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Commis -- Piedmont Ave. (Oakland)

singleguychef Jun 30, 2009 09:45 PM

This is the former Jojo's spot on Piedmont Avenue and it opened just last week. I went last Friday night because I knew if I wait any longer, it'll be much harder to grab a reservation in this tiny spot.

I never been to the old Jojo, but my guess is this is more contemporary in look and less cozy. It looks like a fancy hotel restaurant, but the size is still small. Still, Chef James Syhabout is front and center in an open kitchen right in the middle of the restaurant surrounded by the counter seating. It's very much like a French restaurant in service and appearance, except it doesn't have white table cloth (which I actually think they should add because I didn't like the cheap look of the tabletop).

Chef Syhabout formerly cooked at Manresa and then Plumpjack Cafe. He's offering only a three-course prix-fixe menu at $49. Dinner is served from 5:30 p.m. from Wednesday through Sunday. No plans for lunch. The menu offers three to four options per course, and they all seemed really creative, focused on sustainable and seasonal ingredients. Right now the menu will stay the same as they get their groove, but the server says the chef plans to change the menu daily down the road.

I also got the wine pairing for $29. Everything I was served matched well with what I ordered.

My dinner started with an amuse bouche made of a peach puree in a shot glass that was beautiful and refreshing. It was topped with a green foam using a native plant that I didn't know, but it was a creative combination of flavors, perfect for summer!

The first course offered options of a braised little gem salad, smoked mackeral, a soup and farm egg with pork jowl. I got the farm egg with pork jowl that was this beautifully plated dish of cubed pork jowl and golden potatoes with the soft farm egg on top. On the side was a smear of black garlic with allium blossoms. Such fancy plating. The pork jowl was slightly crispy but creamy tender. I really liked the potatoes too that had a flavor I couldn't recognized, but liked the mixture of flavors on the plate.

Second course was an offering of a roasted chicken, aged beef loin or Morro Bay cod. I got the cod and it was perfectly cooked with the skin still on and crispy. The fish was partly seared but still slightly rear inside, which was a nice texture and presentation. It came with an English pea porridge that was so bright and sweet. I really liked it. What was weird was the menu also said delta crayfish but I didn't get a crayfish on the dish. I wonder if it was just the foam on the plate because the foam did taste like shellfish.

The third course was dessert with just two options, a chilled strawberry-watermelon soup and a frozen creme fraiche. The second sound like fancy ice cream so I opted for the soup, which was beautiful again but very tasty and refreshing on a hot night. It was served with a scoop of black pepper ice cream which was nice but not super peppery. Overall, I liked it although I hope in the future the pastry chef would be more diverse in his offerings. (Both pretty much seemed to highlight ice cream.)

Even though they were opened just two days, the service was very attentive and friendly. they knew a lot about the restaurant and dishes.

With Chef Syhbout cooking right in the center (he was also very friendly when he wasn't focused on cooking) it really reminded me of Dennis Leary at Canteen. The same concept of a chef behind the stove cooking everything although Commis seems to have more advantages in help and space. But the intimacy is there because of the small space and the pre-fixe dinner which really is more like a chef's tasting menu with choices.

Even though the restaurant wasn't crowded when I ate (I walked in early at 5:30 p.m.), they were turning people away because the tables were mostly reserved that night. So not sure how easy it will be to walk in because with Syhbout's reputation, I'm thinking this place will be pretty busy for awhile.

You can see my photos of the restaurant and food here:
http://singleguychef.blogspot.com/200...

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Commis
3859 Piedmont Avenue, Oakland, CA 94611

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  1. JasmineG RE: singleguychef Jun 30, 2009 10:15 PM

    Thanks for the great report, I'm really excited about this place.

    1. a
      Armoise RE: singleguychef Jun 30, 2009 11:13 PM

      Based on the photo in your blog I think the "native" plant in the amuse was nasturtium. That's a nasturtium petal floating on top. Nice report.

      1 Reply
      1. re: Armoise
        singleguychef RE: Armoise Jul 1, 2009 09:54 AM

        Yes, I think you're right! It was a really long name that sounded like "nasturtium" but I didn't know how to spell it. It really tasted nice against the sweetness of the peach. And really looked pretty. Thanks!

      2. s
        skwid RE: singleguychef Jul 6, 2009 08:15 AM

        We went on Thursday July 2nd (one week after opening) and the place was full (we had an 8:30 p.m. reservation). Interesting menu and concept. There are three sections to the menu as described above. The menu was fixed price and we were told we could pick any three courses and the chef would adjust portion size (so only one entree sized corse even if you ordered two courses from the entree section). It sounds like we had the same menu as singleguychef. My wife and I both got the aged beef entree which was fantastic. We were trying to figure out how the meat was cooked as it was perfectly cooked through from edge to edge rare with just a small amount of browning on the outside. We were surmising that they may be sous videing the beef but that was not the case at all as we found out when Chef Syhbout came by our table. The meat is cooked at low temperature in an oven and removed after five minutes and then rested for 10 minutes and basted. Then the meat is returned to the oven and this process is repeated until the meat is done. The meat is not salted until the meat is finished.

        We throughly enjoyed our meal and look forward to visiting again.

        3 Replies
        1. re: skwid
          Stephanie Wong RE: skwid Jul 6, 2009 02:07 PM

          America's Test Kitchen demonstrated a similar technique for thick "pan-seared" beef steaks recently.

          1. re: Stephanie Wong
            s
            skwid RE: Stephanie Wong Jul 6, 2009 05:13 PM

            According to Chef Syhbout the steak was done in an oven.

            1. re: skwid
              Stephanie Wong RE: skwid Jul 6, 2009 05:44 PM

              Yep, that was the "secret"!

        2. lexdevil RE: singleguychef Jul 18, 2009 09:13 PM

          Tonight's amuse was a corn custard w/ tomatoes. Starters were the fabulous soft cooked egg w/ pork jowl and black garlic, a vibrant green courgette soup w/ shrimp, a beautiful carrot salad, and sardines (which my father loved, but I did not try). Mains were the previously mentioned chicken, Morro Bay cod, and lamb with a date puree and some really lovely beans. Dessert choices were a cream of melon soup (good) and black sesame cake (amazing). I ordered the melon soup, but was blown away by the taste of sesame cake I stole. It was a fluffy, charcoal colored sponge that looked like some sort of crazy fungus, served over ice cream. The sesame flavor was intense, but the star of the dish was the tiny cubes of bright green candied cucumber. Startling, but in an entirely delightful way. Wine pairings were excellent, and the warm rolls and house made butter were extremely dangerous.

          1. Chuckles the Clone RE: singleguychef Jul 18, 2009 11:09 PM

            Went last week. Wow. What a fascinating set of contrasts. On the one hand, this is perfectly precise, precious, pretentious food and food styling. On the other, it's tasty, substantial, presented effortlessly, friendly, and all-in-all pretty cheap. Best meal of the year so far, by far.

            According to the cook, the menu has been changing a lot. He said something like 9 times in their 12 services. Though apparently some things are staying pretty constant.

            The standout dish was the sardine first course. A pair of lightly cured sardine flanks rolled around -- um what? something -- with a small dollop of a green tomato coulis and topped with a tiny dark sprig of fennel leaf and sprinkled with FENNEL POLLEN. I don't know if fennel pollen is always such concentrated joy or if it has to be sitting on top of a pickled fish to taste that way but man oh man is it something.

            The beef loin is delicious and definitely going to be a topic of conversation if anyone at your table orders it. "How on earth do they do it?" occupied everyone except the guy who was eating it because he was too busy eating it.

            Watermelon and strawberry soup for dessert. Liquid sunshine.

            If I had to find something to criticize it would have to be the service. Perfect but a little -too- perfect for where it is. The waiter had no qualms at all steering us right up to the top of the high end of the wine list (though was entirely gentlemanly when we opted for the midrange sancerre). Some flourishes, like pretty much the entire staff swarming to the table to deliver all the dishes in perfect simultaneity, Which was nice and skillful and all but after dinner we were heading next door to Cato's Ale House, not the opera. If that makes any sense. Still, if you want it done by the book, these folks have been to school.

