Let me start off by saying that the food at Jack's Oyster Bar and Fish House is so damn good that you'll want to order everything on the menu, and then come back the next day for more. If you love seafood, you'll want to mark your calendars for Tuesday, 8/19 at 11 a.m., when this new restaurant opens in Jack London Square.
I've been complaining about the lack of great seafood restaurants in the east bay, so I was ecstatic when I found out that husband-and-wife duo Richard Hackett and Meredith Melville, the masterminds behind Bocanova, were planning to open a casual raw bar and seafood restaurant with a focus on sustainable fish cooked a la plancha or on a grill. You don't even know how happy I am to not have to cross the bridge to SF for oysters anymore!
Rick Hackett and Executive Chef Peter Villegas, formerly of Campton Place and La Mar, created an impressive menu that features a raw bar with east & west coast oysters to a wide array of seafood-centric dishes. Lori Theis is the General Manager, Nate Gabriel is the Chef de Cuisine, and Antoine Nixon, the Bar Manager, will oversee the restaurant’s beverage program featuring a simple and straightforward hand-crafted cocktail menu that includes an array of well-thought out seafood-friendly refreshers. Pastry Chef Paul Conte will lead the desserts program to ensure that each meal ends sweetly for each guest.
The Restaurant Preview
I received an invite to attend Jack's media preview party to get a first look at the space and to feast on a number of their featured dishes. I was happy to be accompanied by great company; Christina of East Bay Dish was also invited and I took Patrick as my +1.
Here's a recap of all the food and the drinks we had, along with some details about the restaurant:
Charred Octopus with Piquillo Pepper, Potatoes, Oregano
The charred octopus is one of the best things that I've ever ate. It looks like a scary beast but tastes so delicate and tender. The char leaves a great taste on the octopus and the flavors overall have a Spanish influence with the potatoes and the piquello peppers' sweet, spicy, and smokey taste. I'd highly recommend this dish. You will not be disappointed.
Maine Lobster Roll with Housemade Pretzel Bun, Cole Slaw
The lobster roll all surprised us when we bit into it to find that it was slightly raw. In some cases, raw lobster doesn't work but in this dish, it does (for me). The restaurant brings in sashimi grade seafood and wanted guests to enjoy the seafood as is without much cooking, so they did a quick poach on the lobster. The housemade pretzel bun is genius and addicting. I've had plenty of lobster rolls in my life and have never had one with a pretzel bun. I don't think I can have it any other way now.
West Coast + East Coast Oysters
I travel far for oysters, so to have this available locally is a dream come true. There were two types of oysters served and while I didn't get the names, one plate came from the west coast and the other was from the east coast. The oysters we had were creamy, fresh, and briny - loved it.
Mussels with Fresh Herb
The mussels were very tasty. It's prepared unlike anywhere I've ever had it - similar to the lobster roll above, we think these mussels were left intentionally on the uncooked side so guests are able to enjoy the fresh high quality taste. Patrick wasn't a fan because he typically likes his seafood cooked thoroughly but I didn't have a problem with it.
Peel & Eat Hawaiian Blue Shrimp with Remoulade
I enjoyed this simple preparation of shrimp. You can taste the sweet natural juices from the way it was cooked - very tender to bite. Because I love shrimp mustard (the area between the head and body), I was very pleased the heads were still attached.
Baked Sardines with Salsa Verde
When you get fresh sardines, they are usually very overpowering but these are nice and mild sardines. Patrick and I enjoyed the Italian salsa verde, made with parsley and garlic. It was a well-done dish.
Clam Chowder with Bacon, Smoked Potato, Thyme
I love clam chowder and this was one of the best I've had at a restaurant. It was incredibly rich and flavorful. The bacon cut was thick and generous. The chowder was well-balanced and not too thick or too thin. The hints of thyme, bacon and seafood broth made for a fantastic nose.
