So many cool new places are opening right here and right now that it's hard to keep track.
Image courtesy of Lucia's Pizzeria
Opened by industry veterans Melissa Axelrod and William Johnson on San Pablo Avenue in 2013, then closed in 2016, neighborhood bistro Mockingbird will reopen in a 4,200-square-foot space on 13th Street in downtown Oakland, for lunch on Wednesday, June 21. Happy hour will launch on June 28; dinner service will follow soon after July 4. Inspired by San Francisco's Nopa and Zuni Café, Mockingbird's new menu includes such adventures as duck liver mousse with local strawberry rhubarb jam and grilled Firebrand bread; fried Brussels sprouts with lemon-garlic confit aioli, blue cheese, and saba; and slow-cooked pork sugo with Manchego cheese and crispy rosemary polenta. Overseen by Shirley Brooks and Matt Grippo, founders of the cocktail consulting company Bottom of the Barrel, Mockingbird's cocktail program will feature signature house drinks (spotlighting local sources) such as the Oakland Maid, featuring Oakland Spirits Co. Automatic Gin and Shiso Brandy.
Shinmai, offering izakaya and ramen, will open soon in Uptown Oakland. (An exact date remains unannounced, but owner Yingji Huang, who also owns Montclair's Kakui, aims for late June/early July.) Executive chef Jerrod Doss has worked at Aziza, Chez TJ, and the French Laundry. Lead ramen chef/co-owner/former Kakui sushi chef Andy Liu spent two years studying ramencraft in Japan. Shinmai's menu will include Berkshire ribs (cooked sous vide, brushed with miso barbecue sauce, dusted with a piquant mixture of bonito flakes and dried shrimp, and served with a tangy side of savoy cabbage with fresh horseradish root, cilantro, and lime), fried potato salad (with Dijon mustard, truffle mayonnaise, and negi, topped with paddlefish caviar), and watermelon and cold-smoked cucumber (served with white soy, lime, black garlic, bonito, and yuba). The raw menu will offer rotating fresh seafood such as hamachi, ocean trout, and Spanish bluefin tuna with fresh seasonal flavors such as cider, yuzu, peach, and preserved lemon. (Image below by Jeremy Chiu.)
Brooklyn West Winery opened this spring in the Brick House Lofts, the oldest warehouse in the Jack London Square Warehouse District (circa 1914) and is now part of the Oakland Urban Wine Trail. Winemakers Stewart Epstein and Jeffrey Fiegel say they hoped to create an approachable, fun, unpretentious experience "that feels less traditional 'tasting room' and more contemporary ‘tasting lounge’" in which to share the award-winning small-batch wines that the pair handcraft from a variety of grapes grown in BWW's optimal terroirs throughout California. Having been crafting wines for over twenty years, head winemaker Epstein has won fifteen SF Chronicle Wine Competition medals and was the first winemaker to earn a 90-point score for a Tempranillo in a US wine publication. Assistant winemaker Fiegel brings the best practices of the hospitality industry to Brooklyn West from his work for the Ritz Carlton Hotels and Norwegian Cruise Lines.
Alan Chun and Alice Woo, owners of Uptown Asian-Mexican fusionfest Belly, have now also opened Sweet Belly -- offering soft-serve, warm mini-donuts, and freshly baked cookies -- a few blocks away from it. Ice-cram flavors are rotated frequently; popular recent spotlights include coffee, salted caramel, and toasted almond. Visitors can create highly personalized desserts via the "Sweet Deal" option by combining one ice-cream flavor; topping(s) (such as cereal crunch, pretzel streusel, Maldon sea salt, olive oil, and more), and made-to-order mini-donuts (cinnamon sugar, matcha sugar, or strawberry sugar) with a donut drizzle (honey-butter caramel, spiced chocolate, or Nutella).
Also inspired by the spirit of Brooklyn, Lucia's Pizzeria (depicted above) opened in downtown Berkeley a few months ago and, last month, launched weekend brunch service. Prepared in a Stefano Ferrara wood-burning oven imported from Naples and utilizing special bricks made in Sorrento, the thin-crusted Neapolitan-style pizzas (red or white) are augmented by salads, small plates, charcuterie, pasta, and large-plate specials. Many ingredients are sourced from Lucia’s own Oakland garden plot. Kid-size pizzas, gluten-free dough, and vegan mozzarella are also available. The new brunch menu features such items as quiche; Italian baked eggs; Prosciutto Benny with levain toast, poached eggs, prosciutto, shaved Montasio cheese, and Hollandaise sauce; a salmon platter with capers, lemon, cream cheese, and pickled onions on Acme bread; and mascarpone-topped rustic French toast with fresh fruit.
This isn't quite a new opening, but Farley's East in Uptown is expanding into the space next-door on Monday, June 26. With a larger kitchen, the eight-year-old restaurant will have shorter wait times, new menu items, grab-and-go options, and beer and wine on tap. New menu items will include avocado toast on Acme levain with Oaktown Spice Shop Japanese 7-spice; the Whole Health Protein bowl featuring kale, quinoa, roasted sweet potato, raw beets, chickpea croutons, pepitas and tahini dressing; and the Uptown Caesar featuring chopped romaine and kale, nuts and seeds parmesan, capers, chickpea croutons, and cashew caesar dressing.