            Get there before Bauer farts all over it and/or invites the whole world in. They seemed to be at about 60% capacity which may not last long even, as they say about everything these days, "in this economy". Set menu price has gone up to $59. Wine pairing is still $29. Food is a steal; wine pairing made no sense to me given the ample DIY options.

            1. lexdevil RE: singleguychef Jul 19, 2009 11:43 AM

              FYI: Website is now functional. http://www.commisrestaurant.com/#/hom...

              4 Replies
              1. re: lexdevil
                m
                milklady RE: lexdevil Jul 19, 2009 12:40 PM

                Weird. The online menu seems to only show the first courses.

                1. re: milklady
                  o
                  oysterspearls RE: milklady Jul 19, 2009 12:47 PM

                  Scroll down using the small arrow on the right. Is kind of hard to notice.

                  1. re: oysterspearls
                    m
                    milklady RE: oysterspearls Jul 19, 2009 02:19 PM

                    I found it later! I looked and looked and got frustrated. but, I think it was the way the sun was hitting the screen... thanks

                    1. re: milklady
                      Senor Popusa RE: milklady Jul 19, 2009 10:31 PM

                      I had the exact same issue! They need to work on making the scroll bar more visible if they want anyone to see their menu...

              2. Senor Popusa RE: singleguychef Jul 19, 2009 12:12 PM

                Tried Commis on Friday night and it was excellent. The menu has some "new" dishes compared to the menu that singleguychef saw.

                Only 4 apps - a soup, sardines, the egg with pork jowl, and carrots. Entree choices were the cod, the chicken and a lamb dish with grated mint.

                I began with the Salad of Young Carrots, brown rice vinegar and clover honey, seaweed from Mendocino. There must have been carrots of half a dozen different colors - a beautiful dish, and the chef used nori to create a dirt like substance (in the same vein as Into the Garden at Manresa, but a different riff) which added some nice texture to the carrots.

                2nd was the Soft Farm Egg with Potato and Alliums. They were able to substitute chicken for the pork jowl in this dish for me. It also had fermented green garlic. This may have been my favorite dish of the night - I am a sucker for a runny egg and the chicken was very flavorful.

                3rd was Corn Fed Chicken, Poached then Roasted in Summer Savory. This came with english peas both crushed and not. What outstanding produce. The 2 techniques of cooking the chicken made this a standout.

                I got to try the Monterey Bay sardines, which were not overly fishy, perhaps as they had been lightly cured. The lamb was also delicious. Some of it had a lot of fat - almost like pork belly.

                Service was also great - they brought a hook for the purse of one of my dining companions and folded the napkins whenever anyone went to the bathroom, yet it was not formal at all. Very approachable ambiance / vibe.

                We didn't have a clunker, so I was very happy and hope to go back and sit at the counter so I can watch the preparation. I will be back. At $59 for 3 courses + amuse, not inexpensive but a good value and worth checking out. Reservations recommended as it is small - ~25 seats + 6 at the bar.

                43 Replies
                1. re: Senor Popusa
                  Scott M RE: Senor Popusa Jul 20, 2009 09:44 AM

                  So the price has gone from $49 to $59 in the past few weeks?

                  $20 per course is kinda spendy.

                  1. re: Scott M
                    lexdevil RE: Scott M Jul 20, 2009 11:57 AM

                    It's not meant to be cheap. This is fine dining in the Manresa, Coi, etc. vein. For the fine ingredients and intricate preparations, the price is more than fair. With an amuse and plentiful house made warm rolls and butter we were pleasantly full. To be able to have this fine a meal for less than $100 (inc. wine pairing, not including tax/tip) is not cheap, but it is value for money.

                    1. re: lexdevil
                      Scott M RE: lexdevil Jul 20, 2009 12:14 PM

                      $20 per course and $20 corkage in this economy is pushing it, esp. for a tiny place on Piedmont.

                      Salad of young carrots for $20
                      Chicken for $20
                      Watermelon soup for $20

                      At $49 for the three courses I was tempted. At $59, I'll pass.

                      I understand fine dining, but don't want to feel compelled to fill up on warm rolls and butter.

                      1. re: Scott M
                        o
                        oysterspearls RE: Scott M Jul 20, 2009 12:52 PM

                        By no means am I implying anyone should walk out of any restaurant hungry. But with that said I don't believe Commis is a "fill up" type of place.
                        Fine ingredients and very talented people preparing it come at a price. Were not talking French Laundry or even Manresa's prices as of yet.

                        And when dining out there is more to consider in value then $20 per course. Or at least in my opinion atmosphere, service, food, etc.etc. all play a part.

                        1. re: oysterspearls
                          Scott M RE: oysterspearls Jul 20, 2009 01:33 PM

                          Three courses at Gary Danko is $66.

                          As for "filling up" I agree, but most fine dining restaurants provides multiple "gifts" whether around dessert (ie. little cookies, or palate cleansers, etc), that you feel like you received enough to eat. From the looks of the pictures from the OP, the dishes seemed rather small and beyond a puree amuse bouche not much else in the way of any extras which Manresa and FL provide.

                          I am still of the opinion that opening your doors in Oakland and asking $59 for three courses with choices such as chicken, cod, young carrots, watermelon soup, etc is pushing it.

                        2. re: Scott M
                          lexdevil RE: Scott M Jul 20, 2009 02:44 PM

                          I was not compelled by hunger to fill up on the rolls. I was compelled by the quality of the butter, which is incredibly addictive. So much so that I threatened to break in with my toast the next morning.

                          Also, serving size is fine. The chicken, for example, was a generous slab of about 5" x 2" x 1.5".

                          I guess my question is why you think it's inappropriate to do food and prices like this at a "tiny place on Piedmont." It may be over optimistic (that's yet to be seen), but I don't think it's crazy to try to bring this kind of food to a neighborhood that serves Piedmont and Rockridge. I'm thrilled to be able to eat food this tasty, fanciful, and carefully prepared without crossing a bridge or driving for an hour. I hope enough other people agree with me to allow Commis to thrive.

                          1. re: lexdevil
                            Scott M RE: lexdevil Jul 20, 2009 03:00 PM

                            I guess I have a different sense of value than others on this board. I thought JoJo offered value. The prices were reasonable considering the quality of food.

                            The OP compared Commis to Canteen. If I go to the Canteen website and price out the most expensive 3 courses (app, entree, dessert) the price is at $46.5. Roughly 20% less expensive than Commis.

                            Considering Gary Danko offers three courses for $66, and Acquerello offers three courses for $60 to me it's a stretch to charge Gary Danko/Acquerello prices.

                            Just my opinion. If you think it's worth the price of admission, then have at it. I won't be your competition for a table at Commis

                            1. re: Scott M
                              JasmineG RE: Scott M Jul 20, 2009 03:09 PM

                              I agree with you -- I was much more likely to try this place when it was $49 for three courses than at $59 for three courses. I'm sure that the food is wonderful, but I can get two great meals down the street at Dopo for that price, and three at Adesso. In this economy, it's hard to justify spending that much money on a brand new restaurant.

                              1. re: JasmineG
                                lexdevil RE: JasmineG Jul 20, 2009 04:01 PM

                                And I would eat there more often if it were $49. It does not, however, follow from this that $59 is a bad price. I'd eat at Oliveto more often if it were cheaper. In fact, I could say that about any restaurant, except for the ones you couldn't pay me to eat at.

