Oakland: Commis

Saturday, December 22, 2012

To conclude my Seven Michelin Star Restaurants in Seven Days series, I bring you to my hometown, Oakland. When I first heard that a restaurant in Oakland was awarded with a Michelin Star, I was honestly a bit shocked. Michelin Star? Here? In Oakland? I was definitely surprised, but also very proud.

I went to Commis, May 2012, not knowing too much what to expect. Commis is a bit hidden on Piedmont Ave. There is no name outside the door, just numbers, 3859.

Commis' elusive door, just count down the street numbers and make your way there!

Stepping into Commis, you'll really see how small the restaurant is. It's essentially the chef's counter you see in the photo below, and about four small tables for 2 up front, and 2-3 more tables in the back. Depending on how large your party is, you'd definitely need to make a reservation well in advanced.

The Open Kitchen/Chef's Table concept

The menu at Commis is that there is no menu. You're simply asked if you're allergic to anything and the rest is left up to the kitchen with their set menu for the night. I've heard that if you're not the adventurous type, then you COULD ask for the menu, but why spoil the fun? Also, the 8-course tasting menu here is actually pretty affordable, running you $75 per person. The wine pairing is the cheapest I've seen at $45 a person. Usually, I don't feel too good about doubling the price of my tasting for a wine for each course, but at this price, who could deny it? So, without a second thought, we ordered the wine pairing.

We started off the night with an amuse that was interesting, but definitely not the most delicious - an vegetable ash covered parmesan cookie made to look like a rock, sitting in a bowl of rocks. Well, so with this type of start, we definitely knew that Commis likes to step out of the boundaries.

Amuse Bouche - Vegetable Ashed Parmesan Cookie - obviously supposed to look like a rock

The second dish was a beautifully presented oyster. When you dig in, you'll find that it wasn't simply JUST an oyster as expect. The oyster was actually sitting in a vinegar jelly, turnip and horseradish. It tasted so fresh with the unique texture with the addition of the jelly. The dish after was one sent from heaven, Commis' signature dish, Egg Yolk on top of a bed of creamy onion soup with malt on the side. This dish was everything you wanted in a dish, sweet, savory, creamy, tangy, the list goes on. The only complaint was that it was a tad over-salted. You can see the pile of salt on top of the egg yolk in the photo below.

Pacific Oyster with Vinegar Jelly, turnip and horseradish - NOM! 

Commis' signature dish:  Poached Farm Egg Yolk with Alliums, Smoked Dates, and Malt - YUMM

The next two dishes were so fresh and delightful to eat. By this point, our wine pairings put us in a really good place and since this is the first time I've ever done a wine pairing with a tasting menu, I did notice the flavors of the wine changing as we tasted each wine before we had a bite to after, having the dish bring out the flavors of each plate.

Asparagus Salad with dried herring roe 

Fennel Soup

Finally, our last dish was a sirloin that's been cooked sous-vide then seared off for some color. It was perfectly cooked and was a great last savory course. Of course as you can see here, the only complain that we really had was the portion size. While we weren't leaving hungry, we weren't stuffed like we were at Gary Danko a few nights before.

Seared Sirloin, Trumplet Mushroom

By the time the dessert came, I was REALLY feeling it from the wine pairings. It really added to the whole experience and opened me up to see how different wines work with different key ingredients. Props to the sommelier, it was definitely exceeded my expectations of a $45 wine pairing.

Cucumber and unripe tomato, mousse of lemon balm
Honey Ice Cream with (have to look this up!)

Cup 'o Dirt - Espresso Mint Chocolate Soil, with a little green sprouting out of the cup. A fun way to end the night!

All in all, I was really happy with the meal at Commis. Chef James Syhabout brings hints of Basque-style cooking that I loved so much in San Sebastian. I thought the dishes were fresh and the tasting menu plus the wine pairing was so affordable for what we were given that I wouldn't think twice before coming back. With the dishes changing all the time, I will definitely come back again soon!

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Commis | Yelp

3859 Piedmont Ave
Oakland, CA 94611

(510) 653-3902

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