Dining Updates in October
Where we have eaten recently: Acapulco, Tamon Tea, Spices Three!, Encuentro, and Dragon Gate.
Dragon Gate owner Johnny Chang.
New Alameda Listing
Michael Wiesner of San Leandro’s Paradiso and Castro Valley’s Boulevard Burger breathes new life into the old Acapulco Restaurant. The iconic Island eatery, run for almost six decades by the Quintero family, gets a facelift, a slimmer menu, and another run. Holdovers—queso fundido, fiery prawns, fish tacos, and the burrito famoso—remain, but the previously unwieldy menu has been radically whittled down, allowing the kitchen to focus on quality, not quantity. The vibe, too, is amped up a bit, thanks to the liquor license that allows specialty margaritas and cocktails alongside the heaping plates of traditional Mexican fare. We could eat the carnitas—steaming crispy-fried braised pork, salsa fresco with a bite, cold sour cream, and fresh guacamole—stuffed into the dense flour tortillas every day. 2100 Lincoln Ave., 510-239-4912, www.AcapulcoAlameda.com CC Full Bar R WC $-$$
New Berkeley Listing
Portable and easy-to-eat Samurai-style snacks, including sweets and savories, bring on the crowds at this Berkeley two-seater. Tamon Tea sells chewy sweet mochi, hot curried donburi, jasmine lemonade, the octopus balls known as takoyaki, the skewered sweets and savories known as dango, and transcendentally light and fluffy shaved ice. But the main attraction here are omusubi: plumply pocket-sized, truncatedly triangular, nori-wrapped rice balls served plain or with fillings ranging from pickled plum to sukiyaki beef to spicy tuna to salmon skin to Hawaii’s pride, Spam. These rustic wonders are often called musubi—but Tamon Tea grants them the honorific prefix o. They are delicious when paired with Tamon’s hot tea, iced tea, green tea, barley tea, ginger tea, English tea, pan-roasted hojicha, rice-dotted genmai cha, or Tea Ceremony–staple matcha. Or, you know, Coke. Lining a glass case like fat, powdered gems are desserts, a perfect meal-ender, though you might want to hold out for the epic uji-kintoki, an unbeliebable bean-and-tea sundae. Open 10:30 a.m.–6:30 p.m. Mon.–Sat. 2055A Center St., Berkeley, 510-647-9370. www.TamonTea.com $
New Oakland Listing — Chinatown
Head to Spices 3! for an authentic Szechuan-style meal, where oil and chilies and spices and 10 kinds of stinky tofu proliferate. Spice is definitely the thing here at this colorfully signed storefront, where heat is indicated by one, two, or three peppers or none at all. Descriptions like “Kiss of Fire,” “Explosive,” “Flaming,” “Numbing,” and even “Gangsta” and “Murder Style” pop up with regularity on the expansive menu, making for adventurous reading, ordering, and eating. Jalapeños, pickled vegetables, garlic, basil, and noodles regularly star in the pork, chicken, fish, beef, lamb, shrimp, and tofu dishes as well as in those that feature intestines, chicken feet, liver, and kidneys. Serves lunch and dinner daily. 369 12th St., 510-625-8889, www.Spices3Oakland.com Beer & Wine $
Updated Oakland Listing — Jack London Square
Encuentro enters the next phase, moving into a bigger space a few blocks away (the onetime home of Pro Arts), forsaking in the process the friendly café and wine bar nomenclature of its first 4? years. Now an “expanded neighborhood vegetarian bistro” and a full-fledged restaurant, Encuentro 2.0 can boast that its new home conveys the same intimate, minimalist, and comfortable feel that emanated from its former locale. Encuentro remains as delicious and inventive as ever, with an uncanny ability to do crazy-amazing things with vegetables, nuts, beans, roots, and cheese. You don’t have to be vegetarian or vegan to appreciate the goodness of these trend-bending offerings. Put Encuentro at the top of your list of dining options. Serves lunch and dinner Tue.–Sat. 550 Second St., 510-832-9463. www.Encuentro.com CC Beer & Wine R WC $$–$$$
New Oakland Listing — Jack London Square
Dragon Gate Bar & Grille
CHINESE Karaoke meets bold, old school décor and plentiful portions of streetstyle-inspired Taiwanese cuisine at Dragon Gate. A bar-turned-restaurant in the old Soizic Bistro space, if offers a dizzying array of choices gathered under more than a dozen headings like five spicy slow-braised cold dishes or three cup–sauce-style iron pot concoctions. There are bites like hand-made dumplings; mains such as streetstyle sautéed dishes; plus salads, and rice and bento boxes, and a skewer menu with 31 variations. The menu seems targeted to the karaoke crowd—appetizer-style dishes and small plates for sharing while drinking and singing. A must-order is the Idiot Noodle: chewy noodles, chunky meat sauce, pickled vegetables, dried fish, herbs, julienne cucumbers, and half a braised egg. Serves lunch and dinner daily. 300 Broadway, Oakland, 510-922-8032. www.DragonGateBar.com. CC Full bar R WC $$