Intriguing bites and openings in other parts of the Bay Area? All Spice is a new, upscale Indian restaurant in San Mateo. Though still working out kinks with some dishes not yet fully realized, the space is romantic and service engaging in a cottage I adored in its former iteration.
Oakland’s Camino is a space I love for different reasons: rustic, glowing, like a hall of an old English home with modern-day spirit. Returning after a year’s absence yielded an imperfect meal with sometimes small portions of dishes I’ve tasted better versions of elsewhere. Still, the overall package holds merit, particularly the drinks.
ALL SPICE – The magic of the enchanted cottage housing All Spice, enhanced by delightful husband-wife owners, Sachin Chopra and Shoshana Wolff, is truly the highlight of this Indian gem. Promise radiates in almost every aspect, while service is professionally warm. I anticipate seeing how they evolve.
Without a liquor license yet, I partook of unusual drink offerings like sweet tea masala-infused water ($2), grapefruit-rosemary punch ($5), and, my favorite, a light but creamy passion fruit mint lassi ($2.50).
A starter of lavender cumin scallops ($12), may not have been mind-blowing but the trio of scallops were generous in size, while bacon bits over black cardamom pureed potato are inspired accents. Farro Chaat ($8) is aesthetic, shaped in a circle of wheat over purple Peruvian potatoes and cauliflower with chaat masala vinaigrette. Despite it’s beauty, it was served cold, tasting just a little bland.
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Chili mango bread pudding ($7) with ginger creme anglaise disappointed without a hint of the chili I was hoping for and dried mango bits rather than fresh, warm mango. Presentation stole the show with blackberries dotting the surface. A few tweaks and it could be memorable.
Faring better was a trio of house-made ice creams ($6). A bed of nuts and dried fruits under the scoops were a bit of a taste and texture distraction from the flavors of coconut curry, lemon thyme, chocolate anise, but overall it’s a winning finish, particularly the anise kick of the dark chocolate.
CAMINO – The main stand-outs at my last visit to Camino were the small but well-prepared drinks. A simple Cocchi Americano on the rocks with a twist of orange ($7) is fine way to get the appetite flowing – a sweetly bitter aperitif. I can’t help but love a Camino Negroni ($9), made with with Gran Classico instead of Campari. This has been done all over SF for awhile, yet remains a lush version of a Negroni.
Mezcal works twice: light and fluffy with egg white, lemon, honey and rosemary in Mezcal Drink ($10); smoky and slate-like in the Oaxacan Old-Fashioned ($10 – reposado, mezcal, agave, Angostura bitters). It all flows with dishes like grilled rabbit and pig’s head with pig trotter fritters, sauerkraut and fresh horseradish ($11), the best dish of the night.