Pappo is a restaurant that fell from my radar and my recent visit left me wondering why. In the past my only issue with Pappo was with the starters. Typically a soup and a few salads were the only offerings.
Well it appears Pappo has expanded their starters, and they had a wonderful steamed mussels and clams appetizer that was very good. One of the problems I sometimes find with mussels is that they can be too large and overcooked. These mussels and clams were perfectly cooked and the mussels were the size of almonds (a perfect size for me). The broth of white wine, garlic and butter was great soup worthy. The dish came with two grilled slices of country bread but the dinner rolls that are provided for the table were dense, chewy and soaked up the broth perfectly. I could have made a meal out of this dish alone.
Next we had the butter lettuce with a fresh creamy avocado dressing. The salad was studded with grapefruit and toasted hazelnuts. The acid from the grapefruit offset the creamy avocado and the hazelnuts provided a nice crunchy texture contrast to the dish. It was refreshing and tasty.
All of the entress looked and sounded amazing. We ended up getting the lamb sirloin which was cooked medium rare sliced beautifully and presented with an amazing winter vegetable gratin, and some broccoli rabe. This dish had some wonderful morracan flavors and spices to it, and a little bit of heat from the spices.
The other dish was a duck dish that was incredible. They serve a lightly smoked and sliced breast and a braised thigh. This came with some kale with smoky bacon and apples and I asked them to add root vegetable puree from the pork chop dish instead of the sweet potatoes served with the duck. The puree was great and worked very well with the duck dish. The braised thigh was moist and the skin was a perfect mahogany color and just a little crisp. I loved everything about this dish.
Between the two dishes I preferred the duck but the lamb was very good too. All the other dishes sounded great from a blue nose sea bass, a seared pork chop or a fresh buccatini pasta dish with a braised short rib sugo. I looked around the dining room and I wanted to order every dish I saw.
I ate at Piperade the week before and ordered the duck there and Pappo's duck dish was much better. While I wouldn't say its worth driving to Alameda from SF to eat at Pappo, if you are in the East Bay or close proximity to Alameda and had never been or haven't been in a while this restaurant is really hitting its stride.