I’ve eaten tacos for years, decades really. Not too many tacos, though, because I never quite got the point of them. Often, I wasn’t fond of the toppings, or the taco sauce and the tortilla-to-meat ratio never seemed to make sense to me. Plus I’m not a huge fan of corn tortillas in the first place. So, for me, it’s been all about burritos. Until a few nights ago, that is, when my daughter had a taco hankering herself and decided to drive to Tacos Los Amigos in East Oakland to get some. I asked her to bring a single beef taco and boy!, it was love at first bite. I finally get tacos.
I can’t tell you what it actually is, but the combination of beef, diced onion, cilantro and whatever else was on those tiny tortillas just did it for me. I don’think it was the sauce because when I got them again, they had a white sauce (it was a more orange one that first night). But both sauces worked. The tacos just tasted fresh and authentic (though I think I don’t know that I’ve ever eaten tacos in Mexico, my travel adventures there are limited to the Yucatan, the land of salbutes and panuchos, which are delicious, but not really tacos). I actually appreciated, for once, the flavor of the corn tortilla. They were tiny, mind you, but they were gooood.
I was just as happy with the two al pastor tacos I got during my second visit (or rather, the second time I sent my daughter to get them). The slightly sweet pork was tasty and went very well with the other standard toppings. I might have even liked them more than the carne asada ones.
There are several problems with Los Amigos, however. One is that as it’s located in East Oakland, I don’t feel very safe sending my teen daughter to get me some (though she does), plus the truck is not really close to my house. Second, they are not cheap – at around $3.50 for pretty small tacos (think 4 tacos for a normal dinner). Third, Los Amigos seems to have eclectic hours – they weren’t there last Sunday evening when I sent my daughter to get more tacos (but they were Monday night). But the biggest problem is that I’ve been left wanting more tacos now.
Los Amigos Taco Truck
5401 International Blvd
Surprisingly tasty dinner is not the best deal in town
In the last couple of years, I’ve tried a few of Costco’s ready-to-heat meals and I have generally been pleased enough with them. I don’t remember exactly what tempted me to get this particular kit, but it got fairly good reviews online, it wasn’t as carb-heavy as Costco’s pastas and I probably had no other plans for dinner that night. In all, I was fairly happy with it but I found it to be overpriced at the $19 instacart price, so unless I’m actually at Costco and it’s significantly cheaper, I don’t think I’d get it again.
The kit consists of moderately spiced cooked chicken, shredded cabbage, shredded Mexican cheese, a quartered lime, pots of salsa and cilantro lime crema and 12 small flour tortillas. The chicken had a pretty good flavor and it was fairly moist. To warm it up I simply heated up some oil on a skillet and cooked it, stirring often, for a few minutes. It didn’t dry out but it did acquire a nice charred flavor on some parts. The salsa was pretty standard and also a tad spicy – I would have preferred pico de gallo myself, but then again, I often do. The cilantro lime crema was OK, but I also would have preferred plain old sour cream and chopped fresh cilantro. Now, I understand the difficulty of including cilantro in a kit like this, but the crema was really not a good substitute. Finally, I did miss the kit not including guacamole.
Altogether, the ingredients put together on a tortilla made very tasty tacos. Perhaps not as good as those from my corner’s Mexican restaurant, but still tastier than I had expected.
The main problem with the kit is that it’s just not very large. I’d say it feed 2 hungry people or 3 if you use up all the cabbage and tortillas. Now, that’s not bad for $19, but not great either, in particular when compared to the just-cooked and ready-to-eat fiesta packs from El Torito – which cost twice as much but give you more than twice the food, plus which you don’t need to heat up.
Since 85°C Bakery Cafe opened in San Leandro Plaza, I’ve been a devotee. This Taiwanese bakery chain has over a thousand locations worldwide, with 75 of them in California, Oregon, Washington, Nevada and Texas. I’m sure they’ll continue expanding. They offer Chinese inspired pastries with global flavors. The pastries tend to be light and airy with cream fillings, and they usually range from good to delicious. This will be an ongoing review, where I add new pastries as I try them, for my own future reference of what I liked a lot and what I liked less. As we shouldn’t be eating too many carbs, we only get pastries from 85°C Bakery for special occasions – but that makes it even more important that we choose the right ones.
