Commis is a hot restaurant in Oakland run by James Syhabout. He has cooked at several superstar restaurant; Manresa, The Fat Duck, el Bulli, Mugaritz, and Alkimia. Commis focuses on Contemporary California cuisine with a focus on local, sustainable, and eco friendly practices. The restaurant is located in the Piedmont Avenue area of Oakland, home to hot spots like Bay Wolf, Dopo, and Fentons. Commis received one Michelin star in 2010.
Decor, Vibe – Stealth location with Urban minimalist industrial decor with high ceilings, big open kitchen up front. This is a small 30 seat restaurant with tables in back/front plus kitchen counter seating. well dressed foodies of all types, in the 30’s to 50’s were dining.
Menu (Click to zoom into any picture)
Entree – Dessert Menu
Commis simple $59 prix fixe three course Menu changes often and adjusts to the seasons. $29 for wine pairings. There are not a lot of options here.
Amuse Bouche Lemongrass Soda – Sweet, hint of ginger, did not really taste like lemongrass.
Amuse Bouche Poached Farm Egg yolk with onion soup puree, date puree, crunchy steel cut oats. Poached egg was overcooked, but still a nice contrast in textures and flavors.
Their home made egg based buns were pretty buttery.
Braised Cardoon, Oyster Emulsion dungeness crab and dill weed. A artichoke related plant stalk with lots of fresh crab on top. The oily oyster puree was a weird touch.
Grilled Black Cod from Bolinas seared ala plancha, green garlic, kohirabi and young turnips, steamed Tomales bay clams. The cod was cooked perfectly, the juicy clams were super fresh, in fact all ingredients were excellent. It was weird figuring out how the garlic connected with other elements on the plate though.
Slow Roasted Bison Sirloin, served rare, cabbage and parsnip, dried red cherries stewed in brown butter and juniper. Tender and flavorful meat with a hint of gaminess. Very sour cherry cauliflower combination. A little bit of parsnip puree that tasted gross. Fairly small portion size. We saw them cooking a huge piece, so they could have been more generous.
Apple-Huckleberry Tart, puff pastry, brown ale caramel, Montegomery english cheddar ice cream, thyme was so crispy and fragile, it was hard to chop up. Ice cream flavor was pretty mild which helped to mellow the sweet apple, huckleberry. Reminded us of dessert in France.
Kabocha Squash custard, licorice cream, drizzle of a root beer reducation, crunchy pumpkin seed streusel with almond flour, ginger snaps was an odd dessert but perfect for vegetable lovers. It seemed almost like a vegetable dish and not a dessert, with its strong squash flavors.
Mignardises – Absinthe Jellies. Sweet, nice flavor, and small bit of alcohol taste.
Black Barley Porridge with pork Jowl, cepes with apple cider, celery tendrils. The pork had tons of fat and just a little bit of meat. Barley was very chewy with its porchini mushroom base. A bizarre combination.
Commis had excellent, knowledgeable, and friendly service with no need to ask for refills and the like. The fixed meal price is in the same ballpark as other fine dining spots although quantities are shockingly on the low side. A good excuse to hit Fenton’s for ice cream. Commis serves up some complex dishes that Foodies will love and appreciate. Techniques, ingredients, and combinations are elaborate. Having been to several molecular gastronomy temples, we can see/taste the influence. Some ingredients in dishes seem odd and disjointed. People who like Coi in San Francisco, should visit Commis, although we prefer Coi far more. ‘Novice’ eaters may be suited better elsewhere. Note that they mostly do not answer the phone during business hours.
Michael Bauer recently reviewed Commis and also gave it 2.5 stars, causing an uproar in the foodie community. Frankly we would have to agree with his assessment on Commis.
Small wine list with moderate markup, bottles from $26, glasses from $10, $20 corkage on first, $30 for subsequent bottle.