Oakland’s highly anticipated Snail Bar opens with natural wine and avant-garde small plates

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The highly anticipated Snail Bar is finally ready to welcome patrons with a new location on the edge of Temescal in Oakland. The trendy natural wine bar, which opens on July 3, will offer fun and carefully prepared small plates, influenced by the experience of chef-turned-oenophile Andres Giraldo Florez working in avant-garde Michelin-starred restaurants.

Snail Bar debuted last fall when it opened at the back of the Classic Cars West hybrid bar / beer garden / car dealership in Oakland’s Uptown Arts District, but it closed after just three days. due to licensing issues. “It was a real disappointment, but at the end of the day everything happens for a reason,” says Florez. He persevered, searched for space, and within months had the keys to the old Stay Gold Deli on Shattuck in Oakland.

Florez cut his teeth working at Modernist restaurants like Mugaritz in San Sebastian, Spain, and the closed WD-50 in New York City, as well as the Focus-Centered Season in San Francisco. But the real inspiration behind Snail Bar is their love of natural wine – the hard to define category of often funky tasting wines made with little intervention and responsible farming.

Snail Bar will have six wines by the glass priced between $ 12 and $ 16 a glass and will also serve as a retail store, where you can purchase bottles from 80 different producers. Grab a take-out bottle or pay a $ 10 cap to stay and slowly sip while eating Florez’s prize. The accompanying food will be small and simple, often containing components from artisans in the Bay Area.

Like many, Florez caught the natural wine virus a few years ago while traveling, drinking and eating in Europe. “At the time, I had no idea what level of interest I was going to acquire,” he says. “But the more I traveled, the more I noticed that all my favorite bistros and bars served these wines… it made so much sense.”

Bistros and bars, especially the popular Parisian dining cellar – wine bar / tapas hybrids like Septime, L’Avant Comptoir and Le Châteaubriand – serve as inspiration for Florez, whose wine list is at 70%. French.

He points to Sébastien Riffault, a winemaker from the Loire Valley who practices an extreme natural vinification called “zero zero”: nothing is added to the wine, not even sulfur, and nothing is removed. He lets his grapes develop botrytis, a mold commonly known as “noble rot” that can concentrate fruity and floral flavors – a common protocol for some sweet wines, but rare for dry ones. “It’s like the smell of a fresh apple versus a bruised apple,” Florez describes. “It’s more concentrated and intense.

Florez will also feature local producers, like Shiva Osteen and Connor Lee of Mountain Misery Wines, who use organically grown grapes from the Sierra foothills and released their first vintage last year. He was particularly won over by their Gewurztraminer. “When you smell it, there’s this pink pineapple and lychee thing – it’s really tropical and textured,” says Florez.

Instead of offering the sophisticated multi-course tasting menus that Florez has spent much of her career preparing, Snail Bar will have a small board with daily specials. Bay Area artisans come in with dishes like talo de queso, which is made with a coconut flour tortilla from tortilla maker Berkeley Xulo. Flour the stuffing next with a mix of hazelnut and melted Gruyere cheese, roasted shishito peppers, lemon oxalis and spicy macha salsa from Tacos Everywhere – it’s like a Bay Area version of a Basque version of a Mexican quesadilla.

“After cooking and eating in many Michelin restaurants, I have realized that I am happiest when I sit down to eat and the food is simple and delicious, but I have given it some thought,” says Florez. “Minimalist dishes with three or four components and the execution is there and the product is carefully selected. They are in fact the most complicated.

Other menu items in line with Florez’s culinary philosophy include a small Caesar salad made with Spanish anchovies and an ultra-umami vinaigrette enriched with dried shiitake mushroom powder, as well as a small plate of seafood with oysters with reseda with seaweed. The main menu is snails with umami butter, made with cultured butter, roasted garlic, a slice of kumquat and cashew miso from the artisanal fermented food company Shared Cultures.

The name of the bar is meant to be partly ironic and partly a call to itself. “I am the opposite of a snail. I drive at 1,000 miles an hour, ”says Florez. It’s also a way of pushing yourself to slow down your downtime.

Florez designed the space himself on a shoestring, leaving the checkerboard floors of the previous company behind and painting the place in a combination of white oyster shell and bistro blue. There are five tables inside as well as bar stools lining the wall and seating outside with wine barrels that double as tables.

This is a walk-in situation; no reservations required. Visitors can “expect relaxing vibes, a curated playlist and great products without the fuss or fuss,” says Florez.

For the opening team, Florez called on six people: Emmanuel Rodriguez, his sous-chef who previously cooked at Michael Mina’s; Peter Larue, a Chez Panisse alumnus and general manager; prep cook Elias Hallowell and three waiters – Devon Leigh, John Blood and Daniel Shmelkin. He hasn’t rented a dishwasher yet.

“It’s always been a collaborative effort to bring natural wines to a place and food that matches what amazing wine producers make,” said Florez.


Snail bar. Opening July 3. 4935 Shattuck Ave., Oakland. 4 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Monday. From 12 p.m. to 3 p.m. and from 4 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. from Saturday to Sunday. www.snailbaroak.com

Omar Mamoon is a San Francisco writer, cookie dough professional, and the founder of the nonprofit Libros para Todos. Find it at

@ommmar

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