This Month's New and Updated Dining Listings
Venga Paella, FIVE, Brotzeit Lokal Boathaus & Biergarten, Marc 49, Brennan’s, Homestead
NEW OAKLAND LISTING
JACK LONDON SQUARE/WATERFRONT
Venga Paella. Spanish. 229 Brush St., 510-628-0018.
Paella, patatas, and gambas hit Brush Street with a Catalonian clobber to bring an authentic taste of Spain via tapas, paella, flan, Manchego, vino, and cervezas to the outskirts of Jack London Square. This snazzy, congenial taverna is the handiwork of Eduardo Balaguer, who learned his way around a paella pan at his family’s restaurant in Valencia, Spain. The menu is abbreviated—less than half a dozen tapas, three paellas, and two desserts—but a visit will turn into a languorous one, thanks to how well the sangria tinta and Fentimans craft sodas accompany the paella tradicional (prawns, calamari, mussels, clams, and pork chorizo) and the paella de arroz negro (black squid ink with mussels, clams, and calamari). Recently opened: an overflow area with life-sized Jenga. Serves lunch and dinner Wed.–Sat. www.VengaPaella.com.
UPDATED BERKELEY LISTING
FIVE. American. 2086 Allston Way, 510-225-6055.
When chef Stéphane Tonnelier took over the kitchen at FIVE restaurant in the Hotel Shattuck Plaza in August 2013 (replacing Banks White, whose specialty was elevated Southern soul food), he gradually imposed his own culinary aesthetic, rooted in his French heritage and his nine years at Boulevard in San Francisco. He retained a few favorites from the Banks era—the buttermilk biscuit, orzo mac and cheese, and butterscotch pudding—but FIVE’s “modern American bistro” designation now seems inadequate to capture Tonnelier’s experimental range. A wizard at combining market-fresh ingredients, balancing flavors, and juxtaposing textures, he packs the seasonally changing appetizer and main dish sections of the menu (about eight choices in each) with palate-teasing surprises. Among our favorites: seared scallops on black risotto with mussels, clams, kiwi, turmeric sauce, and pine nut relish; porcini-scented mushroom ravioli with crispy oyster mushrooms and shredded kale salad; paprika-breaded fried burrata; endive salad with a slow-poached egg; chilled poached prawns in coconut milk broth with green papaya salad and mango-apple salsa; homemade gnocchi with wild boar ragu; and porcini-flavored monk fish stuffed with a chunk of French chorizo. The precise elegance of Tonnelier’s cooking now eclipses the somewhat casual air of the dining room, but after one of the bar’s featured cocktails, inspired by hotels around the world (try a rum-based Hotel Nacional or rye-centric Waldorf), the ambiance softens considerably. Serves breakfast, lunch (or brunch) and dinner daily. Five-Berkeley.com.
NEW OAKLAND LISTING
JACK LONDON SQUARE/WATERFRONT
Brotzeit Lokal Boathaus & Biergarten. German.1000 Embarcadero, 510-645-1905.
Beer for breakfast? You can and should, at least once, at this new waterfront bierhaus with a fun trifecta: beer, sausage, and ambience. On a Saturday brunch, we added a pint of Ayinger Oktober Fest-Märzen, one of more than a dozen rotating German, American, and Belgian brews on tap, to our knackwurst, scrambled eggs, home fries, and toast for a perfect meal. The deck can be busy, and the interior is a bit sports-bar-ish and clamorous in a good way, a chummy place for sausages—say, merguez (Moroccan-spiced lamb) and würzinge (spicy chicken and pork)—on Firebrand buns with Kennebec fries washed down with a Veltins pilsner or a Kölsch ale. Try obadzta, an addictive German cheese spread, house-made with cream cheese, Brie, beer, and spices and served with a basket of bread and a big soft pretzel, the Lokal burger, and wiener schnitzel, and you’ll become a regular, guaranteed. Round up friends to order the eisbein or the wurst platter (eight sausages, sauerkraut, fries, green beans, seasonal pickles, pretzels, obadzta, and salad, $65), or drop in for some nightcapping chocolate stout ice cream or Lindeman’s framboise sorbet (both $5). Beer for dessert? Now, that’s a thought. Serves lunch and dinner daily. www.BrotzeitBiergarten.com.
UPDATED OAKLAND LISTING
Marc 49. American. 4915 Telegraph Ave., 510-652-2100.
Marc 49 has evolved into a more sophisticated version of its original self, jettisoning the panini and salads with East Bay and Nor Cal geographic names it began with for the most part, though a chicken panini with spinach and chipolte aioli remains, and a salad or two sound reminiscents of the inaugural garden medleys. Today’s equally good, seasonally-changing repast is snacky and succinct, more nibbly and pared down than before. Splurge on starters, called “snacks,” like olives, deviled eggs, caramelized onion bruschetta, or charcuterie, all of which can pair nicely with the daily featured flights of wine or perhaps a Pinot Noir, say the Dionysus from the Russian River’s Moore Vineyards. Then move into “greens,” maybe “bread with stuff,” and end with “sweets.” The cocktail program has been stepped up, and there’s brunch, fare, too, featuring tempters such as buckwheat waffles with bourbon-infused syrup or just simple eggs. As it was when in debtued in 2008, Marc 49 remains a fine neighborhood addition. Serves dinner daily and lunch/brunch Sat.–Sun. Marc49.com.
NEW BERKELEY LISTING
Brennan’s. American. 700 University Ave., 510-841-0960.
At this historic hofbrau it all begins with an empty plastic tray. From there, it’s a choose-your-own-adventure through a cafeteria-style line of American comfort food such as hand-carved roasted meats, mashed potatoes, macaroni and cheese, cornbread stuffing, and cold salads. In addition to corned beef, pastrami, and baked ham, Brennan’s offers up Thanksgiving’s honored guest in a variety of ways including turkey on a plate, turkey on a roll, turkey on an open-faced sandwich, or a turkey leg, wing, neck, or tail. Brennan’s even sells carcasses for homemade stock. Operating since 1959, the storied restaurant moved next door from its original location in 2008 and incorporated much of the former Southern Pacific Railroad building’s architecture into the dining room, providing a down-home ambience to match the menu. The bar’s hours extend beyond the kitchen’s last call, offering cold pints, hot Irish coffees, and big screen sports to dull the roar from the adjacent train tracks. Serves lunch and dinner daily. www.BrennansBerkeley.com.
NEW OAKLAND LISTING
Homestead. California. 4029 Piedmont Ave., 510-420-6962.
Whether you’ve been craving ocean-fresh oysters (baked with buttered breadcrumbs and fennel) or house-made doughnuts and hot cocoa, your taste buds will thank you for going to Homestead. A brilliant new addition to Piedmont Avenue, this husband-and-wife operation is serving up high-end fare in a rustic restaurant space that boasts a venerable farmhouse charm. The menu includes imaginative entrees such as grilled scallops with spicy coppa, pears, and Marcona almonds and duck breast with baby Tokyo turnips and pan-fried scrapple (pork with cornmeal and spices). Service is top tier, and the neighborhood location is ideal. Order a glass of champagne and tag on a side of wild rice–stuffed butternut squash with cranberry relish, and you’ll be toasting your good food fortune. Dinner is served Tue.–Sat. www.HomesteadOakland.com.