Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Dinner @ Commis in Oakland, CA

I recently had the opportunity to have dinner @ Commis in Oakland, CA.  It currently has a 1 Michelin star rating.  They only offer a single tasting menu.  The waiter did say alternate courses were available for those with allergies or are vegetarian.   Here was the dinner.

1) caramelized onion financier w/ bee pollen, buckwheat oyster cracker with lovage and herbs

First the amuse course, which was two small hors 'doeuvre tastings.  The oyster cracker was particularly tasty.  I didn't know what lovage was, but it was a herb of some sort.

Then we got two sashimi like courses.

2) black bream with radish and salsify, potato water with kaffir lime

This was really good.  I had never heard of "potato water", which I later learned is basically potato broth.  Combined with the fish it was a really interesting and good flavor.

3) brined scallop with kohlrabi and frozen sorrel

The scallops were delicious and a little sweet.  I didn't like it with the frozen sorrel though.  I've never had a dish with something "ice" like in the dish, and I felt that it was just too cold for my taste buds.  The "ice" like texture didn't match texture wise with the scallops either.

4) autumn carrots & parsnips, dried apricots steeped with marigold petals

When we got this dish, there was a part of me that thought, "Huh? Carrots?".  Not exactly the fanciest ingredient for a 1 Michelin star tatsing menu.  But it ended up being delicious.

5) smoked trout roe with herbal yogurt, malt vinegar with warm jerusalem artichoke

I think this was the best dish of the night.  The contrasting textures of roe, (what I assume to be) potato chips (not listed in the description), and the yogurt/artichoke/malt vinegar broth/soup was really tasty.

6) red snapper, fennel and cabbage, pear juice with lemon verbena, duck fat

This dish would have been delicious, but the snapper was cooked in a way I've never seen before.  Basically half of it was cooked and the other half was raw.  For me, it didn't quite work out.  I think it'd be better if it was one or the other.  The broth and cabbage were really good though.

7) tisane of button mushrooms

If you've read my blog before, you know I hate mushrooms.  However, this was pretty tasty.  I primarily hate the texture of mushrooms, having only the flavor in this tea/broth was good.

8) grilled guinea hen w/ marjoram, toasted millet and lamb's quarters greens

I had never had guinea hen before, so this was new.  Nothing to say other than it was good.

9) sweet onion pie w/ goat and sheep's milke cheese

My assumption was this was another palate cleanser, quite tasty.

10) asian pear sorbet w/ almonds and honey cream

I'm a big fan of sorbet and asian pear sorbet was something I'd never had before.  Delicious.

11) namelaka of roasted pumpkin with white chocolate, walnut, and sweet milk

An interesting dessert, using pumpkin for the flavoring.  It was good, although somewhat of a let down after the sorbet before it.  I thought it was interesting the ice cream was just "sweet milk" flavored, not a stronger flavor.  I guess a stronger flavor would have knocked out the pumpkin.  I had to look up what "namelaka" was, but it's a technique used to create a creamy dessert.

12) mignardise

And these were the mignardise that followed.

Overall, a wonderful meal.  There were a lot of new and interesting things here.  A few were hits and some were misses, but I can accept that as part of the tasting.  I remember at Saison in San Francisco, one course was amberjack sashimi.  I disliked that course at Saison.  While I'm not a huge fan of sashimi, what I was disappointed about with that course was that it was only sashmi.  I really liked the sea bream course at the beginning with potato water, that extra bit added something different and interesting to the meal.

The portions were a tad tiny.  If the bread had not been brought out, I'm pretty sure I would have left the restaurant not-full.  I left the restaurant satisfied.  I don't need a ton of food to feel full, so please take this with a grain of salt depending on the amount of food you're looking for in a meal like this.

I've asked this question on Quora before but I always wonder how restaurants count courses.  On Commis's website, they say they serve an 8 course menu.  When we arrived at the restaurant the waiter said that it was a 7 course tasting menu for the evening.

However, as you count up the plates above, it's clearly 12 tastings of food.  I assume the financier/oyster cracker, tisane, onion pie, and mignardise are not counted in the courses.  However, that left me confused as to what other dish was not considered a course.  Perhaps the sorbet was supposed to be a palate cleanser too?  Or perhaps our waiter just misspoke.

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