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Visiting SF, Commis worth going to Oakland?

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portlandeats Apr 29, 2010 05:44 PM

I'll be in SF in the coming month on a Sunday and am trying to decide at what restaurant to eat dinner. Since it's a Sunday, my options are obviously a bit limited. I've read about Commis, and I am intrigued by the food descriptions, plus the fact that there is multi-course tasting menu at a food bar (I'll be dining solo).

Is it worth the trip across the bay to go to Commis? Or should I stick to SF proper? For some reference, last time I was in SF I dined at Bar Crudo and Canteen and loved them both. I've read the boards, but just can't decide on restaurants. Any and all suggestions welcome. Thanks!

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Bar Crudo
655 Divisadero Street, San Francisco, CA 94117

Commis
3859 Piedmont Avenue, Oakland, CA 94611

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  1. bbulkow RE: portlandeats Apr 29, 2010 08:00 PM

    The descriptions on Commis are fairly complete. By all descriptions, there's no place quite like it today.

    The transit options are fairly simple: the most straightforward is BART to MacArthur + taxi. That's maybe 30 fairly stress-free minutes from downtown SF. "Worth it" compares to a fairly simple transit ride.

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    Commis
    3859 Piedmont Avenue, Oakland, CA 94611

    2 Replies
    1. re: bbulkow
      Robert Lauriston RE: bbulkow Apr 30, 2010 11:26 AM

      Another option on the way there is to take the AC Transit C bus from the TransBay terminal, which will drop you on Piedmont right near Commis. Last westbound run is at 7pm or something so you'd need to take BART back.

      1. re: Robert Lauriston
        bbulkow RE: Robert Lauriston Apr 30, 2010 01:37 PM

        A definite possibility. For an average out-of-towner I'd recommend BART because the bart stations are easier to find on the departure end. Trains are easier for travelers due to the well marked stops (although the C bus is not some kind of local - wifi, a nice view over the bridge). With a location-enabled phone, you'll know when to get off.

        You're right about the C going *right there*, a strong benefit.

    2. b
      benv RE: portlandeats Apr 29, 2010 08:54 PM

      Commis would be a nice pick if you are into that type of cuisine, which is similar to Coi and Manresa where Syhabout did time in the kitchens.

      I have taken public transportation to Commis before and it is very easy to get to. I took BART to MacArthur station and just walked from there. (took about 10 min) Not the best neighborhood to walk through at night though.

      If you are planning on going to Commis I would recommend you reserve early for the nightly 7 o'clock chef tasting menu at the counter. The first time I went I had no clue that it was only once a night at that time so I had to settle on the regular menu. A lot of the dishes are the same between the menus but for the tasting he adds special ingredients and touches to each course. Plus its nice to be able to sit at the counter and see the chefs at work especially for single diners like myself. Though I dont seem to mind however I am seated at restaurants since I have gone to many top restaurants by myself.

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      Manresa Restaurant
      320 Village Lane, Los Gatos, CA 95030

      Commis
      3859 Piedmont Avenue, Oakland, CA 94611

      1. Scott M RE: portlandeats Apr 30, 2010 10:22 AM

        I would say it is worth the trip across the bay, especially if you are a solo diner. Given the quality of the food and service the place doesn't come across stuffy or full of themselves. The dining room is stark but the service is warm and attentive, and the quality of the food is better than most SF restaurants.

        1. singleguychef RE: portlandeats Apr 30, 2010 12:47 PM

          I say it's worth a trip, given the description of what you like to eat. You sound adventurous. However, I wouldn't recommend walking from the BART station. 10 minutes sound short but it's boring and will probably stress you out trying to get to your seating time. Cab it.

          7 Replies
          1. re: singleguychef
            grayelf RE: singleguychef May 3, 2010 10:47 AM

            I didn't love the meal we had at Commis but I don't think it's my style of dining. I wouldn't let the commute stop you though but deffo don't walk -- it's longer than 10 minutes and if you don't know the neighbourhood it could be a bit iffy (it was for us anyway). We cabbed and BARTed back which was great.