                                Commis and Adesso/Dopo are very different places. Adesso is for me a hang out, a place to go on a regular basis for drinks and tasty bites. Dopo is a great place for an excellent meal without the fine dining experience (by that, I mean it is more casual). There's really nothing else like Commis in Oakland/Berkeley. Our other top restaurants (Chez Panisse, Oliveto, Camino, etc.) tend to offer simple, rustic preparations. The food at Commis is the antithesis of the simple aesthetic prevalent in this area. Preparations are complex and highly labor intensive. This does not mean that they are fussy or suffer from having too much going on (my complaint at Fleur de Lys). Additionally, I think the Canteen comparison is a product of Commis' small size, rather than the style of food. This is not to say that either Canteen or Commis are better than the other--simply that they are doing rather different things.

                      2. re: Scott M
                        Chuckles the Clone RE: Scott M Jul 20, 2009 03:36 PM

                        It's definitely expensive for where it is. But it's pretty cheap for what it is.

                        1. re: Chuckles the Clone
                          Scott M RE: Chuckles the Clone Jul 20, 2009 04:16 PM

                          "It's definitely expensive for where it is." This is more my point. It's not a destination city like SF or even Napa. It's a little neighborhood in Oakland.

                          I think $49 is a more reasonable price point. Again, Redd in Napa charges $75 for a 5 course tasting menu ~ $15 per course, and ala carte at Redd would run about $55 for the three most expensive items.

                          I just think there are established restaurants in destination locations charging the same or less for comparable food.

                          1. re: Scott M
                            lexdevil RE: Scott M Jul 20, 2009 06:16 PM

                            On a weeknight Napa is a PITA, rather than a destination. It's worth something to me to not have to drive there (and even more when I contemplate the potential DUI on the return trip). I think the Redd comparison is probably a good one. Ordering 3 courses a la carte at Redd would run about $5 less than the 3 course at Commis. I think there are a lot of us in Oakland/Berkeley who would happily pay that $5 to avoid driving to Yountville for dinner. Even for a party of four, where the price difference would be $20, it's worth it to avoid the 3 hour round trip, not to mention the cost of gas.

                            The comparison with Redd's tasting menu is not fair. A tasting menu is made up of many small courses, all more diminutive than an ordinary appetizer, entree, or dessert. In fact, they are sometimes as small as a single bite (or a single olive!). One would expect, therefore, their per course average price to be lower than that for a normal 3-5 course meal.

                            1. re: lexdevil
                              Scott M RE: lexdevil Jul 20, 2009 06:36 PM

                              I am just going by the OP, when he stated, "But the intimacy is there because of the small space and the pre-fixe dinner which really is more like a chef's tasting menu with choices.

                              It was stated that is was "like a chef's tasting menu".

                              As for Redd costing $5 less for 3 courses. That is only if you pick the 3 most expensive items on the menu at Redd. Otherwise, the difference is even more than $5.

                              In addition, the menu for London West Hollywood which is Gordon Ramsay's Los Angeles Restaurant . If you ordered ala carte at that restaurant it would run you $64 for 4 courses, or $50 for three courses that included dessert, and the menu recommends that two people share 4 courses.

                              Again, Commis is more expensive than Gordon Ramsay in West Hollywood.

                              But I am sure you will argue that a plane ticket or drive to LA makes the meal more expensive.

                              1. re: Scott M
                                lexdevil RE: Scott M Jul 20, 2009 07:47 PM

                                Not sure why we're comparing a restaurant where the chef actually does the cooking with an outpost that is being dropped from the Ramsay empire. I do think, however, that you understate the price. I'd also bet that the food is not as good, and it's certainly not as of the moment. Link to a Guardian review: http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyl...

                                1. re: lexdevil
                                  Scott M RE: lexdevil Jul 20, 2009 08:23 PM

                                  All of my comparisons: Commis is more expensive than Redd, about the same as Acquerello, slightly less than Gary Danko is to question all of the comments that the food is "pretty cheap" or "dirt cheap" as has been mentioned more than once in this forum. I just can't get behind that this place is such a great value based on the comparisons.

                                  It appears you have to factor in gas money to realize any possible value.

                                  1. re: Scott M
                                    Chuckles the Clone RE: Scott M Jul 20, 2009 09:32 PM

                                    I'd think COI would be the closest in spirit to what Commis is trying to do.
                                    So that might be an interesting comparison.

                                    1. re: Scott M
                                      lexdevil RE: Scott M Jul 20, 2009 09:57 PM

                                      Why not put this in the perspective of where Syhabout has cooked recently? Manresa is currently $95 for a four course, $67 for the wine pairing, and $35(!) corkage. And I wouldn't call Los Gatos a "destination city."

                                      As to the Gary Danko comparison, I have a reservation there next month, but I'd personally prefer to go to Commis. Will be at Danko because it is more traditional, and therefore a better fit for my in-laws. For me, the food at Commis is more exciting, and I don't mind paying close to Danko prices for it.

                                      You are correct that Commis is neither "pretty cheap" nor "dirt cheap." It is, however, priced fairly. I imagine our senses of value are not that far apart. I too thought that JoJo offered excellent value for money. I feel the same about Dopo and Adesso. I think that Commis, however, offers something radically different from the aforementioned restaurants. Given the type of food and service that Syhabout has chosen to put out, Commis offers good value, but it's good value within that context. You may not enjoy this type of dining enough to justify the additional cost, but that does not make it a poor value for others. I am usually more than happy with Chez Panisse and Oliveto, but I have my Robuchon and Fat Duck moments. It's not a question of one being better than the other. They are all excellent, but they are doing different things that involve very different costs.

                                      1. re: lexdevil
                                        Scott M RE: lexdevil Jul 21, 2009 10:05 AM

                                        While I have not been to Manresa, despite the four courses it appears that there are actually many additional items presented during the meal beyond the four courses. To me it appears Commis is attempting to keep the meal at 3 courses without many extras in order to turn the table throughout the night. With FL, Manresa, Coi, etc you could conceivably be at the table the entire night dining.

                                        So Manresa may get $95 a person and only get one seating but Commis charges $59 and likely gets three or more seatings. So my sense is that while they may not say it, the expectation is to get you in and out and turn the table to maximize the number of people through the doors. Which is not my idea of fine dining.

                                        I also suspect that the money that goes into creating and running a Gary Danko is much more than Commis. Danko's wine list, the size, the interior design, the location, the bar, etc make Danko a more expensive operation to run but the prices are similar to Commis.

                                        All things considered Commis makes Danko look like a huge value.

                                        1. re: Scott M
                                          bbulkow RE: Scott M Jul 21, 2009 10:20 AM

                                          I have no pony in this fight (so to speak) because I haven't been there, but I feel compelled to post.

                                          I define value as the *amount I've paid* for *the experience I've received*.

                                          After 8 postings, Scott, I think I get your point that Commis isn't cheap compared to other restaurants.

                                          The fact is, at many other a la carte restaurants, I often spend $120 to $140 for two out the door - I'm sure I have at Baywolf, for example, and I don't really like the food there. Oliveto and Cesar, sure. $60 puts Commis squarely in the high end.

                                          But, Scott, since you haven't been there and aren't planning on going there, I don't consider you an expert on whether their newer, higher pricing represents *value*.

                                          I don't begrudge a restaurant overflowing with reservations a price increase, and maybe a price decrease when they've cooled off. Their rather impressive sounding start has earned them a little bonus.

                                          1. re: bbulkow
                                            Scott M RE: bbulkow Jul 21, 2009 10:54 AM

                                            You are right, I have continued to beat a dead horse. The real intent of my original post was to question everyone who was calling the food "a steal" or "cheap". It then became a question of "value" which is more difficult for me to judge since I have not been.

                                            I am not sure why they raised the price 20% within a few weeks of opening, but if the reason was "because we can" then that's not really a place I want to be a patron.

                                          2. re: Scott M
                                            Robert Lauriston RE: Scott M Jul 21, 2009 11:53 AM

                                            Comparing the meals you haven't had at Manresa with the meals you haven't had at Commis, you find that the latter's a bad value?

