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Emeryville: Anyone know when the new Cocina Poblana is opening?

I've been convinced for the last 8 months that Cocina Poblana on 65th and Hollis would open "any day now". It's still not opened. Has anyone heard when the restaurant might actually be open for business? I'm really looking forward to having decent food to eat at lunch on days when I don't have time to bring it from home.

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  1. Is it near the place where Andronico's failed?

    1. I drove by the other day and saw people inside..
      it looked like they were open..

      can't wait to try it.

      1. Just drove by today and there is a sign in the window - "now open for breakfast."

        website: http://www.cocinapoblana.com/
        post on sf location: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/show/...

        any reports?

        1. It is open and I have eaten there twice -- once lunch and once dinner. At lunch it is a casual set up: order at the counter, burritos and tacos on the menu. At dinner more formal: table service, fancier plates. They are still working out some kinks -- one night we got take out and the food was ready before they could figure out how to run my credit card. But all very yummy. I had a shrimp burrito for lunch and chicken with pumpkin seed sauce for dinner.

          1. We were there for dinner last night and the food was very good. I had the chicken with mushroom/spinach sauce over a rice that I think had cilantro in it. This was very good. My husband had chicken with punpkin seeds and he said his was very good. Also had the quesidillas for appetizers and these were also good. Definitely worth going back.

            1. Does the food seem particularly Poblano or is it more typical Mexican fare?

              7 Replies
              1. re: Earl Grey

                More typical Mexican fare. I didn't eat there but I stopped by the SF location to scope it out. That location had a nice salsa bar with about 10 different types, the most interesting to me the pumpkin seed.

                The had a plate of real food on a table near the door for display ... looked like carnitas and actually looked quite good. I was just too full to eat that day and I wanted the menu to find the Emeryville address.

                What would one be looking for in Poblano food? What did you think of the dishes offered on the menu labled from that region.

                This joint is going for the American audiance in terms of decor and location. It is not Cactus Grill, but it doesn't seem downhome Mexican either from the looks of it.

                1. re: rworange

                  Went there last night for the first time, and I'd call it a cut above "typical Mexican fare." The Chiles Rellenos, for instance, are not the greasy, deep-freid version one usually finds here, but grilled and not breaded. My wife is always looking for Rellenos like those we had in Oaxaca, and if these weren't on that level, they were way better than what one usually gets in an American Mexican joint.

                  I had the Pipian Mole chicken breast, and the sauce was fabulous. I cut the chicken breast up, put it on the corn tortillas, added sauce and loved it.

                  they brought nice warm chips to the table when we arrived, with two salsas, including a terrific pumpkin seed one, and they immediately noticed when we ran out, and brought more.

                  The place does have the feel of a chain. Not exacty a warm ambiance, but for the price I can't complain. We'll certainly go back.

                  One odd thing was that they brought our bill when we were half way through our dinner, which made us feel like they were trying to rush us out the door. But our waitress did ask if we wanted dessert, so I think the early check was just a glitch.

                  1. re: TopoTail

                    From the menu and reports, it sounds like the food's in the Picante / Tacubaya vein, somewhat Americanized in a modern way--lighter preparations, more vegetarian dishes.

                    We went by the Emeryville branch late one night but I was too put off by the cold, chainy vibe. Sounds like that was a mistake.

                    1. re: Eat_Nopal

                      Yeah, this isn't like the food in Mexico like I am still waiting for as well. It wasn't Mexican Nuevo Mexican food and it wasn't exactly Mexican traditional either.

                      I'm suspecting that some of the menu will be changes like the salsas. Isn't chiles en nogada seasonal? Although I thought the season was spring but I guess that wouldn't make sense based on the pomegranite seeds.

                      1. re: rworange

                        hmmm, somehow this place is beckoning to me ... kinda odd. maybe cause i've been getting a hankering for chiles en nogada recently. the menu on their website says they use almonds for the sauce (no walnuts?), interesting. about the seasonal-ness of the dish: somehow it's in my head that it's a late-summer/ early-fall thing. but umm, were they good?