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            Commis
            3859 Piedmont Avenue, Oakland, CA 94611

            1. re: grayelf
              p
              portlandeats RE: grayelf May 3, 2010 12:25 PM

              Thanks for all the replies. I am strongly leaning towards going. Also thanks for the suggestions on how to get there. I will definitely take BART or the bus (and will avoid walking from the bus station).

              1. re: portlandeats
                Robert Lauriston RE: portlandeats May 3, 2010 12:55 PM

                The bus will take you right to the restaurant. The BART station is a walk.

                If you have time and want to do some foodie walk-touring / grazing / happy-houring, you could take BART to Rockridge and walk from there (a little over 1.5 miles / 30 minutes through upscale neighborhoods). That would take you by the scores of restaurants and bars and handful of food shops along College and upper Piedmont Avenue, including Rockridge Market Hall / the Pasta Shop, Ben & Nick's, À Côté, Bittersweet Cafe, Adesso, Euromix, Cesar, Piedmont Grocery, and Cato's.

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                Adesso
                4395 Piedmont Ave, Oakland, CA

                1. re: Robert Lauriston
                  bbulkow RE: Robert Lauriston May 3, 2010 08:48 PM

                  Robert is an inveterate walker. It's a long 30 minutes by most american standards.

                  There are a number of high points if you're making an afternoon of it, like the Olmstead-designed Mountain View cemetery / columbarium / chapel, a decent tiki bar, the ice cream shop featured in Pixar's Up, Top Dog (is the top dog still there?), at least two good independant bookstores. I don't know if the croissants in Market Hall are still up to their previous glory, but one can still dream. Besides Robert's list. Still, if you're doing all that, you should give it a few hours.

                  1. re: bbulkow
                    k
                    kc72 RE: bbulkow May 3, 2010 08:55 PM

                    Top Dog inside CVS? Yes, it's there

                    1. re: bbulkow
                      a
                      abstractpoet RE: bbulkow May 3, 2010 09:17 PM

                      If treating yourself to a frozen confection either before or after Commis, do yourself a favor and go to Lush Gelato -- the best gelato (or ice cream of any ilk) in the Bay Area -- rather than to Fenton's. Just had a scoop of banana-dulce de leche there that knocked my socks off.

                      I like Top Dog, but I wouldn't eat a hot dog in the afternoon right before having dinner at Commis. And the location inside the CVS is pretty inconsistent.

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                      Lush Gelato
                      4184 Piedmont Ave, Oakland, CA

                      Commis
                      3859 Piedmont Avenue, Oakland, CA 94611

                      1. re: abstractpoet
                        bbulkow RE: abstractpoet May 3, 2010 11:26 PM

                        I agree - enjoy *looking* at Fenton's and *eating* at Lush.

                        I would also take a minute to enjoy the little historic plaque at 40th and Piedmont. I enjoy walking and driving through Oakland/Berkeley and guessing which streets are the old Key Route.

            2. p
              portlandeats RE: portlandeats May 13, 2010 12:36 PM

              Thanks for everyone recommendations and suggestions. I made it out to Commis on Sunday (BART then cab, both ways) and had a fantastic meal at the bar.

              I was seated at the far left, which is probably the best seat to watch Chef Syhabout and his team's calm, precise food preparation.

              Highlights included the egg, smoked date, onion cream and malt amuse. This dish (or similar ones at Commis) has been much talked about. I love the flavor combinations and the richness of the perfectly poached egg yolk. I didn't get to the smoked dates until my third spoonful or so, and they really made the dish.

              Next up was a chilled watercress soup. The soup itself had a pleasant, subtle flavor, which matched well with shaved asparagus. But the best part of this dish were the two raw Marin oysters wrapped in "milk skin." Two perfect briney bites. For some reason watching the preparation of this dish I kept thinking about Seinfeld and George's the "pudding skin singles."

              The halibut tartare was wrapped in daikon and served atop a small pool of horseradish cream with kelp and coriander. The dish had a faintly Asian (for lack of a better term) flavor which I really enjoyed.

              Another highlight was the grilled cod. A very "spring" tasting dish, it was served with english pea porridge, marinated favas and mint milk "tea" (or foam).