Halibut Fish-N-Chips with Malt Vinegar Aioli
The fish was tasty but couldn't compare with everything else offered. I thought the fish was slightly overcooked but still very enjoyable. The fries were a hit and we all agreed that it was some of the best fries we've had.
Puffed Potato with Creme Fraiche, Trout Roe, Salmon Skin
These fried puffed potato balls are pure heaven. We loved eating them with the combination of the crispy salmon skin topped with creme fraiche and trout roe. There's some magic that happens when you combine four of these things together and your taste buds will thank you.
Dungeness Crab Cake with Corn Puree, Watercress
These crab cakes are so flavorful, delicate and crispy. I enjoyed the brightness of the corn puree and thought the simple pairing makes for a delicious dish.
Soft Shell Crab with Black Garlic, Kimchee
These are the best fried soft shell crabs that I've had. The crabs were nicely sized, delicate, and tasted like sweet freshness from the ocean. My favorite part about this dish is biting into the delightful crabs and eating the rich crab-mustard butter. I enjoyed the light batter because it didn't overpower the crabs. When eating this with black garlic and kimchee, you get a sweet, acidic, and spicy flavor explosion. My mouth is watering just thinking about this!
Kampachi Tiradilo with Roe, Chilies, and Avocado Cream
The fish was super fresh and I loved what I assumed to be an avocado cream sauce. It's a simple dish but thoughtful and beautifully presented. If you gave me a bowl of this, I'd be happy.
Tuna Poke with Soy Sauce, Green Onions, Habanero
The tuna poke is fresh and nicely dressed. The flavors were refreshing and the kick at the end from the habanero was lovely. I couldn't get a nice photo of this due to the crowds tearing the dish a part, so you'll have to order it and see it in person yourself. If you like spicy poke, then you'll want to order this dish.
Soft-Serve with Salted Caramel and Cornflakes
I am a sucker for salted caramel and will admit that I had three of these heavenly soft-serve desserts that you see Pastry Chef Paul Conte holding and next to him is Nate Gabriel the Chef de Cuisine. The cornflake crunchy bits made for a nice topping. It was the perfect ending to all of the great seafood we had. When I make my next visit, I am looking forward to getting this dessert again.
Of the four drinks I had below, I loved the Manhattan and Dillicious the best. The cocktails are simple but done so well that I couldn't help but drink more.
- Manhattan - Old Forester Bourbon, Campano Antica, Angostura Bitters
- Smoke House - Bowen's Campfire Whiskey, Cocchi Torrino
- The French - Tariquet vs Armagnac, Bigallet China China, Orange Bitters
- Dillicious - Dos Manos, St. Germain, Lime, Sugar, Dill, Cucumber
The Space: Local Design and Creativity
The 100-seat modern seafood restaurant, designed by architect Michael Guthrie and interior designer Ann Rockwell, features a 20-seat raw bar with handcrafted chairs by Berkeley-based Wooden Duck furniture. Jack’s Oyster Bar and Fish House collaborated with local residents and designers Becky Carter and Michael de La Torre to create exclusive beautiful artwork for the space. The mural towards the back of the restaurant features a complex collage of paper layers depicting the dynamic intersection of Oakland’s environment, culture, and commerce. I am in love with the intricate and thoughtful design - and how it features two bay bridges, both old and new.
What Inspired Jack's
We had a quick chat with Meredith and I asked her what was the inspiration behind opening this restaurant. She says her husband, Rick, saw the lack in seafood and the appeal that it has in SF and thought that it was the east bay's turn to open something up. He originally thought of a chowder house, but because chowder often has an association with cold weather, they decided to expand their menu offerings to bring sustainable seafood to the area.
Thanks for dinner, Jack's!
VISITING JACK'S OYSTER BAR & FISH HOUSE
336 Water St. Oakland, California 94607
Opens Everyday from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.
They take reservations only at 5:30 p.m. on OpenTable
During other times, guests are seated on a first-come, first-served basis