Update January 2005: Our friends Regina and Boris gave us a gift certificate to Bay Wolf for Christmas, and we took advantage of it one Friday night in early January. This time when I made the reservation, I specifically asked to not be seated anywhere near children and indeed, we got a table in an adult-only section. It was a nice room, in the understated manner of many similar restaurants in the area.
For an appetizer, I ordered a duck salad. I liked the crisp duck but was not so fond of the large leaves of mixed greens, which should have had their stems trimmed. Mike had a soup (might have been lentil) which he wasn't crazy about. He was much happier about the cassoulet he had as his main entree. He liked the smokey taste of the meats and would definitely order it again. I was also quite pleased with my braised short ribs, they were tender (of course!) and had a hearty, flavorful sauce. Nothing on the dessert menu took our fancy so we got some Ben & Jerry's on the way home.
Oh, how time goes by! Michaela is now 16-month old and finally baby sittable! I don't know how long this will last, but she’s now in her playful/wonderful/funny/loving/perfect angel, “you can leave me with anyone and I’ll play” stage. This means that we can finally go out - just the two of us - a very rare treat in recent months.
For our first romantic outing in many, many months, we decided to go to an old favorite, Bay Wolf. Mike got me the cookbook a couple of years ago and I've spent almost as much time cooking from it as longingly looking at those recipes that are a tad complicated for my cooking skills (or patience!). So yes, I've been wanting to go back there for a while.
I called on Tuesday afternoon (Aug. 2003) and was able to secure a table for 7:30 pm. Unfortunately, it wasn't a particularly good table. Even though it was just the two of us (sans baby!), we were exiled to what seems to be the family wing of the restaurant, though the room was half empty, we were seated within a few inches of a family (parents, grandparents and kids) celebrating a special date, and soon another family (with a 2-year-old!) joined us in our Siberia. I imagine that the unfortunate sitting arrangements had to do with the last-minute aspect of my reservation, and not just with some instant dislike that the maitre-d may have taken to us, but it would have been nice if they had warned me of the unavailability of decent tables when I called to make the reservation.
Still, even if romance was not to be (it’s kind of hard to be romantic or sexy within ear-shot of a 10-year-old), we could at least have a relaxing dinner and that it was. Indeed, seeing the poor parents of the 2-year-old trying to negotiate dinner while dealing with the kid made us appreciate our time away all the more.
Even if the location was not ideal, service was very good and professional. The waiter answered our questions and was good in bringing us extra bread when needed and making sure our water glasses were full. Dishes came at a good pace so that we never felt we were waiting or being hurried.
The bread and butter were pretty good and we ate quite a lot of it. As an appetizer we ordered the “Duck liver flan with pickled onions and grilled bread” ($9.25), we had had this dish before and it was pretty much as I remembered - a very light, airy yet flavorful paté. The accompanying grilled bread was very good as well.
I ordered the “Liberty Ranch duck with blackberry red wine sauce and double corn pudding” ($22.5) for my entree and Mike had the “Mar y Montana grilled lobster, chicken, hazelnuts, chocolate and basil, with saffron rice and baby bok choy” ($24.00). Our dishes were fine, but did not meet the high expectations we had for Bay Wolf. My duck was lukewarm, which suggested to me that it had been sitting a while before it was brought to me. It was also a bit dry and overcooked, but it did have a wonderful flavor. The accompanying blackberry-red wine sauce was excellent, and I would have enjoyed the dish more if the chef had not been so stingy with it. I also liked the double corn pudding; it was incredibly light and just a little bit sweet, I think it went very well with the dish.
Mike liked the lobster but he wasn't too crazy about the chicken or the sauce, he thought it lacked flavor.
We were both happier with our desserts. I had the “Dark chocolate pistachio tart with whipped cream, creme anglaise and cocoa sauce” ($7.00) and it was just as good as it sounded. The flavors were intense without being overly sweet and I couldn't have been happier with it. Mike had the “Blackberry sherbet with lime sorbet and vanilla shortbread” ($6.00) and while he found both the blackberry sherbet and the shortbread to be rather unremarkable, he went wild over the lime sorbet. I tried it too and I have to admit it was very good, very intense and sour but hitting just the right note. I'm thinking of getting an ice cream maker and attempting to make it myself.
All in all we had a very good evening, even if our expectations weren't met, and we'll probably give Bay Wolf another chance, just not on a Tuesday night.
Bay Wolf Restaurant
3853 Piedmont Ave.
(at Rio Vista)
Oakland, CA 94611
Some recipes from Bay Wolf Old Review