I have great luck at restaurants located in pod malls! Some of the best Mexican, Korean, Indian, and Japanese restaurants are located in these otherwise dreary spaces. And, Cafe Esin is another example of a pod mall beauty.
Cafe Esin is located at 2416 San Ramon Valley Blvd. When we first started eating there several years ago it was nestled between Indian and Japanese food restaurants. Since then Cafe Esin has expanded and taken over the space previously occupied by the Indian restaurant.
C.E. specializes in Mediterranean food. The chef owners offer such dishes as an appetizer of hummus, roasted eggplant dip, cucumber yogurt dip, dolmas, tabbouleh, marinated olives served with pita (we didn't try last night, but good in the past), and main dishes like phyllo wrapped chicken breast stuffed with spinach, feta, couscous (well spiced but the breast was too dry when we ate there previously) and lamb kebobs (very tender).
Service at C.E. has always been spotty -- very friendly staff, but long waits between order and arrival. Last night was no different -- at least as far as the drinks were concerned. We like to start off our meal with a Bombay Sapphire martini and were parched by the time it made its appearance. No martini makes Cecelia a very crabby diner.
Yesterday we were interested in the specials and started the meal with the heirloom tomato salad topped with mozzarella cheese and basil and the clam chowder. I had been reading on these boards that the tomatoes this year are watery and flavorless. Not at C.E. There were several varieties and all were bright and full of flavor. I asked the server where the chefs got them and he came back with an answer. They're purchased from J & K Smiths out of Brentwood from the Danville Farmer's Market. The clam chowder was creamy, full of clams and flavored with bits of bacon.
One of the entrees we ordered was the halibut special. It was served with crunchy green beans, fingerling potatoes and sweet 100s or some other type of mini tomatoes. The fish was beautifully cooked and sweet. This dish was outstanding.
We also ordered the Linguine with prawns, a basil pesto, cherry tomatoes, and goat cheese. This dish just wasn't as good as the halibut. The goat cheese overwhelmed the rest of the ingredients and the pasta was just a little too mushy.
Now, when you go to C.E,'s you've got to save room fro the desserts. One of the owners, Esin de Carion, used to make them herself. I don't know if that's true any more. But, the desserts are still out of this world. If I could get away with it, I would have a dinner of desserts -- first course the light and flaky baklava, second course the bittersweet chocolate fudge brownie torte with vanilla bean gelato; my dessert -- a classic brulee.
This is a great neighborhood restaurant -- just don't be in a rush to get through the meal.