Two long tables that seat about 40 guests Harry Potter-style, line the walls of Camino in Oakland. These dramatic slabs of wood sum up the restaurant itself - friendly and warm. Adding to the drama are two stone grills at the back of the restaurant in full view of the guests and four huge chandaliers laced with bay leaves. The rustic atmosphere reflects the menu (that changes daily) which features simple and easy-to-understand ingredients and descriptions.
I went to Camino as a party of four. Sitting nestled between strangers allowed for a very unpretentious experience, reminding me a little bit of izakayas back in Tokyo. The food, however, was definitely not reminding me of an izakaya. Being a party of four was great for trying various starters. In fact, I would like to go back to Camino with a bigger party sometime so I can experience the entire starters menu...
Our starters were:
Blood orange, Oro Blanco, grapefruit and faro with cauliflower
Probably my favorite starter since it was really delicate and well thought out. The citrus added a subtle depth that complimented the otherwise buttery cauliflower. California cuisine at its best.
Fried smelt with arugula salad, beets and herb mayonnaise
The beets were the best part of this dish. I sometimes find beets to be too sweet - these were conservative in their sweetness. Give me some time with smelt, I still can not figure these babies out.
Rock shrimp soup
Very savory. That white stuff floating on the top, most probably cheese, was the star of this dish.
Pork feet nuggets and pork head slices
Melt in your mouth nuggets were amazing, but a little heavy for a starter. I would have liked to be eating these at a bar instead.
Camino also serves complimentary bread, delicious butter and mineral water (gas and no gas).
We all ended up getting the duck as our main entree which was perfection.
On the upper left side of the plate were super sweet cooked carrots of several hues (orange, yellow and cream). Au gratin potatoes were placed on the top of the plate. These were perfectly cooked thin slices of potato in about four layers. Between each medallion was a light cream sauce. The greens are peeking out from the grilled duck on the right side of the plate. This combination of greens had the texture of cabbage but the bitter flavor of kale. The main ingredient, duck came in two styles. On the right side is a piece of grilled duck leg. The buttery layers of duck melted in my mouth after experiencing a slight crunch from the top skin layer. On the left side were four rare slices of steak-style duck. The texture was reminiscent of roast beef, giving off a really satisfying feeling of indulging in red meat, yet without the super heaviness of beef. The concept of the dish was like a really gourmet Thanksgiving dinner. Being a fan of Thanksgiving, this was a really satisfying plate.
And dessert was yet another adventure at Camino. Luckily we all had to satisfy our sweet tooth, so we decided to share three desserts amongst the four of us.
Apple and quince tart with brandy cream
Perfect crunch with this tart. I loved how there wasn't much of anything besides apple and a flaky crust.
Hazelnut ice-cream with chocolate
Simply hazelnut. And with shaved chocolate, this dish delivered exactly what it claimed to be - hazelnuts and chocolate.
Wood oven-roasted prunes with red wine and vanilla ice cream
This was the star of the show for me. It reminded me of Cherries Jubilee (an all-time favorite of mine). The vanilla ice-cream wasn't too in-your-face to make room for the sweet prunes. The color of the red wine was gorgeous too.
A truly photogenic meal and atmosphere, Camino will definitely be on the list for places to celebrate a fancy occasion. This gem is definitely somewhere I'd like to go for a couple of cocktails in the near future as well.
3917 Grand Avenue