January 05, 2008

Blame it on the rain...

D and T introduced us to Cesar in Berkeley over a year ago, where we fell in instant love with the spicy pimientos di padron and the sweet tart roasted grapes of the late fall.

So when they suggested a late night nosh at the Oakland location during a break in Friday's series of storms, we eagerly climbed into the back seat to traverse the tunnel.

The storms had taken their toll on the restaurant, which was operating with less than half of its normal Friday night staff and offering half of the normal menu. D took charge of the ordering, and in no time at all we had a sizable feast before us. Several selections stood out as the hits of the evening: The tortilla verde, one of the most beautifully balanced "frittatas" I have ever encountered. Boquerones with avocado on grilled bread brought a delicate, delightful dichotomy between smooth creamy sweet avocado, brisk sharp boquerones and crispy bread. The spicy tuna and egg bocadillo was the surprise of the evening for me: who knew a tuna melt could be that good?!? And the tocino de pato... I'm not a duck fan, but John insisted I try it. Oh. my. gawd. Duck bacon. And while the bar menu's received much-deserved acclaim, I was looking for something with less punch and absolutely adored the house-made lemon-mint soda. Again a perfect balance.

We did less well with the desserts. T ordered the special of the evening, a chocolate cake with a broken creme fraiche. And the saffron orange ice cream that accompanied an orange pound cake clearly suffered beyond the point of no return from the afternoon's power outages.

All in all, a great way to kick off a weekend.

Cesar Piedmont | 4039 Piedmont Avenue, Oakland | 510.883.0222
Cesar Shattuck | 1515 Shattuck Avenue, Berkeley | 510.883.0222

Other bay area bloggers who share our obsession enthusiasm over Maggie Pond's amazing food and drink:
Fatemeh at Gastronomie feels as strongly as we do about the tocino de pato and makes several other excellent suggestions.
Gourmet Bee offers a make-at-home version of the intriguing spicy tuna and egg bocadillo.
Lia of Swirling Notions has a thing for the pimientos di padron.
Martha's sketches over at Trumpetville Travels capture the essence of both the Piedmont Avenue and Berkeley locations.
"Single Guy" Ben had a better experience with the saffron ice cream than we did, and offers Cesar a 3.5 rating on his unique scale.

Photo credit: Bar Cesar

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swirlingnotions said...

Ooooh . . . this makes me want to make a trip to Cesar. Even in the rain. Thanks for the shout-out!