Well, it’s been a while. Hopefully this next year will be less turbulent and sporadic in terms of posts. But anyway, on to today’s post. We (as a family) went to Commis yesterday night to celebrate my parents’ anniversary.
Commis is a one-star Michelin restaurant and located in Oakland. (really close to Gregoire’s, actually – Berkeley students, you know how amazing Gregoire’s is, I mean the fried chicken sandwich…) It was an 8 course prix fixe menu for $85 with an optional wine pairing for $45.
The neat thing about Commis is the fact that their restaurant will only list the ingredients they will use in the preparation of their dishes but will not actually tell you in advance what each course will consist of. You can always call ahead when you make your reservation to let them know of any diet restrictions and/or allergies.
The meal started off with a small tray of amuse-bouche.
Herbed toast with trout roe. A tad salty but tasty.
Caramelized onion fiancier. Absolutely delicious. Rich and buttery.
So my mom got the wine pairing, but I ended up drinking about a good 85% of it all because she doesn’t really enjoy drinking. No one in our family really enjoys drinking haha, we all much prefer a sip or two. But I actually found myself enjoying the wine pairings more than I thought I would and I do believe I have a new appreciation for white wine. This was rose of grenache, isabel’s cuvee, mendocino, donkey and goat 2012. The glass pictured above goes with the next dish. This was nice and light, also a bit sweet.
Pacific coast oyster and jellied smoked oyster consomme. I love raw oysters, so naturally I loved this. However, the smoked jelly on top was a bit too overbearing for me. And yes, the flowers were edible. I ate them.
Next glass was: sylvaner, ‘trois chateau’, alsace, domaine kuentz-bas, 2009. Dry, but not horrible in the way some wines can taste like rubbing alcohol. Sometimes.
Summer fruits and vegetables with a salted corn pudding, safflower vinaigrette. It was a very small salad that was painstakingly plated (as we were exiting after we finished, we saw the chefs plating this very salad for other patrons). The presentation is beautiful and I really enjoyed the balance of acid and sweetness. The salted corn pudding was the best part though. Salty and sweet and so creamy.
This one is: godello, valdeorras, valdesil, 2010. The server described this as a more “wet” white.
Organic brown rice with basil, squid and fresh anise buds in almond milk. This was an interesting dish but my mom and I both found it to be too salty. The squid was seared perfectly and the foam was fun to eat, but I didn’t really care for the brown rice because I don’t usually like brown rice anyway. My brother really liked it though.
The butter that came right before they swooped in to deliver the bread.
Freshly baked every day in the restaurant itself. It was wonderfully warm when served. This was a multi-grain levain bread (if I remember correctly). Everyone loved it.
Slow poached egg with sweet and savory spices, warm potato. Sadly I wasn’t fast enough to get a photo of how nicely the sweet and savory spices were circled around the egg yolk before the servers poured the warm potato soup (more like a bisque) over it. This was a fantastic substitute for a soup and the level of creaminess in this dish was mind-blowing. You had the richness of the potato and on top of that, there’s the inherent creaminess and weight of the yolk. To pull it all together the sweet and savory spice bits were crunchy for texture. Another all around thumbs-up for this!
And oops, but I seem to be missing a photo for the wine pairing for this dish. But for the curious, it was: vouvray, silex noir, vin tendre, francois pinon, 2010.
This was: ribolla gialla, vare vineyard, napa, arnot-roberts, 2011.
Grilled halibut in a padron pepper stew with clams and fresh beans, orach. The halibut was so perfect. Soft and flaky in that buttery fashion. The skin was also nicely done. My mom and brother both really liked the extra kick of heat from the padron pepper stew. The fresh beans added a freshness to lighten this dish.
Extra: a mustard plant tisane. A salty but light “tea” (really it was a broth) that was a good palate cleanser before the next, heavier dish of squab. For those of you who know Chinese cuisine, this tasted like what you would get if you made a broth out of 雪菜.
Red wine! gran teran, istria, croatia, coronica, 2008. Not a huge fan of red wine unless it’s super sweet (think Stella Rosa haha) or being used in sangria. This was definitely dry and veered toward the “rubbing alcohol” after taste that I can’t appreciate.
Roasted squab and smoked dates acidulated with malt vinegar, alliums and ash. My absolute favorite dish of the night. I could have eaten five plates of this alone. (the portion was small, sadly) But in all seriousness, the meat was so tender and juicy and so perfectly seasoned. The sauce you see near the front (not the dollop, but the smear) tasted like BBQ sauce and great with the pieces of squab. The dollop tasted more like a pate puree and was also very nice. Everything about this dish was just amazing.
Extra: palate cleanser in the form of a wild plum and tarragon float. The wild plum gave that sourness that was strangely absent from all of the previous dishes (with the exception of the sauce I described in the roasted squab dish right above). It was almost kind of like plum wine, kind of.
But the tarragon.
We don’t usually use tarragon in our cooking at home nor have I actively sought out to order dishes with tarragon at restaurants. I can’t say I’m a fan of tarragon because it tastes exactly like black licorice in the first hit. And I hate black licorice. But there are other flavors underneath if you can get past the black licorice. Interestingly enough, tarragon does remind me of the taste of the outer coating of 黑瓜子, which I do enjoy. (I believe the english for those seeds is: egusi)
If you love black licorice, however, you will love this float.
Wheee dessert wine: moscato d’asti, paisa sanmaurizio, forteto delle luja, 2011. Really sweet, carbonated, with barely a taste of alcohol. My mom and I both really liked this one.
Nectarine biscuit with redwood, toasted oat ice cream with lavender. A good note to end on. The cake was just dense and moist enough to be substantial. It held its own with the chantilly cream and oat ice cream as well as the sauce. I usually don’t enjoy lavender in any edible form, but I found it acceptable here because it wasn’t overpowering to the point of nausea. In fact, it was actually kind of nice.
At the beginning, the server actually asks if you want a cheese plate or a dessert as your final course. (just FYI) No one at our table chose the cheese plate but I did see other people ordering it and it looked pretty delicious. I do love cheese but my sweet tooth easily overshadows everything else.
Venezuelan chocolate mixed with vanilla.
Cucumber and gin (maybe she said ginger, but I’m pretty sure I heard gin) jellies.
Burnt caramel with szechuan peppers.
Overall, a fantastic experience. Every dish was an interesting surprise and the entire theme seemed very whimsical – especially if you take into account the ingredients used and the artistry of the plating. The portions were definitely small, but if you get the wine pairing, the sheer volume of liquid will tide you over and help you toward pleasantly full.
I would love to come back even though Oakland is a bit far from where I live. Though there are a lot of other restaurants I would rather try before I make a second round. That being said, everyone in my family truly liked the food and the atmosphere of the restaurant. The servers were polite and friendly. Our water glasses were always full. Service can be a bit slow because of the pace at which the dishes come out but it gives you time to enjoy the company and digest. A nice touch at the end is that they give you the day’s menu printed on nice stationary in small envelope to take home.
3859 Piedmont Avenue Oakland, CA 94611