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Jan 19, 2010 03:18 PM

Oakland (Jack London Square): Encuentro Cafe & Wine Bar - organic vegetarian and vegan enoteca and tapas bar

Someone wrote that the soups here are not to be missed. Based on the vegan winter squash with fennel and ginger, I'd have to agree.

This was a rich, decadant soup full of squash goodness and layered with complexity and flavor. Who would have thought that the word decadant and vegan would ever be paired together.

It came with a warm cheese breadstick from Feel Good Bakery. This was a thing of beauty , seeded on the outside, soft within and with a nice cheese flavor.

The Uncle Eddie’s Wild Hen Devilled Eggs where two egg halves filled with a creamy mustard-based filling with a little devilish kick from maybe jalepeno?

Coffee is by Flying Goat. There are both bagged and loose leaf teas.

The wine list is interesting with more than a dozen glasses ranging from $6 - $10.

The feeling is relaxed, inviting and casual. There is a small bar area and scattered bistro tables. Large floor to ceiling windows give lots of light. Technically it is in the Waterfront Warehouse Distraict almost across the street from the Oakland Amtrack station.

One of the co-owners and chefs is Eric Tucker (executive chef at Millennium Restaurant in San Francisco),

The website says "Encuentro means “to meet, gather, encounter” and encuentro will embody exactly that – a neighborhood wine bar and café featuring an eclectic mix of organic/sustainable wines from small, local and old world vintners"

This small inviting space with a warm staff and tasty food, really seem like a perfect spot to gather with friends and enjoy a glass of wine.

Encuentro Cafe & Wine Bar
202 2nd St, Oakland, CA 94607

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  1. Sounds like a decent shop. Worth a sunset ferry ride from San Francisco?

    3 Replies
    1. re: steve h.

      Hmmm ... it's no Ubuntu. If you are a vegetarian or vegan, a strong perhaps. My wine knowledge is limited, so .... looks impressive to me. If you know wine, take a look at the link.

      It is difficult to judge by a bowl of soup. Outstanding place if you are in the nabe. A worthwile place if in the East Bay. Can't say if it is destination-worthy yet, but my feel is that they are going for more of a neighborhood place.

      It would be a chance to kill two birds with one stone ... Chop Bar is a block away. That is really where I had lunch, saw Encuentro and decided to see what it was all about. I brought the soup and eggs home for dinner ... of course after trying a bit immediately ... the Feel Good breadstick didn't make it to Berkeley ... it was warm and wonderful ... I gobbled it down.

      My one quibble so far with it is that it is a place to have a drink with A ... one ... friend. It is tiny ... really, really tiny. Most of the tables are two-seat bistro tables. I think they might need to do a little redecorating to make it a more group-friendly.

      I'm a meat-eater. I am really happy to see where vegetarianism and even vegan food is going. Ubuntu was the first place where it hit me that this food could be delicious and not just puritanical healthy sprouts and brown rice. This is no stern, serious Manzanita.

      That is what so impressed me here. That vegan soup was better than some I've had with rich chicken broth. I'm thinking they used olive oil.

      Reading the Yelp reviews, it seems the tomato bread pudding may be the signature dish that should not be missed. Another dish to note might be the tempeh bacon, sundried tomato jam sandwich. Even the poster on Yelp who gave it one star, said this was great.

      Other dishes that seem crowd (so to speak) pleasers
      - Truffled Mushroom Pecan Pate
      - Portobello mushrooms w/caramelized fennel/onions,smoked goat cheddar sandwich
      - Vegan Cheeses - Smoked Pecan / Macadamia Nut / Cashew and Pumpkin Seed
      - Little Gem Salad with smoked Tofu

      The rest seem to be unexplored or unreported territory. However, anything with fennel might be a good bet.

      I have to say I'm a little skeptical about those cheeses, but will probably give them a try. Dishes that seem to be merely ok or skippable - spinach dip, stuffed dates.

      I liked the deviled eggs, but I wouldn't do a hard sell on them.

      There a a few suspicious reviews on Yelp ... well, you know ... I won't go into details to give friends and family a tip-off. But there are also legit reviews that rate it highly. I rated it highly based on the soup. It was really one of the best winter squash soups I've ever had ... and did I mention it was vegan?

