Table Talk: Seafood Shines at Ayala, Enjoy Oakland Restaurant Week, Fire Relief Dinners

Santa Barbara uni with yuzu tobiko that you pick up with a shiso leaf (at Ayala). (tablehopper.com)

This week takes a look at the recently opened Ayala, offering beautiful seafood and a chic style, while a trip across the Bay reveals innovative and affordable dishes at Dosa by Dosa, and you can check them out during Oakland Restaurant Week (among many other places). Boot and Shoe Service hosts a fire relief dinner series, and say cheers to Winter Cocktails of the Farmers Market.

A Chic Seafood Restaurant Opens Downtown: Ayala

Ayala
398 Geary St., San Francisco
Open nightly for dinner 5:30pm–10pm, with Martini Hour Mon–Thu 4:30pm–5:30pm and Fri–Sat 4pm–5:30pm.

A selection of seafood from the "lightly dressed" section: uni, littleneck clams, oysters. (tablehopper.com)

For locals, it can be tough to think of a cool and stylish place to eat downtown that doesn’t cater to tourist tastes — especially if it’s in a hotel — but the newly opened Ayala has got it going on. Located in Union Square’s Hotel G, the airy dining room and bar have an easygoing style that feels more Los Angeles than San Francisco. It’s a California seafood–centric restaurant, and chef-partner Bill Montagne brought on the talented executive chef Melissa Perfit (Bar Crudo, Hard Water), who is skilled in doing creative and delicious things with seafood (and sourcing the good stuff). 

Seafood charcuterie at Ayala. (tablehopper.com)

You don’t want to miss the beautiful seafood “charcuterie” plate ($21), which includes four seafood presentations, like halibut with grapefruit and fennel, and black cod with kombu and chartreuse. The lightly dressed section includes the freshest littleneck clams on the half-shell in a bright green frothy sauce, with jicama, cucumber, black tobiko, and lobster oil ($11 for 3). Salads include a perfect Louie ($21), with Dungeness, prawns, creamy egg, and avocado. Everything pairs well with their lighter cocktails, like A Diving Bell, and the aromatic Officer and a Gentian. The wine selections from GM Essam Kardosh (Del Popolo) and wine director Nick Tilly are also full of food-friendly beauties.

Cioppino verde and lobster butter toast. (tablehopper.com)

Larger dishes include the decadent nori spaghettini ($29), with Dungeness, white miso, and topped with furikake and a pop of acidity from Buddha’s hand. It’s a treat to have cioppino ($37) prepared with such respect for the seafood within: here, it’s a cioppino verde, a tomatillo-poblano broth, filled with Dungeness, prawns, squid, and lobster butter toast on the side that you’ll dunk in the broth. It’s a touch on the spendy side, and quality seafood isn’t cheap, but let the bread fill you up. You also want the English muffin with herb-cultured butter ($6). I was tempted to order an extra one to bring home for breakfast.

The dining room at the end of a busy evening. (tablehopper.com)

We finished our evening at the bar, the best way to experience a nightcap from their inspired cocktail list from bar director Julian Cox (Tartine), and try an amaro from their extensive list. 

The Fine-Casual Dosa by Dosa in Oakland Has New Tricks Up Its Kurta Sleeves

Dosa by Dosa
2301 Broadway, Oakland
Open Sun–Thu 11am–9:30pm, Fri–Sat 11am–10pm, weekend brunch Sat–Sun 9am–3pm.

Don't miss the idli fries. (tablehopper.com)

Oakland is lucky to have a fast/fine-casual version of San Francisco’s popular South Indian Dosa — Dosa by Dosa. On a recent visit, there were dishes that made me really wish we had a location in SF! The all-day, street food menu includes small plates, like their popular vada pav (spiced potato slider with caramelized onions, peppers, and served in a soft Parker House-style bun, a fulfilling bite for $4.95), and the inventive idli fries ($4.95) were a brilliant type of South Indian French fry, made of rice and lentil patties, sliced, and served with a roasted chile-garlic chutney (don’t miss them). There’s also a variety of stuffed naan, like a fluffy one filled with cheese ($5.50), served with a bright chutney.

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More new items include their salad bowls, like a delightfully flavorful one with seasonal greens and spiced, free-range lamb kebab (just $13.95) with red onion, tomato, cucumber, a hearty base of lemon rice, and dill-raita dressing, or you can opt for their rice bowls with four kinds of curries, like butternut squash dal. And the street wraps are like rice-free burritos made with grilled and tender roti dipped in egg (so good), with fillings like butter chicken or prawn masala, plus pickled red onion, cucumber, tomato, and cilantro (the most expensive one is $12.95). Or, of course, there’s an entire section of dosas.