85°C also serves drinks, from flavored coffee and tea drinks to smoothies, slushies and boba (if you always wanted to try a boba latter, this is the place to have one), but I have yet to have one there. Next time. They do have tables to eat inside (but no outdoor sitting), but due to the pandemic we’re avoiding all indoor dining.
Our last visit to 85°C Bakery was on the fourth day of my Birthday Week Extravaganza (TM). I had told my daughter how I preferred the pastries from 85°C Bakery to those we’d had the day from As Kneaded Bakery, and she wanted to try them. I sent Mike to get them – but I had mistakenly texted the list of what we wanted to a friend – so Mike got to chose what he brought home.
85°C Bakery has a huge variety of pastries, cakes and other desserts. Many are serve yourself, but more delicate ones – or ones needing refrigeration – are behind the counter. Pastries are individually wrapped, which is not environmentally friendly but it’s safer from a food handling perspective. While they concentrate on sweet pastries, they also offer some savory ones.
Aussie Meat Pie (vegetarian)
This is a light bun with impossible ground “beef” sautéed with peppers.
Ham & Cheese
This is a light bun filled with ham and American cheese. It’s quite tasty, and I liked it as much as the ham & cheese croissants I get at Main Street Bagel.
White Chocolate Strawberry
This bun is filled with a very light white chocolate and strawberry custard. It’s a tad too sweet for my taste, and maybe not one of my favorites, but it’s quite good.
Mango Custard Bun
This bun is filled with a creamy mango custard. It’s quite tasty and light.
85°C Bakery Cafe
San Leandro Plaza
1299 Washington Ave. C-1
San Leandro, California
M-Th 7 AM - 7 PM, F-Sa 7 AM - 7:30 PM, Su 8 AM - 7 PM
I started my Birthday Weekend Extravaganza (TM) last Thursday by getting Taco Bell for dinner. Yes, Taco Bell. No, I’m not kidding and yes, I think it’s worth blogging about it. Defensive much? (I ask myself, of course).
Despite living in California for over 40 years now, I don’t think I’ve had Taco Bell before. It’s not like I’m against fast food, I’ve tried all the burger chains (or almost), but Taco Bell just never appealed to me. I’m not a fan of crunch, and their crunchy tacos always seemed unwieldy. Plus, really, their meat looked nasty (and then there was the whole scandal about whether it was even meat) and their tacos seemed to be mostly lettuce anyway. So I’ve never been tempted to try them.
Until Thursday night. My daughter was home from college, none of us could figure out what we wanted for dinner, and then she suddenly mentioned she wanted to try Taco Bell’s Black Bean Crunchwrap. I had no idea of what that was, but ordering Taco Bell solved the problem of what to get for dinner, so I jumped at the idea – much to my husband’s surprise (“Taco Bell? Really?”).
For my first incursion into Taco Bell cuisine, I ordered a Steak White Hot Ranch Fries Burrito with extra guacamole ($4.4) and a Steak Quesadilla also with extra guacamole ($6.2). Neither were as bad as I feared. For one, by ordering “steak” items, I was able to avoid the dreaded “seasoned beef”, and while the steak was just low quality meat, it wasn’t actually offensive. Indeed, the steak quesadilla tasted like something I would make at home (which, btw, is why I don’t make quesadillas at home, and instead get them from Taquería Los Pericos). It wasn’t great, it wasn’t bad, it just was. But it wasn’t was a particular great value. At that price, I might as well get one from Los Pericos. The burrito was pretty similar except that it had french fries inside. I had french fries in souvlaky pitas in Greece in the past, so I was intrigued by the idea of french fries in a burrito. Alas, I’d forgotten that I no longer like french fries and I didn’t like them inside a burrito either. Still, it was perfectly acceptable. Both items were too much for a single meal – I didn’t have a good sense of how big they would be -, one will be enough next time.
I also ordered the cinnabon delights (12 for $5), which are cinnamon roll balls filled with glaze cream. They are deadly. Super, super sweet and I’m surprised I didn’t die of a diabetic coma. But they were very tasty and one goes a long away.
My daughter tried the black bean crunchwrap supreme ($4.4). This is supposed to be a crunchy tostada wrapped in a flour tortilla but it lacked the promised crunch. Instead it was soggy and yet it tasted dry and would have benefitted from a sauce. She wouldn’t order it again. She also didn’t like the spicy potato soft taco. This was just potato, cheese and lettuce in a tortilla, with no sauce or anything to bring it together. IT’s just $1, but not worth the calories. Fortunately, she did like her veggie White Hot Ranch Fries Burrito ($3.3), so at least she didn’t go hungry. The Cinnabon twists ($1) were also good, but not as good as the delights.
