[ Originally posted January 16, 2012. Moving to blog in anticipation of crab season! ]Every Monday night in January, Camino in Oakland does a special crab night. For $34, you get a starter, half a roast crab, sides, and dessert. $12 more gets you a full crab. The starter, sides, and desserts change weekly, but the roast crab is always the star. We went last year, and couldn't wait to return this year. With so many fantastic restaurants in San Francisco, there are few reasons to cross the bridge into Oakland, but this is one of them!
The restaurant features an open kitchen with a huge fireplace in the center. Most everything is cooked on the fireplace, and it is really fun to walk back there and watch. The restaurant is mostly all giant communal tables, but they do put space between people, so it isn't like you are bumping into your neighbors. The entire space is open and comfortable. Eating there was a really relaxing experience, almost like being in a friend's home. Service was sufficient and unobtrusive. They provide complimentary house filtered sparkling or still water, which is always nice. The cocktails and champagne my dining companions ordered were all tasty.
Tonight's dinner review is pretty much exactly the same as it was a year ago: appetizers are forgettable, crab and the salad it comes with are amazing, and dessert is bad. But the crab, oh the crab. Amazing.
This is probably my favorite of all Monday night specials I've ever had. It certainly does not fall in the category of places running specials in order to get people in on Monday nights when they are using subpar ingredients or staff. This is just ... special. I'd go back again, any night!
|Pickled carrots, celery.|
|Epi, slabs of butter.|
That said, I enjoyed dipping it in sauces later on in the meal, so I'm glad we had it.
|Wood oven-roasted local oysters with absinthe, breadcrumbs and yacón salad. $13.|
The oysters were pretty forgettable. No interesting flavors at all, lots of breadcrumb. I'd definitely skip this in the future.
The yacon salad that came with it was delicious! Crisp and the dressing on it was addictive. I don't really understand why it was served as an accompaniment to the oysters though.
|Spicy crab broth with leeks, parsley root and wild nettles.|
I'm not really a soup person, so this wasn't all that interesting to me. The veggies were cooked well (not too mushy, not too crisp), and it was impressive how much crab flavor they were able to impart into the soup, but I found it a little too salty.
The aforementioned bread dipped in the broth was nice.
|Full Dungeness crab grilled in the fireplace with farro, chicory salad and mint.|
The crab itself was seasoned wonderfully and the fireplace gives it an amazing smokey flavor. So, so flavorful! There is a hollandaise sauce hiding on the plate as well, that wasn't really needed because the crab had so much flavor on its own (particularly when still warm), but as the crab cooled, having some bites with the hollendaise worked really well too, the flavors from the crab seasoning mixed nicely with it.
Hiding under the crab was a really nice farro, the grains perfectly cooked with a nice crunch to them, and very flavorful and well seasoned. The chicory salad was a mix of both bitter chicory and other greens. This combined well with the farro and with the hollendaise.
I managed to make up a few "perfect bites" that included farro, greens, crab meat, and hollandaise A bite with all of that in it was pretty much amazing and had such great flavors that worked together sensationally!
The leftover bread dipped in the hollendaise was also quite nice (yes, I'm a sauce person ... I love everything with sauces!)
|Cara cara orange sorbet with pomegranate granita and citrus.|
The citrus was fine, but I have better citrus at the farmer's market 3 times a week. The sorbet was fine, but sorbet is just kinda boring, and I have better sorbet at the farmer's market (Scream) every week. The pomegrante was a nice tart component. I guess if you like fruity, light desserts this was good.
|Rice pudding with mastika and cardamom. $9.|
It came with some almonds, topped with whipped cream. It was not particularly flavorful, very goopey, the rice cooked inconsistently, and served cold. Disappointing.
I can really enjoy rice pudding, but I like it to have some defining characteristic: nice flavors, warm, custardy ... something. This was really just sorta there and not very good at all. I should have just had another crab for dessert :)
[ Originally posted Jan 3, 2011, before I took photos or real formal reviews. ]
We just had an excellent meal at Camino in Oakland. Everything is cooked over an open wood fire, which is also really fun to watch.
I highly recommend, even though it is all the way in Oakland, particularly for crab lovers. Monday nights in January always have the crab as part of a $27 3 course pre-fixe, but it is also available some other nights (check online menu the day of). Apparently they serve the baked eggs regularly at brunch too, with or without the truffles.
Starter: Wood oven baked egg with black truffles and radicchio. Perfectly cooked, and baked in truffle butter and cream. Really delicious flavors. Others at the table had the "Wild greens and herb frittata with grilled Belgian endive", which was served cold, and not very good.
Main: Half a Dungeness crab grilled in the fireplace with farro, roasted Jerusalem artichokes and raw winter vegetable (red daikon, kohlrabi, fennel) salad. The crab was fantastic, nice and sweet, and the wood fire gave it a nice smokiness. The farro was really tasty too, not sure what seasonings were in it. And the winter veggie slaw was nice and refreshing. Every component of this dish was stellar!
Dessert(s): Fresh bay leaf panna cotta with pomegranate seeds. Lovely flavor. Creamy. Light. Perfect ending ... until I saw that Ojan wasn't eating his cardamom shortbread bars that went along with his red wine poached pear with crème anglaise, and I had to eat those too. Nice cardamom flavor, really buttery, pretty heavy ... left me way too full, but was delicious.