                        1. re: rworange

                          hello, you guessed right , the seasonality of chiles en nogada is tied to pomegranates, because the origin of the dish is connected to an event in Mexican history (colors of the dish the same as their flag's) that occurred in the fall. I think the original recipe used walnuts, but almonds is a not an uncommon variation, as their 'skin' is easier to remove compared to nueces. The best I've had,in Bell,Ca, the chiles were blanched as far as I could tell, then stuffed and heated again, no charring or oiliness at all, incredibly rich just from the nut sauce. have fun

                          1. re: moto

                            Adding to that... the seasonility in Mexico also owes to the walnuts... they are used green. The fresh walnuts are a completely different animal to roasted walnuts... and blanched almonds are a bit closer to the original... which is why it is a common alternative.

                  1. I see the menu says, "from the regions of Puebla and Jalisco Mexico". Makes my heart sink a bit. I think we're sophisticated enough now to enjoy real regional differences in Mexican food. I also see they have fajitas, regional food from Tejas, right?

                    1. Last week I was driving back from Santa Clara at night intending to stop at Los Cantaros (based on an RW post, I believe)... instead I overshot the exit (didn't realize I needed to take the 980)... so I exited Ashby and spotted Cocina Poblana as I tried to navigate towards San Pablo Ave.

                      I wasn't terribly interested in a big meal, but not knowing the area well... and afraid I would end up in Downtown Oakland... I stopped by to check it out.

                      The meal started with complimentary chips & salsa, which were merely okay. The salsas had that appealing earthiness you find in Central Mexico... big black flecks of charred tomatillos & chiles, and instead of pureed, thinness it had the course texture of salsas mashed in a molcajete. Beyond the visual appeal... the red tasted mostly of burnt Guajillo chiles and lacked heat. The Green lacked the hint of sweetness & citrus you find in well roasted tomatillos, and also lacked heat. Nothing too exciting.

                      Next wanting to give their Mole Poblano a test drive, I asked if the Enchiladas Poblanas could be served as an appetizer (getting a single Enchilada with plenty of sauce... is a common App throughout Central Mexico).... strike number one. The waiter - who was perfectly bilingual & bicultural -... unapolegetically informed me that I would still have to pay the full entree price. At that point I knew this joint lacked that humility, hospitality and aim-to-please attitude you typically find in Mexico's family run operations. Also once you add the service, and the Traditional meets Starbuck's approach on decor... I got the bad vibe of places like Regalito Rosticeria... and all the newish, largely empty restaurants in skyscrapers around Polanco & Roma-Condessa in Mexico City.

                      I didn't object to the price... and the Enchiladas came very quickly. Two slightly thick homemade tortillas, stuffed with shredded chicken, rolled & sauced with their version of Mole Poblano... and then topped with shredded cheese. Oh oh, the shredded melting cheese instead of crumbled Fresco or Cotija foretold of sloppiness. The first taste of the sauce... revealed a strong Guajillo flavor, followed by discernible Cloves then a bit of heat. I was fairly dissappointed at what seemed to be a fairly unsophisticated sauce. The first surprise came with the chicken... it was perfectly tender, all breast meat and a good canvas for the sauce. It could have been improved with a nice gamey, free range chicken or a richer turkey breast, but overall it was quite likeable. The sauce grew on me, the more I had it... and as I waited for the main course, I was enjoying the sesame seed & peanuts, that were not evident in the first bites. In the end, I would say its good... its homemade and certainly better than any store bought brand. But, in the realm of good Mole Poblanos this one was certainly lacking in sophisticated flavor layering. Mole's typically strive to deliver a whole new integrated flavor... with a bit of identifiable layers. Where here I could taste the Guajillos... in a good Mole Poblano... I would have tasted Guajillos, Anchos & Poblanos in one surge of Chile flavors. Instead of just tasting Cloves... I would have enjoyed Cloves, Allspice & Nutmeg together etc., In addition, I never got the earthy contribution from bitter chocolate, or the sweet fruitiness from Plaintains & dried fruits etc., etc.,

                      For the main course, I was intrigued by the Carne a la Mexicana which promised a tender Arrachera over a canvas of grilled Nopales... as well as garnishes of Rice, Beans & Guacamole.