                                            1. re: Robert Lauriston
                                              Scott M RE: Robert Lauriston Jul 21, 2009 12:09 PM

                                              I merely stated that from my understanding of what a meal at Manresa entails it appears to fall more in-line with my expectation of a fine dining experience; as opposed to the possiblility of three courses over two hours sitting at a counter.

                                              1. re: Scott M
                                                s
                                                skwid RE: Scott M Jul 22, 2009 08:14 AM

                                                Scott, there are exactly six seats at the counter (much like the counter seats at boulevard or Rose Pistola that overlook the kitchen area). Commis has about 30 seats. So I don't know how you would equate Commis as a restaurant where one eats at a counter. Most of the dinners will not eat at the counter.

                                              2. re: Robert Lauriston
                                                lexdevil RE: Robert Lauriston Jul 21, 2009 02:04 PM

                                                Nominated for best post of the year.

                                              3. re: Scott M
                                                lexdevil RE: Scott M Jul 21, 2009 12:00 PM

                                                I didn't feel rushed in the slightest. I'd say we were there for close to two hours. They are definitely not trying to turn the tables rapidly. I expect they're doing two seatings each night. The first tables fill from 5:30-6:30ish. I expect the second seating is in the 7:30-8:30 neighborhood. The pace of the meal is similar to that of Gary Danko.

                                                I get the sense from this post that you think that Syhabout is trying to take his customers for whatever he can. Your general tone, and comments like, "you can certainly fool enough people once," seem to imply some sort of malice and avarice on the part of the chef. I think that's why I keep letting myself be goaded into replying. I could be wrong, but I think Syhabout is driven by his love of cooking. This is his first restaurant of his own, and he has created a place where he can exercise his imagination and interact with his customers. He also chose to do it in his home town, at the former location of one of his favorite restaurants (he agrees with you about JoJo). He needs to charge enough to make it a going concern, but I don't think he's in it to get rich. Had he been looking to get rich, he probably would have chosen a bigger place in one of your "destination" cities. I'm glad he didn't.

                                                1. re: lexdevil
                                                  Scott M RE: lexdevil Jul 21, 2009 12:04 PM

                                                  I have never been in and out of Gary Danko in two hours.

                                                  Considering Commis is open until 10 PM, and how popular everyone is saying the restaurant has become. In my opinion, they can fit in three seatings in a night.

                                                  1. re: Scott M
                                                    lexdevil RE: Scott M Jul 21, 2009 01:51 PM

                                                    I'm just guessing that you've never limited yourself to three courses at Danko. I know we usually have five.

                                                    As I said, we were not rushed at all. We could easily have stayed longer. I had my 15 year old in our party, however, and he lacks the patience to go longer than a couple of hours (except at the Fat Duck, which is more like a magic show than a restaurant in his eyes).

                                                    The Commis website says 5:30-9:30. I'd be startled if they were able to pull off more than two seatings. Guess I'll ask them when I return.

                                                  2. re: lexdevil
                                                    o
                                                    oysterspearls RE: lexdevil Jul 21, 2009 01:09 PM

                                                    You are correct.
                                                    Most restaurant consultants advice nothing under 75 seats. Anything less is likely driven by passion and not financial gain. Personally those very restaurants are the one's I often seek out.

                                                    I think it's worth noting that James Syhabout is very well respected in the inner circles of the restaurant industry. He is talented and looked upon as being a chefs chef. Which is not often the case in an era of PR groups better at doing their job then those they represent. I think this is why Commis is getting the attention it is. Word travels quickly within the industry and those close to it.
                                                    I know, I for one can't wait to try it.

                                  2. re: Scott M
                                    Robert Lauriston RE: Scott M Jul 20, 2009 07:18 PM

                                    The price does put it near the top of the East Bay market, but obviously Syhabout judged that there was room for another, somewhat different restaurant in that niche. Given that the place seems to be full every night, seems like he judged correctly.

                                    Piedmont Avenue has one of the most lucrative restaurant rows in the Bay Area, lots of people with lots of money live nearby, and currently there's no high-end choice on the street unless you count Bay Wolf.

                                    1. re: Robert Lauriston
                                      Scott M RE: Robert Lauriston Jul 20, 2009 08:26 PM

                                      "Given that the place seems to be full every night, seems like he judged correctly"

                                      The restauant is still new, you can certainly fool enough people once to give it a try. I would be interested to see if the prices and portions/courses remain the same longer term or if he is forced to retool the courses and prices to keep the seats filled.

                                      1. re: Scott M
                                        s
                                        skwid RE: Scott M Jul 21, 2009 10:12 AM

                                        I've been twice now (and when we went a second time another friend was there for at least the second time). I have left happy both times. Do I wish the cost was less? Of course, but I don't think it is outrageous.

                                        Scott I have a question, have you been to Commis yet so you can actually make a first hand judgement on wether a visit is worth the money? Everyone I've talked to has been quite satisfied.

                                        1. re: skwid
                                          JasmineG RE: skwid Jul 21, 2009 11:01 AM

                                          I haven't been yet, but I think that the point is that because it's three courses at the $59 price point (instead of the $49 price point that it opened at just weeks ago), that makes people a lot less likely to go to experience it. I am thrilled that a place like this with a chef of this caliber has opened in Oakland, and I always like to support new and exciting restaurants in Oakland. But at the new price point, it's just not likely to happen for me. I also think Scott's point is that there are so many other places at that price point that serve both more food and have a more fine dining experience that it will be less likely for people to choose Commis over a place like Danko, or Manresa, or Chez Panisse, which is right here in the East Bay, and gives you more food for only a little more money (and the same price on Mondays). I'm glad that it's in Oakland, but I also think that people who want to go out to a special occasion dinner in the East Bay may not want to go to a brand new and tiny place on Piedmont Avenue.

                                          It also seems weird me some that they changed the price so quickly after opening, especially in this economy. I'm sure that the food is great, and I would love to go to Commis, I'll just have to wait for a special occasion or a nice windfall.

                                          1. re: JasmineG
                                            o
                                            oysterspearls RE: JasmineG Jul 21, 2009 11:07 AM

                                            Newly opened restaurant's often need time to work out kinks and such. Opening prices often reflect that and raise afterward. It is more common then not within the industry.

                                            1. re: JasmineG
                                              lexdevil RE: JasmineG Jul 21, 2009 12:11 PM

                                              I had assumed that they opened with an artificially low price and increased it once they had things running smoothly. I also think, based on photos, that it looks like serving size may have increased a bit (it looked this way especially on the chicken). I imagine most restaurant openings require constant tinkering until it is clear how great their costs (labor and materials) and income really are.

                                              1. re: lexdevil
                                                Scott M RE: lexdevil Jul 21, 2009 12:27 PM

                                                Jumping $49 to $59 in a matter of weeks is a bit much. I would be curious as to how prevalant this practice really is, as I don't recall many if any restaurants moving prices 20% soon after opening.

                                                If they were that far off on their cost estimates, that's a worry.

                                              2. re: JasmineG
                                                o
                                                oaktowngirl RE: JasmineG Jul 21, 2009 01:49 PM

                                                I would love to go to a tiny place on Piedmont Avenue for a lovely dinner. Why is the location so strange to you? College has a restaurant row, Shattuck has a Gourmet Ghetto, and not too long ago Temescal was considered sketchy at night. I don't want to have to drive all over the Bay Area for a nice meal. The more good restaurants we have in our neighborhoods, the luckier we all are.

                                                1. re: oaktowngirl
                                                  JasmineG RE: oaktowngirl Jul 21, 2009 02:05 PM

                                                  There's nothing strange about the location, I eat on Piedmont Avenue all the time. It's certainly a nicer area than Temescal. I never said that there was anything strange about the location. What I thought was strange was raising the price significantly a few weeks after opening, and that makes the price point higher than many would be able to afford for anything that's not a special occasion.

                                              3. re: skwid
                                                Scott M RE: skwid Jul 21, 2009 11:02 AM

                                                I have not been, and I am not questioning whether it is worth the money. I was taking issue with initial postings that the food was "cheap" or "a steal" on a relative basis. You are correct, in order for me to judge if it was worth the experience I would have to go.