              One odd dish was a "green fruit" salad of unripe tomatoes, pickled green strawberries, avocado and green olives. I'm still trying to figure out if I liked the olives in the context of this dish. Everything else in the dish worked together, but the olives seemed to be an odd and not entirely harmonious addition.

              All told, I enjoyed pretty much every dish and the entire experience. The food was very different from the places at which I eat in Portland, Boston, and New York -- which is exactly what I was looking for.

              (As an aside, two nights later I dined at Frasca Food and Wine in Boulder, CO -- a restaraunt that I cannot recommend enough if you are ever in the area).

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              Commis
              3859 Piedmont Avenue, Oakland, CA 94611

              21 Replies
              1. re: portlandeats
                daveena RE: portlandeats May 13, 2010 09:43 PM

                Great review, thanks! I love Commis but always worry a bit when visitors make the trek out, just because I think expectations are raised much higher when you have to take more than 2 forms of transportation to eat somewhere.

                Did you have the wine pairing? The sommelier just got recognized by StarChefs as a Rising Star (ok, I'd never heard of it either, but there are some pretty big name chefs involved in the nomination process)
                http://sf.eater.com/archives/2010/05/...
                I always find her pairings to be really thoughtful and interesting.

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                Commis
                3859 Piedmont Avenue, Oakland, CA 94611

                1. re: portlandeats
                  g
                  gatilgan RE: portlandeats Oct 7, 2010 07:39 AM

                  Thanks for the review. I'm planning to go Commis when I visit the Bay Area in 3 weeks. How long did it take you to get to the restaurant from SF? How much is the total cab fare? Do Bart trains run regularly at night as I'm planning to grab the only available reservation at 8:45pm so not thinking will be out of restaurant before 11pm. Thanks in advance

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                  Commis
                  3859 Piedmont Avenue, Oakland, CA 94611

                  1. re: gatilgan
                    JasmineG RE: gatilgan Oct 7, 2010 09:41 AM

                    You can check the BART schedule at bart.gov for the day that you'll be there to see when the trains run (Commis is closest to the MacArthur station). Trains generally run until around midnight, so you'll easily be able to get back to SF, but you may need to have the restaurant call you a cab to get to the BART station after dinner.

                    1. re: JasmineG
                      susancinsf RE: JasmineG Oct 7, 2010 11:53 AM

                      Just to clarify, it is a mile to the BART station, and while the MacArthur Station neighborhood isn't the worst in the world, it isn't the best either.Lots of long stretches without many businesses, and perhaps more than its share of unsavoryness. I wouldn't advise anyone to walk it alone at 11 p.m. at night, not sure I'd walk it alone anytime after dark for that matter. You will definitely want to call a cab to get to BART if you go (but not all the way to SF, cab fare will be at least $50 each way if you do. OTOH, cab fare to BART should only run a few dollars).

                      But then, (and to keep this food related) Commis wouldn't be high on my list of places to go during a short visit to the bay area anyway. I am not a fan, though I did enjoy the wines. One aspect to keep in mind: the counter area is small and popular, so even if one is dining alone, I wouldn't count on being seated there. If that is what you want as a solo diner, be sure to request it when you make your reservation.

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                      Commis
                      3859 Piedmont Avenue, Oakland, CA 94611

                      1. re: susancinsf
                        JasmineG RE: susancinsf Oct 7, 2010 11:58 AM

                        Agreed on the whole first paragraph, I wouldn't make that walk after dark either -- not that it's particularly dangerous, just dark and pretty unpopulated at night.

                        And to further clarify about the counter seating -- you now have to specifically reserve at the counter, and the counter meal is more expensive than the regular prix fix.

                        1. re: JasmineG
                          susancinsf RE: JasmineG Oct 7, 2010 12:02 PM

                          Thanks for the reminder and update about the counter: my visit was before that change, which I had read about here on CH, and totally forgot!

                          1. re: JasmineG
                            a
                            abstractpoet RE: JasmineG Oct 7, 2010 01:59 PM

                            The last I heard (in another thread), they'd switched over to a 4-course prix-fixe across the board, for the same price regardless of where you sit. 4 courses for $68/p.

                            http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/7372...

