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Date night in Oakland?

With all the new restaurants that have been popping up all over Oakland, I need some help with my Saturday night planning. It'll be a first date, but I'm hoping there will be more to come.

Seeking: A place that's not-too-loud and not-too-fancy; for dinner and drinks; no dietary restrictions.

Willing to travel as far north as Rockridge and into Berkeley.

Restaurants under consideration: Penrose, Mockingbird, Hopscotch, Mezze, Osmanthus, Box and Bells, Nido.

My dear Chowhounds, think you can help me out?

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  1. Box and Bells has a reputation for being loud. I'm really intrigued by Mockingbird.

    1. I like the back room at À Côté. Very nice but not too fancy, flattering lighting but you can still read the menus, quiet but lively, great food, great wine list, great beer list, great cocktails, unpretentious but polished service.

      1. I think Hopscotch is great and Rumbo al Sur.. I think Mezze is no more... Also, Forge is a lot of fun too and the cheese curds are a MUST and great to share :)

        1. So where did you go, and how was it?

          I just checked and Mezze is still open, although Shakewell is scheduled to replace it next year.

          We found Forge loud and would not pick it for a first date, although the 4-person upholstered booth at the very back is much quieter.

          Hopscotch was quite loud when we went for lunch, being a small space with the bar crowding in.

          I didn't think of it at the time, but on another thread someone mentioned going to Zut! on 4th St./Berkeley, where the Xmas lights are now up and the nighttime view is delightful.

          1. Thanks for all of your suggestions, folks. Date was for 7:30 on a Saturday night. We ended up at Nido - my second time there.

            We ordered a bunch of small plates to share, the cocktails were tasty, and the dessert was solid. Service was attentive without being intrusive. We stayed for three hours and never felt rushed.

            The ambience was also great. The strung lights were a nice touch, but the decor kept things casual. Noise level was a big concern when selecting the restaurant, and Nido proved to be a good choice. It never got loud enough for us to need to shout at each other.

            13 Replies
            1. re: ilovetomatoes2

              are you going to be asking for tips on where to go for the second date?
              :)

              1. re: macsak

                Yes, absolutely! Do you have any suggestions?

                Actually, my next challenge is in finding a Chinese restaurant in Oakland that is date-worthy.

                1. re: ilovetomatoes2

                  Does it have to be (1) Chinese, and if so, what kind of Chinese, or (2) in Oakland?

                  I'd say China Village is date worthy. Sounds like the new Great China is date worthy. If other Asian is up for consideration, Rangoon Super Stars is date worthy atmosphere-wise, although I don't think they serve alcohol.

                  1. re: Ruth Lafler

                    All wonderful suggestions. Thanks, Ruth! I've been waiting for Great China to reopen its doors.

                    If we wanted to get more specific and say within Oakland Chinatown, where might you suggest?

                    1. re: ilovetomatoes2

                      If spicy food is okay, then Spices 3 might be date-worthy. In general, though, most places in Chinatown don't have a date-type atmosphere.

                      1. re: ilovetomatoes2

                        Did Peony reopen? That's probably the nicest Chinese restaurant in that neighborhood.

                        1. re: ilovetomatoes2

                          Yummy Guide, a HK-style cafe, is kitschy and fun for a date although it dn really get going until later. So maybe good for dessert.

                      2. re: ilovetomatoes2

                        Chu in Rockridge is nice. Some fusionish touches but still pretty much Chinese.

                        1. re: ilovetomatoes2

                          I would give Osmanthus a try. It's taken over the old Nan Yang space in Rockridge.

                          The flavors were pretty refined and not as in your face as say a Spices 3. Service was attentive. Space quite nice.

                          Cocktails and a nice beer and wine list.

                          We weren't blown away but I would give it another try. It certainly has date night trappings with the full bar, the service and the great ambience. It's not chowy if you know what I mean.

                          1. re: edgrimley

                            I agree (about Osmanthus). Not for adventurous eaters but could score points if your date is impressed by cleanliness and a more upscale dining experience.

                            1. re: edgrimley

                              Osmanthus

                              6048 College Ave

                              My neighbors said it was great.

                            2. re: ilovetomatoes2

                              If you both are into that sort of thing, the hot pots at Spices 3 would be a fun thing to share. In general, though, they don't have the delicacy, or freshness of ingredients, that you'll find at the better Sichuan places in the Bay Area.

                              To swap ambiance with energy, you can always do a three hour Chinatown tour, stopping in at a Cantonese (e.g., Gum Kuo), Sichuan (Spices 3), Shanghainese (Shanghai Restaurant), and Shandong (Shandong Restaurant) place for one dish. Just be sure to stick to small items and don't be afraid to take leftovers. The last time I did such a crawl a drunk person put their hand into my mapo doufu, but hopefully you'll have better luck. See the following thread for suggestions:

                              http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/905522

                              1. re: hyperbowler

                                Well...your date had better be as much a foodie as you; I can't imagine taking a date to this kind of restaurant crawl unless I know he or she is really into this kind of thing. Not to mention most of these Chinese restaurants mentioned aren't that pretty. ;-)