• Amuse Bouche - Cheese Cookie
  • Course #1: Pacific Beach Scallops
  • Course #2: Goats Milk and Honey
  • Course #3: Poached Farm Egg Yolk
  • Course #4: Grilled Cod
  • Course #5: Potato
  • Course #6: Roasted Duck
  • Course #7: Rosemary Soda
  • Course #8: Pistachio Cake
  • Mignardises

Date Visited: October 12, 2012
Price$75 for 8 Course Tasting Menu

*Commis is a 2012 1-Star Michelin Restaurant

Front Door

Commis has a special place in my heart. It is located in a tiny space on Piedmont Ave in Oakland, CA. It is the only Michelin Star in the East Bay area where I grew up and reside today. The chef-owner, James Syhabout (pronounced see-hah-boot), opened the doors at Commis in 2009 after a stint as the Chef de Cuisine at Manresa. He previously spent his time in some of the best kitchens across the world – Fat Duck, Mugaritz, El Bulli, Alkimia, and helped open Coi in San Francisco with Daniel Patterson. It was just a matter of time before he rose to the ranks of becoming a great chef with someone of his credentials. Commis was also the first restaurant that Syhabout opened before starting a more casual place called Hawker Fare. We still await his next restaurant, Box and Bells.

Grace and I visited Commis for her birthday dinner in October of 2012.  Upon first walking into the restaurant, I noticed that the chefs, including Syhabout, were wearing blue aprons. This has to do with the definition of ‘Commis’, which is a trainee chef or an apprentice, and a blue apron is the typical attire worn by a commis. You get a general feeling that there is a sense of continual learning and improvement yearned by the team. They don’t settle for less. I also want to add that the service here is top-notch and friendly; we were more than 30 minutes late for our reservation and experienced no hiccups.

Grace and Jason outside Commis

Grace and Jason outside Commis

Mignardises
Mignardises
Tabletop

Tabletop

There is a very intimate setting inside the 30-seater restaurant. The design is minimal all-around; no artwork and black tile floors. The focus is on the plates of food to come with attention drawn from the stainless open kitchen. We were there to eat and no one was going to distract us from that.  There are also 6 chef’s counter seats, which I wasn’t able to snag when we went. I highly recommend the counter seats upon making a reservation to see the action up-close and personal.

Bread and Butter

Bread and Butter

Amuse Bouche

Amuse Bouche

Amuse Bouche – Cheese Cookie

We started off the evening with a Parmesan cheese ash cookie amuse bouche. Disguised in a bowl of rocks, the 4 pieces were cleverly ornamented with cilantro. The visual presentation was stunning.

Course #1: Pacific Beach Scallops

Course #1: Pacific Beach Scallops

Course #1: Pacific Beach Scallops with apple and parsley, sour cream and patty leaf herb

The first course was served in a shell. All it took was one bite and I could taste all the different subtle flavors.

Course #2: Goats Milk and Honey

Course #2: Goats Milk and Honey

Course #2: Goats Milk and Honey – Candy cap mushrooms with sunchokes and yarrow

Sweet and savory. The goat’s milk had a smooth and creamy texture. There was just enough honey to give it a mild sweetness. The mushrooms, sunchokes, and yarrow toppings had a nice crispy contrast above the milky texture.

Course #3: Poached Farm Egg Yolk

Course #3: Poached Farm Egg Yolk with alliums, smoked dates and malt

My favorite course of the night was served in a terracotta bowl. It is rare to see an egg this perfectly made. After taking a scoop, I noticed that the smoked date puree was covered underneath at the base. All the pieces worked in unison from a smooth surface punctuated by the crunchiness of the granola on the side.

Course #4: Grilled Cod

Course #4: Grilled Cod

Course #4: Grilled Cod in emulsified clam juice with beans, caramelized shallot and tarragon

I thought the cod could have tasted better, but it probably stemmed from the fact that I am not a fan of clam juice. It was barely cooked and had a flaky top, which I thought was good, and had the right balance to the fresh vegetable flavors.

Course #5: Potato
Course #5: Potato
Course #5: Potato

Course #5: Potato with fermented black garlic and escarole leaves with brown butter

Very well done. Borderline molecular gastronomy. I finished the potato puree so quickly that it left me wanting more.

Course #6: Duck

Course #6: Duck

Course #6: Duck roasted on the bone, charcoal duck fat with jujubes and crisp nettles

The duck was aged for 2 weeks and then smoked on the bone. It had so much flavor and was a bit chewy. I thought it was fantastic.

Course #7: Rosemary Soda

Course #7: Rosemary Soda with a concord grape sorbet

Always refreshing to have a palate cleanser before the dessert course. This course was a quick one-shot drink that cooled down the palate. I’m a big fan of sodas or juices as part of tasting menus.

Course #8: Pistachio Cake

Course #8: Pistachio Cake

Course #8: Pistachio Cake with poached pear, frozen chicory tea with crème fraîche

The flavors of the dessert course was centered around fruit. A chill ran down my spine when I took a bite into the poached pear, partly due to the colder temperature of the dish. 

Mignardises
Mignardises
Mignardises

Mignardises

Upon the end of the meal, we were given a set of bourbon marshmallow mignardises and cups of mint chocolate pudding.

Chef Counter

Chef James Syhabout

Oakland’s culinary scene is booming thanks to Syhabout and other talented chefs. Without doing any research on Commis, you would’ve never known that the humble man pictured above was the chef-owner of Commis. He blends in with his team and that shows a lot about the culture of a place. Based on other bloggers’ reviews of Commis, I can tell that the menu changes very frequently.

Tips:
1) There is no signage outside. To find the place, you’ll need to look at the number on the door.
2) When making reservations, ask for a counter seat in front of the open kitchen.
3) No flash photography allowed. Of course, you should never use flash in a fine dining institution.

Yelp Review: http://www.yelp.com/biz/commis-oakland-2
4.5 out of 5 stars. 450+ reviews.

Address:
3859 Piedmont Ave
(between Rio Vista Ave & Montell St)
Oakland, CA 94611 (map)
Tel: (510) 653-3902

Hours:
Wed-Thu 5:30 pm – 9 pm
Fri-Sat 5:30 pm – 9:30 pm
Sun 5 pm – 9 pm