A day later, and I'm still thinking about the deviled quail eggs. A perfect small bite, wrapped in a thin slice of serrano ham, sprinkled with pimenton, with a slice of Fresno chile for garnish. And given that Mayor Jean Quan stopped by, and that the last guests (yes, we were among them) had to be asked to leave the party on a Tuesday night, well, these all seem to be good omens for the restaurant's future.
Shakewell had a preview party last night for its many Kickstarter supporters and others, and it's opening tomorrow.
Located on Lakeshore Avenue in Oakland, the Spanish-Mediterranean restaurant has Moorish décor in a minimalist interior.
"We thought it has the connotation of a 'well' drink, and being welcoming," Jen Biesty, Shakewell's chef and co-owner explains, "And then also shaking hands and shaking a drink, we thought it was fun and worked with the handcrafted concept."
Tim Nugent, her fellow co-owner, has designed the dessert menu, and will function as general manager. The two met while both working at Scala in the city, and coincidentally, both competed on Bravo's reality chef competition Top Chef; she on season 4, and he on its Just Desserts.
The two hope for Shakewell to become a neighborhood kind of place, where friends meet up after work for food and drink. "The Spanish believe in having a little bit, often, which is a great way to have a dining experience in which you eat and drink lots of little things," says Biesty.
Indeed, much of the menu was on offer last night, so we did get to try lots of little things. In addition to that dreamy quail egg, last night's highlights were a squid ink paella called a bomba (after the rice used, so Biesty can be a bit freer with technique), an octopus crostini with saffron aioli, and a lamb kefta with harissa and yogurt sauce.
There will always be four bombas on the menu, one vegetarian and seasonal, each one having a unique stock, and all of them cooked in the wood-fire oven.
"We are taking a healthier approach to our menu," says Nugent, "[We're] using lots of olive oil and harissa and romesco as opposed to heavy, oily veal stocks. We're trying to be kind of healthy because we sense that that's what people want now."
That may be true, but there are also plenty of deep-fried dishes on offer, like fried olives, sausage-stuffed fried sage leaves, and queso freso and sweet pea croquetas.
But balancing out those dishes is the section "little fish" section, featuring everything from sardines to various grilled seafood.
Sangria and several specialty cocktails round out the beverage program, and desserts include churros fried to order with a chili chocolate dipping sauce.
Given that Biesty and Nugent were able to raise more than $100,000 on Kickstarter to help them open Shakewell, it seems that it will indeed be a welcome addition to Oakland's exploding restaurant scene.
Shakewell opens tomorrow night. It's located at 3407 Lakeshore Ave., Oakland.