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Jul 20, 2014 12:15 PM

Shakewell - First Visit [Lakeshore, Oakland]

Shakewell is a new restaurant on Lakeshore in Oakland; it's in the space that once was Mezze. We had dinner there last night, and even though it's only been open for a week, we found it to be operating smoothly; service was friendly and efficient. The food is described as Mediterranean with influences of Spain and North Africa; and it was terrific.

Our server explained that the dishes are meant to share, and suggested three to five dishes, depending on what we ordered. We selected three, and were happy, well-fed, and had a little room to share a dessert.

What we ordered:
1) sausage wrapped in sage leaves, then fried. [six on the plate, each the approximate size of a dolma] Very flavorful. Loved 'em.
2) a warm salad of grilled romaine hearts, served with thin slices of manchego cheese, boquerones, pickled onions, and avocado. [The avocado was good, but I thought unnecessary in the dish]. In any event, it was a very interesting combination of flavors and textures, and another hit.
3) Bomba of calamari nero. Bomba is a paella-like dish cooked in the wood-fired oven. An ample serving for two, very flavorful with bits of diced fennel and preserved lemon cooked into the rice.
4) We shared a dessert of Greek yoghurt with dulce de leche and a thick slice of ripe peach. Our server brought me a taste of sherry that was a nice compliment to the dessert.

The place has a full bar; but we skipped cocktails and ordered a bottle of Portuguese wine recommended to us. I can't find my note on the name, but it was a medium-bodied red (13% abv) that went well with everything.

The new owners have done a nice job remodeling the space. It is more open, and better organized IMHO, than Mezze. Ambient noise is still an issue; however I noticed that the areas near the bar, and where we were seated were more tolerable. So, the noise might be more of a problem near the entrance.

I definitely recommend the place. It should do well serving the Lakeshore, Trestle Glen, Piedmont area, and also as a destination. It's going into rotation, and we'll be back.

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  1. We went there last night and I agrree with your assessment. We had shrimp and chicken bomba. It was slightly smokey from the wood burning oven. We also shared the pork shoulder, which was tender and flavorful. Also, the grilled calamari was perfectly done. For dessert we shared the churros with a dark and spicy chocolate dipping sauce. It is definitely going into our rotation as well.

    1. we too enjoyed our first visit to Shakewell. apparently they chose their name to emphasize the cocktail menu ; mi querida esposa enjoyed one after dinner composed of scotch, campari, vermouth, with a nice accent from the scorched citrus peel garnish. it was quite concentrated and very cold, the oversized ice cube nearly inert, and for my wine/ale- calibrated palate just a couple of drops of plain water brought it to where it could actually register on my taste buds. very interesting 'cause it was not sweet, the bitters of the campari and vermouth with the citrus prominent. with virtually no cocktail background, won't evaluate it.

      the name reveals nothing about the food. it might prove to be an adequate replacement for the Spanish tapas at the expiring Bar Lata -- each of those we tried were well executed, with a more delicate touch than Bar Lata, the freshness of the ingredients highlighted. the grilled romaine salad featured perfectly charred, salt and oil spot on, fresh greens with the counterpoints of acid from the onions, fat from the boquerones, avocado, manchego. the octopus was invitingly tender, quite good. enjoyed the seasonal tempura squash blossoms, stuffed with soft, creamy cheese and a light sauce of barely rendered sweet cherry tomatoes. we also had the squid ink bomba, a very distinctive interpretation unlike the dish of that name we had in an old San Juan cafe or any paella or risotto in my experience. the grains of rice were loose and separate, in a fair amount of liquid broth not absorbed into them, and the dominating taste was not briny squid ink, encountered in other versions, despite the deep, dark coloration. flavor accents mainly came from the barely cooked, sweet onion and red peppers, and lemon peel. easily the lightest in consistency of any similar dish we've had, and mi querida esposa preferred it to other variations.

      the wine list is very well matched with the food, as was the bottle of ten year old Chateauneuf we brought ($15 corkage). the default wine glass we were given initially was a narrow tumbler completely unsuited for any wine with aromatics, but the small stem glasses we received on request were adequate enough.

      1. Nice review! Sounds yummy. How much was your total bill?

        2 Replies
        1. re: ltsering

          Not sure to whom your question is directed.

          I've been twice now, and find the prices to be quite reasonable. I think our first visit came in at +/-$150 (for two), including tip; about $40 of that was wine. On my second visit with a friend, we ate well--mostly from the small plates--had a glass of wine each, and $15 corkage for the bottle my friend brought; and the bill (without tip) as under $100.

          1. re: ltsering

            we shared three small plates, a normal sized salad, and the bomba (comparable to a individual entree-sized paella pan in quantity), plus the cocktail and corkage for our red; the total was about 70. with a few bites to take home. their small plates seemed to be 3-4 huge bites, and not the literal small plate that is difficult to split for two people. one couple sitting next to us had one of the heartier bombas and they didn't finish it, so it would appear that eating and drinking reasonably (though consuming an entire bottle from their list would have increased our bill $30-40) for $40 p.p. or so is realistic.

          2. Judging from the posts here, I surmise that my experience tonite was an exception to the rule. First impression: things were a tad chaotic behind the bar and the kitchen prepared dishes that were uneven. That said, they are new and probably it's best to chalk it up to a bad nite, or Sept 11, or the recent Harvest Moon...

            The hits:
            Totally agree that the warm salad of grilled romaine hearts with boquerones, etc is as described by Rapini.
            The grilled flatbread with smokey eggplant & a hint of harissa was delightful.

            The disappointment:
            Octapus with olives, celery, etc and aioli lacked in flavor.

            The chaos:
            Some bartender had the dropsies. Another newbie bartender messed up the cocktails pretty bad. BUT the more senior bartender came to rescue with well-executed drinks. AND one of them comped dessert. Very professional.

            I will definitely return soon and give them a second try. The ambience is inviting. The staff is friendly and eager to make one feel welcomed in Oaktown fashion. Seated at the bar, there was zero problem with noise. Conversation with my friend, and other friendly people seated alongside us, was easy to hear, tho the house was full and music was on moderate volume.

            1 Reply
            1. re: escargot3

              Our visit early on Saturday night was a little chaotic as well, but the staff really tried to make up for it. I am surprised by your comments on the octopus salad -- I loved it, my favorite of the night -- great texture, rich and balanced flavors. Also enjoyed the same grilled little gems salad (large portion compared to the small plates). The fried olives were a good drink treat, as were the sausage and sage leaves. The pan con tamate was authentic and the falafel (a comp for have to wait a bit for drinks) was interesting and nutty. A balanced beer and wine list, and good cocktails too. A nice addition to the area, although quite loud.

            2. Went the other night.

              Lamb kefte was the standout dish: perfectly seasoned and cooked lamb, pimenton-based variation on harissa, yogurt with mint, a little toasted and fried quinoa on top for crunch, all the elements in perfect balance. Best lamb dish I've had in a while. We talked with the chef, there's a lot of work that goes into it. I was tempted to get another order or two but I wanted to try more things.

              Sausage-stuffed sage leaves, short rib stuffed mushroom, black cod with maitake mushrooms, braised pork shoulder with pickled green tomatoes and flatbread (sort of Mediterranean tacos) were all great. Octopus was good though not quite on the same level. I wasn't crazy about the baby artichokes with goat cheese but my dining companion loved them.

              Upside-down gingerbread with quince was excellent.

              Short but nicely selected wine list, standard markup.

              I didn't find the place particularly noisy. We were all the way in the back by the kitchen. The place wasn't completely full.