Oakland Lunch Report #10: New Oakland Seafood Restaurant
New Oakland Seafood Restaurant,
Tuesday August 24th: the latest in the Oakland lunch series.
We eight ate a lunch that was planned for ten, but two did not show. This makes me crabby. So we had crab.
We had a "set" dinner for $98 with some addition. The theme of the dinner was "eat the inside, eat the outside" since almost every dish had some work to it, and something to discard.
Yellow Chives Seafood Soup: This was nourishing, but had very little of the yellow chive and very little seafood. Some pencil-eraser shrimp, and other bits and pieces of unidentified swimming objects. Tasted OK.
Crispy Fried Quail: Excellent, possibly the best version I've had. The quail were meaty, nicely cooked. Crisp outside, moist inside.
Salt and Pepper Shrimp: So-so. There was shrimp-to-shrimp variation. The larger ones were succulent and juicy, but the shells were hard; I managed to eat them, but diners with a less generous dental plan peeled. The smaller shrimp were tender but dry. Yimster speculated that the "live spot prawns" in the tank at the back, upon their demise, end up in this dish. Perhaps they are "shot in the back trying to escape" (this is Oakland, after all).
Ginger and Green Onion Chicken: This was perhaps the best dish, and one of the best chickens I've had. The whole bird was poached, cut up, covered with slivered scallions and ginger, doused with a delicate soy sauce, and presented at room temperature. The meat was "pink at the bone" ("the way we like it," said Derek). Very tender and very juicy.
Garlic Steamed Crab: I'm not a big fan of crab. This was OK. It was not steamed, but fried in a batter. The batter was tasty; whether it was too thick or too thin will be a matter for serious debate. Unlike the shrimp, where you eat the shell with the batter on it, the crab shell is inedible -- so what's the point of a tasty batter?
Peking ribs: I cringed inwardly when I saw the fluorescent red color of the sauce. However, it turned out to be an excellent dish. Only a few bones on the whole platter, mostly tender meat, no gristle in the pieces I got. The sauce was just right -- not too sweet.
Crispy Flounder: The one failure. The flounder had indeed been fried, to the point of dryness, and then covered with an unfortunate gloppy sauce which negated the crispy potential. I've enjoyed the version at Gold Medal, which is a smaller fish, fried to crunchiness and served sauceless to preserve the crunch. This fish was larger, so many of the bones were not edible (I got to remove the backbone this time, under the critical gaze of Yimster).
Snails in Black Bean Sauce: Very interesting. Smaller than the traditional French escargot, these seemed to be of a similar type. A hard operculum (the "trap-door" closing off the shell) was a barrier, but once penetrated the inhabitant was succulent. Toothpicks were provided to pry out the meat, or one could just suck. The sauce had a good amount of hot spiciness, more so than I would expect in the usual black bean sauce.
Shitake Mushroom over Mustard Green. This was true to its name, very clean flavors, the mustard green very tender.
Service was fine: cheerful, solicitous, helpful. However the place was only one-third full (if that), so it's hard to judge. Clientele was almost exclusively Chinese. We had a great time chatting, listening to tall tales of Yimster's early days.
The cost was $18 per person (however, recall this was supposed to be dinner for 10).
New Oakland Seafood Restaurant
307 Tenth Street (between Harrison and Webster)
I was pleased to join the Oakland series for the first time today. Great to meet and re-meet everyone, and it's certainly a nice break to the day if you can get away. I agree overall with everyone, though I will say that I think the snails do have a certain flavor similar to that of mussels or large oysters albeit with the typical gastropod texture. It was my first time eating this sort of snail. I also don't think I've ever eaten quail before, which I also thought were quite nice. I don't know where that color comes from in the sauce for the Peking spareribs, but this was definitely one of the best versions I've had, still crispy-crunchy under the glaze. Overall, I thought it was fine, though I probably wouldn't be in a hurry to get back, nothing made me mad either.