                                                1. re: Scott M
                                                  singleguychef RE: Scott M Jul 21, 2009 02:31 PM

                                                  Being the OP, I thought I'd add my points of view and maybe some clarification, but then I got lost in the whole thread! Lots of good points made and I'm not taking any particular side. :)

                                                  But I did want to clarify that when I compared Commis to Canteen, I wasn't comparing the price point but more the approach of a quality chef deciding to have an intimate cooking experience surrounded by his customers. At Canteen and Commis, you see the chef behind the stove making the dinners. And I think both Chefs Leary and Syhabout are top-notched. So that's what I meant when I made the comparison.

                                                  I have to also say that I was a bit surprised that the prices went up just two weeks after I dined there and two weeks after opening. I'm not saying I won't go any more because I love the concept of Commis and the quality is very good, so I still think I would be back to try it at $59, although I will probably skip the wine pairings just to save money. I guess I'm confused why the sudden price hike because you would think after months of preparing to open, you'd think they would have figured out the cost of ingredients and profit margin. I think I wouldn't have been as surprised if the price increase came a year later.

                                                  I also wanted to point out that they do give a great pastry at the end with your bill. I know, this might not seem like a lot, but with the amuse bouche and bread and fresh made butter servings, I considered these some nice touches that I might not have gone into in my OP but reflects on the overall experience.

                                                  Also, I heard from some others that you can MIX courses, so you can pick three dishes for the price and am not restricted to any particular course. So I've heard you could order two starters and an entree and skip dessert if you feel inclined, that way you might feel you're getting more for your money. I don't know if this last part is true since I haven't gone back since my first visit, but I hope to go back soon and check it out.

                                                  1. re: singleguychef
                                                    Paul H RE: singleguychef Jul 21, 2009 08:00 PM

                                                    It is true. You get three courses and they can be appetizers, mains, or dessert. Portions are adjusted to make a full meal.

                                                    1. re: singleguychef
                                                      s
                                                      skwid RE: singleguychef Jul 22, 2009 08:19 AM

                                                      Yes, as Paul H says you can order any three things on the menu (the last time we went one of the people I was with ordered the three entrees). the portion sizes are adjusted a bit (you specify which item you want to be entree sized). I kind of like the concept as if the entrees are not to your liking you can pick things which are and not be stuck without and entree sized item (I do wonder what would happen if someone just ordered the deserts :)

                                                      1. re: skwid
                                                        lexdevil RE: skwid Jul 22, 2009 08:42 AM

                                                        The restaurant would make a far profit on three courses of dessert for $60, that's what.

                                                        1. re: lexdevil
                                                          s
                                                          Slopin RE: lexdevil Jul 23, 2009 09:16 AM

                                                          I had a terrific meal last night at Commis. I was suprise and questioned in regards to the price increase as well. I was informed by the staff that the $49 price tag was for the friends and family week which was their first week of opening. Hint: the unannounced opening, my guess.

                                                          For $59 it is a value for what you get. The amuse and a small treat with you get with your check, i cannot think of any other restaurant in the Eastbay that is providing that type of service.

                                                          Also, the homemade butter and bread...WOW!!
                                                          The butter is delicious and those rolls are just addictive. I can imagine that butter was not cheap.

                                        2. s
                                          shoshanad RE: singleguychef Aug 9, 2009 11:44 PM

                                          Tonight I had my best meal of the year so far at Commis. Hell, best meal of recent memorable history. I had read this entire chain before going, and was wondering about the $ issue... I am a firm believer now that anyone who quibbles over a $10 difference when it comes to this place is a fool. Totally their loss.

                                          Vivid flavors. Perfectly seasoned. Sensationally presented. New tastes. Incredibly high-quality ingredients. They're doing everything right. This place is about amazing food. These chefs have pedigree, and it shows. I understand the comparison of Commis to Dennis Leary's Canteen. In the sense that they're both small operations run by passionate chefs at the height of their game, they are similar. Commis is a higher-end experience, though not for a higher price tag in my opinion.

                                          Nothing on the menu could be bad, but here's what I had:
                                          -Carrot salad: Actually meant to order the cod, but it was a happy mistake. I went to Ubuntu recently, the buzz-saturated vegetarian mecca up in Napa. This vegetarian dish was better than any dish I tasted there. (sorry Ubuntu, still loved you, but I'll stay closer to home and eat at Commis). The carrots looked like multi-colored heirlooms and were served over turnip puree with a seaweed topping mixed with toasted finely ground hazelnuts.
                                          -Soft egg with potato, black garlic and pork jowl: I'm just sitting here shaking my head. I don't even know what to say. It was that good. Get it.
                                          -Lamb with white beans and mint: I got the wine pairings, and this course came with my favorite pairing of the night... what I believe was a Spanish Tempranillo.

                                          I sat at the counter, and if you're into watching the actual cooking like I am this is an amazing place to counter-dine. The chefs really know what they're doing, and they'll answer questions if you want to know what the mystery ingredients in front of you are. Commis has only been open 6 weeks now, and it deserves to be discovered. The cost may seem a bit steep to folks more inclined to pick up a pizza at Zachary's, but at $59 for 3 courses and $29 for wine pairings, I felt like I was eating better than I did at Cyrus last year for at least 3 times that cost.

                                          Shoshana
                                          www.naturalchefshoshana.blogspot.com

                                          2 Replies
                                          1. re: shoshanad
                                            Chuckles the Clone RE: shoshanad Aug 10, 2009 11:09 AM

                                            >"... and it deserves to be discovered."

                                            Shhhh! No! :)

                                            Speaking of which ... how was the crowd on a Sunday night? I walked by a couple of days ago on a weeknight and it seemed a little sparse in there?

                                            1. re: Chuckles the Clone
                                              s
                                              shoshanad RE: Chuckles the Clone Aug 11, 2009 02:28 PM

                                              Sorry!!! ;-) It had a good Sunday night vibe... not packed but tables were pretty constantly full. There were a few customers who were already coming back and bringing others. The counter had a few open seats. And I saw a couple locals wander in to check it out.

                                          2. daveena RE: singleguychef Aug 20, 2009 08:20 PM

                                            Weighing in on the "value" debate - I think Commis is an excellent value. As much as I enjoy Canteen, Dopo, and Adesso, they are not remotely in the same league. In terms of quality and style, I think the most appropriate comparison is to Coi. To compare with other high-end restaurants referenced above, I thought it was significantly better than either Gary Danko or Redd.

                                            The food is gorgeous, vibrant, creative, and meticulously plated. I was able to try the entire menu last night with a few friends - if I could go back tonight, I'd get the carrot salad, the chilled cauliflower soup (a lovely arrangement of caramelized sunchokes, herbs, and chrysanthemum leaves, with the soup poured tableside), and the chicken. I never order chicken, and am so glad my friend did - the texture and flavor were phenomenal. This was easily the best chicken I've ever tasted.

                                            The wine pairings were thoughtful, and in some cases, brilliant - I think it was a viognier that was paired with the cauliflower soup that had a magical symbiosis, in which both blossomed with every sip.

                                            Really, really happy a restaurant of this caliber is so nearby, and still easy to get into. Next time, I'm going to sit at the bar - I had my back to the chefs for most of the dinner, but when I did peek over, I saw them hunched over the plates with the most extraordinary concentration - I'd love to get a closer look at how these dishes are constructed.

                                            1. s
                                              skwid RE: singleguychef Sep 1, 2009 08:27 AM

                                              Went again friday evening and sat at the bar so we could watch them cook. Had a very nice meal. One thing I noticed is that when we got there (around 7:00 p.m.) the place was a bit empty but later on it really filled up. Seems like a late crowd frequents Commis. Still highly recommended.

