We'd been meaning to go to Citron for a long time, as it's one of the best-rated restaurants in our part of the East Bay. However, it is expensive and we've been watching our finances. Tonight we finally had an excuse (some rather good news) so I decided to make a reservation.
I called the restaurant at around 3 PM on a Friday, and was able to get a table inside at 8:30 PM. The people taking the reservation were very pleasant and I was certainly happy to get a table.
We got there pretty much on time. Unfortunately our table was not ready (some guests that had overstayed) so they offered us the possibility of waiting or taking a less desirable table. We decided to wait at the "bar". When our table did not materialize after a few minutes (the other guests were lingering over coffee), we were invited to take a table at the back deck - which proved to be a very pleasant choice.
Citron's ambiance is pretty nice, and pretty much in line with that of similar restaurants: a rather small dining-room, dim lights and subtle decor. The "bar", at the back of the front dining room, has three small bar marble tables. When we got there it was empty, and it's a pretty good place to wait while sipping a drink. The deck in the back is very pleasant with redwood walls and floors and gorgeous flowers on one side. It's heated by some very powerful heat lamps, and tonight it was pleasantly toasty in there.
The menu was pretty short, there were 6 or 7 appetizers and 5 or 6 entries. Most of the entries were vegetable or seafood based, so none of them looked particularly appetizing to me (I don't eat vegetables and I'm not a great fan of seafood). Mike, however, ordered the hot smoked king salmon ($8.50). He found it to be very good, just as smoked salmon should be, and particularly enjoyed the very creamy pesto-tasting sauce that came with it. I tried it with bread and it was delicious. This dish came with very thin asparagus but as he's no asparagus fan, he had no opinion on them.
For dinner I chose the grilled lamb sirloin au jus with a potato gratin ($26), while Mike ordered the "petrale sole a la poele" which came with lobster ($28). Other choices included some other fish, quail (or some other game bird), gnocci and steak. Most entrees where pretty pricy, they seemed to average about $26. My lamb was disappointing. For one, it was lukewarm - I tend to like my food a tad hotter. It was very tender and nicely cooked, but it lacked complexity and flavor. A little bit of salt helped, but not much. The accompanying sauce was OK, but again, it needed depth or spice or something. I did not care for the potato gratin, but that might be my vegetable-aversion again. On the plus side, while not great, the dish was pleasant enough and it was a very well sized portion. I was still hungry enough for dessert when I finished, but not hungry enough to want any more lamb.
Mike enjoyed his fish very much. He particularly liked the crispy layer outer layer formed by the spices. He would order it again.
Citron offers a pretty good wine list, and a good selection of wines by the glass, including 5 reads (two Syras, a Pinot Noir, a Merlot and a Bordeaux). I'm a cabernet sauvignon person, so I ordered the very expensive '96 Dominus Bordeaux ($12.50 for a tasting, $25 for a full glass - I didn't look at the prices before I ordered, otherwise I probably wouldn't have.) The wine was OK, but not worth $25 a glass.
The dessert list was heavy on fruity concoctions (all for $7). We chose the chocolate sacher torte with roasted apricot jam filling. The cake was good, the apricot filling too sweet for my taste.
Service, however, was excellent. The waiters were cordial and helpful without being in the least overbearing.
All in all, we had a very pleasant experience with somewhat disappointing food. We probably won't go back very soon, with though we may give it another chance.
The whole meal, after tax and tip, came to about $125.
5484 College Ave.
Oakland, CA 94618