Thanks to Joel and Yimster for organizing. Looking forward to future events.
I fear the color may well be food coloring. But this verison was actual petty good. It was not over sauce like the fish. It only had a small amount of sauce on the plate. I have been told it would be prefect in there was almost none at all.
It was nice meeting you also. I am sure that Marc and Susan will pick another date and place soon. They have a good handle on the whole deal. I am only a tag along person.
Once again, a very nice gathering. I may be a bit more critical of the dishes than some of my fellow 'hounds. Not that anything was bad (except the gooey cornstarch/oystersauce coating the overdone fish), but none of the seafood was exciting enough to make me rush back for.
As mentioned by others, it was odd that the best dishes were not the seafood (maybe a change of restaurant name to New Oakland Fowl Restaurant? naw, I guess that would not attract many diners), but the quail--just as Joel described it--and the really good chicken--ditto Joel again. And I agree with Derek that pink at the bone is the mark of good, juicy chicken. In fact, my major criticism of all the seafood was that it would have been better if cooked less. (I like my crab pink at the bone too.) I also agree with Joel that the yellow chive seafood soup was seriously lacking in both, and the broth seemed to me a bit bland.
As for the snails, my reaction to these was the same as my reaction to Provence-style snails. The rubbery little gastropods add little except springy texture to give your mouth something to do while relishing the pleasures of the garlic butter (French snail) or spicy black bean sauce (today's). Perhaps this has been too harsh a review, since I stuffed myself and would not mind returning here. Just not a destination dining spot, I would say.
And may I second thanks to Joel for being the prime mover of most of these lunches? And thanks to Yimster for his planning of this extensive menu? Lillian and Joel will be missed and perhaps I could suggest that we have some lunch gatherings on one of those many in-service days that you teachers get.
Allan (ex-teacher. ha.)
This was my first experience eating snails, and I was pleasantly surprised! I too love black bean sauce, so this is definitely a dish I will revisit. My only concern was the crunchy (inedible?) caviar buried inside a few snails that crossed our plates. I heard Yimster say something about avoiding snail certain times of the month...mind repeating the specifics of that suggestion?
re: Lillian Hsu
What I had was meaning to say was that snails give live birth. So depending on the time of the year snail may contain little shells in the tail of each snail. So you can do two things to avoid this problem. First pick the smaller ones and they should not have shells or only eat the head of the snail of the bigger ones. But is a small price to pay if you like the snails.
I enjoy the meal and most of all the company. It is nice to meet Eric for the first time.
I agree with the others the seafood was the weakest point of the whole meal. But I notice the live tanks and the fish, crab, lobster and prawns looked very fresh. I am willing to give it another try at dinner. Maybe the lead chef is off during the day or at least off Tuesday.
This place came recommeded to me by someone I trust. But then again in Chinese places they go up and down as chefs come and go.
The only reason we go here is for the snails in black bean sauce. Most restaurants don't have it and it's a sentimental childhood favorite of mine that I've turned my husband onto. We haven't been here in about a year, so it's nice to know they still have them. Methinks we're overdue for a visit.
re: Melanie Wong
yes, I would have to agree that, despite the name, the non-seafood dishes were the highlight although I liked the soup better than Joel did, and I did like the crab. If you had asked me after my first serving I would have enthused over the shrimp also...because somehow the three I took were three of the good ones, but then I had seconds and had to downgrade it from very good to just ok.
I thought the fish would have been good if just fried and perhaps drizzled with a little hot oil (that was Derek's suggestion actually). From my point of view it was more the sauce than the fish itself that was a failure...
I also really enjoyed the snails. Ok, what I really liked was the sauce the snails came in, and isn't that really the whole point of snails?
This was the last opportunity for our two schoolteachers (Lillian and Joel) to join our lunchtime Chow events, at least during the week, but we will be continuing them, so look for the next evite and posting soon, and in the meantime, we will miss them, and a big THANK YOU to Joel for doing much of the organization!