All in all, I was pleasantly surprised that Taco Bell didn’t suck, which is good to know for road trips and if I’m ever hungry and with nothing to eat at 2 AM – which has yet to happen.
At 797 Marina Blvd
San Leandro, CA
Dine In M-Su 7 AM - 10 PM
Drive Through Su-Th 7 AM - 3 AM, F-Sa 7 AM - 4 AM
I wouldn’t have paid $20 for 4 oz of Ibérico cold cuts if it wasn’t my birthday. But it was, so when I saw this tapas sampler at Cost Plus I threw caution to the wind and put it in my cart. I’m glad I did. While ridiculously expensive (but, Ibérico ham is ridiculously expensive in Spain too – though a sampler like this would cost about half to a third as much), it was absolutely delicious. As good as any pork product I’ve had in Spain, at stores or restaurants. Even as good as the Ibérico ham my friend’s mother – a butcher – would send from Extremadura to her house in Madrid.
The sampler comes with one ounce (28g) each of jamón ibérico, ibérico pork loin, ibérico salchichón and ibérico chorizo. I had meant to eat these with bread or crackers, but I ended up eating them all on their own. The paper thin slices of each were so good that I couldn’t bear to add other flavors to it. I really can’t say which was my favorite,
“Finca Helechal” is a brand of Ibérico pork products producer “Embutidos Fermín“, a small family company based on La Alberca, Salamanca. They have different levels of products, the top ones made from pigs fed acorns. These ones are made from grain-fed free range pigs that are only 50% Iberian. Unless you are tasting the two products side by side, I don’t think you’ll notice.
I’ll definitely buy this again. And maybe next time, I’ll share it.
I had long heard great things about the As Kneaded Bakeryin San Leandro. Located on Victoria Court, in a space where many restaurants tried their luck unsuccessfully, it has gotten a buzz both on the press and on social media. I had long wanted to try it and my Birthday Week Extravaganza (TM) seemed like a perfect time to do so. So I sent Mike one Saturday morning to get some stuff so we could see what all the fuzz was about. And boy did he do it! He brought a wide variety of the noshes they had available so we got a good idea of what As Kneaded can do.
It is very clear that As Kneaded puts a lot of effort and high quality ingredients on their pastries, which they call “noshes”. Most are very substantial (and yet we managed to eat them all over a couple of days) and well made. However, all in all, we weren’t a huge fan of them and I wouldn’t go back to As Kneaded for pastries. I did like the loaf of bread we got, and I’m curious about trying others – so I probably will in the future.
The first pastry we tried was the large round thing. It’s not listed on their website right now, but based on what is listed, it seems to be some sort of danish. It had a custardy filling and slices of some red fruit (I couldn’t tell what) and we all really enjoyed it, it wasn’t too heavy and we love the filling. Unfortunately, it went down hell from there.
Our second try was the cardamom twist (“a brioche twist containing a cardamom poppy filling and topped with sugar pearls”). This was light enough and I appreciated the poppy seed/cardamon filling, but those are flavors that I like. They are less popular in my household so I’m the one who finished this one of.
The chocolate chip brioche (top left) competed with the banana tahini muffin (top right) for the biggest waste of calories and carbs. They were both dry and had very little flavor. The latter is vegan, but that really is no excuse. The former is directed to toddlers, so perhaps the point is not trying to please adult palates. In either case, we would not bother eating these again.
Finally, the chocolate croissant (top middle) was unremarkable. The chocolate was good quality, but the croissant itself lacked the flakiness and buttery taste of the best exponents. I fell in love with chocolate croissants during college, where I’d treat myself with one from Le Petit Boulangerie, a now defunct bakery chain, and this one was inferior to those.
The saving grace for both the blueberry maple walnut bostock and the raspberry bostock were the crumble topping. These were both thick pieces of challah , one topped with sugar, apricot jam, walnuts, butter, blueberries and maple syrup and the other dipped in simple syrup and then topped with raspberry jam, almond cream and sliced almonds. They were both very heavy (literally) and dense, a little bit dry but otherwise quite tasty. But neither were worth what are likely to be an astronomical number of calories and carbs. They tasted far healthier than the ingredient list suggested they are. Again, I wouldn’t turn my nose away from them, but I wouldn’t seek them out.
