Had lunch at A Cote on College Av in Oakland today, quite randomly. Despite the so-cool interior that promised over-prepared excess I was quite impressed. It is another of the small-plate buch, with a small but well selected menu, which bears comment. It seems that they swung the other way from excess description of the dishes into complete obsurity.
I saw an item that I had to have, it was merguez with sun-dried tomatoes. An aside -- does anyone have a good source for merguez in the Bay Area? I love this Moroccan spicy lamb sausage but it is nowere to be found... Anyway, the dish turned out to be a pizza, without any hint to that effect. It was delicious -- perfect, spicy, meaty sasuage shining with no excess sauce of condiment.
My lunch companion had the mussels, which were plump and briny, and again the ingredient stood out without beeing overdressed.
To accompany we ordered an excellent Mendoza Malbec 98, a perfect counterpoint with a bold and spicy palate and a lingering finish, with hints of sweet and tangy black currant. It was a worthy lesser cousin to Mendoza's grand Catena.
Two "small" dishes were quite enough for us, so we decided to share a cheese plate to finish. A Cote's cheese plate is again unusual -- they serve nine or so cheeses, but individually, at $5 each. I selected a Portuguese paprika-rubbed sheep cheese. It came with dried cranberries, sour apple, toasted walnuts, and a very nice and nutty wheat toast. A great cheese.
They also have an impressive selection of fine liquor, including such rarities as the inimitable Bruichladdich Islay. We chose cogniac and had an excellent Grand Fine Champagne, Logis de la Mothe, a bargain at $8. Fine, light and very drinkable, without the expected overwhelming nose. To compare prices, they had Germaine-Robin XO for $12 and the 2001 vintage for $20.
Service was near-perfect, unobtrusive but always there. They did insist of asking how the meal was, which I dislike, but without intruding on our conversation.
The tab? $70 for two with tip. Pricey indeed, but very good. I would go again. Enjoy!