I Squared, Oakland
I don't think I've read anything here about this College Avenue place and I'm wondering if my experience was typical.
The food is a Persian Italian mix.
My lamb shank was large and tender. The artichokes were the most flavorful part. The Israeli couscous ("pearl pasta" on the menu) was terribly bland. I never salt restaurant food, but I salted this. We also waited a long time for our mushroom starter (with cheese, white wine and garlic -- think fondue on mushrooms -- fine, but you could do it at home). While we were waiting, I noticed that only salads were being served. I didn't see any hot food coming out. Also, bread would have been nice when we finally got the goopy shrooms, but the bread and butter didn't appear until an hour in.
We arrived at 5:45 (had to be someplace 7ish) and were seated next two two other couples at what was basically three two-tops shoved together. It was...intimate. I had to get up to let the man next to me in and out. It was also loud. I had a good look at his kabobs, since they were inches away from me, and thought that the two skewers with half a grilled Roma tomato and white rice looked awfully plain.
Also, several tables with reserved signs remained empty the whole time we were there.
On the plus side, the people at the bar seemed to be having a great time. The cocktails looked interesting. (Are they?) The decor is spare and modern in a good way and the staff's very friendly.
Any other experiences here? Did we order wrong? Off night?
Oh, my husband liked his beef stew with eggplant, but he likes almost everything.
Their website's hours list them as closing at 10 M-Sat, but they looked like they'd been closed for a while when I went there last night just before 9:30. Best to give them a call (510) 658-4400 before venturing there.
Interesting... the menu explicitly states that they don't do fusion of Italian and Iranian.
We've tried it twice, first in 2009 and again in 2010. We found the Persian food flat for our taste, BUT - we have some Turkish friends who went with their whole family two months ago, and loved it! The mother is an excellent cook and they are usually very critical of Turkish restaurants, so I was a little surprised.
We are fonder of Zatis, a very simple, low-key 2-star on Piedmont Ave. It also does Turkish (specifically Anatolian) and some Italian dishes. There are two cooks, and the good one is the older man (owner?). The younger chef makes very bland, uninteresting food, whereas the older chef has no hesitation with the chiles and sumac. The latter's mucver are delicate and wonderful, whereas the younger guy makes them more like a frittata - good, but not as remarkable.
We like ground lamb, eggplant, tomatoes/onions/peppers; which Zatis prepares in various ways in casually-arranged but very tasty little casseroles. Sometimes the odd, cereal-like bread can be stale, though. Some of their specials are excellent. Spouse got a calamari steak last month, in a caper lemon butter sauce that was wonderful.
Also, if you are an espresso lover, Zatis makes one absolutely phenomenal dessert. Their Turkish Coffee Custard is sensational! Easily the best coffee custard we have had anywhere, even at 5-star restaurants. The rest of the desserts are so-so; it isn't a perfect restaurant but much quieter and more comfortable than I-Squared.
Of the two, we prefer Zatis. I-Squared occasionally mishandles communication between kitchen and waitstaff, and we think they have been in business long enough that such obvious errors should not be happening.
We went there a few months ago. One of us had some sort of coupon, the terms of which limited us somewhat in our ordering.
We had both Italian and Iranian dishes (the name "I squared" comes from Italy and Iran).. All were very good. We had the fesenjon (chicken with walnut/pomegranate sauce) and it was excellent.
The prices seemed reasonable for the quality of the food. As mentioned, it was crowded and noisy -- we got there early on a weeknight and they were full by about 7:30.
Service was amiable but slow at first. Things got better when another waitperson showed up. A woman with three young kids was having an early dinner at the bar -- they were having a good time; it's obviously very kid-friendly.
Definitely good quality for the price. But because I am elderly, I favor quieter places.
I'm reviving this post to see if 'hounds have been to this place recently. Checked the posted menu when I was in the neighborhood this afternoon, and it looked very interesting, and potentially tasty...But the lack of comment on this board raises questions.
Anyone been there?
I've been twice in the last six months. A friend who lives in the area goes there at least once a month. I found the Persian food to be better than the Italian food with the Fesenjoon and the lamb shank being the best. We've never had any delays in getting food but you are right that it's a small place and can get crowded. There is usually only one vegetarian dish so it's not the best place for a vegetarian. The prices are also very reasonable for the quality and size of the dishes. It's a nice neighborhood place. The desserts aren't that great.
I don't drink but the friends I was with do and they said they pour strong drinks.