Occupation: Health Coach and Nutrition Consultant
Favorite Restaurant: encuentro café and wine bar
Reviewed encuentro café and wine bar: Saturday, April 6, 2013
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.
Location: San Mateo
Favorite Restaurant: Aslam’s Rasoi
Reviewed encuentro café and wine bar: Saturday, April 13, 2013
encuentro is located in an up and coming part of the Jack London neighborhood of Oakland. Parking in the evening is easy and it’s conveniently located less than a block from the Oakland Amtrak station. The ambiance is loud but fun. Everyone is friendly, from the staff to the patrons.
Trying a vegetarian restaurant would not be first on my list however, encuentro has convinced me otherwise. My favorite was the bruschetta with roasted beets, goat cheese with a balsamic reduction and chives. The bruschetta was crispy and the sweet and savory flavors in every bite popped in your mouth and had me ordering seconds! The flavors were a great combination with the Kings Ridge Pinot Noir. This bruschetta is one of the best things I have ever tasted and I highly recommend it.
The quesadilla was recommended by a patron that had dined there the night before. He had loved it so much he returned the following evening, so I took his recommendation and ordered it. The quesadilla had cheddar cheese and a few whole beans (not too much), however it was very bland. What made the dish was the green salad that accompanied the quesadilla. The green salad was light, fresh, and crispy with one of the best champagne vinaigrettes I’ve ever tasted.
The vegan chocolate cake was very moist; one wouldn’t even realize it was vegan. Delicious!
My other favorite dish was the deviled eggs. The eggs are whipped, topped with paprika, and both sweet and savory. You can taste the sweet pickle juice in the recipe. It took me back to the way my mom used to make them.
One thing I recommend they should include in their menu is gluten-free bread; I was surprised that they don’t offer it.
Trying a vegetarian restaurant changed my mind about vegetarian food. I’ll be back!
Occupation: Horse Trainer
Location: San Francisco
Favorite Restaurant: Poesia
Reviewed encuentro café and wine bar: Saturday, April 13, 2013
encuentro was fantastic! The parking was easy and the restaurant is a really cool space with fun art and an interesting cork bar top. It is light and bright with outdoor seating and plate glass windows so you get to see folks walking past. It is small so even though we arrived at 6, without a reservation we were seated at the counter. The noise level was fine and the energy was great. The staff was super knowledgeable and attentive and happy to answer any questions.
We started with the Stomping Girl Pinot which I had never heard of. The wine was rich and the pour generous.
Next came the stuffed dates and macadamia nut paste. The dates were sweet and melted in your mouth and the macadamia nut paste was flavorful and the perfect pairing with the balsamic cherry reduction sauce that we wiped off the plate because we wanted to get every last bit of it.
The delicious salads were layered with texture and flavor. The citrus, chicory and avocado salad was a great mix of lettuces and had farm fresh lettuces, soft goat cheese and a great crunch of hazelnuts. The fresh citrus of the blood oranges played up the subtle champagne vinaigrette dressing.
The Dark Green salad was thoughtfully composed and one of the most artistic salads I have ever seen. It was fresh and soft kale, arugula with a hint of heat and surprise elements in every bite. The crunch of the fennel and the toasted pecans added a great texture and the roasted beets and apples combined with the French lentils made every bite a wonderful combination of flavors. The Little Gem Caesar was a treat with watermelon radishes providing a great crunch.
Our mains were great and we only ordered two to share because we were so tempted by the dessert selections that we wanted to save room. The Open Faced Tempeh Reuben was so authentic that you could have closed your eyes and thought you were actually eating a reuben made with meat. The braised red cabbage with apples was delicious and a brilliant substitution for the often bland coleslaw that can sometimes go with reubens. The bread was great and the portions huge.
The Hijiki sea cakes were a thing of beauty and served with a house made tartar sauce and a chili jam that had just the right amount of heat. The cakes stayed together and the flavors came together perfectly.
Desserts were masterful. The coconut vanilla pudding was light and smooth and had a delicate flavor. The raw apple raspberry pie with a pecan crumble crust was crunchy with a light and tasty soy whipped cream. The piece-de-resistance in my mind was the chocolate cake which was light and fluffy without being dry. It had a chocolate ganache frosting and we could not stop eating it. I finished it off with the last of my Pinot and it was a few bites of heaven. All in all it was a fabulous meal and a great experience with attention to every detail and I would go back anytime.