                                              4 Replies
                                              1. re: skwid
                                                d
                                                D Hound RE: skwid Sep 11, 2009 10:01 PM

                                                We went for early dinner today (6pm). Most dishes we very much liked. We loved the duck, and we loved the desserts. The cod was pretty good. The sardines were OK but not great. The weakest dish was the lamb.

                                                Overall, a good experience. We'll probably be back.

                                                1. re: D Hound
                                                  r
                                                  Ridge RE: D Hound Sep 13, 2009 07:07 PM

                                                  We went last night. Some dishes were excellent but we didn’t think the main courses were as consistently good. We would probably go back. Here is what we ate:

                                                  Foie gras toffee amuse bouche: Excellent. A small porton of foie mousse on a champagne sanayonne ( I think) with a tiny dice of apples.

                                                  Soft egg with pork jowl and black garlic. AMAZING. This was one of the most delicious appetizers I can remember eating in a while. It just tasted really good. I am a big fan of black garlic and I have never seen it used in such a creative and tasty way.

                                                  The duck. Was served with beans. I am not sure what kind of beans they were or how they prepared them but the beans were amazing. The dish would have been a complete success but the duck was very tough, chewy and gristly. I was really in the mood for duck and wanted to enjoy it. Sous vide is supposed to make meat very tender but this was not the case with our duck.

                                                  The beef. The accompaniment was barley with parsnip milk and was very good. The rib meat was tasty as was the braised fennel. But the main beef roasted cap was very rare and somewhat bland.

                                                  Fig tart dessert: Excellent

                                                  Cream of melon soup: Excellent

                                                  Vanilla birthday milkshake: Amazing. Made with very aromatic and obviously high quality vanilla beans.

                                                  1. re: Ridge
                                                    s
                                                    skwid RE: Ridge Sep 14, 2009 08:14 AM

                                                    Did you ask about the way the duck was cooked? I don't think they have the equipment to Sous Vide things. We asked about how a New York strip was done when we went and thought it was Sous Vide and that was not the case.

                                                    1. re: skwid
                                                      r
                                                      Ridge RE: skwid Sep 14, 2009 02:37 PM

                                                      The way the waitress described it, it sounded sous vide but I can’t be 100% certain. Whatever the case it not very enjoyable, although the beans were.

                                              2. s
                                                skwid RE: singleguychef Sep 29, 2009 08:09 AM

                                                Well Michael Bauer has weighed in on Commis and it seems he's not a fan.

                                                http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article...

                                                Can't say I agree with everything he says (I've never been in and out in an hour 20 minutes). But I could see some of his complaints (the portions could be a bit bigger or adding a course or two).

                                                12 Replies
                                                1. re: skwid
                                                  Robert Lauriston RE: skwid Sep 29, 2009 09:18 AM

                                                  Bauer's astonishingly clueless sometimes. "[Wine] markups are high, often more than double retail ... For example, the 2007 Kunin Pape Star is ... $42 by the bottle. You can buy it at places like K&L for about $21." List price on that is $22.50, so $42 is actually less than the standard local markup of 2X undiscounted retail.

                                                  Yeah, the $16 by-the-glass price is over 50% higher than the usual 1/4 bottle price, and if as he says the pours are small, that's a major ripoff.

                                                  1. re: Robert Lauriston
                                                    s
                                                    skwid RE: Robert Lauriston Sep 29, 2009 09:25 AM

                                                    For lower end wines it is typical to have quite high markups as the cost of storing/pouring/... of the bottle is pretty much the same wether the wine costs $10 or $500. Since most of the bottles on the list are under $50 I would expect the higher markup. However the issue I have with this is that to me the markup really doesn't matter, I'm worried about wether the wine is worth the money they are charging, if a wine is a fantastic match with the food and enhances the experience but marked up 3X as opposed to a wine which is a train wreck in my mouth but only marked up 1.5X and ruins the entire experience I'd much rather have the former than the later (note that I've had both experiences at high end restaurants in San Francisco). If I was trying to scrimp on the costs I'd surely not be going to places like Commis, The French Laundry, Michael Mina, Gary Danko, ...

                                                    1. re: skwid
                                                      Robert Lauriston RE: skwid Sep 29, 2009 09:29 AM

                                                      But the bottle markup is low.

                                                      1. re: Robert Lauriston
                                                        s
                                                        skwid RE: Robert Lauriston Sep 29, 2009 09:44 AM

                                                        Well you do have a point there Robert :) . However BTG programs always have high markups. My point is that Bauer seems to be infatuated with the markups of the wines not how well things match with the food. Does he drink wines with his dinners?

                                                        1. re: skwid
                                                          Robert Lauriston RE: skwid Sep 29, 2009 10:13 AM

                                                          Bauer's reviews often read like he only looked at the food and read the wine list, and spent most of his time evaluating the linens, china, flatware, and so on.

                                                          In this review, there's a paragraph describing a three-wine flight, but only one of the three sentences includes any language that suggests he tasted it ("duck was complemented by"). The other two he just gives names, prices, and varietals.

                                                          1. re: Robert Lauriston
                                                            r
                                                            Ridge RE: Robert Lauriston Sep 29, 2009 10:21 AM

                                                            My taste must be completely different from Bauer's because I seldom agree with his reviews. It’s baffling to me that he recently reviewed two new east bay restaurants: Five in Berkeley and Commis in Oakland and he gave Five a much better review than Commis. Having been to both restaurants, that just does not make any sense to me. Both have kinks to work out but I think that Commis is head over heels better than Five.

                                                            1. re: Robert Lauriston
                                                              s
                                                              skwid RE: Robert Lauriston Sep 29, 2009 10:28 AM

                                                              I can see not overindulging in wine at dinners but at least tasting the wine pairing a bit with the food might be a splendid idea

                                                              So how exactly can we get Bauer relieved of his job and get uhockey in there?

                                                              1. re: skwid
                                                                Robert Lauriston RE: skwid Sep 29, 2009 10:41 AM

                                                                Bauer's the boss of the food section, so as a critic he's his own boss. Looks like he's planning to go down with the ship.

                                                                He's only got about 1250 words these days. Amateur bloggers are at a big disadvantage when applying for gigs like that as they have no experience cramming a full review into such a cramped newshole.

                                                    2. re: skwid
                                                      singleguychef RE: skwid Sep 29, 2009 11:16 AM

                                                      I'm kind of wondering if he was influenced by his partner who went to dinner with him? His partner tweeted awhile back how the servings were small, so that seemed like a big theme in Bauer's review.

                                                      I agree sometimes the servings can seem small, that's why I feel Commis should really promote it as a "tasting menu" as opposed to a three-course prix fixe. As for quality, I think Commis is high and above other places that gets higher rankings, such as Adesso, which I love and Bauer gave a 3. I think Commis deserved at least a 3. Both restaurants have different vibe, but both are innovative with high quality ingredients. I think Bauer was really put off by what he calls the pretensions of Commis' environment and presentation.

                                                      1. re: singleguychef
                                                        The Dive RE: singleguychef Sep 29, 2009 11:54 PM

                                                        I agree with you re the prix fix v. tasting menu. We had a wonderful meal on a recent Sunday at Commis (with the egg and sunchoke soups being the highlights). I approached it as a shortened Manressa menu and it seemed to comport well with the price. I loved the wine pairings as well (particularly the wine with the melon dessert -- very impressive). I also feel that Bauer would have treated the restaurant differently if it was in the City... particularly his criticism about the atmosphere.

                                                        -----
                                                        Commis
                                                        3859 Piedmont Avenue, Oakland, CA 94611

                                                        1. re: The Dive
                                                          singleguychef RE: The Dive Sep 30, 2009 11:12 AM

                                                          I agree that Commis' location probably played into some bias in Bauer's review. JoJo's popularity as a neighborhood restaurant also probably pidgeon-holed Commis to that label. But I feel Oakland's food community can support the kind of restaurant Commis is trying to be.

