Bourbon & Beef extensive guide to Berkeley and San Francisco area, plus inspiring articles about trips around the world

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OAKLAND ●Restaurants

Bourbon & Beef
  5634 College Ave./Keith Ave., Rockridge.  Featuring a dark, earth-toned clubby atmosphere—updated with comfortable tables and chairs along one wall, and with a long bar and high communal tables along the other—this smallish venue features a Spanish-Mexican tapas menu with other things mixed in.  We started with Sopa de Langosta (lobster bisque with corn flan, lime cream, and caviar), which had no lobster chunks or detectible caviar, but I loved the smoky flat bread triangles served with it.  We shared fish and chips that were over-battered nuggets of salmon with french fries instead of chips, but I loved the jicama slaw that came with it and would have liked extra.  What came next--pork belly and shrimp taquitos—made me want to return for more.  The saucy toppings are stellar, and filling choices include carne asada, salmon, chorizo, Kobe short ribs, chicken, and veggies.  If ordered alone, three will likely do it.  Promising dinner items include Carne de Res con Papas (grilled rib-eye steak with roasted shishito peppers and potatoes topped with chimichurri sauce and a shallot-bourbon demi glaze), Torta de Camarónes (shrimp cakes topped with coconut-mango chutney), and paella with giant Tasmanian prawns and chorizo.  My companion and I went for a sweet ending—she delighted in the kitchen’s signature crème brulee-rice pudding with bourbon and Bing cherries, and I blissed out with a hot fudge sundae with fresh whipped cream.  Weekend brunch brings on huevos rancheros and pan dulce (baked French toast stuffed with jalapeño sweet cream and served with strawberries, caramelized plantains, and rum whipped cream).  Cocktails are a specialty and twenty-plus bourbons are poured, but I sipped happily on a tasty, fruity deep-burgundy sangria, while my companion nursed a virgin mojito so she could get some work done after. 

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travel writer Carole Terwilliger Meyers