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Oct 29, 2009 12:41 AM

Oakland: Coe-me (Commis) – very deserving of its Michelin star

Great staff. Great atmosphere. Great food.

The staff is warm, the restaurant is convivial and personal, the food is the tops in its category. The majority of people who like California cuisine should like Commis..

I had (with wine pairings)

- Complementary pretty, fizzy pink shiso seltzer
- Amuse: glass of apple cider from Normandy
- Amuse: poached egg with date malt, smoked salt, chives and granola
- House-baked Parker House rolls and house-made butter
- Seared mussels, apples, turnip and radish with aforado watercress, squid broth
- Guinea fowl with natural renderings,caramelized sunchokes, escarole, tarragon bread crumbs
- Celery root cake, grape jelly, almond crumble, celery sorbet
- Complementary absinthe gelee

There were ingredients in the dishes that were not part of the menu description. There were trumpet mushrooms with the guinea fowl. It really didn’t matter. It was about deliciousness not descriptions.

The poached egg was the first dish that had my eyes rolling back in my head with delight. That contrast of textures and flavors … sweet, sour, salty, unctuous, foamy, and crunchy.

This was interesting to see being put together. The date mixture is spread on the bottom of a small lovely, simple brown bowl and sea salt sprinkled on it. The eggs were poached in-shell … don’t know how that doesn’t make them soft boiled though. Then they were broken into a separate bowl and the chef used a spoon to shake the white off the yolk. That deserved applause in itself. It was delicate, work and out of the 20 I watched being made, not one egg yolk broke. Then egg and white were put in the bowl … the white at first I thought was foam. The chives and granola added on one side.

There were 10 plump shelled Mediterranean mussels. The watercress was braised with slices of the veggies mixed in. There were also tiny mint leaves… or something tasting of mint which was a great combo with the mussels. The squid broth is like a clam broth … excellent and highly recommended dish.

The guinea fowl was interesting and tasty. I also am guessing there were potatoes involved. There was something in there that tasted like sliced baby potatoes with the most wonderful crust and a soft, exquisite interior. Maybe the sunchokes. The beautiful meaty mushrooms were fabulous. There were two rolled coins of the most tender breast. That I kept as my last bite. There was a confit of the leg topped with tarragon crumbs.A rich pool of the rendering juice was on the bottom.

The celery dessert wasn’t as weird as it sounds. The cake was a slice like a buttery financier. The jelly was dabs of grape sauce. Celery makes a refreshing and pretty sorbet. All the flavors harmonized perfectly.

Top notch Parker House rolls were replenished during the meal. The butter had a tang to it almost like yogurt.

The absinthe gelee was a fun idea. Didn’t taste like absinthe but it was pretty.

I’m not good with wine. The only one I remember was the Bugey Cerdson Rosé Patrick Bottex which was an absolutely perfect pairing with the celery sorbet. Kermit Lnych carries it and I’m pretty sure it is always at Berkeley Bowl.

I’m not quite sure if the cider amuse was only served if the wine pairing was ordered.

The bottle and label were displayed with a brief explanation given before being poured . Ditto on a brief explanation of the dishes and they were really good about answering question.

It wasn’t at all what I imagined. It was NOT stark with precious dishes and small portions

The staff was a big surprise. They were the best … friendly without being chummy ... on top of orders without hovering ... very knowledgeable … super professional without being stuffy. They are the best I’ve seen since my beloved Bizou closed.

The whole staff just works together with precision. When a dish was ready and one of the wait staff was unavailable, the chef walked it over to the table. The servers did some final touches on the dishes such as wiping the edges of the plate before bringing it to the table.

Maybe night, with lower lights and glowing candles on the tables, the place seems less sterile. I’d almost call it romantic though it had a festive, convivial feel.

The check came to $96 with tax. I’ve spent more than that elsewhere ordering a la carte. I went in thinking that like downstairs at Chez Panisse it would be a yearly special occasion restaurant for me. However, I liked so much about it I’ll be stopping in more than that.

The name is French so drop the "s" pronouncing it.A 7x7 article says ...

"Syhabout is modest to the point of shy. He got the name Commis (a French term for an apprentice chef) from Marco Pierre White’s book, White Heat. “In the French kitchen, the lowest ranks wear a blue apron and the chef wears a white apron,” explains Syhabout. “White says, ‘We all wear blue aprons; we’re all still learning.’ I took that to heart.”

3859 Piedmont Avenue, Oakland, CA 94611

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  1. Thank you for the excellent insightful review. Truly enjoyed reading it.

    1. I agree 100%. The whole time I was sitting there I kept thinking that I could not believe that this caliber of dining is happening in Oakland. . .and within walking distance of my home!