      It has been at least a year since I've been to the Jack London Square area. The condos down there have it evolving into a nice nabe. Think Oakland's version of SOMA. That would be my reservation if taking the boat over. I haven't been there at night, but I'm thinking it is like SOMA after dark. There are about four really dead blocks that you would need to walk to get there from JLS ... sort of like the dead parts of SOMA. There is a police bar nearby ... but still. I might wait till summer when it is light at night.

        1. re: rworange

          We went with a group of 10 (8 non-vegetarian!) on a Saturday night, and enjoyed the experience immensely. I had emailed the proprietors asking if it was possible to reserve for such a large group and they answered me promptly in the affirmative, even though it's a small space -- very friendly service that set the tone from the start. As previous posters have noted, soups seem to be a specialty. The soup we had was a vegan curried chickpea that was delicious -- delicately spiced and fresh-tasting, the chickpeas firm, not mushy, with a garnish of cilantro. I tried the dates stuffed with goat cheese that a friend ordered -- they were warm! And scrumptious -- nicely textured and a perfect combination of simple ingredients. I thought I knew what to expect, but they were definitely special. The salad we shared was good, solid, and generously sized, but not especially memorable. We also shared a couple bruschettas -- avocado & cilantro w/chile jam and beet & burrata. Both were tasty and well-prepared, but again, nothing that I was amazed at.

          The dessert, on the other hand, was amazing! Sour cherry almond cake sounded like a disappointment when it was all that was available (other than the cheese plates and the chocolate truffles) but it was fantastic! A huge portion, moist, complex, not too sour, not too sweet, crumbly top...I couldn't get enough. Great finish to the meal.

          I'm not a wine person, but the wine selection seemed good and our group enjoyed many by-the-glass selections. The waiter we had was super friendly and made the experience better just by being casual and warm. It's a neat-looking space and wasn't too busy, which meant it wasn't impossible to hear everyone around our big table.

          I'd go back for sure.

          Encuentro Cafe & Wine Bar
          202 2nd St, Oakland, CA 94607

      1. East Bay Express review this week

        " For non-meat-eaters, its portobello is a flamboyant paean to what vegetables can attain at their best. To meat eaters, or non-meat-eaters who miss meat, the mushroom slyly evokes chewy squid or juicy skate."

        Does any market sell vegan sausages by Seattle's Field Roast Grain Meat company?

        1 Reply
        1. We ate here last night. I had the deviled eggs, a socca with kale, pepper sauce; and their gnocchi with a tomato sauce and cheese. My companions started with the figs stuffed with goat cheese with a red wine redux, a vegan creamy potato and leek soup, marinated seasonal vegetables served with baguette, and the quinoa with kale, pickled vegetables, cilantro, seasoned pepitas, with a smoked goat cheddar.

          I was really pleased with all my dishes. My deviled eggs had delicious but unique taste, my socca was scrumptious, and my gnocchi were very light. You know how gnocchi can sometimes get heavy. My companions were also very pleased with their food. Their least favorite were the marinated veggies, but they raved about everything else.

          We all loved our desserts; they didn't like my banana cake as much, but their strawberry cheesecake and chocolate were to die for.

          This was out first time experiencing Flying Goat coffee and we were all impressed. Even my partner who doesn't like coffee liked it.

          We really liked our waiter. She was really friendly and did not appear annoyed when we asked about the food. She had a great sense of humor and we enjoyed her unobtrusive presence. She was very enthusiastic about the food.

          We plan to go back!

          1. I ate at Encuentro again. These guys - gals actually - are continuing to serve very solid food with excellent by the glass wine. The place punches far above its weight. Although it tries to be a local nabe spot, it's becoming a destination for me - especially as the veg options throughout the bay area as decreasing a bit. The place is never busy, very relaxed, sharp service, and worth a try (or repeat). The menu is deep.

            I went because the space is *WARM* and they *SERVE GREAT SOUP AND WINE*. But it doesn't end there - thinking creatively about kale and pickles and apples adds to the big picture. A great pick this week.

            1 Reply
            1. re: bbulkow

              I agree. Every time we go we really enjoy ourselves. It is convivial and fun and the food is always interesting. It's a really nice addition to the Oakland scene.

            2. Finally got around to trying this place. The food is so good it makes me want to give Millennium another chance. The smoked pecan pâté is a must-try.

              Looked to me like there were lots of tables that could seat four or more. It did not seem tiny. Really easy parking.

              They just started summer hours, open until 11pm Tuesday-Saturday. The kitchen didn't stay open that late last night but the place was almost empty.