Toutatis Crepe House
The picnic organizers held their final strategy and tactics meeting at Toutatis Crepe House. Toutatis was recommended by fellow chowhound garcon, who is well qualified to opine on French delicacies.
Toutatis is located near the 12th Street Bart station in Oakland. The decor is grayed blues and yellows - very European. Casual, without looking like it tried hard to be casual. On one wall is the Brittany flag. Brittany is the heartland of buckwheat crepes. The flag had stripes and what looked like 15 Christmas trees. The trees turned out to be representations of brave ermines (animals in the weasel family). In the back are 5 patio tables surrounded by olympic sized rosemary, sage, hibiscus, and hydrangea bushes - a garden oasis in the city.
Our waiter was very friendly, efficient, and helpful with our crepe concensus decision. We started with a creamy mushroom soup composed of portobello, shitake and button mushrooms. Very smooth and amiable flavor, served in deep bowls. We ordered 3 savory crepes. All were excellent. Unlike buckwheat crepes I've sampled at other places, these crepes had no bitterness. We found out that the owner makes a special effort to get this fine buckwheat flour.
Number one was "la super complete", where the crepe enveloped egg, swiss cheese, smoked ham and mushrooms. You choose whether you prefer your egg scrambled or sunnyside. Our sunnyside egg looked like the peering eye on the back of the dollar bill, atop the pyramid structure.
Number two was ratatouille, starring the usual mediterranean veggies. This time, the crepe was a circular construction.
Number three was Chamonix, named after the city at the foot of Mont-Blanc, beloved by skiiers. Its configuration was an angular geometry. I liked the fortifying combination of potatoes, raclette cheese (think fondue), smoked ham, swiss cheese, and green onions. This braced us for a return to foggy San Francisco.
The dessert crepes caused a commotion at the table. Aumonieres was a peasant's purse filled with carmelized apples and drizzled with caramel sauce. The carmel sauce was freshly made with European sweetness - meaning not cloyingly sweet. The string of the peasant purse was licorice definitely more sophisticated than the licorice swizzles of our childhood. Banana slices (abstractions of coins?) and puffs of whipped cream circled the purse. If this is a peasant purse, can you imagine a queen's purse?
Our fruit crepe was pear, chocolate, and toasted almonds. Since I binged on chocolate in my youth and have a polar reaction to it now, I'll leave this for a fellow chowhound to comment upon.
In contrast to the glitzy, bejeweled aumoniere, the honey and lemon crepe looked like a poor country cousin, a plain jane. Well this plain jane had character. Just the right blend of lemon and honey. With far fewer ingredients and without the fuss of the aumoniere, this crepe stands tall on its own.
The classic drink to accompany the crepe is cider (also from the Brittany region of France). We sipped Domaine Eric Bordelet Brut Tendre. Apparently, quality ciders are not imported in great volume into the US; this was one of them.
Thanks for the compliment, Elise, and the very nicely-written review. It's always very interesting to see how other chowhounds experience the same restaurants.
I shall try some of the items you've described as I've yet to stray from my usuals so far; the Chamonix sounds fun, a raclette in a nice buckwheat crêpe is a very yummy concept.
It's nice to see Toutatis get some word of mouth and traffic. I am rooting for it the same way I was rooting for Ti Couz when it first opened (but if anything, Ti Couz, much like the Mission around 16th, is now almost a victim of its own success.) I hope that being in Oakland as opposed to a "sexy" location like the Mission won't hurt Toutatis' long-term success and will actually help this nice underrated Oakland neighborhood.
I've gotta thank you too for the recommendation. This was a really delicious meal that had been prepared with obvious care and not just a snack. The peasant's purse crepe is only offered at dinner time and was a far more detailed presentation than expected! Even though I don't care for licorice (or didn't think so), I was intrigued by the slender thread used to tie the purse and gave it a taste. So different than our home-grown! This had a purity and intensity of flavor and none of the medicinal off-flavors, I was almost a convert.
re: Melanie Wong
i would be hard pressed to choose a favorite amoung the 6 crepes we tried. i was far too busy eating and enjoying them to do any comparing.
as elise has said the buckwheat in the entree crepes was unbelieveable. to me, far better than that of ti couz. a much heartier flavor than your standard buy in tiny sacks at the store buckwheat. and it was darker in color as well.
one thing that intrigued me was that no two crepes were folded the same way, and none to my recollection came out in the traditional two fold, wedge shape.
the chef, who came out to spend a moment with us was quite personable and shy in the most seductive way, his accent only adding charm to his attractive person. when we paid our compliments he just tipped his head down and smiled and said thank you.
we told him we'd enjoyed it far better than ti couz and he said that on his few days off he really wasn't in the mood to go to another crepe house so hadn't checked it out yet, but was happy for the compliment.
we sat for quite a while, eating, visiting, working. the waiter was pleasant and helpful, the room light and interesting, the champagne melanie shared my favorite and the cider that followed delicious.
if you're in the hood drop by, support this delicious restaurant, gems like this need our consistant patronage.
Toutatis is at 719 Washington Street in Oakland. ph: 510/465-6984.
I'd definately second the recommendation for the lemon/honey dessert crepe. the chocolate/pear one was just ok. They also serve a kir breton drink which is cider and either blackberry or cassis liquer. It's a nice drink sitting out on the patio in the sun.
Thanks for the lovely post eliseh, you really caught the food and decor and even all the details about the flag!
There is a thread below with further info on Toutatis and bay area creperies...
Here's the body of my post from an even earlier thread:
Subject: Very nice crêperie in Oakland!
Posted: July 22, 2001 at 23:31:45
'Toutatis', in Old Oakland, 719 Washington street. Charming old victorian neighborhood, just west of Braodway and Oakland's Chinatown. The name is very familiar for French people, it is a deity from old Gaul, and the exclamation of choice of Asterix and his comic strip buddies. The name told me that the crêpes would be authentic, and they sure didn't disapoint.
The savory crêpes (buckwheat, de rigueur) and the dessert ones are excellent, just as good as Ti Couz' but without the wait and the fuss.
The owner's French accent betrays his southern roots, but his parents are from Normandy and Brittany, so he knows about crepes and ciders and offers a selection of 3 Norman ciders, one of which is produced by his friend (apple cider is the traditional accompaniement for crêpes, but there is a very good wine list as well).
There is a very cozy patio in the back of the old victorian building which makes for a very pleasant brunch as well as a good selection of French comic books!
The prices are quite cheap; $5 for my 'complète' (ham, swiss and an egg), $3 for my lavender honey dessert crêpe. Parking is fairly easy in the neighborhood on weekends, BART is nearby and the neighborhood is quite safe. Phone is 510-465 6984.
Thanks for the info and follow-up, Jennifer. It's nice to see many are discovering and enjoying this establishment, and nice to see a good artisan's work deservedly rewarded. Toutatis very much deserves the same kind of success that Ti Couz enjoys.
For the San Franciscans or Oaklanders (new or old), it's a chance to experience the same simple pleasures one can enjoy at a good crêperie across the Atlantic, and sample crêpes the way they are supposed to be in a simple and pleasant setting, so Toutatis truly is a special place.
For a transplant like me, it's great having an authentic crêperie locally. The crêperie experience in France parallels that of going to a diner or a soda fountain place like Fenton's. It's a good occasion for a simple, hearty meal among friends and family. Toutatis brought back those memories.