Tuesday, June 01, 2010

A Return to Oakland’s Bocanova

This is an occasional report on return visits to restaurants that I’ve already reviewed.

Service Improves But What About the Food?
55 Webster St. (at Embarcadero), Oakland
Jack London Square
PH: 510.444.1233
Lunch and dinner daily
Reservations, major credit cards accepted

Original visit: November 2009

When a San Francisco friend was over on my side of the Bay, I decided we should eat somewhere that takes advantage of Oakland’s beauty. So I suggested dining at Bocanova, mostly because it’s located at the waterfront of Jack London Square.

During my first visit to this year-old restaurant serving up South American cuisine, I was sidetracked in my attempts to get a pisco sour — one of my favorite drinks from that part of the world. This time, as I waited for my friend at the bar, I was happy to see that the pisco sour was on the menu and that the bartenders were just as friendly.

My friend Hector showed up and we were seated in the main dining area facing the water. I started with the Halibut Ceviche ($12), which was beautifully presented with tomato, cilantro and aji amarillo sauce. There were also thin slices of mango. While the halibut looked pretty, it did have a slight metallic taste, almost like it wasn’t super fresh.

Hector ordered from the salad section and got a healthy Quinoa Salad ($12) with wild shrimp and roasted beets. The plate was piled on with the quinoa—a staple in Peru. It felt very light with the orange vinaigrette, and the tender beets were hidden underneath like a treasure hunt.

For our main courses, I ordered the Marinated Sweetbreads ($11) with South American sofrito and a side of roasted asparagus ($9). The sweetbreads also looked like a big plate, with several of the pieces to munch on. They also looked nicely grilled, but when I bit into them several pieces were chewy and undercooked.

I think that was partly the large-size sweetbreads they had that day, but the chewy texture just reminded me that I was eating glands. (I really enjoy sweetbreads that have a crispy exterior and meaty interior.)

Hector ordered the turkey breast with pumpkin seed mole, which I recommended because I enjoyed it on my first visit to Bocanova. Hector seemed to enjoy it as well.

Side note: This time around, I felt the service seemed more relaxed and in control. From the hostess to our waiter, everything seemed to be moving like clockwork.

We went for dessert this time around, and I ordered the Pear Tartlet ($8), which sounded great because it came with a scoop of butter pecan ice cream. The tartlet looked pretty with its powdered sugar topping, but was eclipsed by the scoop of ice cream.

I don’t remember much about this dessert, other than the pastry dough felt a bit tough and wasn’t as flakey as I’d hoped.

Hector, however, totally enjoyed Bocanova’s signature Warm Chocolate Croissand Bread Pudding ($8), a huge dessert for one person. (I’d definitely order this to share.) Many people have noted how if you’re not a bread pudding fan, you’d still like this croissant bread pudding. Hector said he could taste the light, flakiness of the croissant in the chocolate dessert.

Bocanova is still a handsome room to dine and it seems like it’s become a place where people host special occasion dinners (there were two birthday dinners happening while we were there). But I felt the food was starting to get tired. Just like how service has improved to run like clockwork, I felt the food from the kitchen is starting to feel a bit routine.

Update experience (previous 3.5 stars): Downgrading to 3 stars. (While service has improved, the food doesn’t seem as exciting anymore.)

Bocanova on Urbanspoon

On the way to the bathroom, you walk down a long corridor in the back, which the restaurant has turned into a gallery space. When I was there, they were featuring these interesting portraits by photographer Barbara Lee of people she took in Patagonia.

1 comment:

foodhoe said...

we walked by there last weekend, it is a very appealing spot. I ate there once and wasn't impressed since I had just eaten at La Mar Cebicheria... but that outside seating and view are enough to tempt me back, especially since summer seems to have arrived. That bread pudding looks good!