As we were seated, we were offered a small bowl of stones with two, small toasted cheese treats covered in ash to look like the small pebbles on which they were arranged. When I asked the server what was put before us, “A bowl of rocks, sir” was the reply. More Amuse than Bouche.
We scored two of the six seats at the counter and were able to watch the open kitchen prepare meals. It was a small kitchen with six chefs working in close quarters, moving through their stations in a choreographed dance. The restaurant seats 31 and all the action takes place in the kitchen but in almost complete silence. Norah Jones hums quietly over the hi-fi but from the kitchen it’s all hushed reverence of the locally acquired ingredients.
Each of the six dishes of the fixed price meal (our menu for the evening) were prepared in front of us. Arranged is a better word. Rhubarb confit was carefully plopped off a spoon with just the right flick of the wrist to give it the right consistency. One was slightly off leaving a trail dripped off to the side, the chef winced, started over again. Each chef had a pair of tweezers tucked into a breast pocket on their grey apron which they would whip out to arrange flower petals or lightly fried mint leafs just so. Each dish was a beauty to behold.
It was like eating ikebana arrangements.
It was a fantastic meal, well worth paying extra for the wine pairings that brought a wide variety of interesting local wines to go with each dish. After stints at Coi in San Francisco and Manresa in Los Gatos, head chef James Syhabout is back in his native Oakland (he went to Oakland Tech). Deservedly, Commis was awarded it’s first Michelin star after only four months of business and continues to attract people from across the Bay.
3859 Piedmont Avenue
Oakland, CA 94611