Occupation: Sales Executive
Favorite Restaurant: Mua
Reviewed Mua: Friday, May 4, 2012
First and foremost, before you say anything, yes, there isn’t any parking. I mean none, 0, zilch. I mean, I don’t even know where the staff parks. Perhaps I’m just not familiar enough with Oakland to know “where” to park, but for this poor East Bay resident who doesn’t spend that much time in that part of Oakland, it’s tough. BUT that’s only the half of it, I’ve been to the restaurant several times, and there hasn’t been a single time where I have been able to find it the first time around. No real signage or arrows or flags, it’s a narrow black shed basically.
So to be clear: it’s very hard to find, and once you find it, good luck finding decent parking. But thankfully, one doesn’t judge a restaurant ONLY by the ease of finding it and parking, and trust me, it’s worth finding it and walking to it.
The first time I visited this restaurant, I didn’t know what to expect. I got there early enough to relax at the bar and order a drink. The bartender asked me what I wanted and I said, “A Manhattan” and he said, “What kind?” and I said “bourbon” and with a smile he said, “Which kind”…I started to get the picture. These guys and gals behind the bar aren’t just making drinks as fast as they can, they are true masters of the bartending game. So I spent the next hour or so just learning and drinking -- what fun! But again, I digress…
Knowing after my first time at MUA what I wanted to drink I promptly ordered a MUA Manhattan and perused the luscious menu. I have to admit, I enjoy “interesting” foods and I don’t shy away from things that some would find WAY too interesting for them to try. MUA delivers not only the regular hip food fare but also some out-there food fare too, like in the first volley of food that I ordered.
I started out with the a trio of meat dishes, none of which are necessarily regular or prepared in a usual fashion. I ordered Beef Bone Marrow, Lamb Cheeks, and Berkshire Pork Lettuce wraps. All three are incredibly luscious. The Beef Bone Marrow is just melt-in-your mouth goodness, served with paper-thin crostinis and a few herbs, it has tremendous flavor, and it just melts in your mouth. The Lamb Cheeks are something I’ve never had or heard of before. I’ve had “cheeks” from other animals, but not lamb, and I’ve been to many a Greek Easter where the whole lamb is roasted. They are almost too good to talk about. They fall apart and taste of the most tremendous braised lamb I’ve ever had. I get them every time I go -- just to make sure I wasn’t just lucky last time – and they are that good every time. The Berkshire Pork Lettuce Wraps with spicy mustard seed sauce and carrot salad, well, what could possibly be wrong with that sentence!? The best pork you can buy, coupled with a well-composed mustard seed sauce, it’s just delicious.
The best part of all those dishes is that they are all small plates, and I was ready for more, and another drink. I just had had a lot of meat, so I thought I should think of my figure and eat some veggie. I ordered two veggie items that I just love: Arugula Salad and Brussels Sprouts. Now, like the meat dishes above, these aren’t just your regular items. The Arugula Salad was put together with quinoa, feta and pear -- all wonderful elements, and, when dressed together, is an explosion of spicy sweet salty flavors in your mouth with just a little bite, just incredible. Some people don’t like Brussels sprouts; I am not one of those people. Brussels sprouts prepared this way are crispy and flavorful and not drenched in brown butter, but just enough to create this delicious dish.
One of the best compliments I can give about MUA is their pace. At the onset I told them I wanted to take my time and enjoy my meal and they would come by and see if I was ready for my next item; keeping me “hydrated” and happy as well. It gives the patron time to take in the company they’re with, chat with a neighbor that is close by, or just enjoy the uniqueness of this warehouse turned restaurant and the art on the walls. After doing all of that, I was ready for my main course.
I have never had a main course there, I usually just stick to the small plates until I’m full, but I splurged and went with the Duck Confit. Now I was pretty sure there was no way I would be able to finish it, but I was wrong. To be fair, I haven’t had a TON of Duck Confit to call me an expert, but I can say from my experience, it was the best Duck Confit I’ve EVER had. The chicory and polenta marry so well with it to really complete a well thought out dish. I did finish it, I didn’t know how, but I did.
The server offered dessert, I think we both laughed when he offered, and I respectfully declined. I was full and super happy with my service and the space itself. This hasn’t been my first time there, and, by far, it won’t be my last. I recommend it to anyone and everyone. Just good luck finding it, oh yeah, and parking, but trust me, you will NOT be disappointed.
