Now that it is open, I thought I would try it out before suggesting it to friends for weekend brunch. It was very quiet at noon, with just one other table in the restaurant, though eventually more people filtered in and chose a table in the lovely patio out back. The owners did a nice job with the old King Shang space (though I miss sitting at a table in the front window at King Shang with pea sprouts and salt and pepper prawns)--you now enter into the main dining room, instead of the somewhat awkward doorway into the bar. The decor is simple wood paneling and yellow painted walls, with some skylights overhead to lighten what used to be a somewhat dank room.
I had a small bowl of corn-poblano soup. It was delicious, with a definite not-too-sweet corn flavor and a nice little kick at the back of the throat from the roasted poblanos. The garnish of tortilla strips and queso fresco played nicely off the creamy texture and slight heat of the soup. For a small portion, it was somewhat large, so even though I finished it, I cursed myself for also ordering a sandwich.
But I can take my punishment like a woman. I ate half the sandwich and all of the salad it came with. The sandwich was a grilled eggplant with roasted peppers and escarole, a sun-dried tomato spread (I think...) and mozzarella cheese. It was good, though the stringiness of the escarole made it difficult to confine it to a single bite--I was grateful then that there so few people in the dining room, and the kitchen had a door on it, as a large, wilted escarole leaf was dragged out of the sandwich and dangled from my mouth as I tried to either tear it with my teeth or surreptitiously shovel it into my mouth. Delicately, of course. The sandwich was good, but the obvious, um, loading problems made it a little unmanageable. It was almost a good thing that the juice from the vegetables eventually caused the focaccia to crumble somewhat--I put the sandwich back on the plate and switched to a knife and fork.
The sandwich comes with choice of green salad, potato chips, fries, broccoli salad, and maybe another choice or two, but I went with the broccoli. It was lightly steamed--the perfect texture for this salad, I thought, not too soft and not too crunchy either--and lightly dressed with a creamy, garlicky dressing, crumbled bacon and minced red onion. It was described as "spicy", though I didn't detect any noticeable heat. It was very garlicky--but I liked that.
They have a full bar, but I just had a nice iced tea, and left full and happy. The service was attentive and friendly--though there weren't a lot of occupied tables, so who knows what could happen at the height of the brunch rush hour. Still, I look forward to trying it for brunch. I didn't have a lot of time to look at the brunch menu, though it of course includes the lemon ricotta pancakes, as well as the usual variety of egg dishes.
5912 College Avenue (2 blocks north of Rockridge BART)