Camino – It did not used to be the case that one left San Francisco for Oakland to dine, except in search of non-Western European cuisines that had been priced out of SF. There were a few good options, nice for meeting folks who lived on the other side of the Bay and were tired of always having to make the westward journey, but SF remained the center of gravity. Now, however, the pace of change appears to be accelerating, which is fun for Bay Area diners but has to be really exciting – and perhaps somewhat of a relief – for Oakland residents. Camino is as talked-about as any of the city’s a-birthing establishments, and so it’s a pleasure to cross the water and give it a try.
Cocktails: excellent. Atmosphere: fun and warm, vibing not entirely unlike a Rockies ski lodge, a feel that suits the extensive use of fire in the kitchen. Wine list: I never see it, so I don’t know. Service: very friendly.
Food…well: much is good, some is tentative, some is just OK. The hype may slightly outpace the quality, or I’m here on an off night. On the other hand, there’s no obvious reason why the kitchen couldn’t turn out consistently excellent food…what flaws there are on my night (mostly of conception and balance rather than execution) don’t appear to be systemic. I’d come back, but I wouldn’t rush.
Belluard 2009 Vin de Savoie Terroir du Mont-Blanc “Grand Jousses” Cépage Altesse (Savoie) – Flat plains of minerality, broadened to the horizon. Yet despite the breadth there’s a nervousness to the wine, a tension. And on the gripping hand, shyly floral flashes. I’d say this needs time, even on the night, but it’s gone like summer lightning…which, by itself, says something. (11/11)
Saumon 2009 Montlouis-sur-Loire Le Clos de Chêne (Loire) – I struggle with this wine, which seems surly and imbalanced…not in conception, necessarily, but as if it’s throwing a kind of tantrum. Waxed minerals, pollen, white petals, tenderness, but not one of these elements is willing to play with, or even look at, the others. I’ll wait for a bottle that’s had its nap, or is at least free of colic, before saying more. (11/11)
Arnot-Roberts 2010 Trousseau Luchsinger (Clear Lake) – Zinging all over the place, with spike-driven fruit of surprising weight giving its piercing tartness, somewhat leaden structure, and a lot of confused thrashing for a finish. This tastes like an experiment. (11/11)
Edmunds St. John 2005 Syrah Bassetti (San Louis Obispo County) – Something I thought I might never taste: a mature Bassetti. Well, mature-ish. OK, not mature at all. There’s certainly no hurry. If there’s any benefit to Old World analogues, this is the Hermitage versus some of Steve’s less hyper-masculine syrahs, but it’s important to stress that it doesn’t actually taste anything like Hermitage; the only real commonality is the firmness of its structure, which is still quite evident. Otherwise, the dark fruit has roasted into soy-drizzled walnuts and dark herbs, porcini dust plays a role, and the lingering impression is one of persistent solidity. Very, very impressive. (11/11)
Disclaimer: the Belluard and Saumon are provided by a dining companion who imports the wines.
Hog Island Oyster Bar – The lavishness of my usual 4- or 5-dozen oyster orgy is mitigated by the presence of an unfamiliar face, and thus I’m forced to behave in matters bivalvual. But there’s just nothing to not love about this place. Terrific food, quite decent beer, wine, and sake, and the Ferry Building premium doesn’t seem all that punishing here.
Métaireau “Domaine du Grand Mouton” 2010 Muscadet Sèvre & Maine Sur Lie “Petit Mouton” (Loire) – Muscadet-by-the-numbers. Abraded shells and slightly saline acidity, light-bodied, clean and soon absent. Frankly, I expect more from this producer. (11/11)