Finally, the ham & cheese danish was also a disappointment. It was tasty enough, don’t get me wrong, and the ham and gruyere were obviously good quality – but the flavor was diluted by a completely unnecessary bechamel sauce. In all, this pastry did not compare favorably to the ham & cheese croissants I get at Main Street Bagels, which no one would accuse of being high brow
In addition to the pastries, Mike brought home a loaf of sesa miche, a whole wheat rye sourdough bread baked with sesame seeds. This was a very dense, heavy bread but it was also quite tasty. I wasn’t completely blown away by it, but I liked it and I’d have it again if I was a big bread eater. As it is, none of us are, and the loaf went hard in a couple of days (my fault, as I didn’t refrigerate it or tried to preserve it.
Now, I don’t really want to throw shade on As Kneaded Bakery. Lots of people love it and more power to them. At this point, I’m writing my food blog more to remind myself of what I thought of a place in case I’m thinking of going back than for anyone else. What As Kneaded offers is basically rustic breads and pastries, and I have to admit that we are just not big fond of this style of baked goods. But you might be. So give it a try.
As Kneaded Bakery
585 Victoria Court
San Leandro, CA
W-Su 10 AM - 3 PM
Review of the Jack London Sq restaurant in Oakland
For the third day of my Birthday Week Extravaganza (TM) I decided to go shopping at Cost Plus and then grab lunch somewhere in Jack London Sq. We came across Plank and it seemed like the perfect place for a relaxed and yet fun lunch. I’m happy to say it was. Indeed, I wish the place had been around (or I had known about it) when the kids were younger, as it seems like the perfect place for a family day. In addition to an outdoor bar with food and an indoor restaurant, Plank offers bowling, boche and an arcade. Alas, not my thing now that the kids are grown, so we didn’t check them out.
The outdoor patio/deck at Plank overlooks a little bit of the marina as well as Jack London Sq in general. There is a roofed area with a large bar, tables and chairs and then a larger patio with more tables/chairs/umbrellas and some sofa-height seats with coffee tables. They have music blasting – but not loud enough that you can’t talk to each other, at least from the further away tables -, there are birds visiting the nearby water fountain and it feels convivial but still relaxing. This is an informal space, as you’d expect.
You seat yourself in the patio and hope a server sees you – it happened pretty immediately for us. It doesn’t seem like they have paper menus – at least we didn’t see any – so you need to pull it out on your smart phone. You might as well do that as you wait for the server to come by. You then place your order with the server who brings you the food. Our server asked us for a credit card when we placed the order, but as my husband was taking it out he told her he would rather pay cash and she then brought the bill at the end of the meal without requiring pre-payment (it might have helped that the cash was visible in his wallet). I hope they haven’t had to implement this practice because they have too many eat-and-flee people, with an open space as that it certainly would be easy to do.
The menu is standard pub fare at pretty standard prices – what passes for low/affordable now that inflation has hit us so hard (I finally know what it means to be an old woman, shocked at the price of everything). They have burgers and sandwiches, pizzas and salads, some appetizers and a few others things. I decided on the baby back ribs ($21 half slab/$27 full slab), and given how little more a full slab is than half, I convinced Mike to share a full slab with me. They come with 3 sides, but they only have 4 to chose from (fries, sweet potato fries, tater tots and salad).
The ribs were perfectly fine, perfectly acceptable it not something to write home about. They were tender and meaty without being falling-off-the-bone (a good thing when you are eating in public), and they were pretty tasty. We enjoyed them both there and as left overs. The sides were also fine but unremarkable. I actually enjoyed the tater tots, I don’t think I’d had them in decades (I don’t remember them being something I served my kids) and as I’ve lost my taste for French fries, these were a good substitution. The sweet potato fries were on the thin side and therefore also on the dry side, but they were nicely spiced. The Caesar salad was also unremarkably good. All the sides were a really good size, plenty to share.
My daughter had the veggie burger ($17) which came with a beyond burger patty, pepperjack, baby arugula, tomatoes, grilled onions and pesto aioli in a whole wheat bun and French fries on the side.
Service was competent, but in such a loud environment it’s hard to ask for more.
In all, I’d return to Plank for lunch if I was in the area.
