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Restaurants & Bars 3

Bittersweet Chocolate Café Oakland & Bittersweet Café San Francisco

rworange | Mar 5, 200608:10 PM


Actually the name is the same for both - Bittersweet Chocolate Café.

The subject is for search purposes. Chowfun mentioned on the general board that Bittersweet was flying under Chow radar and searching didn’t produce much.

I thought it was mentioned a lot so never bothered posting. However, looking around, there are fewer mentions than I expected.

Bittersweet opened a SF location on Fillmore not far from California. I’ve just stopped by that shop once, so hope more SF posters will report about it.

Menu-wise it looked the same. However, the Fillmore shop has more tables … a few sunny window seats, a back café and an upstairs loft. The Oakland shop seems to have slightly more items … but only slightly.

This is a shop for the chocolate lover even vegan chocolate lovers. Their vegan hot chocolate is a wonder that explodes with complex adult flavors, no mean little soulless and thin cup. It is melted Valronha dark chocolate and another dark chocolate that I’m not remembering.

I totally agree with the website description – “A deeply chocolate experience … rich and wonderful.”

There are lots of good things here – but there are two drop dead wonderful standouts for me
- the spicy hot chocolate
- the house-made fleur de sel truffle

The spicy hot chocolate is not Mexican, but unique with pepper, cinnamon and rose. It is the best use of rose flavor I have ever had. The first taste is of the rose, then cinnamon and a tingling pepper heat finish. Most amazing is the chocolate doesn’t get lost in all of this. To up the deliciousness, order this one with whipped cream which increases the richness and combined with the rose is a sip of loveliness.

The soft little truffle with the accent of salt is pure deliciousness. Think XOX truffles, but richer and no thin shell.

Blue Bottle does a special blend for Bittersweet which is similar to the Hayes Valley blend but without the harsh edge. I might not like the coffee by itself, but this is a brilliant coffee to have with chocolate.

There’s a lot of ways to have your Blue Bottle – cappuccino with a luxurious, rich foam (and sometimes cap art), a regular drip cup or as a mocha with chocolate shavings.

The only hot chocolate I didn’t like was the white hot chocolate. There is supposed to be cardamom and spices, but they were too muted and it just tasted like sweet steamed milk with butter in it.

I haven’t tried the classic hot chocolate yet, chocolate milk, chocolate Chai or chocolate Thai iced tea.

Drinks can be ordered with extras ($.50) like the house-made marshmallow or whipped cream … yes it is extra. I didn’t like the marshmallow which I had on the bittersweet cup. It was too sweet, didn’t melt enough and detracted from the bittersweet taste.

One of the other extras is to add a shot of espresso to any of the hot chocolates. I haven’t gotten that far yet.

They have cupcakes and pastries. While I like that they have mini cupcake size, I didn’t like the cupcake itself. I thought the cake was dry and the frosting not buttery enough.

The Oakland shop also sells steel cut oatmeal with fixings for a little over $3 and pudding. Haven’t tried the pudding yet. The oatmeal was fine. The fixings are golden raisins, brown sugar and/or coconut. Ask for them on the side, otherwise the oatmeal comes generously topped with your selections.

Another wonderful thing about this shop is the service. I’ve never seen a more efficient coffee shop. It has ALWAYS been packed on my visits, sometimes with lines out the door. However, they almost magically make the lines disappear. Actually that’s what I’ve been most interested in watching on recent visits.

Also, many of the staff is really knowledgeable about the chocolates they sell. I don’t like to ask too many questions because they are so busy, but they always manage to answer my questions and still move the lines. I haven’t asked too many questions about what chocolate they use for each of the hot chocolate types for that reason. Maybe someone else knows.

The Oakland shop has a few rustic tables squished together and surprisingly it just feels cozy, cosmopolitan and European. The crowd depends on the day of the week – mornings during the week are more young adults through neighborhood seniors. Afternoons have lots of families and children … the well-behaved children of the upper middle class who probably teethed on baguettes at Chez Panisse and Olivetto. Anyway it seems to cater nicely to everyone. If you don’t like the crowd pic a different time of day.

There are all sorts of good chocolate books. Lots of different boxed chocolates like Fran’s caramels with grey salt or smoked sea salt. There’s a wall of quality bars. One of the most interesting I’ve tried has been from Sicily … actually Modica, Italy … Casa Don Puglisi Chocoslab with chili. This breaks every single chocolate rule … it is grainy like a cube of sugar, the color is mottled, it isn’t creamy and smooth, it is gritty … wrapped in heavy brown paper and tied with heavy string This blog has the best, funniest and truest description of the bar.


Here’s the website of the chocolate manufacturer … they don’t need no stinking English version.


Back to Bittersweet, the Oakland shop also has chocolates by the piece from Garrison of Rhode Island and Charles chocolates. The Charles chocolate heart with the mint and lime and a zillion other tastes has a lot going on in a good way. Garrison also has unique flavors. My favorite so far remains the Bittersweet truffle. The peanut butter butterfly is filled with the deepest roasted peanut flavor with a nod to a Butterfingers type texture. Next might be the honey lavender or the crystallized ginger … or … one per visit.

Blue Bottle beans are available for sale too. James Freeman of BB won’t let them grind the beans either … not that I haven’t tried to sweet talk them into it.

I was a little put off the first time I walked in. It seemed a little too precious. However on each visit I grow more and more fond of this place, charmed by the sheer quality of the beverages and the helpful, friendly efficient staff.

Address and hours are on the website. The Oakland location is currently open earlier and has longer hours than SF ... and don't forget CLOSED MONDAYS. Pictures of each cafe are under the 'shop' drop down menu.

Link: http://www.bittersweetchocolatecafe.c...

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