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Epic birthday dinner at Commis: just jaw-droppingly delicious (and beautiful) food

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Epic birthday dinner at Commis: just jaw-droppingly delicious (and beautiful) food

abstractpoet | Nov 30, 2009 11:05 AM

So I think I might have a new favorite restaurant.

Four of us (me and my wife, plus a former Bay Area hound and her husband) had dinner at Commis this past Friday night to celebrate my birthday. Though we weren't able to secure counter seats (despite booking a month in advance), we sat at the four-top right at the front of the restaurant, which was great because the two of us facing the kitchen area could still see a decent amount of the action.

Waiting for me on the table when we arrived was a birthday card that had been signed by the chefs and staff--a nice touch, the first of many that evening. Our server and the hostess/somellier were warm and knowledgeable--attentive without being intrusive or overly formal. It just felt so...comfortable. Up there with the best service I've ever received in any restaurant. (Also, they must have wished me happy birthday a half dozen times over the course of the evening.)

I had:

- the Shiso soda palate cleanser
- several helpings of the Parker House rolls with house-made butter
- an amuse-bouche of poached egg, with a date-based onion cream sauce and house-made granola
- Appetizer: their signature poached egg with potatoes, fermented black garlic, pork jowl and alliums
- Entree: the pork loin and pork loin, served over barley, some dark purple carrots, and a fruit compote
- Dessert: a Kombucha squash custard
- "petite fours" of absinthe gelee to end

My favorites by far were the two egg dishes. The yolk in that amuse had a texture unlike any other egg yolk I've ever had--almost like a paste. LOVED the sweetness of the cream, and the granola gave the dish a nice crunch. Anyone know if they mix the egg white into that sauce too, or if they just discard the whites?

Even better was the poached egg with pork jowl. Three of us ordered this, and all three of us had one of those "When Harry Met Sally" moments, literally moaning in ecstasy as we ate. Conversation ground to a halt. My God! Every component comes together perfectly. Our server informed us that the egg itself is poached for an hour and 10 minutes at 61 degrees Celsius. The result is the most tender, delicate poached egg I've ever had the pleasure of eating. Just perfect execution. But we all agreed that the pork jowl--perfectly crisp and full of fatty goodness--is what took the dish over the top. (The fourth in our party had for her appetizer the smoked kale soup with some kind of heirloom bean, also excellent--beautiful and incredibly complex.)

Surprisingly, my pork entree was probably the least memorable dish of the night for me--it was merely very good, not mind-blowing. In another thread (http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/6699... ), grayelf mentioned getting a somewhat raw piece of pork loin--mine was actually just a touch overdone (and a little bit dryer than ideal as a result, but still quite good when eaten with the dried fruit compote). Anyway, the loin was fine, but the belly was excellent--so tender and deeply flavorful (then again, I've never met a piece of pork belly I didn't like).

For their entree, two of my dining companions ordered the chicken terrine, which I believe was another of one of our consensus favorites (though it didn't seem like a terrine to me, other than the molded rectangular shape). It was a juicy, perfectly cooked piece of chicken, served with some small radishes scattered on top and cepes (like porcini mushrooms). I only had a couple of bites (delicious), but it didn't SEEM to me that the chicken had been chopped up first before being pressed into the mold (?). Maybe some molecular-gastronomic magic going on.

For dessert I had the Kombucha squash custard, which came with a crust, a bit like a slice of really good pumpkin pie. I loved this--lots of great little components on the plate: streaks of root beer syrup, little dabs of cream that had been infused with licorice flavor, a sprinkling of sunflower seeds. (Two of my dining partners opted for the huckleberry and apple tart, which was served with a boldly flavored and memorable cheddar ice cream).

I also had the $29 wine pairing option, but since I don't know much about wines, I'll refrain from commenting too much on that. Suffice it to say I thought they were all tasty, and I'm not a big drinker so I found the pours just right. My favorite was probably a smooth Spanish red that they served with the pork.

As we were leaving, Chef Syhabout himself thanked us for coming and wished me a happy birthday. It was yet another personal touch to cap off an amazing evening.

Given the glowing reports I'd been reading on the board, I was worried that I might be going into the meal with unrealistic expectations. But if anything, the food, the service, the ambiance--all of it--far exceeded my expectations.

Thanks to everyone who gave their hearty endorsements in the other thread (http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/662664 ). In the end, it made for the best birthday dinner I can recall--and probably, without being hyperbolic at all, one the best meals I've ever had.

My wife, who would never describe herself as a chowhound, woke up the next morning still talking about that egg dish and those pork jowls. (We're already making plans to go back for her birthday in January.) And another one of my dining companions, the non-foodie half of the couple we dined with, said that he'd like to go back and sit at the chef's counter--not even talk at all. Just sit and meditate on the food.

I think that about says it all.

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Commis
3859 Piedmont Avenue, Oakland, CA 94611

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