      I had the farm egg and really enjoyed it - make sure to have a piece of their lovely rolls at the ready to sop up the deliciousness that remains in the bowl. I had the duck dish which has rotated off the menu (replaced by the guinea fowl) as well as bites of all my companion's dishes. . .we ate the whole menu (not difficult to do between three people) with the soup course being sent to us by Mr. Syhabout. Excellent. Everything. Most notably the service as well.

      I have read elsewhere that the desserts are challenging but I did not find them so. We had all three dessert offerings and all were quite delicious with my favorite being the celery root cake which I took as an interpretation of Ants on a Log. . peanut butter, celery and that intensely flavored but not too sweet grape jelly acting as the raisins. Really wonderful and the texture on the sorbet was like velvet.

      I for one am so excited to have this restaurant in Oakland!

      My Favorite Cafe
      2110 Clement St, San Francisco, CA 94121

      1. Yeah, I agree with all of this. It really is a warm place, even with the austere grey walls. I don't know how they managed this, but they did. I especially agree with:

        "The staff was a big surprise. They were the best … friendly without being chummy ... on top of orders without hovering ... very knowledgeable … super professional without being stuffy."

        But I can't wait to go back for the food, it looks like the menu changes relatively often, because I only went three weeks ago and had all different dishes, except for the amuse.

        1. Thanks for the review. I'm going next Friday for my birthday and I can't wait!

          7 Replies
          1. re: blissing

            Hey blissing, maybe we will see you there! Thanks to this review and some pretty fierce Chowhound peer pressure on another thread, I went ahead and grabbed one of the last resos for the 6th. We're coming early (6:30) but we bagged the two seats at the far end of the counter, reputed to be the best to scope out the kitchen prep. Will be fun to go here the day after Canteen...

              1. re: grayelf

                Yay! But our reservation is for 8PM. Have a great meal there, maybe we'll see you as we arrive.

                1. re: blissing

                  Hounds that pass in the night :-). You know where we'll be so say hi if feel like it. Enjoy your dinner too!

                  1. re: grayelf

                    I was there, but too chicken to say, "grayelf?" Sorry! We sat at the table for 2 in the front. It would have been great except for the streetlight shining right into our space. The city of Oakland needs to move that light. They could do it for their Michelin star restaurant.

                    We had the:

                    Shiso seltzer;
                    Poached egg amuse as above;
                    Pork jowl;

                    Kabocha squash soup with quince and a fresh herb--it's so hard to remember all the ingredients. It was like a mild marjoram. The texture of the soup was like something between a liquid foam and a meringue--he used this texture several times;

                    Slow roasted Duck, which had a delicious dark smear of something we couldn't remember;

                    Pork loin and pork belly (took me a while after ordering to realize this was not an innard, I was up for it, too!), with chanterelles topped with a delicious tarragon crumble, on a bed of escarole;

                    White Cheddar Cheesecake--served on a piece of slate, scattered with the tiniest, most crisp cubed granny smith apple which fairly burst in the mouth;

                    Pumpkin dessert--that same foamy/creamy texture, with perfectly round dollops of cream, pumpkin, scattered with pumpkin seeds and other coated nuts;

                    Absinthe gelee.

                    We both ordered the wine pairing. I loved the white bordeaux served with my squash soup, as well as the moscato di asti with my dessert--could not have been better.

                    This is my first experience with a restaurant of this type, so I don't have anything to compare it to. It was a great experience. I appreciated the wine pairing--I'm a sipper so the sizes were perfect for me. I was painting yesterday and realized the visual beauty of the meal was influencing my art!

                    There was enough food, we thought we'd head to Fenton's for fun after but just went home. It was well-flavored--my boyfriend was worried because he's a salt addict and we knew there wouldn't be salt shakers on the table.

                    It was fun to see all the people walking by coming out of Bay Wolf and looking in, looking up at the blank white awning, looking in again, some coming in to grab a business card. I felt very "in-the-know".

                    And my birthday present? The butchering class at Avedano's meat market!!! He's a keeper.

                    235 Cortland Ave, San Francisco, CA 94110

                    1. re: blissing

                      Thanks for the report. Pumpkin dessert, eh? One of those times I wish you could just drop in for a single course.

                      Lush gelato didn't have pumpkin on my visit recently, but they had a really swell pear ...if you are ever up that way again.

                      Glad this was a happy birthday for you ... my wishes for a great year, sounds like it was a good start.

                      1. re: rworange

                        The pumpkin dessert was wonderful.
                        A highlight of the meal for meal was the wonderful service.

            1. Thanks, rworange, for the great review. This post, along with the monster thread on Commis, has convinced me this is the place to go for our 7th wedding anniversary. I better make reservations soon!

              3859 Piedmont Avenue, Oakland, CA 94611