Monday, February 08, 2010

Flora Restaurant

A Touch of the Past in a Neighborhood Reborn
1900 Telegraph Ave. (at 19th), Oakland
Uptown neighborhood
PH: 510.286.0100
Open lunch 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., Tues.–Fri.; brunch, 10 a.m.–2:30 p.m.; dinner, 5-–9:30 p.m. Tues.-–Thu. (until 11 p.m., Fri.-–Sat.); closed Sunday and Monday.
Reservations, major credit cards accepted

On a dark, rainy night, Flora is like an oasis that beckons the lost in Oakland looking for good food and cheer.

I wasn’t necessarily lost, but I felt welcomed and warmed when I visited this restaurant and bar in Oakland’s Uptown neighborhood recently on a rainy night. Even though it’s across from the refurbished Fox Theater, there’s very little activity in the area on most nights. I dropped into Flora with a longtime friend Mary Lou, who I haven’t seen in nearly 20 years.

Mary Lou was in town for a meeting and she was staying in downtown Oakland. With the rain, I decided to stay close to her hotel so that’s how we ended up in Flora.

From the people behind Dona Tomas, Flora is quite a change from the Mexican theme of that Temescal restaurant. Instead, with its Art Deco décor reflecting the feel of the Fox Theater across the street, Flora is like a high-end restaurant on the Upper East Side of Manhattan.

Maybe because of the rain, Flora didn’t seem too crowded even though it doesn’t look like a very large restaurant. But that allowed me to catch up with Mary Lou without having to shout over each other.

To start off our dinner, I wanted to try a drink from the bar since Flora is known for its cocktail program. I ordered something called the Vicar in the Tutu because it reminded me of my favorite Pisco Sour because of the use of egg white and Angostura bitters. The drink, made of Roger Groult calvados, is a very beautiful drink with a fun design made with the Angostura bitters on the egg foam. It was a very enjoyable drink. (Mary Lou ordered a martini, which she says she hasn’t had in years until I made her think of it. Like I’m some kind of bad influence.)

Now for the food. I ordered the Mixed Chicories Salad ($13), which was a lovely and large salad made with winter greens, pancetta, roasted fennel, cippolini onions, hard boiled eggs, and strips of parmesan. Yes, it was a lot in a salad and quite hearty, but the sherry-dijon vinaigrette made the salad seem light and fresh.

For her entrée, Mary Lou ordered the Long Island cheese pumpkin risotto ($22). She also ordered a side of greens with her risotto. I went with the Yellowfin Tuna ($28), which was nicely cooked with a seared exterior and a tender and slightly raw center. The fish sat on rapini greens and Hidatsa beans. The entire plate was satisfying and comforting.

Mary Lou didn’t go for dessert, but because of the cold evening did decide to get a hot toddy ($10). I made room for the caramel pudding with sea salt ($8). I love any kind of pudding (especially butterscotch) and Flora’s light pudding had a nice sweet flavor that was topped with a large dollop of whipped cream. It came with a nice rosemary pinenut sable cookie on the side.

Flora provided the perfect setting for me to catch up with a longtime friend like Mary Lou. The nostalgic environment along with the California-inspired menu made it fitting to talk about old times while enjoying some tasty food of the season, which is the trend of dining in California.

With a new condominium complex that opened diagonally from the restaurant, hopefully the neighborhood will become more robust and more activity will surround Flora so that it can blossom even more.

Single guy rating: 3.75 stars (Classy food and drink)

Explanation of the single guy's rating system:

1 star = perfect for college students
2 stars = perfect for new diners
3 stars = perfect for foodies
4 stars = perfect for expense accounts
5 stars = perfect for any guy's dream dinner

Flora on Urbanspoon

More nearby in Oakland:
Bocanova: "Getting Festive by the Waterfront"
Franklin Wine Bar: "Cozy Spot Livens Oakland's Uptown Neighborhood"
Levende East: "Club Vibe in Old Oakland"


Anonymous said...

The next time you go you have to try the cocktail called Carter Beats the Devil -- tequila, lime, agave nectar, chili tincture. One of the best drinks I've ever had.

Also, if you go on a Friday or Saturday night or if there's a show a the Fox you'll find Flora gets pretty packed. -- David K.

admin said...


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foodhoe said...

heehee vicar in the tutu, I want to visit just to order that! Looks good, I love Dona Tomas and just went to Tacubaya last weekend...

Ammie said...

The caramel pudding is to die for.

Was this your first time? I'm surprised!

Chris Lane, one of the bartenders at Flora, is one of the best bartenders in the Bay. I'm never disappointed in a cocktail recommended or made by him.

Single Guy Ben said...

Saudade, yes, it was my first time, which is weird because it's so close to my work. But I'm definitely going to go back for after-work drinks, maybe that Carter Beats the Devil. (Thanks David for the tip, how do they come up with these names?)

Carolyn Jung said...

I still need to get to this place. Have heard so many wonderful things about it. And now that I know there's caramel pudding involved, I should just drive right over there NOW. ;)