                            I don't think I've read any reports on the new 4-course menu yet--would be curious to hear how many choices you have per course, and whether you can still double up on a particular course instead of, say, getting dessert.

                            1. re: abstractpoet
                              JasmineG RE: abstractpoet Oct 7, 2010 02:06 PM

                              Oh, interesting, I didn't know that!

                              1. re: abstractpoet
                                Scott M RE: abstractpoet Oct 7, 2010 02:11 PM

                                From what I can tell, the website doesn't display a menu at all.

                              2. re: JasmineG
                                v
                                vulber RE: JasmineG Oct 8, 2010 09:59 AM

                                note that if no one has reserved the chef's counter, you can go sit at it if not occupied and still order the regular menu. lots of fun to watch....

                              3. re: susancinsf
                                mariacarmen RE: susancinsf Oct 7, 2010 09:00 PM

                                Agree 100% about first paragraph too - don't walk to/from MacArthur Bart station, but do take Bart from the City, take a cab to the restaurant and then a cab back to Bart.

                                And yes, there are a lot of wonderful, fantastic places in the City but Commis is a stand-out, and as good as anything we have in San Francisco.

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                                Commis
                                3859 Piedmont Avenue, Oakland, CA 94611

                            2. re: gatilgan
                              Robert Lauriston RE: gatilgan Oct 7, 2010 11:24 AM

                              BART trains back to SF leave every 20 minutes until 12:45am.

                              1. re: Robert Lauriston
                                bbulkow RE: Robert Lauriston Oct 7, 2010 06:30 PM

                                Later, there are busses. Google's transit planner works well for east bay and SF.

                                At some point, if you can afford Commis, you should just grab a cab to SF.

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                                Commis
                                3859 Piedmont Avenue, Oakland, CA 94611

                                1. re: bbulkow
                                  JasmineG RE: bbulkow Oct 7, 2010 07:04 PM

                                  The two don't follow, though -- I'd much prefer to save up my pennies for a good meal and then take a $3.50 BART ride back to SF than spend $80 on dinner and then $40 on a cab ride to SF.

                                  1. re: JasmineG
                                    bbulkow RE: JasmineG Oct 7, 2010 09:40 PM

                                    Me too. But at 12:00 when bart runs less frequently, I'd take a cab rather than huddled on the street waiting for the 800 bus.

                                    1. re: bbulkow
                                      grayelf RE: bbulkow Oct 7, 2010 10:54 PM

                                      We actually took BART and walked to Commis two trips ago -- not the greatest walk and some parts of it were a little scary. Definitely not recommended if you are wearing heels! The cab/BART combo worked beautifully on the way back though that was around 10:30 IIRC. We just timed our arrival at the station to coincide with a returning train. Easy peasey.

                                      1. re: grayelf
                                        Robert Lauriston RE: grayelf Oct 8, 2010 09:17 AM

                                        As I noted above, the nicer walk from BART to Commis is the mile and a half from the Rockridge station via College, Pleasant Valley, and Piedmont. There are lots of places of foodie interest along College and Piedmont if you have time to kill.

                                        1. re: Robert Lauriston
                                          JasmineG RE: Robert Lauriston Oct 8, 2010 11:19 AM

                                          Nicer as in much more good stuff to see, people watching along the way, much more populated. Not nicer on your feet, though, since it's up a really big hill.

                                          1. re: Robert Lauriston
                                            lexdevil RE: Robert Lauriston Oct 8, 2010 11:47 AM

                                            One could also pick up the 51 bus at Rockridge BART and get off at Broadway & MacArthur. Commis is a four block walk from there.

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                                            Commis
                                            3859 Piedmont Avenue, Oakland, CA 94611

                                            1. re: lexdevil
                                              Robert Lauriston RE: lexdevil Oct 8, 2010 07:28 PM

                                              If you're going to take BART + bus, it makes more sense to get off at 19th and take the 51 going the other direction. Or just take the P trans-bay bus from SF.

                                              1. re: Robert Lauriston
                                                lexdevil RE: Robert Lauriston Oct 8, 2010 09:26 PM

                                                True. Or come on a weekday and take the C straight to Commis.

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                                                Commis
                                                3859 Piedmont Avenue, Oakland, CA 94611

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