Oct 192011
 

Since my first trip to the College Avenue area last year, I have been hearing about I-Squared, an “Iranian and Rustic Italian” restaurant. Iranian + Italian, of course, gives rise to its name, I^2. Several people have recommended it to me, but because it is a bit pricey, and because College Avenue is sort of far from where I live, I never paid a visit. But finally, last month I had the chance to try it out!

In the midst of all the other restaurants nearby on College, it actually doesn’t really stand out. The interior has a modernist/ minimalist feel, which I really like. The restaurant is small, but pretty empty on a Wednesday before 6pm..

Restaurant interior

Loved the S&P dishes, although they are pretty impractical as far as actual usage:

Salt & pepper and water carafe

Now, onto the food:

I Squared Salad: warm goat cheese, roasted corn, mushroom, avocado, mixed greens, tossed with aged balsamic vinegar, and extra virgin olive oil. $9

The salad was well-balanced, but I think the mound of goat cheese was a bit.. weird. I would have personally preferred for the cheese to be crumbled and distributed evenly throughout the salad already.

Steamed black mussels: with garlic, saffron, and wine. $7.

The mussels were OMG-worthy delicious. The mussels were nicely cooked, and more importantly, that garlic-saffron-wine sauce is magic. It also goes super well with the bread… I usually only eat one or two pieces of bread, but I think I finished half a loaf just dipping the bread in the saffron sauce.

Linguine Tuto Mare: New Zealand mussels, jumbo prawns, shell clams, parsely, garlic, saffron and peppercorns, served with Linguine and topped with three citrus zest and Parmeggiano Reggiano. $18.

This was from the “Italian” part of the menu, I suppose. I must say that this did not impress me very much – maybe it is because the previous steamed mussel appetizer was too hard to follow.

Now, I must apologize because I forgot to photograph the most recommended item on the menu: braised lamb shank. It was served with pearl pasta and steamed zucchini, topped with artichoke hearts, saffron, yellow split peas, tomatoes and a red  wine sauce. It was possibly the best lamb dish I have ever had – and that is saying something because my family eats a lot of lamb. I am so sorry that there is no photographic evidence of this delightful dish, but I assure you that I will order it again when I return.

Finally, for dessert:

Persian Delight: Baklava & saffron-pistachio ice cream. $7.

The baklava was not so memorable, but I did love the saffron-pistachio ice cream. It was not too sweet and ended the meal on a refreshing note.

I really enjoyed my experience here, and maybe it’s because there were not many customers, but we received very good service. I have heard complaints about the service here, so maybe we got lucky. Nevertheless, I would love to return for a special occasion of some sort, because the food here is definitely celebration-worthy!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I-Squared
5403 College Ave, Oakland, CA
510-658-4400

Mon-Sat     5-10pm (Happy Hour 5-6pm)

To-go boxes :)

Aug 112011
 

 

 

 

My stepfather, who was in the Bay Area for a conference, came to Berkeley to have dinner with me. We were wondering why there were so many people walking towards the CVS Pharmacy (corner of Shattuck & Rose) when we realized that it was the Bay Area food truck gathering, Off the Grid! As we are both food-lovers, we knew that we had to give this a try.

 

There were about 10 trucks or so, and the lines were ridiculously long at most of them. I forgot to take note of all the trucks that were there, but there were a few taco trucks, a sandwich truck or two, a couple of dessert trucks, and some  that I categorize as ‘gourmet food on wheels.’ The lines at most of the trucks were ridiculously long.

 

 

Top: The line for Streatery. Bottom: People sitting in the median/ lawn chairs, enjoying the food.

 

It took us a while to decide what we wanted to try. Finally, we chose Streatery, which served ‘peasant food’, and Liba Fafalel. At Streatery, I was deciding between the pulled pork sandwich or the braised oxtail over grits. My stepdad said, ‘How many times are you going to find a food truck serving oxtail?’ He was right, so oxtail & grits it was. Everyone also seemed to be ordering these root kettle chips, so we also ordered one of those.

Braised oxtail & grits, $9. House-made root kettle chips, $2

The braised oxtail was delicious. As in,  melts-in-your-mouth-it’s-so-tender delicious. Very flavorful without being overwhelming. I also loved the carrots and daikon on the side, cooked just enough to be soft, not mushy. The grits were creamy – a bit too creamy for my liking, actually. All the sauce from the oxtail, combined with the cream and butter made the grits too heavy. I liked the crunchy, thinly cut kettle chips a lot, although to be honest, they weren’t all that special. Perhaps because they didn’t go to well with the oxtail dish?

Moving on to the falafel truck. My stepdad already loves falafel, but his eyes really lit up when we saw the self-serve toppings bar. Roasted eggplant, red cabbage, cucumber salad, pickled onions, feta cheese, tomato ginger chutney, hummus, yogurt raita, rosemary peanuts (a MUST-try).. all house-made, all delicious.

 Regular falafel (in pita bread), $8

Falafels + toppings

We may have overdone it slightly with the toppings. Nonetheless, it was an awesome falafel sandwich. I would line up for this again any day.

Finally, I stopped by Cupkates to get my dessert fix. Unfortunately for you, my dear readers, I gobbled down my delicious S’mores cupcake before I remembered to take a photo :P

Anyway, Off the Grid was a lot of fun. I am really glad that I came across it, and I am even happier to discover that they will be at Berkeley every Wednesday evening! The big food truck gathering (probably three times the size of this) is in Fort Mason on Friday nights – I’d really love to go sometime. (Let me know if you are interested!)

Streatery
Website
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Liba
Website
Twitter

Cupkates
Website
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