Occupation: Retired Legal Secretary
Location: San Francisco
Favorite Restaurant: Source Restaurant
Reviewed Mua: Saturday, May 5, 2012
Our reservations, made online, were for 7:30 p.m. at MUA/Oakland, which is located on Webster Street near 25th, an area with which I am unfamiliar. The neighborhood is eclectic and MUA sits on a triangle nearly surrounded by streets at odd angles. Parking was not a problem. The weather being especially pleasant, some people were sitting outside at wooden tables. However, they did not appear to be diners but rather like friends hanging out in someone’s yard. The entrance to MUA is indeed unusual. We entered through a heavy curtain that was pulled back, and were faced with a narrow, noisy bar. We had to walk to the end of the long bar to reach the hostess at the entrance to the dining area.
We were seated at the bench along the left wall, with small marble (or granite) topped tables and sleek (striped) wooden chairs facing. I faced the large, crowded room and its towering ceiling; my friend faced me but was also able to see the room due to the long, narrow mirror running along the back of the bench seating. Two tall and very large mirrors along the back wall (to my left as I was seated), reflected the wall sconces and the candles at all the tables so that everything sparkled in the appropriately dimmed lighting. MUA is two stories high with a heavy wooden beamed ceiling and black metal railings along the second story balcony where the disc jockey sat. Beyond him was a bar and more seating. The music was loud but did not seem to interfere when we first sat down; however, as the evening progressed, it became more difficult to converse. In front of me was the open seating area where a large group was celebrating a birthday. MUA is enormous, and the energy positively crackles!
Shortly after we settled into our seats, our waiter stopped by to introduce himself, asking if we would like a drink. We each ordered a glass of local wine (a Trefethen Chardonnay and a Miura Pinot Noir from Monterey), which arrived in a timely manner so that we could enjoy it while looking at the menu. The menu is divided into “Smaller Plates” and “Larger Plates” reminding us that we were in a restaurant that started out as a bar. We decided to share a small plate of fried calamari with green and red chilies, which arrived on a rectangular white plate with some aioli on the side. The chilies were small and moderately hot. And, when eaten together, the chili flavor offered the perfect complement to the crisply fried and perfectly cooked calamari.
Just as we finished the last of the calamari, our larger plates arrived. The portions were larger than anticipated. The chicken Milanese was presented as boneless fried chicken that had been pounded flat, lightly breaded, and fried to perfection. On top of the chicken was an arugula salad with capers and a lemony dressing. Although the salad was wonderful, my friend thought the chicken lacked flavor. My blackened catfish, served over dirty rice, was a bit crispy on the outside and flaky and flavorful on the inside; the dirty rice light, fluffy and delicately seasoned.
At the end of our meal, we decided to share a dessert. Our choice was the apple-cranberry crisp with vanilla ice cream. The crisp arrived all warm and fragrant, the ice cream was so cold that it did not quickly flood the plate, and there was a drizzle of raspberry sauce of such perfection that it was smooth, thick and nearly savory rather than sweet.
We walked out of MUA smiling as the music followed us down the street made quiet by our diminished hearing. We both agreed the food was outstanding, the environment upbeat and energizing. While the wine seemed expensive at $11 a glass, the final tab was certainly reasonable. Except for the decibels of the music, we would definitely recommend MUA to our friends. Would we return? My friend wanted to try it again for lunch. I would return on a quieter evening.
Occupation: Cartoonist and Comedy Writer
Location: San Francisco
Favorite Restaurant: Morning Due Cafe
Reviewed Mua: Sunday, May 13, 2012
I went to Mua with a pal from Oakland. He’s in the service industry and was able to add some commentary and tips. We asked the bartender what to order, but threw those ideas out and ordered what sounded good. Opting for Brussels sprouts over collard greens as one of the appetizers. Also we got the Crispy Tofu. Both were delicious. I had no idea what brown butter is, but the sprouts were scrumptious. My pal pointed out that the shiitake were “cooked right.” I noticed that there was a great aftertaste. (It was the gift that kept giving).
The calamari was “a tad bland,” but I liked the cornmeal crust and cost. The carpaccio was outstanding. Thankfully my friend did not eat beef. (More for me) Which is important with carpaccio as it’s as thick as an eyelash. The mussels were delicate and were demolished immediately. They came with fries, which were amazing when soaked in the mussel juice. Mua was my favorite of the 3 restaurants to review.