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
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).
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.
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.
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
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.