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Oct 20, 2006 11:58 PM

Lunch at Somerset

Now that it is open, I thought I would try it out before suggesting it to friends for weekend brunch. It was very quiet at noon, with just one other table in the restaurant, though eventually more people filtered in and chose a table in the lovely patio out back. The owners did a nice job with the old King Shang space (though I miss sitting at a table in the front window at King Shang with pea sprouts and salt and pepper prawns)--you now enter into the main dining room, instead of the somewhat awkward doorway into the bar. The decor is simple wood paneling and yellow painted walls, with some skylights overhead to lighten what used to be a somewhat dank room.

I had a small bowl of corn-poblano soup. It was delicious, with a definite not-too-sweet corn flavor and a nice little kick at the back of the throat from the roasted poblanos. The garnish of tortilla strips and queso fresco played nicely off the creamy texture and slight heat of the soup. For a small portion, it was somewhat large, so even though I finished it, I cursed myself for also ordering a sandwich.

But I can take my punishment like a woman. I ate half the sandwich and all of the salad it came with. The sandwich was a grilled eggplant with roasted peppers and escarole, a sun-dried tomato spread (I think...) and mozzarella cheese. It was good, though the stringiness of the escarole made it difficult to confine it to a single bite--I was grateful then that there so few people in the dining room, and the kitchen had a door on it, as a large, wilted escarole leaf was dragged out of the sandwich and dangled from my mouth as I tried to either tear it with my teeth or surreptitiously shovel it into my mouth. Delicately, of course. The sandwich was good, but the obvious, um, loading problems made it a little unmanageable. It was almost a good thing that the juice from the vegetables eventually caused the focaccia to crumble somewhat--I put the sandwich back on the plate and switched to a knife and fork.

The sandwich comes with choice of green salad, potato chips, fries, broccoli salad, and maybe another choice or two, but I went with the broccoli. It was lightly steamed--the perfect texture for this salad, I thought, not too soft and not too crunchy either--and lightly dressed with a creamy, garlicky dressing, crumbled bacon and minced red onion. It was described as "spicy", though I didn't detect any noticeable heat. It was very garlicky--but I liked that.

They have a full bar, but I just had a nice iced tea, and left full and happy. The service was attentive and friendly--though there weren't a lot of occupied tables, so who knows what could happen at the height of the brunch rush hour. Still, I look forward to trying it for brunch. I didn't have a lot of time to look at the brunch menu, though it of course includes the lemon ricotta pancakes, as well as the usual variety of egg dishes.

5912 College Avenue (2 blocks north of Rockridge BART)
Oakland, baby!

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  1. My husband & I were there 2 weekends ago and it was madness. The staff was running all over the place, there were not enough of them, and they were confused. There were many open tables but the staff was so in disarray that there was a huge line out the door of 10-12 people because no one had the time to seat them in between running food, paying tabs, filling water. There is a outdoor back patio, but we didn't sit out there.

    We had a curried tofu scrambler w/ hash browns and a smoked trout hash with artichokes, dill, tomatoes and many other great veggies, tropical iced tea, and mimosa. $40 total, which is a little steep for my brunch. It was good but not stellar. Figured we'd wait for them to get smoothed out before trying again. Would like to try the lemon ricotta pancakes. Lots of people were having benedicts. Also would like to try out the bar some night.

    1 Reply
    1. re: kimchee

      Another brunch place that does wonderful lemon-ricotta pancakes is Cock-A-Doodle, on Washington between 7th & 8th Streets, in Old Oakland.

    2. as Miss Millie's in SF, it was one of the stellar brunch places known for quality of food, huge portions, and service. I hope and assume they;ll get the service under control. I can't wait to try it out. their lemon ricotta pancakes are to die for but my favorite item was their homemade whole wheat english muffin

      1. I've been there for brunch twice, once with someone who frequented Miss Millie's. There are definitely service issues, all of the servers seem new and a little confused, but hopefully that will work its way out. My friend who had been to Miss Millie's said that the portions are a little smaller than they used to be. Both times the food was good, I had the lemon ricotta pancakes the first time, and those were excellent, and then I had the egg scramble. They do need to work out the service problems, though.

        Also, a small thing, they really need to move the menu outside from where it is, because people standing there to look at it completely block the door, and make going in and out kind of a logjam.

        1. I've had brunch there twice now--it definitely shows promise. Service improved from the first trip to the second, but could improve a bit more.

          First breakfast I had the figs with pears, blue cheese and pear--they were yummy. But the real star was the hot farro cereal, with maple, creme fraiche, raisins, pecans and butternut squash. Outstanding. My friend had the baked eggs, which was a daunting portion. A little on the salty side, but yummy.

          Second visit my companion and I split a cinnamon roll, which was fine. I had the bacon leek scramble. Again, the portion was huge, and it was kind of salty, but I like salt, so I happily ate most of it.

          Next time I'm getting the cereal again. I never would have thought I'd like squash in my breakfast cereal. Good to know.

          All in all, a welcome addition to the neighborhood. I'm looking forward to trying dinner.

          1. I'm going to go for Saturday brunch. Is the crowd less on a Saturday than Sunday? I never got to go to the old Miss Millie's but am looking forward to trying the lemon ricotta pancakes. Thanks everyone for all the tips!

            1 Reply
            1. re: singleguychef

              The two times I've been there to brunch it hasn't been that crowded, but I think that word is spreading a little. I don't think you have to worry about a crowd, though.