Friday, July 10, 2009

Planned Openings Clinch Oakland's Status as Emerging Restaurant Hot Spot

Posted By on Fri, Jul 10, 2009 at 8:00 AM

click to enlarge Kirnon: modern Caribbean at Hibiscus. - ALEXA SHAE/FLICKR
  • Alexa Shae/Flickr
  • Kirnon: modern Caribbean at Hibiscus.
As we noted Wednesday, Oakland is experiencing a flurry of new restaurant activity, besides the destination restaurants touted by mayoral candidate Don "I'll put our top 10 restaurants against San Francisco's top 10 any day" Perata. Among the most exciting new announcements: Hibiscus, a modern Caribbean concept from chef Sarah Kirnon (late of The Front Porch), and front-of-house man Omar White (veteran of Chez Panisse and Pizzaiolo), part of an ambitious multi-use project from the team behind the Independent in S.F.

They're hoping to install Hibiscus, along with a live-music venue named Town Hall and a clothing store called Density, in the crusty old Sweet Jimmie's space at 1733 San Pablo (at 18th). A sample Hibiscus menu features Dungeness crab with steel-cut grits, leeks, and crawfish butter; deep-fried chicken livers with crispy parsley and Miss G's hot sauce; salt cod fritters with roasted red chile aioli and grilled lemon; and jerk chicken with smoked local black beans. It's still in the very early stages of development.

Joey Altman's Miss Pearl's Jam House opened last year in Jack London Square, but other JLS projects are behind schedule. That includes Bracina from Coi's Daniel Patterson and former Delfina chef Lauren Kino, offering rustic California cuisine and featuring a rotisserie and outdoor seating on the waterfront. The latest guess is for a December opening. Also delayed: Bocanova from Rich Hackett of MarketBar, and the East Bay branch of Contigo, the new tapas eatery in Noe Valley. [Ed. note: Oops! No Contigo is planned for JLS. Check our SFoodie apology.] A long-promised Ferry Building-esque development in the Square is still in the process of attracting vendors. Encuentro, a Latin-themed wine bar, is due to open shortly within walking distance of JLS, at Second and Jackson.

But if you're hungry for what's hot right this minute, James Syhabout, veteran of Manresa and Coi, opened Commis last week in the old Jojo's space on Piedmont Avenue. The $49 three-course menus (with choices for each) are generating big buzz, just one of many reasons to cross the bay these days. We suspect Don Perata's top 10 list is in constant flux.

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Meredith Brody

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