Amba's menu is chock-full of delectable vegetarian and kosher Middle Eastern-style eats made daily from fresh ingredients. Start off with a savory bowl of lentil soup ($6), or put hand shovels to work using a warm pita to scoop up freshly made hummus topped with chickpeas and a drizzle of olive oil ($8). Try out a filling falafel pita sandwich ($8), or opt for the hearty sabich pita sandwich, stuffed to the brim with fried eggplant, Israeli and cabbage salad, a hard-boiled egg, and tahini ($8). A variety of crisp green salads are available in full ($7–$9) or side ($4) sizes, and any three options—such as tabouleh, Israeli couscous, and baba gannouj—may be combined into one Transformers-style megadish ($9). Quench palates with a glass of house-made iced tea or fresh mint lemonade ($3 each), or balance your main mouth events with seasonal sides such as Judean flatbread, Greek spinach rice, and Babka cake.
A single weathervane squeaks as it sways in the breeze atop a peaked roof. Below it, a building dating back to 1948 houses Montclair Bistro amid fieldstone and brick pathways created in french provincial style. At 7 years old, future chef and owner Henry Vortriede began his cooking career by thumbing through culinary magazines and preparing meals for his family of eight. After going on to earn diplomas in food and wine at Le Cordon Bleu and L'Académie du Vin in Paris, France, he honed his skills as a chef in several French restaurants and created chocolate art showpieces at the Hyatt Regency in San Francisco.
Today, as owner and chef at Montclair Bistro, Vortriede draws on his culinary background to create a rotating menu that includes organic chicken scaloppini sourced from Petaluma Farms, duck-and-wild-mushroom quesadillas with brown-butter chestnuts, and thick, double-cut pork chops with sweet-potato-apple pancakes. Another menu of brunch fare combines traditional favorites such as scrambled eggs with black truffle and eggs benedict with lobster cake.
Vortriede's taste is on display not only on plates but also on the restaurant’s walls, where elegant painted canvases hang. Two hundred bottles of wine stand nearby on storage racks inside walk-in glass covered with the pressed noses of oenophiles. The decor, which includes dark carpeting and dark chairs, white-linen-covered tables, and flickering candles, helped earn the restaurant OpenTable's 2012 Diners' Choice award for romantic restaurant in East Bay.
Crogan's Montclair exudes Irish charm from its wraparound wood paneled bar to its continuous online countdown to St. Patrick's Day. Once you get past the imaginary leprechaun that guards the front door, you can settle in for a hearty plate of corned beef and cabbage or flaky, beer-battered fish and chips. For a more American experience, try a lamb shank that is so tender it falls off the bone or a 10-ounce shoulder steak served with a Jack Daniels-peppercorn sauce and garlic mashed potatoes. The restaurant's brunch options similarly stimulate taste buds but with an egg-based menu of omelets, eggs benedict, and french toast.
White Christmas lights and a chandelier cast warm glows on the hardwood floors and white-linen cloths in Viva Vocé Café’s small dining room. Behind this elegant scene, chefs in the kitchen craft a lineup of traditional Italian dishes using simple, seasonal ingredients, including locally grown produce and quality olive oils. Chefs whip up caprese salads, margherita pizzas, pastas, and seafood entrees, which adults can pair with wine while their kids enjoy a beverage such as fruit juice, milk, or sippy cups of espresso.
El Agavero’s chefs craft a menu of Mexican specialties with a focus on fresh cactus dishes. Loosen jaw hinges to welcome starters of sopitos ($8.95), whose quintet of sopes delivers a wallop of flavor on tortilla vessels. Super burrito famoso ($10.65) fills fists and tortillas with a savory mélange of vegetables and guacamole before being anointed with red enchilada sauce. Gastronomic gurus facilitate vegetarian munching by deneedling fresh grilled cactus ($9.95), setting aside their prickly arsenal for later use as toupees for balding pine trees. House margaritas wash down savory flavors, and desserts of house-made flan can act as a culinary quill filled with custardy ink for scrawling epicurean epilogues across tongues.
Marzano aims to bring a bit of southern Italy to Oakland, creating an environment that the San Francisco Chronicle says, "Has a vibe that's as embracing as you'll find at the beloved family-owned trattorias in Italy." Although Executive Chef Douglas Borkowski and his team roll their own papardelle pasta and cure bacon in-house, the real star of the menu seems to be the traditional stone oven. The wood-fueled flames roast meatballs, snap peas in brown butter, and Neapolitan–style pizzas laden with everything from aged provolone and spicy, fennel-tinged sausage to cremini mushrooms and truffle oil. The Zagat-rated restaurant's rustic charm extends beyond the menu to the intimately sized dining room's ambiance. Brick walls and exposed wooden rafters complement country-style chandeliers, which are built from the staves of French wine barrels, according to the Chronicle's review. Opposite the row of tables sits a massive bar stocked with housemade bitters, Italian wines, and half-completed Sudoku puzzles.