                      The Flank steak was perfectly tender, slow broiled rather than seared... typical of restaurants in Mexico (as opposed to taco stands etc.,). However, the flavor was just not good... and it had that eerily plastic look of surreally tender beef in low end Chinese restaurants. But there was definitely no velveting going on here. After a while, I figure it out.... Maggi Sauce & Tenderizer. I was not impressed... Mexico has so many tasty, natural tricks for tenderizing gamey cuts of meat... I don't appreciate paying for these types of short cuts... and to boot, it gave the meat an almost acrid taste.

                      Instead of serving the steak over Nopales (as promised) it was served over a sautee of Onions & Bell Peppers that were simply terrible. The onions had that certain Nail Polish Remover taste & aroma that comes when you don't know how to select & cook them.. again I think they may have been glazed with a little bit Maggi.

                      When I first saw the rice... I was almost glad I forgot to ask for no rice. It was beautiful, big seperate rice kernels, and it was slightly green... so I quickly assumed they were serving the traditional Poblano Green Rice... made with a stir frying sauce made from tomatillos, mint, cilantro & poblano chiles instead of the more common tomato rice. Instead it was green from the crap that grows in old garlic, and just intended to be Garlic-Butter rice,... absolutely the worst rice I've ever had.

                      Beans were okay, but didn't taste like much. Not sure, if am giving them a bad wrap because the rice spoiled everything else I tasted, but they certainly seemed bland.

                      The Tortillas were certainly good... earthy, thick with the slightest bit of white corn sweetness.

                      Overall, I might go back for the Enchiladas Poblanas... they weren't great but they did grow on me... and I am not sure how many other places around can surpass them. Next time I will try one of the soups... something tells me they will probably nail them. But, I am not in any rush to give it a second try.... I definitely want to try out Los Cantaros first.

                      6 Replies
                      1. re: Eat_Nopal

                        Just keep in mind that Los Cantaros has a similar Starbucks designer look if that's the place I'm thinking of and I mentioned it.

                        Anyway, thanks for the report. Tho I don't get to that area much, I want to try a few more things, so it helps to know what to stay away from. I do want to give brunch a try and that breakfast soup. Also appreciate the report from a perspecitve of someone who knows the cuisine.

                        It seems like at lunch they have a salsa bar where there's quite a few. I'd be interested in trying the SF location someday. It is not as slick looking and has a different vibe. The Emeryville staff really needs some training and I'm guessing it is best not to go in with expectations of polished or maybe even adequate service ... ya places your order, they bring the food ... that's the relationship there, perhaps.

                        1. re: rworange

                          I certainly wasn't bothered by the Starbucks look... I for one appreciate that Starbucks is a comfortable place to do business, heed to nature's call, and sip decent coffee. I am certainly not an ambiance snob... but in my experience in Mexico with restaurants of this look and style... has usually been of mediocrity... so I can't help but get a bad feeling. Usually there is a point where the decor is culturally insightful & intellectually satisfying... where I know there is a lot of effort going in to the food & the experience... but Cocina Poblana sort of falls short of what it strives for... and that is my general assessment of just about everything there.

                          1. re: Eat_Nopal

                            What is Cocina Poblana striving for? To me, with the uniforms and sterile decor, it feels like a prototype for a chain.

                            1. re: Robert Lauriston

                              Dunno. I'm trying to overcome my expectations on architecture. Just wanted to mention it for exactly the comment EN made. The look of Los Caneros had that same red bell ambiance, IIRC. Did you ever go back and try the food Robert?

                              1. re: rworange

                                No, and from reports here, I'm not in any hurry.

                              2. re: Robert Lauriston

                                I definitely think thats the path they want to go on... doesn't bother me if the food would be good.