M-Th 11:30 AM - 10 PM, F-Sa 11:30 AM - 11 PM, Su 10 AM - 9 PM
Capacity limited, 21+ after 8 PM
The first time I went to Zachary’s – at its Solano Ave. location, I was a freshman in college. I think my college friend Gina took me, she was an upper classman and had a car, pretty rare for Cal students. I fell in love. I’d never been to Chicago and had never experienced deep-dish pizza, much less stuffed pizza. I fell in love – and I’ve been in love ever since.
Zachary’s, for my husband and I, has been a place for special occasion dinners. We lived fairly close to the Solano location when we were first married, but we couldn’t afford the expensive pizzas very often. Later, the Rockridge location became the closest one to our house, but finding parking anywhere near was a pain. The San Ramon location, which came with a larger dining room and the ability to make reservations, opened up around the time our kids started to eat pizza, and we have gone there many times over the years – but it’s 20 miles from our house, so it’s not an every-week sort of thing. This is all to say, that Zachary’s continues to be a special occasion place for us, which is why I chose it to celebrate the start of my Birthday Week Extravaganza (TM).
This was my first visit to the Pleasanton location, which has replaced the now-closed San Ramon location. It’s located in the middle of downtown, and has a large parking lot in the back so parking is easy. In addition to the indoors dining room, this Zachary’s has a fenced-in sidewalk patio at the front (but you enter the restaurant through a side door), with a view of other downtown businesses and restaurants and, of course, the street. This was nice, except for one particularly super-loud car which decided to cruise back and forth and annoy everyone.
Servers wore masks and though the tables are fairly close together, the entire patio is outdoors so it felt quite safe.
The menu is pretty much the same as all other Zachary’s, consisting of stuffed pizzas, thin pizzas and salads. The stuffed pizzas are just as great as ever – I have to give it to Zachary’s, they’ve been wonderfully consistent since my first visit almost 35 years ago. In all of these years I’ve never had their thin pizza, so I can’t comment on those ones. Stuffed pizzas have abundant cheese and the toppings of your choice stuffed between two layers of pizza dough, the top layer melts into the cheese when cooked and it’s topped with stewed tomatoes. The results are just incredible. I, personally, prefer a plain pizza (with extra cheese, but my kids don’t like that) and we usually get one of these for the kids (and me, as leftovers), but my husband likes toppings. We have both found the carne pizza (sausage, pepperoni, salami & bacon) to be too salty (though he still likes it), but we are both big fans of the chorizo pizza (chorizo, green chilies & Monterey Jack), though at some locations – Pleasanton included – this is a special rather than a regular part of the menu. This time, as often, we went for the Zachary’s special (sausage, green pepper, onion & mushroom), which was very good. There was a time when the San Ramon location added very thick slices of green pepper which I didn’t like, but this wasn’t the case this time.
The Pleasanton location serves “signature cocktails” and I had a Rico Rico (aka piña colada). It was quite good, as piña coladas usually are. Nothing exceptional.
Service was efficient and friendly and we had a great time.
I’m celebrating my Birthday Week Extravaganza (TM) and this time my friend Elektra took me out to dinner to Pacific Catch in Dublin. Pacific Catch is a Bay Area chain of restaurants (with one location in La Jolla) serving seafood dishes inspired by the cultures surrounding the Pacific ocean. It feels like an updated version of a tiki restaurant, though their drinks are more plebeian. Presentation and the fusion of Asian flavors and cuisine does seem to be the point here, however. And seafood.
The Dublin restaurant is located at a supermarket-centered shopping center, so in the middle of suburbia. It has a fairly large dining room with a bar, a covered patio enclosed with plastic sheet walls and several roofed, walled but open to the air tiki booths set on the sidewalk (to call it that), between the restaurant and the parking lot. These are made from canes and are quite attractive, save for the fact that your view is of the parking lot and the big block stores beyond it. Some plants might have improved the look. But still, you get a whole booth to yourself and there is plenty of open air, so you can feel quite safe COVID-wise. Unfortunately, neither servers nor managers wore masks – and while they didn’t get close enough that I felt this was an issue for our sake, I didn’t feel they were safe spending time indoors maskless.
The restaurant also seems to have some free standing tables outside, though I didn’t see them well, and they do have heat lamps for them. For the booths, they have firepits that they put at the entrance. I don’t know how well these work, but there wasn’t one in front of ours and it did get a bit chilly as the evening progressed – fortunately I’d come prepared with a shawl for this eventuality.