                                                      2. re: skwid
                                                        Chuckles the Clone RE: skwid Sep 30, 2009 08:20 AM

                                                        While I dislike Bauer immensely and although Commis is right at the top of my list of Best Things Eaten All Year, I've gotta say I agree with pretty much all of his criticisms. Some things are just not working. What makes that interesting is the things that aren't working aren't errors in the sense of, "the pianist was hitting wrong notes", they're questions of interpretation as in, "his heavy-handed playing of the rondo threw the piece out of balance", which say as much about the listener as they do the performer.

                                                        On a practical note, we've addressed the overpriced wine issue on both visits by getting bottles from the middle of the white list, most of which are reasonable and well suited to the meal. The reds though are out of control.

                                                      3. JasmineG RE: singleguychef Oct 13, 2009 12:30 AM

                                                        I was skeptical about this place. I was intrigued, but thought that the price point was too high, the food would be too precious, and I would leave hungry. I was totally wrong.

                                                        I had an early birthday dinner there this weekend, and it was just a great experience, from the food, to the service, to the space. We sat at the chef's counter, which is absolutely the place to sit in this restaurant, at least the first time. Watching them cook really added to the experience, they were so slow and calm the whole time, and it felt like a very zen approach to cooking. My mom said that it made her blood pressure go down just to watch them, because they did everything in such an unhurried way, and the restaurant itself is very minimalist, but not in a cold way at all.

                                                        On to the food. The amuse was a poached egg with smoked dates, onion and malt -- just the yolk was in the dish, and it was surrounded by the cream made up from the onions and malt (I think) with the dates at the bottom. This was really delicious, a combination of flavors that I would have never imagined would be good together, and it was really flavorful. For starters, we had the Salmon Tartare and the farm egg with potato and pork jowl. Others have described the farm egg, and it is just as good as everyone says, it made me wish that we weren't sharing so that I could have my own. I was wondering if we should get the tartare, since I've had so many tartares that they start to all seem the same, but this one was really great -- pumpernickel crumbs on top, with I think tiny radishes to garnish and add to the crunch, and great bits of crunchy salt. The cucumber was in basically a puree underneath the salmon, and instead of being the crunch, it was a nice fresh contrast to the strong flavors of the rest of the dish.

                                                        For mains, we got the duck, which was poached then seared, with chanterelles and the roast sirloin cap of beef and rib with pearl barley. Both were fantastic -- the duck wasn't fatty at all, just cooked perfectly and nicely crunchy on top, and the beef was some of the best beef I've had in a while. The only thing that I didn't love (really, the only thing in the meal that I didn't love) was the pearl barley that came with the beef -- it was cooked risotto style with parsnip milk, and while it was fine, it was only good as a mild contrast to the rich beef, but I wouldn't have wanted to eat it on its own. We were getting full by the time we were halfway through the mains, so we didn't finish them (they were great the next day!), to save room for dessert.

                                                        Oh, and there was also house made dinner rolls and house made butter, and the butter was really good.

                                                        Then the desserts -- we got one of each, the pink pearl apple and white cheddar cheesecake, and the black mission fig tart. Now, I was skeptical about this cheesecake. I love apples and cheddar together, but in a cheesecake? Oh man, this was delicious, I would go back right now for some if I could. It was really light, but perfectly done, the crust was fantastic, and the apples worked really well with the other flavors. I loved the black mission fig tart, but then I don't think I've ever disliked a fig dessert, and the beeswax scented ice cream that came with it was a great accompaniment.

                                                        We got the wine pairings, and the staff was great about explaining each wine, and why it was paired with that dish.

                                                        All in all, wonderful meal, and I would highly recommend it particularly to those celebrating an occasion, the staff definitely tried to make it a special night. But I'd recommend it to anyone, especially since it wasn't full on a Friday night, so it shouldn't be a tough reservation to get.

                                                        5 Replies
                                                        1. re: JasmineG
                                                          singleguychef RE: JasmineG Oct 13, 2009 11:42 AM

                                                          Did you get the wine tasting too or did you just order a glass of wine? Everything sounded delicious.

                                                          1. re: singleguychef
                                                            lexdevil RE: singleguychef Oct 13, 2009 11:52 AM

                                                            She says they had the wine pairings. I'm curious to know if Syhabout has increased portion size since the Bauer review. I thought they were fine (though not generous) back in July, but I can't imagine packing the proverbial "doggie bag" unless the servings are now bigger.

                                                            1. re: singleguychef
                                                              JasmineG RE: singleguychef Oct 13, 2009 11:56 AM

                                                              Oh, yes, we both got the wine tastings -- it was nice to see how they paired each wine with each dish.

                                                              I don't know if they do this for everyone, or they did it for me because it was my birthday, but at the end they gave us a menu of just what we ate, along with the wine pairings, which was a lovely touch (and I'm glad that I have it for the wine pairings, I really liked some of the wines).

                                                              1. re: JasmineG
                                                                lexdevil RE: JasmineG Oct 13, 2009 12:46 PM

                                                                I didn't get a menu, but we did get an extra glass of wine due to my birthday.

                                                            2. re: JasmineG
                                                              daveena RE: JasmineG Oct 19, 2009 07:30 PM

                                                              I *knew* you would like it! It does sound like the portion sizes may have increased. I was beyond annoyed with Bauer's review, but if they responded by upping the portion size, I'll make my peace with it.

                                                            3. s
                                                              skwid RE: singleguychef Oct 19, 2009 08:58 AM

                                                              Well looks like Commis got a Michelin Star today. Congratulations to Chef Syhabout.

                                                              6 Replies
                                                              1. re: skwid
                                                                o
                                                                oysterspearls RE: skwid Oct 19, 2009 08:47 PM

                                                                Along with Michelin awarding Commis a star. Josh Sens gives high praise to Chef Syhabout in his latest review.
                                                                http://www.sanfranmag.com/story/the-q...

                                                                1. re: oysterspearls
                                                                  Peter Yee RE: oysterspearls Oct 21, 2009 04:54 PM

                                                                  I ate there on the 16th and a photographer from the New York Times was taking pictures at the time. So, perhaps Commis will be getting some more (hopefully positive) press soon.

                                                                  My party of 4 loved the meal. While my son agreed with Bauer about the silverware, I found it easy to balance my knife on my plate without problem. And when you're concentrating on the food, little things like balancing silverware don't seem to matter. If you are concentrating on the food. I have to wonder what Bauer was paying attention to.

                                                                  1. re: Peter Yee
                                                                    Robert Lauriston RE: Peter Yee Oct 21, 2009 05:01 PM

                                                                    Maybe his weight.

                                                                    1. re: Robert Lauriston
                                                                      lexdevil RE: Robert Lauriston Oct 21, 2009 05:34 PM

                                                                      If that were the case, I think he would have liked the restrained portions. He could have blathered on about it being cuisine minceur for the new millenium...

                                                                2. re: skwid
                                                                  singleguychef RE: skwid Oct 23, 2009 02:57 PM

                                                                  Went back to Commis since I first posted to see whether it's changed much, and I have to say I feel like it's just better.

                                                                  This time around, I didn't get the wine pairing for $29 because I do agree with Bauer that the pour for each wine served does seem to be on the skimpy side. So this time around I ordered wine by the glass and went with a lovely Barbera for $11 and the server poured what I consider to be a nice portion that lasted me through my meal.

                                                                  I walked in without a reservations like the last time, but went on the early side. The hostess was super friendly and remembered me from the last time I came in, which I found surprising since I've only eaten there once. (She even remembered that I came straight from the gym the last time and asked me whether I came from the gym again. Talk about memory!) I should note that a few walk-ins came in after me and had to be turned away because they didn't have reservations. So trick is to come early because they probably only accomodate just a few walk-ins.

                                                                  For $59, I felt the options were plentiful and varied. There was the farm egg dish with pork jowl that I had last time. It looks like it's his signature dish because it's always on the menu. There was also a fish and some squid dishes. Like others have pointed out, the selections aren't broken into courses and are just presented under one menu and you just pick three items (skipping dessert if you feel inclined).

