Thursday, May 17, 2007

BayWolf in Oakland: Food to Howl About!

BayWolf Restaurant in Oakland is why I personally eat out. Inventive, creative and very different food is the only reason, I believe, to go to restaurants. Without sounding snobby, I can honestly say that my fiancée and I are fairly decent cooks. If we want to eat something that we know how to make, we can stay home and cook it.

We’re not wealthy, so cooking and eating at home is attractive to both our palates and our wallets. We have a lot of high-end (and high-priced) grocery stores in San Francisco, so we can get anything we want to take home and prepare. Even if we go to Whole Paycheck, it’s still more affordable than going to a restaurant. Sure, you have to wash the dishes when you eat at home, but you also don’t have to tip anybody.

So, when we do decide to go out and eat, we want to try something distinctive that we can’t get at home. We want to sample new foods, flavors or textures. We want to experience unique and different cooking techniques and taste combinations.

That’s why BayWolf is very high on our list. It’s one of the most imaginative places in the Bay Area. Founding Owner Michael Wild says that “little things make a large difference in a small restaurant. We agonize over small details and play with them endlessly, tweaking as we go, discussing the niceties of the particulars inherent in getting it right.”

Wild’s main inspiration is Elizabeth David. “Her books are pressed on every one of our kitchen staff. We expect them to embrace her injunction to cook with care and skill, regard for the quality of the materials, without extravagance and pretension.” I think that says it all. The people at BayWolf make food to impress themselves and no one else. They aren’t trying to show off tricks they learned in culinary school. And the end result is pure magnificence.

Wild (who is also the executive chef) and Chef de Cuisine Louis de Gassic offer a new menu with a different theme every month, celebrating the season’s prime ingredients and regional cuisines of the Mediterranean. For instance, May is “andiamo in Italia” month, featuring primarily Italian dishes; and June is “Back to Burgundy” month.

One thing that’s always on the menu is the famous BayWolf locally raised duck. This place does things with duck that no other restaurant can. They know duck! When we ate at BayWolf recently, we had the Liberty Ranch Duck Breast with grilled asparagus and a balsamic vinegar glaze ($25). Duck is a tricky bird to make right, and this breast was so right it made me cry (privately.) Moist inside with crispy skin, the glaze accentuated the deep, rich flavors of the duck in a way I’d not experienced before. This little quacker did not die in vain. We also had a Duck Liver Flan with pickled onions, cornichons and olives ($12.50) that was incredible.

Other items we sampled included the Seared Tuna-Stuffed Calamari with curly cress and pimenton vinaigrette ($11.25); and a Grilled Adriatic Ling Cod with duck fat fries, roasted green beans and salsa verde ($22). Who does ling cod anymore? Unbelievable.
Signature side dishes are also well-known at BayWolf. Other than the duck fat fries, I can also heartily recommend the lemon mashed potatoes and the garlic spinach.

One dessert that really stood out was Rose-scented Parfait – a rice pudding with mango confit and candied pistachios ($8.50).

BayWolf is located at 3853 Piedmont Avenue in Oakland. The place is hopping, so reservations are always suggested. Their phone number is: (510 655-6004.

Go to BayWolf once and you’ll be howling for more even before you hit the door.

No comments: