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Restaurants & Bars 4

El Oasis Cafe (Fruitvale, Oakland)

Ruth Lafler | Mar 31, 200610:13 PM

So one of my discoveries for the day (the opening of Spices! 3) got scooped, but here's the other:

El Oasis Cafe is -- as nearly as I can describe it -- the Mexican version of an ice cream parlor. Their specialties are various sweets: atoles, ice cream, raspados, licuados, fruit salads, fresh fruit and vegetable juices (parsley?!), etc. in a dizzying array of flavors. But just as ice cream parlors also serve soups and sandwiches, El Oasis also serves some taqueria basics. Most interestingly, they offer both savory tamales and two kinds of sweet tamales: the much-sought-after pineapple and the never-seen-before strawberry.

What had caught my eye driving by was the sign in the window offering champurrado. What better on a cold, wet day? It was very good: not quite as rich and chocolatey as the version El Ojo de Agua has had in the past, but better than any other I can remember: thick, smooth, and with a good balance of corn and chocolate. I also got a pina tamale and a queso raja tamale. The tamales had been reheated in a microwave and then cooled again before I got to them, and the texture was a bit leaden. The flavors were good, though, with the chile/cheese packing quite a bit of heat. They might be better brought home and steamed.

Finally, while I was waiting for my order I noticed that one of the taco meat offerings was barbacoa, which most places only have on weekends, so I added a taco. This was disappointing: the tortillas were steamed and the barbacoa was beef (not lamb) and rather bland.

When I asked how long they'd been open the woman said six months, and then told me their specialty was fruit salad with yogurt sauce (I've forgotten the Mexican name) and gave me a sample. The thick yogurt sauce made eating the fruit salad a bit of an adventure, since it was often impossible to identify the fruit before biting into it -- I'm not even sure what some of the fruits were! It was very good, and the chocolate sprinkles on top enhanced the analogy to an ice cream parlor.

El Oasis Cafe
3612 International Blvd.

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