Friday, September 29, 2023

Eat in Oakland: Three Salted Fish at Standard Parts Studios

Nasi Bakar: barbecued banana leaf parcel filled with blue coconut rice and rendang ayam (slow-cooked chicken curry), served with urap sayur (mung bean salad with coconut dressing) and caramelized tomato sambal 

One of the great things about Oakland is that we have a thriving community of food pop-ups at various restaurants, venues, and events all around us. After following one pop-up vendor on Instagram, I was led to the wider community — one event saved in my calendar at a time. Three Salted Fish, an Indonesian pop-up run by Melati Citrawireja, was on my list for a while. I was happy I could try her food at an event at Standard Parts Studios on E 12th Street between 9th and 10th Avenues in East Oakland in late July.

I ordered the Nasi Bakar: a barbecued banana leaf parcel filled with blue coconut rice and a choice of rendang ayam (slow-cooked chicken curry) or kering tempe, served with urap sayur (mung bean salad with coconut dressing) and caramelized tomato sambal. I haven't had much Indonesian food and this was quite different from what I've had before, which were noodle and curry dishes similar to what you might find in Thai or Indian cuisines. Beyond being very photogenic, this self-contained banana leaf held a lot of tastes and textures in the chicken curry within. I liked experimenting with the different flavor combinations, seeing if the sambal was too spicy or when just enough accentuated the flavor in the chicken. 

I really enjoyed trying Melati's food and I'll be looking out for the next Three Salted Fish pop-up in the area.

Three Salted Fish
Open: see Instagram for details

Standard Parts Studios
928 E 12th St, Oakland, CA 94606

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Thursday, September 28, 2023

Eat in Oakland: The Star on Grand

Meatball Deep Dish Pizza made with meatballs, ricotta, onions, and mozzarella

Goddess Salad made with little gem lettuce, green onions, candied walnuts, goat cheese, and creamy pesto dressing

My dining companion and I stopped by The Star on Grand, a pizza restaurant on Grand and Elwood in Grand Lake, in late July(I've been to The Star and the related Little Star on Valencia in the Mission many times before, but I'm surprised I haven't reviewed them sooner...) Known for their deep dish made with a cornmeal crustthey also serve thin crust pizza, salads, sandwiches, and cocktails.  

On this visit, we started with two delicious cocktails, which I both don't remember the names of and only have a blurry photo to prove their existence. Just the same, I remember thinking they combined unique flavors into very well-made drinks. We then shared the Goddess Salad made with little gem lettuce, green onions, candied walnuts, goat cheese, and creamy pesto dressing. As a recent convert to the joys of little gem lettuce procured from a local farmers' market, I know we really enjoyed this photogenic dish that balanced salty, sweet, and creamy flavors. 

For the main course, we got the Meatball Deep Dish Pizza made with housemade meatballs, ricotta, onions, and fresh mozzarella. I always love a deep dish and any pizza with meatballs, so this was quite a treat. I love their cornmeal crust, which adds texture and flavor, and makes it hard to go back to a regular flour crust elsewhere. I also like how they let their ingredients speak for themselves; this dish is made of only a few things that are all executed perfectly.

The next time I stop by, I want one of their personal pizzas for lunch. I may try another type of deep dish, but it is still very likely to have meatballs.

The Star on Grand 
3425 Grand Ave., Oakland, CA 94610
Open: Sunday - Thursday 11:30am - 9pm, Friday - Saturday 11:30am - 10pm

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Wednesday, September 27, 2023

Eat in Oakland: Pomella

Hummus Plate with Cheese-Stuffed Falafel + Tahini made with olive oil, paprika, parsley, and pine nuts, served with pickles and pita

Hummus Plate with Chicken Shishlik made with olive oil, paprika, parsley, and pine nuts, served with pickles and pita

I visited Pomella, a casual Israeli restaurant located on Piedmont and W. MacArthur, for the second time in early July, while catching up with an old friend. Right next to Doña, a favorite Mexican restaurant, Pomella has an expansive menu of rice and hummus plates, wraps, stews, and hot and cold mezze.

