a Friday night at about 8pm. We found ourselves fighting through a mass of people just to get within arms reach of the tiny whiteboard posted just inside the front door where we could write our names on the wait list. This place has some serious followers, and we waited with them for the better part of an hour to get our chance at a table.

Mijori

Inside Mijori

The facility is small yet nice, and bustling almost to the point of bursting. When we sat down at our table of four, however, the atmosphere was intimate enough that we were able to hold pleasant conversation without yelling and weren’t being disturbed in any way at all, really, by the other patrons. Busy but not riot-busy; I like.

The menu is extensive and includes all the Japanese standard items, including appetizers, udon noodles, dinner combos, sashimi, sushi rolls and specialty rolls, among probably more meat-centric dishes that I happily ignored. At our table there was: a veggie gyoza appetizer, sushi/sashimi dinner combo, vegetarian roll, asparagus roll, sashimi deluxe combination and a bowl of tempura udon.

Salad

Salad from Mijori

Rave reviews came in for every morsel of food, which I suppose isn’t surprising based on the sheer number of humans attempting to simultaneously enter this restaurant. Still, sometimes a large volume of people are just crazy (like Scientologists, for example), so it’s always best to check it out for yourself.

Gyoza

Veggie gyoza from Mijori

The gyozas ($5) were delicious. Crisp on the outside, yummy nondescript mush on the inside with tasty vinegar-based dipping sauce. I love dipping sauce, by the way, just fyi. All four of us were also, notably, served miso soup before we even ordered which made me extremely happy. The soup was fabulous.

Sushi/sashimi combo

Sushi/sashimi combo from Mijori

My sushi/sashimi combo dinner ($17) came with rice and salad and was awesome. I think I could drink that sweet salad dressing from a glass: SO good. A six-piece California roll, six generous slices of tuna sashimi, and five pieces of assorted sushi came on my plate and filled me up before I even touched the rice. Delish.

sushi rolls

Veggie sushi roll and asparagus roll from Mijori

tempura udon

Tempura udon from Mijori

The veggie rolls ($4 and $5) were gone in a flash; the sashimi deluxe platter for two ($27) was easily consumed by a single very happy man, and the tempura udon ($10)—besides a bout battling the extremely high temperature of the broth—was deliciously satisfying. Mijori was a success; I see why it’s so popular.

sashimi

Sashimi Deluxe platter from Mijori

My only complaint was that the service wasn’t completely top-notch. We received everything we needed but didn’t get refills on our waters throughout the meal. I love water refills, it makes me think they’re on top of everything. And it would have especially helped when boyfriend was being burned to death from the inside out by his molten noodle dish. But, the place was packed so I forgive. I’ll still certainly come back.

Mijori Sushi on Urbanspoon