Sunday, January 27, 2008

O Chame

Over the years I have come full circle about my feelings on Berkeley. I must admit that I wasn't particularly pleased with the city during my first two years. However, in these past two years I've grown to truly appreciate Berkeley and all that it has to offer. My latest reason to be thankful for living in this eclectic and eccentric corner of the world was my recent visit to O Chame.

I had talked about going to this 4th street restaurant for over a year. I had read the excellent reviews and seen its place on Michael Bauer's Top 100 Bay Area Restaurants. Yet it took fate in the form of a class paper to finally get me there. Chef and owner David Vardy was kind enough to allow me an interview on himself and the history of O Chame. I found it incredibly insightful and intriguing. For instance, did you know that he uses a mixed form of Chinese and Japanese martial arts for all the knife work in his kitchen? Alright, I may extrapolating a bit there but the man is an accomplished martial artist, having trained for extensive periods in both Taiwan and Japan. How cool is that?

After hearing his story I simply had to try his food. So the next Friday my girlfriend and I set out on our quest. And what a journey it was.

The grilled eel was firm and fatty, contrasted well by the slightly bitter endive which, if I remember correctly, was splashed with a "citrusy" vinaigrette.

Luxurious slices of slightly seared tuna were accented with a creamy-spicy horseradish sauce and laid upon a bed of braised leeks.

My weakness for noodles appears once again and what a wonderful weakness it is. While I had planned to try the roasted pork tenderloin noodles which I had read so much about, I was torn by the roasted oysters with soba. When our server informed me that the oysters were on the menu for a limited time, the deal was sealed. Briny and delicious, the oysters paired with the fish broth evoked both comfort and an essence of the sea.

My girlfriend chose the grilled skirt steak with spinach, portobella mushroom and edammame for her entree. Having the portobella and the skirt steak together was like enjoying steak two different ways or twice altogether. Cooked to medium rare and served along with the spinach, edammame and broth, the steak managed to be substantial but not to the point where one feels a glutton after. Indeed it was a dish that I could eat everyday and not feel guilty about it. Come to think about it however, I would probably say the same for all of the dishes we had. I have a serious and urgent need to learn how to cook Japanese food.

We finished our evening of excess with a trio of desserts. On the left are poached bosc pears with huckleberries. Yes yes, now you all know where the inspiration for my last post came from. Although the poaching liquid here was much lighter than my red wine and I really enjoyed the addition of the huckleberries. On the right are two divine scoops of caramel balsamic gelato. I couldn't be sure at the time and but I have a sneaking suspicion that there's cream cheese in the gelato. Whatever it was, I loved it. By the time I tasted the pears and the gelato my eyes had glazed over and I had a permanent silly grin affixed on my face. I was in an awesome place, fully enjoying my food high. The third dish on the top was a sherry custard. It was light and fragile but it's flavor was bold, exuding sherry aroma.

We didn't speak much on our drive home. We mostly just sat there staring cockeyed and grinning idiotically with delight. I can remember my girlfriend saying one thing, "That was the best meal I've had in a long time." All I could do was nod in agreement.

O Chame
1830 Fourth St. (at Hearst)
Berkeley, CA


Zowie said...

My favorite post so far!

The oysters looked amazzzzzing and I liked the little anecdotes about Vardy and martial arts.

Can we go soon. Please.

Love_at_first_bite said...

Fo sho homegirl! Maybe Monday night of next week. I think that Vardy cooks that night. I'll double check. Does that work for you?