We both ordered a Hummus Plate (mine with the Chicken Shishlik and my friend's with the Cheese-Stuffed Falafel and Tahini sauce), which came with pita bread and pickles on the side. I remember everything being very good. The hummus was just how I like it — delicious chickpeas blended with olive oil, paprika, parsley, and pine nuts — while the strips of chicken were perfectly cooked, the pickles had the tang I like, and all these elements combined nicely with the pita bread. My friend's cheese-stuffed falafel was also quite good and the cheese inside complemented the falafel more than overpowered it.

I would definitely stop by Pomella again, especially considering how good their food tasted and how many more things they have to offer.

3770 Piedmont Ave., Unit B, Oakland, CA 94611
Open: Daily 11am - 8pm

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Tuesday, September 26, 2023

Eat in Tortola: Naturally Tasty by RotiMan

Chicken Roti

Mango Chutney

Like our visit to Restaurante El Campeón in San Juan, Puerto Rico, my dining companion and I stopped by Naturally Tasty by RotiMan in mid June to try the authentic local cuisine Tortola, British Virgin Islands had to offer. We were referred to this restaurant by an employee at Nook, a well-curated bookstore in the neighborhood, after we said we were on the hunt for roti. Located on Waterfront Drive, this casual restaurant serves roti and other local favorites in a small shop with shaded outdoor seating. 

We ordered the Chicken Roti and made sure to get the Mango Chutney, following the friendly employee's advice. We were quite satisfied with her recommendation: the warm chicken was perfectly seasoned and served in a flaky wrap. The Mango Chutney added another dimension of flavor and texture. While I've previously had roti at Indian, Thai, Burmese, and Indonesian restaurants across California, it was nice to experience the Caribbean take where the emphasis was on the meat within the flaky bread vs. the bread that's often eaten with a yellow curry dip. 

It was the perfect meal to eat while escaping the hot sun. If you're on the hunt for authentic roti in Tortola, make sure to stop by Naturally Tasty by RotiMan.

Naturally Tasty by RotiMan 
VG1110 Tortola, British Virgin Islands
Open: Sunday - Tuesday 6:30am - 6:30pm, Wednesday - Saturday 6:30am - 9:30pm

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Monday, September 25, 2023

Eat in San Juan: Restaurante El Campeón

Tostones (fried plantains)

Aguacate de Pollo

While visiting the Caribbean in mid June, my dining companion and I stopped by Restaurante El Campeón in Old San Juan, Puerto Rico for dinner one warm evening. Located on Calle de San Justo at Calle de San Francisco in the heart of the touristy part of the capital, this restaurant serves traditional and new Puerto Rican dishes in a modern setting.

Since we were looking for food that is distinctly Puerto Rican, we followed the guidance of our friendly server and ordered the Aguacate de Pollo for our main course. We had never seen anything like this avocado dish before: it featured the largest, creamiest avocado half we've ever seen — what is in the water there and how can we get some here? — stuffed with chicken and vegetables over a bed of flavorful rice. There is much more to this dish that I am giving it with my short description, but I can tell you that it was the most interesting, unique, and definitely Caribbean dish we had had on that trip thus far. Although I usually go for the sweet "maduro" plantains, we also enjoyed the more savory "tostones" green plantains we shared as well.

Along with the unexpectedly delicious meal — we had no idea what was in store; we simply came off the street, avoiding the obvious tourist traps — we were treated to an evening of wonderful hospitality. If you ever find yourself in Old San Juan, see if you can make it to Restaurante El Campeón for a nice taste of Puerto Rico.

Restaurante El Campeón 
201 Calle de San Justo, San Juan, Puerto Rico 00901
Open: Sunday - Wednesday 11am - 9pm, Thursday - Saturday 11am - 10pm

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