Weekend specials at Otaez, Alameda
I had dinner tonight at Otaez with my sister, BIL, and baby niece, Alice.
Of note were the weekend (Saturday/Sunday) specials -- we ordered the carnitas and a small bowl of the pozole (there's also birria), and they were both stellar. In fact, the pozole was sis and BIL's favorite food on the table, with heaps of hominy and two fork tender chunks of pork rising like volcanic islands from the rich, meaty, corny broth. It also comes with a couple of simple taquitos, so a "small" bowl makes a pretty hearty meal for $4.95.
The carnitas was my favorite -- Jonathan Kauffmann called it "carnitas to cry over" and he was right: crisp and carmelized and yet meltingly moist with unctuous pork fat. Wrapped in a freshly made corn tortilla with a dab of salsa fresca and they were heaven.
Kaufmann also noted that Otaez is a great family restaurant, and it is: the hostess insisted on bringing a highchair for Alice, and our waiter -- who said he had a daughter almost exactly the same age -- fussed over her, as did one of the bussers.
I find Otaez to be uneven -- I get the impression that different kitchen crews do things their own way -- but tonight it was firing on all cylinders.
I drive across town on Friday (which I guess isn't all that far since I live in Alameda) to have the pozole at Otaez for lunch. It will really be something come winter and a cold, rainy Friday. And you are so right, for $4.95 the "small" bowl is a fantastic deal. I can't imagine eating the large bowl. Have also had the carnitas on Saturday and they are "to die for."
We've probably seen a little of the "uneveness" there but certainly nothing that would stop us from going back (had lunch there yesterday as a matter of fact.) And usually the friendlyness of the staff makes small screwups very forgetable. Plus, the home made chips and tortillas are just wonderful. Yesterday we had chicken fajitas, one order. There was more than enough for two of us plus enough to make our 3 pups at home happy with some bites. What a deal for $12.95.
It's really a great addition to Alameda.