Known for their successful takeover of Hudson Bay Café, I Squared proprietors Sadri Madjlessi and Tanya Anderson partner with executive chef Nory Madjlessi to combine traditional Iranian and Italian fare into one bold menu. Chef Nory honed his Italian culinary skills under Giovanni LoCoco at LoCoco's and absorbed knowledge of traditional Iranian recipes and cooking techniques from his mother. Rather than attempting traditional fusion fare, Chef Nory aims to stay true to the flavors of both countries, filling I Squared's ever-changing menu with Iranian staples such as fesenjoon—a stew of chicken, walnuts, and saffron served over basmati rice—as well as Italian classics, such as eggplant parmigiana. Using local and sustainable ingredients when possible, Chef Nory preps his signature lamb-stuffed cabbage wraps as patrons peek in the open kitchen from their places at minimalist butcher-block-topped tables. A stainless-steel-topped bar holds a beginner's alchemy kit and the makings of specialty and dessert cocktails along with extensive wine and beer offerings.
The friendly chefs and servers at Red Sea Restaurant & Bar unite families and friends over tasty, shareable meals of East African cuisine. For more than two decades, the family-run enterprise has celebrated the culinary culture of Eritrea and Ethiopia with flavorful lamb and beef stews, sumptuous vegetarian dishes, and regular lectures on ancient Axum. As the exotic aromas of spiced meat and rich veggie stews waft through the restaurant, diners sup on spongy injera flatbread loaves or take in fresh air in the charming sidewalk seating area.
The stout, mottled brick front and black and white striped awning of BFC Cajun Seafood's storefront conceal the carefully crafted and spicy Cajun fare waiting inside. Bone-in catfish fillets come on sandwiches or as part of fried-fish plates sporting rich batter with an extra crunch that frequently alarms local seismologists. Beneath the glittering shell of a glass counter, an array of fresh-baked homemade pies and cakes divest themselves of single slices or travel whole to patrons' homes packaged in carry-out orders.
Executive Chef Jason Scott and his staff of culinary gurus add colorful flourishes of sauce to deftly plate progressive American cuisine at Monaghan's On the Hill. A bouquet of aromas drifts from the golden crusts of chicken pot pie, swirling past a fireplace that warms hands and unrolled silverware. During warmer months, the strains of live Latin jazz, blues, and rock on the outdoor patio serve as a melodic backdrop to the syncopated click of billiard balls on expanses of green felt.
At Organic Soul Live in Oakland's Chinatown, conventional restaurant elements are upstaged by Elijah Joy and his flavorful, ever-changing menu of vegan food. Currently, Organic Soul Live's menu features shiitake bacon, dairy-free mac 'n' cheese, and a tofu-of-the-day, which changes daily and is made from tofu.
The Bay Leaf Restaurant's Dixie-inspired chefs craft a menu of authentic Southern spreads woven from fresh ingredients and made-from-scratch sauces. Cheesy bread kick-starts meals, challenging tandems to tag-team a hunk of sourdough covered in garlic butter, bacon bits, and a garish wrestling unitard. Chefs festoon jambalaya with bite-sized bits of shrimp, crawfish, and andouille sausage and pack the jerk chicken with enough caribbean spice to magnetically attract any 15th century explorer within a 5-mile radius. Send taste-buds on a culinary Baedeker of Jamaica with a platter of gravy-coated oxtails served alongside fried cabbage, or dispense with utensils and hand-deliver the deep-fried oyster po boy to awaiting chompers. A quartet of desserts, including peach cobbler and pound cake, finishes meals on a sweet note.