Uptown’s Parlour Dishes Out Cal-Ital Fare

This Uptown space succeeds with a formula of wood-oven pizzas and seasonal appetizers, salads, small plates, pastas, and entrées.


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photo by lori eanes

Visit Parlour for fava leaf gnocchi or pork-veal-beef meatballs, prepared by chef Jason Tuley.

 

We’ve known for some time that Oaklanders need not head west over the Bay Bridge to enjoy some of the Bay Area’s finest dining. And we’ve gotten used to chefs and restaurateurs transplanting their skills, and sometimes themselves, from The City to The Town. However, the advent of Parlour in Oakland’s Uptown, just a block or two east of where much of the action has been of late, might signal a new trend: the re-creation of a slice of 21st-century San Francisco smack dab in the middle of Oaklandish territory.

 The first time Robin and I walked into Parlour (after walking right past the sleek signage-free windows-and-wood storefront and stopping, momentarily perplexed, in front of its sister enterprise, Bar 355), it felt like we had stepped into a trendy Valencia Street restaurant that had been dropped onto 19th Street by one of those ubiquitous S.F. construction cranes. Not that Oakland’s drinking and dining scene hasn’t already adopted the aesthetic of reclaimed wood; high ceilings; airy spaces; eclectic lighting; rustically painted concrete floors; paper menus printed daily; a prominent bar promoting craft cocktails; and dramatically showcased local art (Jon Carling’s stark, whimsical drawings—he also did the hatchet-wielding bunny logo). But something about Parlour’s cool and calculated postindustrial décor and its young, energetic, moderately tattooed staff gave off a pat hipster vibe that was more gentrified, techie-magnet Mission District than scuffling, uniquely one-off Oaktown.

But my knee-jerk wariness quickly dissipated, as it is wont to do when met by warm, unpretentious service, from the reception at the door through the explanation and delivery of dishes. Finely balanced cocktails—an Almost Gold (rum, mezcal, and lime) and an Old Pal (rye, Gran Classico, and vermouth)—also had an ameliorating effect. The space really is lovely and anything but cookie-cutter in its detailing, and the diners on that half-full night were The Town’s familiar, boisterous, and casually upscale dining mix of generations, ethnicities, and wardrobes. We were beginning to feel at home.

Parlour is the creation of Bar 355 partners Linda Bradford, Travis Dutton, and Patrick Lynch, with Chef Jason Tuley fashioning a menu that parallels the familiar A16/Pizzaiolo formula of wood-oven pizzas and interesting seasonal, market-driven appetizers, salads, small plates, pastas, and entrées. Dutton and Lynch manage the bar, pouring a nice variety of beers and mixing classic and modern cocktails. Sommelier Scott Salvatierra oversees a compact list of mostly Californian wines (only a couple of Italian). And, on our visits, the smiling Bradford attentively ran the dining room.

Although the salads sounded appealing—little gems with pickled fiddleheads, ricotta salata, and charred berry vinaigrette; butter lettuce with radish, fennel, avocado, grapefruit, and green goddess dressing—Robin and I mostly stuck to the appetizers and mains. On our first visit, we did try one of the four pizzas on offer: a not-overly thin, slightly blackened-but-still-chewy, puffy-edged pie topped with a tangy combo of tomato, house-made sausage, piquillo peppers, pickled chili, and scamorza cheese. It didn’t eclipse what our neighbors Tom and Annette pull out of their backyard Italian wood oven, but it did leave A16’s in the dust and hold up longer, at the meal and at home, than Boot and Shoe Service’s pizzas.

Almost everything we ate at Parlour we’d eat again, despite a few minor quibbles with execution. (It was only the restaurant’s second month in business.) Not that everything would be available again. My biggest mistake at our first dinner was bypassing the roasted Mangalitsa pork loin and belly with Anson Mills polenta and pickled ramps. It had vanished from the menu on our return. What I did have wasn’t shabby: plump, green, fava leaf gnocchi tumbled with fava beans and leaves and meaty morel mushrooms, an unusual dish (with an unusually steep price for pasta at $27) that was probably history after the brief fava season.

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