SATURDAY DATE NIGHT: May 7, 2011 @ 8PM
Imagine tumbleweeds rolling in front of Camino and it could easily be a venue for the wild, wild West.
However, instead of cowboys slinging pistols and sitting at a rowdy bar where a misunderstandings were often settled by a duel, and women of ill-repute serving the above, Camino is a fine-dining restaurant.
On the list for Top 100 Bay Area Restaurant..........Camino's decor is meant to trick you that you are not having dinner in Oakland anymore but you have been transported to New Mexico. Heavy cast-iron chandeliers are suspended on the high-ceilings. The place is dimmed and lit by Nacho Libre candles lining the brick walls.
The heavy dark wood tables are long and communal-each comfortably sits about 24. Even the chairs were the heavy, mission-style ones. The open brick kitchen with big open fire added to the allure of the place. In other words, Camino is attractive, rugged yet elegant.
A tip-off that you did not time-travel to the 1800s or took a flight to the Southwest in fugue state is Camino's cuisine. Camino (from the Spanish word camino meaning "path"), which by just looking at the name, made me think that I will be feasting on Latin, Tex-Mex or Spanish cuisine but it is anything but. Camino boasts of the fresh and organic New American fare. The menu was the shortest one I have seen: just 3 main entree selections. Our server explained to us that their aim is to magnify the flavors of the food, therefore, focusing all their energies on ingredients that are available at the moment.
After seducing our sense of sight, what came next was shocking our sense of taste and smell with the wonderful dishes placed before us:
FREEDOM $6: A cold non-alcoholic oolong tea with lemon, sorrel and gum syrup: Tangy, light and refreshing.
APPLE BRANDY $9: Sweet, strong but still feminine. No hairgrowth on my back after sipping on this drink. :)
RICOTTA & ANCHOVY TOASTS $4: 2 generous slices of crispy toasts. The ricotta was light but complimented the nicely salty anchovies. I will try to copy this at home.
OYSTERS ON 1/2 SHELL W/ CHILI AND LIME ($6.50): Refreshing, multi-flavored and fresh.
BLOOD ORANGE SALAD W/ PUREED WHITE BEANS AND CRISP $10: A tiny plate but packed with multi-dimensional flavors and textures. Meant to refresh your palate for the main meal.
GRILLED PORK LOIN AND SHOULDER braised with milk, sage and lemon; with peas and polenta $26: My fiance described this like eating carnitas--very tender and moist. I tasted the polenta. The freshness of the corn just wowed my palate. Def freshly house-made!
WOOD-ROASTED ARTICHOKES & TRUMPET MUSHROOMS
with Belgian endive and an egg cooked by the fire $ 22; One bite and the flavors exploded in my mouth! The earthiness of the mushrooms were magnified a 100 times! The salt brought out the flavors of the veggies and the perfectly cooked runny egg.
HAZELNUT TORTE W/ ORANGE & WHIPPED CREAM: I was comfortably happy and full, and wanting to continue to savor my meal but my fiance insisted. The torte was a nice choice to end the meal on a sweet note. Not too sweet, not dry, just right.
What prevented me from giving Camino 5 stars despite the almost amazing dining experience was the value. Somehow Camio's cuisine reminds me of Wayfare Tavern in SF in terms of the cuisine and ambiance. However, price-wise the two are competitive but Wayfare Tavern's portions are a lot bigger than Camino's. Case in point, I had the mushrooms at WF for $8 as a side dish. At Camino, as a main dish and almost exact portion, $22! And not to mention on that evening Chef Tyler Florence cooked my mushrooms at Wayfare Tavern!
Dining at Camino is a feast for the eyes and the palate. It will awaken your senses. The attention to details was evident from the crusty bread with butter and seasalt to the friendly attentive service. The portions were small but adequate enough and delicious! Definitely a sexy dinner!
TAB: $122 including tax and 20% tip
Foodie Girl's Rating: 4.5 Stars
0 Star: Never again!!! These people should not be in business.
1 Star: Chalk it to bad experience. Live and learn.
2 Stars: Some are good. Some are okay. Some are bad.
3 Stars: Like! I will return!
4 Stars: Love! I will be dreaming of you at night!
5 Stars: Perfection (or close to!)