Monday, October 4, 2010

GARIBALDI'S ~ "The Lunch Date"

The Long Weekend
Recently we ate at the newly revamped Garibaldi’s. What has always been a local neighborhood go-to restaurant is now two. One very intimate and fairly high end, the other is Marzano, a really nice pizza joint. There’s a bar nestled in Marzano, which is a more casual atmosphere, and both places share the open kitchen. I’ve been trying to get there for awhile to check it out. Finally, in mid-July, the BH and I managed a lunch there, on the “fancy” side.

My BH ordered a Nessie, which was a tasty combo of dark rum, passion fruit and lime. The flavors in the drink were spicy, with just a hint of sweetness, but not too sweet. It was a really, really good cocktail. I had a Long Weekend (Movie fans ~ best drink name ever!). This was an invigorating combination of gin, cucumber, lime and a sprig of fresh mint. It was hot out, and this drink was a refreshing pop of cucumber with a nice limey after-kick. Note to self: they have a first-rate mixologist at Garibaldi’s (the bar space is shared with Marzano).

Fried Green Tomatoes
Heavenly goodness!

We shared a platter of tangy fried goodness, the color, flavor and textures of which made it perhaps my favorite rendition of yet another familiar film-titled dish, Garibaldi’s platter of “Fried Green Tomatoes.” The combination of thick slices of green tomato covered in crispy batter formed a perfect halo-shaped fritter. Those fritters were placed daintily atop thick, white, hearty discs of the creamiest hand-pulled mozarella, then laid out in a bed of white corn salsa whose sweetness was enhanced by the addition of a sauce of pureed red tomato. The dish held sweetness, there was also a tang to it. In one bite the heat of the fritter hit the chilled fresh corn to combine in the perfect mouthful, neither too hot, nor too cold. A perfect variety of different crunches. The tangle of fresh taste sensations in this dish was outstanding. It was a home run of flavors. This dish was enough to charm even the most jaded food critic. Being neither, I fell hard, and ate most of it in under a minute. Our forks crossed in mock battle as we each stabbed for another bite.

Grilled Chicken Salad

My lunch main was good. I had the Grilled Chicken Salad, a nice blend of roughage, mixed with chicory. Dressing of buttermilk, blue cheese and toasted almonds. All surrounding nice, even slices of perfectly roasted chicken breast, complete with lovely little grill marks. It wasn’t remarkable, but it was well done and quite satisfying.

The BH had a Seafood Stew or “Zarzuela” which was a briny, well-seasoned combination of local rock cod, mussels and calamari. To set off the seafood the Chef added some nice green english peas, a handful of lovely yukon gold potatoes, and a lightly toasted slice of bread that had been coated with spred of saffron garlic aioli was set afloat on top of the seafood. A starchy sailboat of flavor. The aioli melted into the broth and enhanced the flavors well. The BH really enjoyed it. Perhaps this dish would be better called “The Old Man and the Sea,” but let’s not tell him that!

Zarzuela ~
a delicious seafood stew

It was nice to check in to an old favorite. Some of the updates I liked, some not as much, but the food certainly has not suffered. It is still a nice place to have lunch, but it is more cozy than it once was. I think it could get a bit loud during the dinner hour, as the tables now line a hallway of sorts, rather than open out onto shared space.

All in all, if for no other reason, one should go for dishes like those Fried Green Tomatoes. They were just spectacular.  By all means, get by and check it out.  Bon Appetit!

Garibaldi's -Oakland
5356 College Avenue
Oakland, CA  94618
(510) 595-4000
Table size: adequate
Service: excellent
Noise level: Could be loud at dinner.  The space is fairly narrow.

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