Friday, August 6, 2010

OZUMO - Photo Break - Whatcha think?

Blackberry Spritzer
I received a new camera and lens for my anniversary.  I asked the BH for the gift in the hope I might learn to do justice to the artistry of the Chefs in the restaurants I patronize. This article is meant primarily to be a vehicle to showcase a few of my first pics. Please feel free to comment and let me know what you think of these early efforts at photography. The magnification and narrow depth of field present new challenges, but I'm up to it. I've never met an artistic challenge I didn't like!

I last reviewed Ozumo in the winter of ‘09. It is a place on the upswing, its smooth, polished, interior beckons to the lunch and dinner crowds it caters to. At the time, I commented that the layout of the restaurant had “empty spaces crying out for people to fill them.”  Well these days, it’s always pretty full and it works for them. The food is good, the service is good if a bit slow (they try, but it’s crazy big and when it’s packed, it can get frenetic). That said, they got me in and out in less than an hour over lunch yesterday, while accommodating a table full of women who kept wanting to be moved around ‘to get out faster.’

At the time I also commented that it was looking for it’s stride. I say its definitely found it.
"Riceless" Sushi Roll with smoky pepper sauce
I go there often these days because it is close to my office, and sushi is fairly light. I had a dinner engagement yesterday night and just can’t eat two huge meals in a day. We had non-alchoholic beverages: tea for me and one of their amazing fresh fruit spritzers for the BH. Their special roll yesterday was this amazing “riceless” roll that was essentially cucumber wrapped around a slice of tuna-esque fish and a Spicy Tuna Roll. As you can see, plating is imaginative and inviting. The BH had a Beef Bento Box special. He loved it, and I have to say it was well done.

Edamame with garlic
I have been here now over a dozen times and the food is always consistently good. The alcoholic drinks, when we indulge in them, are uniformly excellent.

Check it out for yourself. If you like Japanese you won't be disappointed. If you're local, make it dinner. Bon Appetit!

OZUMO (Oakland)
2251 Broadway
Oakland, CA 94612

Dining table size: Adequate
Noise: Probably pretty loud at night, daytime no problem
Dining time: can be in and out over lunch hour no problem
Cost: Pricy.
Spicy Tuna Roll

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

CAMPANELLA - a "Little Italy" in Newark

Broccoli Mushroom Soup
Born and raised in Oakland. You’ve heard the bit, right? Well, the early eighties found me randomly moving from my homestead in Oakland to my then brand-new husband’s house in Newark. Where is Newark, you ask? The answer is this. It is a sleepy little hamlet that lays in the heart of Fremont, a sort of donut-hole-filler of a suburb. It’s a bit far from Oakland, a distance of twenty plus miles southward, in fact. Though Newark was a swell place to raise children, it unfortunately lacks ample food choices. Meaning if you’re not looking to eat at Olive Garden or Chili’s you are ish out of luck.

But, as with any rule, there are a few exceptions. We have several excellent ethnic food establishments like Sala Thai or China Chili’s in Fremont and there are few exceptional restaurants to be found in here in sunny Newark, California. This particular evening we found our way to the little Italian restaurant in my neighborhood by the name of Campanella. And by in my neighborhood, I mean within walking distance of my house.

Tossed Salad
It was early June, and the BH and I were headed to a Tom Petty concert. Our concert companions, my Sis-in-Law and her Musician hail from the other side of the Dumbarton, so Campanella, which lays just at the foot of the bridge, has been around for a couple of years. It’s a solid Italian seafood restaurant, with just enough meat on the menu to satisfy my dear friend who won’t eat fish. Period. So that night Campanella seemed a workable choice. We would eat together and head straight to the Coliseum, in order to arrive by show time.

We began the meal with some lovely Bruschetta. It was tasty, a nice balance of tomato and olives, all mingled with olive oil into a tapenade-style topping layered over the crostini, accompanied by slices of summery green apple.
Next we enjoyed a Broccoli Mushroom Soup and a lovely tossed salad. I believe I’m becoming sort of a soup fetishist. I just don’t remember the soup of my youth ever being quite as marvelous a concoction as modern soups seem to be. It could be the new techniques, but in my mind soup has come from the fog of memory, where it lay a thick, salty mush for years, to emerge as a really smooth, buttery affair, with flavors often more fresh and vibrant than ever imagined just before the liquid hits the tastebuds. Springy flavors, fresh ingredients, oodles of cream. Good stuff. Though I may still consume an occasional cup of Campbell’s to weather the nastiest of colds, it’s overly-salted flavors cannot compare to what now arrives hot and steamy in the bowls of many a good restaurant.

I ordered a pasta. The Pito de Pollo. It was magnificent. The noodles pleasantly al dente, accompanied by a chicken breast smothered in mushrooms, carmelized onions and red peppers.  Everything tossed easily together to make a tasty mouthful.  Ah, the stuff of my youth. Being Italian, I grew up on this carby treat of Italy. Gotta say when done right, even simple pasta can rock my socks.
BH had the Penne Salmon Pasta. The fish layered into his pasta was lovely, flaky and pink, deliciously moist, the sauce beneath it creamy and flavorful. All these goodies were tumbled beautifully together with fresh vegetables. The portions are large here, but the pasta is so tasty it’s all good.

My SIL had a Rigatoni Pollo I believe, which is, of course, chicken with rigatoni. Her meal was another version of the well-turned out and seasoned pasta we were all enjoying. Flavors mingling in the creamy sauce, tucking themselves in and out of the noodles, in the way only pasta can manage to mingle tastes and textures. The dish had lovely carmelized onions, grated parmigianno reggiano.  The musician had another version of pasta as well, but I didn’t bother him by recording his dining choice. We’re working him into this food journaling thing slowly.

I consumed several glasses of a fairly tasty Malbec with all my fantabulous carbs, and then we ordered two nice desserts. A small chocolate cake concoction layered with chocolate, and a nice ice cream.  Pretty to look and and very tasty.  For a little hide-a-way in my neck of the woods, not too shabby.  Makes me hungry just thinking about it.  There is something truly decadent about pasta laden with flavors.  Maybe it is as simple as loving the foods I remember eating as a child, or maybe it's just that pasta is that good.  Either way, I've never met a pasta dish I didn't love.
Chocolate Dessert
If you're in my neck of the woods, check it out.  Bon Appetito!
Campanella Modern Italian Cuisine
34903 Newark Blvd (at Jarvis Ave)
Newark, CA 94560
(510) 794-9900