We started our dinner with drinks – my third one this week and probably my last one until my next birthday. I’m just not much of a drinker. I had a caramelized piña colada ($15), which was sweeter than usual but otherwise not particularly remarkable. It was good, don’t get me wrong, but few piña coladas aren’t good – that’s why I order them. Elektra was happier with her island mule ($12), which she thought was very good
Next, we shared the pupu platter ($29), which came with three coconut shrimp, a small macaroni salad, two each ahi tataki bombs, chicken katsu musubis and bbq pork skewers, some pickled ginger and little bowls of a very sweet & sour sauce and a tangy chimichurri.
I’m not a fan of shrimp but Elektra, who does like them, felt these were too sweet. She felt that the chimichurri sauce helped balanced them, and wouldn’t eat them without it. The sauce itself was very tasty, and I finished it off with the French fries from my main dish. I also don’t like macaroni salad and that was a good thing as Elektra found this one very disappointing. We both did enjoy the ahi tataki “bombs”, which consisted of rice with a sweet soy sauce wrapped with a fried wonton skin and topped with a sesame crusted slice of raw lightly seared ahi tuna. The flavor of the tuna was a bit overwhelmed by al the other flavors on the platter – sesame seeds included, but everything in the bombs worked well together. The chicken katsu musbis, meanwhile, were sort of a failure. The chicken katsu and seasoned rice itself was pretty good (though I thought it was pork rather than chicken), but the sweet flavors were completely incongruent with the seaweed wrappers. I think it also had a seasoned mayo inside which Elektra didn’t like, but which didn’t bother me. Finally, the bbq pork skewers were tasty, but one of my two bites was pure gristle – I couldn’t eat any of it. Pork is a fairly cheap meat, this was an expensive plate, and they really should have used a better cut.
We had barely started on our appetizers, when the main dishes were brought to the table – something Pacific Catch might want to work on, as that meant by the end our meal we were eating lukewarm food (in particular, as we were outdoors). I had the 3-pieces of fish & chips ($19), which consisted of fried Alasklan cod, coleslaw and french fries of your choice. The choices included plain fries, sweet potato fries, fries spiced with furikake and fries with some other spice mix, which I don’t recall. I went for the furikake fries. The fish itself was fine, though not terribly remarkable. It probably needed more seasoning (on the fish itself, not the batter), and it definitely benefitted from being bathed in malt vinegar (the single slice of lemon juice wasn’t enough) and being dipped into the tartar sauce. The furikake fries were a tiny spicy but also otherwise unremarkable. I’m not a huge fan of french fries any more, and these ones didn’t convince me to become one.
Pacific Catch’s current special menu features three composite plates of items inspired by the cuisines of Hawaii, Japan or Korea. Some of these items are also available as appetizers or appear in the pupu platter we had as an appetizer. Elektra decided on the Japanese platter ($34) for her main entrée.
Overall, she liked the composition of the plate and the variety of textures and flavors. Like the pupu platter, the Japanese platter came with two ahi tataki bombs, but it also had a piece of grilled salmon served on a bed of Brussels sprouts okonimayki, a seaweed salad, steamed edamame and another veggie salad. Elektra liked the grilled salmon, though I vaguely remember her complaining it was mildly overcooked. It came with a mayo-based dressing she wasn’t a fond of, however, but she did like the pickled ginger. She is a big fan of Brussels sprouts and enjoyed these ones. She was also a fan of the seaweed salad which had a sesame dressing that brightened up its flavor. She found the edamame’s crunchiness to be a nice break from the other dishes and overall liked the salad. It also had a mayo-based dressing that she wasn’t too happy about, but she appreciated that it was lightly applied. She was happy to find tomatoes, not a usual thing on Japanese dishes. Overall, she liked her plate and had more comments that I cannot remember.
Pacific Catch’s weakness is desserts. It seems they feel they have to offer them, but they’re not really into them. Apparently, they used to have more but they realized it took too much time and effort to make them inhouse and now they outsource them. It shows.
They only offer four desserts, including a scoop of ice cream ($5) and a mochi fondue ($9) consisting of 3 small mochi balls to dip in a chocolate sauce. Instead, we shared the other two:
I got the Crispy Dulce de Leche “Spring Roll” ($9), which were basically eggrolls filled with sweetened cream cheese (the description said cheesecake, but I don’t think the filling was baked into a cheesecake first. They were topped with a dulce de leche ice cream that was similar to that from Haagen Daaz, but which is apparently made by a gelato store in Berkeley, and then it was drizzled with a commercial caramel that actually tasted like jarred butterscotch sauce. It really would have been better without it. But all in all I enjoyed the dish and it’s really large enough to share – we did have trouble finishing our desserts.