                                                                  Before I get into the regular menu, I should note the two great amuse presented prior to dinner. First off was a refreshing shiso soda that reminded me of rose water, very light and refreshing with hints of Indonesian long pepper (I'm guessing because it's not detailed in the menu since it's complimentary). Then the chef sent out a second amuse (I guess because he didn't present some treats with the bill, which he did last time) which I totally loved. It was a perfectly soft boiled egg yolk (just the perfectly round yellow yolk) sitting in a cup of onion foam soup with finely diced dates. The complexity of flavors in this one amuse is just a testament to the intricate flavor profiles being created at Commis.

                                                                  For my three course dinner, i started with the beet salad, which doesn't sound incredibly creative, but I love beets. These were tender red beets with a real freshness to the flavor that were presented with a pear sauce. I felt the pear sauce was really subtle and at first didn't think it enhanced the beets, but as I ate, I progressively liked the changes in flavor that occurred and enjoyed it. There were also some crunchy bits with the beets that I don't really know what it was, but again is the play in textures Chef Syhabout does a lot of.

                                                                  My second course was the duo of duck. This was the last night they're serving duck for the season, the hostess told me. On the plate were pieces of braised duck that actually was a bit salty. Then two slices of seared duck breast that were on the rear side. I felt the searing could have been more crisp. It didn't help that the entire plate was served with a brown broth, which was rich but in a way washed out the flavors of the duck. The dish was served with a side of cranberry beans and spinach, I think. I thought this dish was all right. It seemed a bit one note, even though the chef added a lot of components to it.

                                                                  I ended with dessert because I wanted to try their cheesecake. It was a small rectangular piece of cheesecake, I think made of cheddar and goat cheese? Served with green apple bits. The green apple bits looked like they were candied to look like gems, and the plate was beautiful. Again with the texture, some crispy things were on top. The hostess told me what it was but I forgot, something like kaloufis? Don't quote me on that. But overall I thought the plate was whimsical and tasty and the cake itself was creamy but not dense.

                                                                  I was interested to see if I would feel hungry after I left or if I would feel the $59 was too much (especially since I visited during the friends and family opening price of $49). In the end, I felt satisfied and I didn't mind paying the $59 for what I ate, I felt it was totally worth the value given the complexity and detail to plating for each course. I sat at the counter and watched as the chefs used tweezers to perfectly place wildflowers on each plate. It's this penchant for details that I feel warranted the Michelin star.

                                                                  As for Bauer, I think he totally missed the point with Syhabout's dinners. I really feel Commis deserves at least 2.5 stars if not 3 under Bauer's scale.

                                                                  1. re: singleguychef
                                                                    s
                                                                    skwid RE: singleguychef Oct 30, 2009 11:43 AM

                                                                    Btw, Bauer did give Commis 2.5 stars when it should have gotten 3.5 (or at least 3). I think Bauer totally missed the boat on the review of Commis and was being petty. Sometimes on his reviews it seems like he has it in mind ahead of time he is going to nitpick a restaurant to death to come up with reasons to write a poorer review. I think if Commis was in San Francisco Bauer would be gushing about it.

                                                                    -----
                                                                    Commis
                                                                    3859 Piedmont Avenue, Oakland, CA 94611

                                                                3. JasmineG RE: singleguychef Oct 30, 2009 12:25 PM

                                                                  Article about Commis from the NYTimes: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/10/30/din...

                                                                  Most amusing quote: "Commis sits on a gritty stretch of Piedmont Avenue, not far from where Interstates 580 and 980 intersect."

                                                                  I've never seen the word "gritty" used to describe any part of Piedmont Avenue.

                                                                  -----
                                                                  Commis
                                                                  3859 Piedmont Avenue, Oakland, CA 94611

                                                                  13 Replies
                                                                  1. re: JasmineG
                                                                    Robert Lauriston RE: JasmineG Oct 30, 2009 01:04 PM

                                                                    That's a stretch, especially by New York standards.

                                                                    1. re: JasmineG
                                                                      Ruth Lafler RE: JasmineG Oct 30, 2009 08:53 PM

                                                                      Gah. Oakland is gritty by definition, I guess.

                                                                      1. re: Ruth Lafler
                                                                        JasmineG RE: Ruth Lafler Oct 30, 2009 09:59 PM

                                                                        I mean, gritty stretch of Telegraph, okay! Gritty stretch of Broadway, yes indeed. Piedmont? Especially knowing where Commis is, that just made me laugh.

                                                                        -----
                                                                        Commis
                                                                        3859 Piedmont Avenue, Oakland, CA 94611

                                                                        1. re: JasmineG
                                                                          Robert Lauriston RE: JasmineG Oct 31, 2009 10:38 AM

                                                                          Is there really a billboard on top of the restaurant? I've never noticed that.

                                                                          1. re: Robert Lauriston
                                                                            Chuckles the Clone RE: Robert Lauriston Nov 1, 2009 02:13 PM

                                                                            Yes, though it's not clear if there's any angle at all that it's visible from:

                                                                            http://maps.google.com/maps?client=sa...

                                                                            1. re: Chuckles the Clone
                                                                              wolfe RE: Chuckles the Clone Nov 1, 2009 02:55 PM

                                                                              Better appreciated with the street view from Bay Wolf, 3853 Piedmont Ave, Oakland, CA‎

                                                                      2. re: JasmineG
                                                                        Eugene Park RE: JasmineG Oct 30, 2009 09:15 PM

                                                                        This is a BIIIIIIG stretch, but maybe "lower" Piedmont Ave. where it runs into Broadway "might" be a little sketchy if you're scared of walking amongst a bunch of auto dealerships and repair shops while cars whiz by. Far from South Bronx or Times Square pre-cleanup gritty, though.

                                                                        I think even the most flighty suburbanite would have little issue with walking the stretch of Piedmont Ave. that Commis resides on.........

                                                                        -----
                                                                        Commis
                                                                        3859 Piedmont Avenue, Oakland, CA 94611

                                                                        1. re: Eugene Park
                                                                          grayelf RE: Eugene Park Oct 30, 2009 09:42 PM

                                                                          Eesh. Have they not heard of CABS? That is what we'll be taking from BART next Friday (I hope).

                                                                          1. re: Eugene Park
                                                                            b
                                                                            blissing RE: Eugene Park Oct 31, 2009 01:15 PM

                                                                            I love Oakland, but even on Piedmont, there's usually a post on a telephone poll about people being mugged. I still go there many times a week though, and so do many others, no worse for the wear.

                                                                            1. re: blissing
                                                                              rworange RE: blissing Oct 31, 2009 02:11 PM

                                                                              I was robbed at Ferry Plaza while at Boulette's ... gritty waterfront dive you know. I believe there's some sort of sign on top of that building.

                                                                              1. re: blissing
                                                                                Robert Lauriston RE: blissing Oct 31, 2009 02:40 PM

                                                                                Muggers and pickpockets go where the money is. So do panhandlers--I see more on Piedmont than anywhere else I go except downtown Berkeley.

                                                                            2. re: JasmineG
                                                                              rworange RE: JasmineG Oct 31, 2009 03:41 PM

                                                                              Thanks for the link. Learned a few new things like the stff about the shiso.

                                                                              From the article ...

                                                                              "All the while, Mr. Syhabout was training to open his own place, learning not just about cooking but also about working with contractors, purveyors and a staff."

                                                                              He certainly learned how to market his business ... Michelin ... The NY Times

                                                                              Knowing how to get attention isn'at a bad thing when you have a good product.

                                                                              1. re: JasmineG
                                                                                Chuckles the Clone RE: JasmineG Nov 1, 2009 02:23 PM

                                                                                "Gritty" seems to be a specific real estate term which means that the hipsters have arrived, displacing the artists but the developers have not yet moved in to displace everyone. So it's still being used wrongly, though differently wrongly than you might suspect.

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