After reading many good things about Bay Wolf, we went there on a Saturday night in October 1999. All in all, we had a great experience - specially in comparison to our recent visit to Bistro Viola in Berkeley. The two restaurants strike us as being very similar, the food served is of the same type (and indeed our dishes at Bay Wolf reminded us of those at Viola), it was similarly priced, the clientele seems to also be of the same type (again, we felt a little bit young) as is the ambience. Bay Wolf is located in a Victorian house in Piedmont, and has two small and minimally decorated indoor dining rooms, and an outdoor patio with heaters. We sat in one of the indoor dining rooms, though I think next time we'll aim for the patio (and we'll definitely go again). It was very pleasant, though not as romantic as I had expected reading some reviews of the place. A candle on the table would have been nice. Also, the tables are very close together - a reminder that you shouldn't talk too loud.
We had a 7:45 reservation. We arrived a few minutes late (after parking about three and a half blocks away, parking is a problem in this area), and were immediately seated. Iced water and rolls and butter also came immediately as did our menus. We had already decided what we wanted to eat, after looking at their menu in their website - so we were ready to order very quickly. The waitress took our order pretty much as soon as we were ready.
Our appetizer, a duck liver flan with grilled bread ($7.50) which came highly recommended from reviews we'd read, arrived in due course with our sodas. This dish reminded us quite a bit of the foie gras terrine we'd hadat Viola. The taste was very similar, and rather good - though as these are our first forays into this type of food, we are not really able to evaluate it well. It was extremely smooth and light, though rich at the same time. It came in a rather large square, and it was perhaps too much for just the both of us - this seems like a good dish to share among 3 or 4 people.
The grilled bread that came with it was also delicious, though a tad greasy - I imagine it had butter or something else already spread on it. It went rather well with the flan, though I think it overwhelmed it a little bit. The four slices were not enough for all the flan, but it also went very well with the rolls they'd previously served.
For dinner we had ordered the Grilled rib eye steak with fried Yukon gold potatoes, baby carrots and red wine sauce ($21) and the duck with couscous, almonds, olives and orange ($19) from the seven entrees available. I really like duck, though I'm usually disappointed when I order it in restaurants, it tends to be very fatty and not very flavorful. Duck, however, is Bay Wolf's specialty, so I was eager to give it a try. It was wonderful. My dish consisted of three or four slices of medium-rare breat, and a thigh-drumstick. It was dressed with a wonderful orange sauce, and came with the cuscus and some vegetable I didn't recognize (but as I hate vegetables, this is not unusual). The duck was very lean and extremely flavorful. It melted in my mouth without feeling greasy - and I enjoyed every last bite. The only complaint I might have was that there wasn't enough sauce. The cuscus was also very good, I liked the crunchy consistency that the almonds supplied - but I think it could have used more of the sauce as well. All in all, it was an incredible dish that I'm still thinking about.
Mike's steak was also very good - it came medium-rare (to the rare side). They hadn't asked how he'd like it, so if you like your steak more cooked you may want to tell them so. It was tender and flavorful, and the thin wine sauce complimented it well. He was very pleased with it, though I liked the duck better. The Yukon potatoes were delicious (though I wished there had been more of them). In all, we were very pleased with the portion sizes - there was enough food but not too much.
I had planned to have red wine with dinner - I don't like white wine much - and ordered a glass of the '97 Syrah ($6). I had never heard of this wine before, but was willing to give it a try. I made a mistake of ordering the wine only when our entrees arrived, which mean that I did not get the glass until after I was done with dinner. Next time, I'll order it with the meal and ask them to bring it with the entrees. As I mentioned, I had never had this type of wine before, and didn't much like it. It smelled very much like a Cab (my favorite type of wine), but didn't taste anything like it (no reason why it should :). It was strong and a tad spicy, but had a bitter edge to it and a somewhat sour aftertaste. It was not at all buttery - and I don't think it would have gone well at all with the duck, or even with the steak. But of course, that's a matter of taste.
Our dinner dishes were promptly cleared away and we got the dessert menu. We had already decided what we were going to order, again from looking at the menu on the web - though the choices were slightly different. The double chocolate tort with three sauces ($6) was there, but the web-advertised rustic apple and blackberry tart with cider sabayon and candied walnuts ($6) had become an apple tart without blackberries. Mike liked his chocolate tort, which tasted and felt very much like a brownie. It was very rich without being very sweet. I was actually very glad that the apple tart was not very sweet, as after the heavy meal I needed something lighter - but Mike thought it wasn't sweet enough. We were both pleased with the deserts, but they weren't really spectacular and I don't think they were worth what they cost. I think next time we'll probably skip them.
We spent about 1:45 hrs. at dinner, we were able to feel relaxed and non-rushed, while service was very competent and quick. We were extremely pleased with that. The whole dinner came to $85, including tip, which is rather pricy for us - but we felt that it was fair for such a good meal.
Bay Wolf changes its menu every 3 weeks or so, and we're looking forward to going again in the future.
Bay Wolf Restaurant
3853 Piedmont Ave.
(at Rio Vista)
Oakland, CA 94611
Some recipes from Bay Wolf