Elektra got the Hula Brownie Sundae ($9) which consisted of a brownie topped with a coconut gelato and chocolate sauce. It was unremarkable and a bit too sweet.
Service was quite good and our waitress was very friendly. She didn’t really check on us after we got our main dishes, however, so it took a while before we could order dessert – but not an inordinate amount of time. Really, it’s a minor complain. All in all, service was good and we had a really wonderful time. I need to celebrate birthdays more often.
5251 Martinelli Way
Su-Th 11 AM - 9 PM, F-Sa 11 AM - 10 PM
Last night, my friends Eddie and Aamani took me out to Trabocco to celebrate my fifty-something birthday. I had gone a couple of times before but not since the pandemic, and it was a great experience. The food was good, the service was exceptional, the atmosphere convivial and the overall experience felt as COVID-safe as any dining experience can be. In all, it was the perfect place for a girls night out.
Trabocco is the creation of Italian chef Giuseppe Naccarelli and it offers a menu of pretty traditional Italian (as opposed to Italian-American) dishes, with several salad, pizza and pasta choices in addition to a few main dishes. There is a strong emphasis on the quality of the ingredients and the flavors – at least the ones I experienced – seemed very authentic.
The restaurant has a large dining room with an open kitchen and convivial bar. It offers the casual Even before the pandemic it offered outdoor sitting but it has now expanded it to a larger area with a canvass roof but semi-open sides. Our table was next to one of these sides, and there was a nice, if slight, breeze (which also meant it got a bit chilly, so I was happy I’d brought a cardigan). Perfect for pandemic dining.
One of the thing that makes Trabocco a good place for a girls night out is its selection of cocktails – mostly traditional American ones with a small twist. I had the kaffir lime cosmopolitan (which just substituted kaffir lime juice for regular lime juice, a great idea), and it was quite good. Eddie had the Milano Mule and found it delicious. Aamani was driving so she skipped cocktails.
The meal started with slices of rustic bread, olive oil and balsamic vinegar. I was impressed the waiter asked whether we wanted the vinegar added to the olive oil and then offered pepper on top. A small detail, but made the experience nicer.
We then shared a plate of burrata con prosciutto, which came with some sort of microgreen. It had three big slices of prosciutto, which made it perfect for three to share (though I wonder if they’d given us four smaller slices if we were four) and a large round of very fresh tasting but surprisingly firm burrata. It came with breadsticks but the burrata was actually solid enough that you could pick it up with a fork. I enjoyed it very much, in particularly mixed with the microgreen in question. The prosciutto was delicious.
For my main dish, I had the ravioli con coda , “house-made pasta stuffed with braised oxtail, au jus, pecorino pepato”. The plate was satisfying and tasted utterly authentic. It tasted exactly as I’d expect it to, which was a bit disappointing – as I’m always searching for new flavors – but on the other hand very comforting. I’d order it again when in need of a hug in a plate.
Eddie had the grilled salmon (which, along with a Mediterranean bass and some other fish were the catch of the day), which came with sautéed spinach and arugula salad. She thought the salmon was perfectly cooked and the sides were delicious. Aamani had the risotto, but unfortunately I don’t recall what she thought of it.
For dessert, I opted for the zabaglione with berries. It was, once again, exactly as advertised – a competent zabaglione with fresh berries mixed in. Eddie was disappointed that her affogato had very little ice cream, but she enjoyed the flavor nonetheless. Aamani liked her panna cotta.
The highlight of the evening, however, was the service. Our waiter, who grew up in Italy and had a wonderful Italian accent, was friendly, helpful and efficient. He and other waiters wore well-fitted stylish masks, which as a COVID-phobe I appreciated for their health as much as mine. My dessert was served in a plate with “Happy Birthday” written on it and a candle. The chef and the waiter joined my friends in signing me Happy Birthday, which was nicer and less embarrassing than I had feared when I saw them doing the same to another birthday girl in a nearby table. To top it off, they didn’t charge us for my desert because it was my birthday!
We stayed in the restaurant late, until there were very few guests left, and they didn’t rush us out at all.
In all, it couldn’t have been a nicer birthday dinner.
2213 South Shore Center
Su, T-Th 11:30am – 8:30pm, F-Sa 11:30am – 9:30pm