Openings

First Look: Jack's Oyster Bar & Fish House Oakland

By Virginia Miller  |  August 21, 2014
Credit: Virginia Miller

Just opened Tuesday, August 19, in Oakland’s Jack London Square, Jack’s Oyster Bar & Fish House is the second restaurant from Rick Hackett and Meredith Melville of next door Bocanova. Hackett crafted a seafood-dominant menu (ideal in Jack's waterfront setting with spacious outdoor patio gazing out at docked boats - pictured above) alongside Executive Chef Peter Villegas (Campton Place, La Mar, La Folie, to name a few).  East and West Coast oysters flow and the house clam chowder ($9 bowl) is luxuriously creamy and smoky with bacon. Here are our initial recommends after an opening week visit to this welcome new Oakland seafooder.

336 Water St., 510-271-7952

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  • Credit: Virginia Miller

    Our favorite non-seafood small plate is fried puffed potato balls ($9), warm and decadent dipped in a pureed cauliflower and creme fraiche purée dotted with trout roe for a nod to the sea.

  • Credit: Virginia Miller

    Get ready to lose it over this one. As Maine lobster roll fanatics, we questioned the decidedly non-traditional house pretzel bun ($25). Then we tried it. The bun dissolves, salty and soft, with plump lobster drenched in butter nestled inside, while creamy lobster dressing is bruleed on top. It's all quite decadent — but there's a time to splurge and this one is worth it.

  • Credit: Virginia Miller

    General Manager Lori Theis and Bar Manager Antoine Nixon created a beverage program that offers plenty of NorCal wine and beer on tap and a range of bottled, international sparkling wines. The cocktail menu veers towards light and breezy as in the case of a Dill-icious ($11) mixing blanco tequila, lime juice, St. Germain elderflower liqueur, cucumber, dill and soda water. Not unlike Shakewell's Summer Berry Flip, Jack's Sunset Flip ($11) is a standout made creamy with a whole egg, taking a classic-style cocktail yet keeping it refreshing with Zubrowka Bison Grass Vodka, Berkeley-based Shrub & Co. Apple Shrub, lemon juice, a whole egg and Peak Organic's Fresh Cut Pilsner beer.

  • Credit: Virginia Miller

    Charred octopus is everywhere but this is one of the more generous portions you'll find. This half platter of tentacles ($22) is merely the small serving — there's double the size for $40, tender and brightened with piquillo peppers, grilled potatoes and pimenton.

  • Credit: Virginia Miller

    Ordering pickled mackerel ($10) over a smear of red curry sauce and yogurt, marked by daikon radish, we expected a dish akin to pickled herring, a classic we adore from Germanic to Eastern European and Scandinavian interpretations. But rather than pickled and bright, this is more a grilled fish with crisp sheet of skin, reminiscent of grilled Japanese fish collars.

  • Credit: Virginia Miller

    This pastrami salmon is cured at Jack's and the mini-bagels ($5) are made in house as well. Playful and fresh, they are smeared with cream cheese and topped with a bit of trout roe. It may not be NYC bagels, but it's still a good time.

  • Credit: Virginia Miller

    The airy restaurant, designed by architect Michael Guthrie and interior designer Ann Rockwell, nods to the sea with soft blue-green banquettes and seafood artwork, lining a 20-seat raw bar piled with octopus and oysters. A striking paper collage mural marks the back wall of the dining room, illustrating environmental elements between SF and Oakland, connected by the Bay. 

  • Credit: Virginia Miller

    Executive pastry chef Paul Conte also runs next-door Bocanova's pastry program. He focuses on classic American desserts ($6-9) at Jack's, but with welcome twists, like pink peppercorn sprinkled over a caramelized marshmallow on chocolate malted fudge cake. We tried all the desserts on the initial menu, including his lovely house soft serve ice cream ($6). Our favorite was this brown butter cinnamon croissant bread pudding ($9), warm and swimming in cream, centered by a scoop of delightful butterscotch ice cream.