Camino, Oakland

Having visited Tartine on a recommendation and been thoroughly impressed, my friends and I were given another California restaurant suggestion to try and squeeze into our trip. This time Camino was our destination. Heading up there late on a Sunday we were slightly worried it might be closing up or there’d be no one else in there. When we got there however it was really buzzing. A large dining room done out in a rustic-industrial style, all over looked by the main feature: a huge wood burning oven in the open kitchen at the back. With soft lighting and a laid back atmosphere this is a great setting for a social gathering or a date.


Smoky quail with roasted apples, sauerkraut and horseradish

A platter of rustic sourdough bread arrived at our table with a big wedge of butter for us to get tucked into before our starters arrived. I kicked things off with the quail. I was surprised to see this on a menu in America, I’m not sure why, I guess living in the Essex countryside I just associate game with being a very British thing. The bird was chopped up into breast meat, legs etc and had so much delicious meat on it with perfectly crispy skin. I’m not usually a huge fan of fruit in savoury dishes but the hot roasted apples balanced well with the sharpness of the sauerkraut and the whole dish came together perfectly.

Also on the menu were oven baked oysters. I know oysters are a delicacy but I really can’t get my head round necking back raw oysters as is the traditional way, however in America you quite often see them on the menu cooked so I gave it a go and tried one. It was really tasty and accompanied by a lovely fresh salad.


Wood oven baked oysters with absinthe, breadcrumbs and Belgian endive-celery salad

California is a great place for fresh fish and seafood so I chose the sea bass for my main course. I’ve never seen such a huge, meaty fillet of sea bass in my life, the ones we get at home are so small this was a real treat. It came served in an extremely tasty broth littered with crunchy veg adding texture. A very well rounded fish dish.

 


Grilled local white sea bass with turnips, radishes, cilantro and saffron broth

New York steak was more than just a steak, with a chunk of so soft it was falling apart brisket beef alongside the juicy steak you really got more than you bargained for… in a good way. Both cuts were melt in the mouth delicious and the bean stew infused with the meaty flavours was a great accompaniment.


Grilled New York steak and slow-cooked shoulder with fresh shell beans, Savoy cabbage and anchovy

 

Even though I was getting full, judging by how good the first two courses were, I just had to try dessert. There was a tempting selection, as you can see below, but I opted for the chocolate & walnut cake. Soaked in some sort of booze this had a really Christmassy flavour and sort of reminded me of a chocolatey Christmas cake, without the fruit. For a decent sized lump of cake this wasn’t too heavy either.

 


Chocolate walnut cake with crème anglaise


Tunisian orange cake with figs and yoghurt


Red wine poached pear with crème anglaise

One of the unique features I love about Camino is that they change their menu daily so you know you’re getting the freshest food and it’s quite exciting that the chefs are coming up with new menus depending on their supplies, what’s available and what’s in season. This would be great if Camino was a regular haunt as you’d never get bored of the same old dishes on repeat. I wish more restaurants would have the guts to do this with their menus, it injects excitement into the dinner and makes it feel a bit more special as you’re getting a one off experience every time.

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