It doesn't have to be summer to enjoy a slushie. (tablehopper.com)

The location has a full bar, offering classic Dosa cocktails like their Peony, to the spiritous Dirty Chutney, a spin on an Indian martini (all just $11). There are slushies, lassis, and non-alcoholic picks, chai and spiced coconut cold brew, wine, and beer — you will not go thirsty. And don’t miss the happy hour Mon–Fri 4pm–6pm for even better deals.

Oakland Restaurant Week Offers a Chance to Explore Oakland’s Vibrant Dining Scene

Oakland Restaurant Week
January 11–20
Various locations

During Oakland Restaurant Week, there will be tacos. (Visit Oakland)

Oakland Restaurant Week returns January 11–20, with over 100 Oakland restaurants participating, which means they will offer prix-fixe lunch and/or dinner menus at $10, $20, $30, $40 and $50 price points (the promotional prices reflect up to 25% off regular à la carte items). Participating restaurants include top spots like Reem’s California, Itani Ramen, A16 Rockridge, Grand Lake Kitchen, and Dosa by Dosa, and it’s a chance to check out newcomers like Farmhouse Kitchen and the new Bardo Lounge & Supper Club. Check the site for details on their special offers.

There are also a few special events, like a benefit dinner for Oakland Restaurant Week’s non-profit partner, Alameda County Community Food Bank, at Bardo on Monday, January 14, among other events, like a progressive dinner. Another bonus: Local Food Adventures Oakland Food Tours, an East Bay walking food tour company, will offer tours in Oakland’s Grand Lake and Rockridge neighborhoods during both weekends of ORW for 20 percent off (use the code ORW19, book tours here).

Wintertime Produce Is Ready to Make an Appearance in Cocktails at the Farmers Market

Winter Cocktails of the Farmers Market
San Francisco Ferry Building
1 The Embarcadero, San Francisco
Wednesday, January 30, 5:30pm–8pm
Tickets: $60 (+ $3.99 fee) until January 23, $65 after

It's time for Winter Cocktails at the Ferry Building. (amandalynn.co)

Cocktail lovers know how much fun the CUESA and NorCal USBG Cocktails of Farmers Market series is, and the next event is happening on January 30 at the Ferry Building: Cheers to Change Makers: Winter Cocktails of the Farmers Market. At this walk-around happy hour tasting, 13 SF bartenders (like Kaiyo, 1760, and Pacific Cocktail Haven) and 3 chefs (Nicolette Manescalchi, A16 Rockridge; Chris Cosentino, Cockscomb; and Monica Martinez, Don Bugito; with more added soon!) will be transforming winter produce into creative drinks and bites. Guests receive three full-sized signature cocktails and tasty bites from each restaurant, along with unlimited sample-size sips.

It’s all in celebration of CUESA’s new public art installation: The Food Change, featuring photo-murals of the diverse farmers, advocates, and visionaries in our midst. Cheers!

Fire Relief Dinner Series at Boot and Shoe Service

Boot and Shoe Service
3308 Grand Ave., Oakland
Various dates
Tickets: $250.00 ($259.74 with service fee)

Break bread in an intimate dinner series for fire relief at the Boot and Shoe. (tablehopper.com)

The 2018 Camp Fire created so much devastation and loss (nearly 14,000 homes and 5,000 other structures were destroyed), and the Boot and Shoe Service restaurant in Oakland is hosting a fundraiser series of dinners to help provide relief. In fact, 100 percent of the proceeds will go to the Camp Fire Evacuation Relief Fund, which supports evacuation centers that opened their doors and pantries to people who lost their homes, and will transition the funds into long-term recovery efforts as soon as immediate needs are met.

The dinners only have 10 seats, and will be prepared by celebrated local chefs in Boot and Shoe’s private back kitchen. Guests will dine on a large communal table as they engage in conversation with the chefs as they prepare and plate a multi-course dinner at the table served with paired wines and beverages.

The first two dinners are sold out, but the next one is on February 13 with the talented Sophina Uong, and then February 23: Kelly Mariani and Emma Lip, Scribe Winery; March 13: Brandon Jew of Mister Jiu’s and Dominica Rice of Cosecha; and March 27: Chris Lee: The Old Fashioned Butcher with son, Tom Lee, and Suzanne Drexhage of Bartavelle.

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Thanks to the following donors for their assistance with these meals: Marin Sun Farms, Liberty Duck Farm, Beaune Imports, Ordinaire Wine Shop, Kermit Lynch, Oakland Yard Wine Shop, and Bedrock Wine Co.

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