Comal - Berkeley
Went last night. Nice space, pretty amazing transformation.
Sikil pak ($6.50) substituted eggplant for the usual tomatoes, tasty but a bit richer than I was expecting. Chips were fried golden brown and so thick that most of them I could split in two. Three salsas were all good and quite different.
Grilled rock cod tacos (two for $12) were great. Pickled cabbage made me think of pupusas. Excellent fresh handmade-looking tortillas.
Had a bite of the duck enchilada in red mole ($14), really good, some of the best mole I've had around here.
Grilled bok choy with chile-pepito salsa ($7) was very good and tasted pretty Mexican even if bok choy isn't. Collard greens with garlic, olive, and lemon ($4) tasted more Italian but were very good. Green rice ($5) was good though I prefer my homemade.
Overall, I was very impressed. It's nice to get first-rate Mexican food with lots of vegetables instead of heaps of starch and cheese.
Great place. Just a week after opening they nailed it on all fronts: food, service, pacing, bar. Loved the duck enchiladas with mole, rock cod tacos, and wood fire carrots with bellwether ricotta and chile oil. But really, all the food was excellent.
Price point feels right-on for the quality of the food (unless you're one of those close-minded people who believes all Mexican/Asian/Southern food should be served in cheap dives, in which case you should eat elsewhere). They sold themselves as a "small plates" spot so I was actually surprised by how large portions were and we probably ordered a bit too much.
I see the most direct comparisons as Dona Tomas and Fonda (Albany / Berkeley / Oakland high-end / sit-down Mexican). Based on this one meal Comal is the clear champ.
Great to see how Downtown Berkeley has taken off over the last few years. Used to be I just went there for the farmers' market, now there's Gather, Ippuku, Revival, and Comal - all among Berkeley's best dining options.
I will definitely be back - I see this as a once a month spot.