I'd had Silk Road, a new Asian fusion place at Jack London Square in Oakland, on my list of places to try, so headed there for dinner with my daughter tonight. Bottom line: they want to please, but for us, didn't quite succeed....
First impressions were a big plus: they've fixed it up nicely since it was Barclay's, with particularly nice lounge areas. It was a foreshadowing of things to come that the lounge area was the nicest, biggest part of the place: while the restaurant area has nice leather booths and banquettes it is relatively small with fairly closely spaced tables. However, on a Tuesday night it didn't really matter, since the place was only a third full, if that.
Our server was friendly, perhaps overly so: again, eager to please.
We started with drinks. J, a non drinker, had a Shirley Temple, which she pronounced only 'ok'. (How could a Shirley Temple be anything more?). The server recommended the mango mojito, and it was indeed delicious: tasted like it was made with fresh mango, nice amount of mint. not too sweet. I'd definitely go back for drinks if they are all that good. I didn't check out the wine list, other than a quick glance. It looked limited.
On to food: we decided to share two appetizers and a main. The menu is fairly limited in scope. Given that there were only a few dishes in each category, we found ordering to be a bit of a challenge, particularly since each dish had multiple ingredients, including some that didn't seem to be needed....For example, the chicken satay, which otherwise sounded interesting, had Chinese sausage as an ingredient...J doesn't eat pork so we had to cross it off the list.
Our server was good about alerting us to hidden pork in dishes (at least one salad had it but didn't list it as an ingredient). There was one exception to his helpfullness which was a bit odd: one of the sandwiches came with a side of yam fries. J and I both wanted to try the fries, but weren't interested in the (pork) sandwiches. I asked it it would be possible to just get a side of fries: his answer was 'yes, but I won't let you, no one ever likes those fries'. Ok, now I was really curious: and said I really wanted to check them out..so he said he'd bring us a taste but not charge us...of course the taste never showed up...he must really not think much of those fries! (and I am still curious, so would love to hear someone's report...)
Crispy Imperial Rolls: described on the menu as 'Fresh blue crab meat, marscapone cheese, Thai basil, mint and avocado salsa, mango chile sauce. Green papaya, jicama cole slaw, truffle oil.' This was quite tasty in a crab rangoon sort of a way. Not sophisticated, but nice flavors, and the papaya/jicama slaw was delicious. The rolls were a big portion, served as two large rolls, which would make it hard to eat as a bar snack. Our favorite of the evening, and the only one I'd order again.
SilkRoad Spring Rolls: "Belgian endive and butter lettuce, tropical fruit, asian spiced macadamia nuts. Golden caviar and goat cheese soufflé". This was pretty much a mess: too many flavors, none of which melded, and something had a slightly off taste...the souffle didn't have much taste at all. On top of all that, the concept of using endive to wrap the rolls didn't work: it fell apart immediately.
Canton Seafood Sweet and Sour: "Grilled prawns, scallops, and sea bass. House made wasabi sweet and sour sauce. Heirloom bell peppers, roasted baby vegetables, and pineapples. Saffron basmati rice and Golden caviar." I probably wouldn't have chosen this, but between not wanting to eat Chilean Seabass, and the pork heavy menu, it was one of the few choices J and I could share....In any case, it was a mixed bag, almost literally. The prawns and scallops were nicely cooked, but the rest of the dish was, to use J's words, 'like a Chinese TV dinner'. All sweetness, no light.
Portions were large and pacing was good. Cost for two apps, one main, one cocktail, one non-alcoholic cocktail, with tax and tip: $53. Definitely pricey.
All in all, a disappointment, and not in a way that I think more time will fix. It isn't so much that there are kinks to work out, as it is that the basic concepts behind the food don't work, at least for me...
I probably won't be back for dinner any time soon. However, if I were looking for a really nice place for a drink in that neighborhood, and didn't care too much about bar snacks, I'd put Silk Road back on the list...
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