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Cesar Latino (Oakland branch renamed)

I guess I haven't been to Cesar on Piedmont in a while. On February 12, they renamed the place Cesar Latino and switched to a pan-Latin menu. Anybody been?

The Web site has a breakfast menu but the hours say they open at 11:30.

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Bar César
4039 Piedmont Ave, Oakland, CA 94611

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  1. My husband and I had a light lunch there last weekend. We split a plate of five tacos and a salad with beets and citrus segments. The salad had a banana-lemon dressing. I liked the banana-beet combination, but the dressing needed to be a little more tart. Maybe some days the citrus segments and lemon juice are sourer than other days.

    The taco plate came with one each of five: shrimp, rajas, chicken in a chile sauce, a meat I don't remember, and a sausage that was not chorizo. Good tortillas and the sausage was really nice. Shrimp were not very interesting and the rajas were undercooked to my taste.

    I had a great cocktail, with grapefruit juice, tequila, an orange liqueur, and sparkling water, that was very brunch-appropriate and refreshing. My husband had a jamaica agua fresca that had a strong flavor and deep purple-red color.

    They gave us a little dish of crisp seeds (pumpkin seeds, corn, soybeans) while we looked at the menu.

    I didn't get good looks at any other dishes because the people at the adjacent table were just drinking.

    1 Reply
    1. re: ourswimmer

      We tried the new Cesar Latino last night. Generally good, but not quite as successful as the original Spanish menu, I think. We had a half order of the pozole (pork in chile verde broth with hominy), which was very good and very spicy. Empanadas were good too. The sopapillas, essentially little squash biscuits, were tasty but a little heavy. I'm all for them trying something new although I'm a little puzzled as to why they made they change.

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      Bar César
      4039 Piedmont Ave, Oakland, CA 94611

    2. We ate there last month and welcomed the change to the restaurant's "theme" Interesting food and a great counterpoint to Cesar in Berkeley. Service was slow and waiters had not yet adjusted to the new menu (ours couldn't describe many of the dishes and had no idea of ingredients or method of preparation) but that's just a minor training issue and will easily be fixed. Try it, you'll like it.

      1. I liked the old Cesar, but found that it was more expensive than, and not as good as, Barlata.

        I'm afraid that the new Cesar is just going to be more expensive than, and not as good as, Bocanova, when it comes to pan-Latin small plates.

        Has anyone who has been to both restaurants compare the two?

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        Barlata
        4901 Telegraph Ave, Oakland, CA 94609

        Bocanova
        55 Webster Street, Oakland, CA 94607

        1. I was nearby and hungry so stopped in for a Cubano ($10.75). This is not totally traditional, as they substituted pork belly for roast pork and mortadella for ham, but the end result is classic. Just the right amount of pickles and mustard. Came with I presume housemade potato chips dusted with smoked paprika, nice.

          Also, the complementary olives have been replaced by a toasted mix of peanuts, peas, sunflower seeds, maybe pepitas, and maybe a couple of other ingredients.

          I'm curious to try more of the menu.

           
          2 Replies
          1. re: Robert Lauriston

            I live in the neighborhood and lamented the change enough to stay away for the first 3+ months but I have to say that the Cubano alone very nearly justifies the new menu. The mortadella was buried in the mix and perhaps entirely absent on my sandwich (it now includes ham as well: "griddled sandwich of pork belly, mortadella, swiss cheese & ham") but I was not complaining; the perfect amount of cheese (overflowing just enough to produce crispy bits clinging to the edges of the bread) is in total harmony with the pickles and mustard- but it's the pork belly that really pushes this thing over the top.

            This is a sandwich you will be thinking about for days. The bartender told me there's been a fair amount of turnover on the menu but the Cubano has stayed. Long may it be so.

            The potato chips are identical to those from the prior menu that used to be sold in bags when they were trying the Cesar Mercado concept.

            The sopapillas were not heavy at all- in fact they are airy puffs of thin batter sporting a yellowish hue and not much else, which we filled with the accompanying, somewhat bland salsa. Wouldn't get those again.

            If you like classic Mai Tais, theirs is one of the better cocktails I've had this side of Forbidden Island of late.

            We weren't in full explore-the-menu mode, and those were the only 2 dishes we tried, but there was more on the menu I found tempting than is usually the case at Bocanova (posole and that Cubano seems a promising combination, for example), and they may hit a really sweet middle ground if the return of pimientos de padron & patatas bravas is any indication.

            Their menu is now updated online for the first time since the switch.

            1. re: Pius Avocado III

              We went here for dinner a couple weeks ago and had a mixed experience. We had the assorted taco plate, the assorted pupusa plate, patatas bravas, cuban sandwich, and tamarind pork ribs.

              The patatas bravas was as good as usual, and tacos were also pretty good and fairly reasonably priced, with the chicken tinga and rajas tacos being standouts. The pupusas were fine but nothing special. I think we may have made a bad choice in ordering the tacos and pupusas, there are a lot of less upscale places that can do better in these areas IMO (i.e. in the Mission or on International), and even some more upscale places as well (I like the tacos at Tacubaya, for example, better than the ones I had at Cesar Latino).

              The cuban sandwich was very good, a perfect mix of pork and cheese (and mortadella). As mentioned above it isn't very authentic, but I haven't had a real cuban sandwich before so don't really have a frame of reference. The tamarind pork ribs were disappointing. The tamarind glaze was a bit too sour (I know tamarind is sour but this was a little bit too much), and the ribs were on the dry side. I did like the sides that came with it though (plantain mash and heart of palm salad). Probably won't be going back for awhile, maybe for the cuban sandwich and some of the less common dishes (i.e. not tacos and pupusas).

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              Bar César
              4039 Piedmont Ave, Oakland, CA 94611

          2. Something tragic seems to have happened here. Last night they served our sandwiches on hot dog buns and insisted that the super-salty pork in our tacos was beef. Also had a pretty but utterly tasteless watermelon and tomato salad. No Cuban sandwich on the menu but I don't think it would have been very good in a hot dog bun anyway. On the bright side, a large selection of tables were available at 7:30 pm for immediate seating.

            1. Per the Chron it has been renamed again, now Bar César, will be increasingly independent of the Berkeley branch, and "continues its evolution from its original Spanish theme to a Latino one to its current bar focus. New GM and partner Hal Brandel says the restaurant is 'in an experimental phase where we're seeing what kind of food and dishes would be more accessible to the different groups in the neighborhood.'"

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

              3 Replies
              1. re: Robert Lauriston

                Do you know if the owners are the same? A friend who waited tables there in the pre-Cesar Latino days said the drive for $ above quality by one of the owners was a big part of the problem.

                1. re: bgbc

                  I heard the same thing from an acquaintance in the know.

                  1. re: bgbc

                    That Chron article says the K2 group is no longer involved and it refers to "new GM and partner Hal Brandel," who reportedly also has an interest in the Oakland and Berkeley branches of Cafe Trieste.

                    The liquor license never changed hands so I'm not sure exactly what K2's involvement was.