In honor of World Vegetarian Day, I thought I’d post a copy of my review from the recent episode of “Check Please! Bay Area.” You can see all three reviews HERE or watch the whole episode below!
encuentro café and wine bar creates flavorful, nourishing and delicious vegetarian and vegan food in an atmosphere that is inviting and cozy. The food is always fresh and inventive, the wine list options are well-considered, and the wait staff is ready to answer any questions or offer suggestions. encuentro means “to meet, gather, encounter” and I think that is a perfect description of this charming Oakland dining experience.
Since much of the food is local and organic, their menu changes with the seasons. In general they serve small bites, salads, bruschetta, and then a variety of smaller meals ranging from inventive sandwiches to fresh takes on dishes like gnocchi, quesadillas or polenta. The menu is always interesting and lovingly prepared and really celebrates the quality and flavor of seasonal foods. They also have amazing desserts, some of which are dairy-free, like tiramisu, hazelnut pudding and their amazing chocolate cake.
For my most recent visit, I went there to celebrate my birthday with my husband and three friends. It was so much fun to order so many different foods and share them. The flavors of the food are really highlighted through creative pairings like dates with macadamia nut pate and walnut honey for a lovely appetizer or the bruschetta with roasted beets, hazelnuts, macadamia nut “cheese” and golden balsamic reduction. Each of the dishes offered something both surprising and comforting in their tastes, combining earthy flavors with sweet and spicy in an excellent balance. The dark green salad with kale, arugula, roasted beets, and cashew cheese was perfectly dressed and rich without being heavy; it was also well-plated in a deconstructed style that made sharing a great experience.
Everything in the restaurant is vegetarian and many of the plates can be made vegan. However, rather than finding replacements for meat, encuentro selects quality foods in delicious combinations that really celebrate the wonders and flavor of the food. Since it is also a wine bar, the well-thought out and varied wine list also needs to be acknowledged. One of my favorite things to do is to get the wine flight because you can choose which three wines you want from the list, making it a great way to try new wines or pair different wines with different small plates.
encuentro has managed to make its small location feel open and welcoming with large windows, modern yet cozy eco-friendly décor, and delightful touches like fresh flowers on the tables. It is a great place to make an evening out of, to share food and wine and conversation for hours, or also a good place to come in for a salad, bruschetta and glass of wine. This place can be a special occasion destination or a light meal before or after a show in Jack London.
By the way, if you have ever thought of applying to be on the show, I highly recommend it. I had a wonderful experience. Leslie Sbrocco and the entire staff at KQED were so lovely, gracious and welcoming.
I also want to give a great bow of thanks to my fellow guests that day on the show–Jack the longshoreman and Jill the horse trainer. I had a really great day with you!
The reviews of encuentro start around 18:30!