Openings

First Look: Top Chef Alums Open Shakewell

By Virginia Miller  |  July 16, 2014
Credit: Virginia Miller

After a few of the usual delays, Shakewell opened July 11. The lovechild of former Scala's Bistro chef duo Jen Biesty and Tim Nugent — both of Top Chef fame (Biesty was in the fourth season, Nugent was on Just Desserts) — this collaborative effort is set in an airy, modern Lakeshore space in Oakland. The menu focuses on Spanish-Mediterranean-inspired food with hints of North Africa. There's a pleasurable range of shared plates from bites to a section devoted to bomba, a style of paella named after chewy bomba rice, which soaks up more of the broth — and thus more flavor and moisture — than other paella rice. Almost everything is priced under $17. In a space designed by the Bon Vivants' Design + Build, Spanish and California wines flow, including a lovely, crisp 2013 Muga Garnacha blend rosé from Rioja. Lunch and brunch are in the works. We dined opening night, and here are some early standouts and highlights. 3407 Lakeshore Ave., Oakland; 510-251-0323

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  • Credit: Virginia Miller

    Showing off the bounty of summer, Biesty's salads are multitextured and alive with flavor. Case in point: thinly sliced summer squash co-mingles with feta, basil, juicy tomatoes and green olives, covered in a crumble of olive oil fried bread. This is the way we like to eat our vegetables.


     

  • Credit: Virginia Miller

    Cocktails ($8-$10) are created by bar manager Amy Chapman (also from Scala's). The selection leans toward the classics — like a daiquiri, Aviation and a Pisco Sour — including low-proof options, like Adonis (Amontillado sherry, Dolin Rouge sweet vermouth, orange bitters, lemon). We were duly impressed with Chapman's Summer Berry Flip. Not only does the floral beauty go down easy, it's the first time anywhere in the world we've seen a flip — which traditionally is a creamy, frothy cocktail with a whole egg in it — lean toward the bright, light side of the cocktail spectrum. It drinks like a light garden refresher of gin, lemon, lavender bitters, lavender syrup, berries and egg, garnished with lavender blossoms.

  • Credit: Virginia Miller

    Biesty's bites are a fun start, particularly the fried croquettes. Order them made with sweet pea and mint or traditional bacalao (salt cod), accented by green garlic. Deviled quail eggs are downright adorable: tiny, sliced through the middle and wrapped in pimenton and Serrano ham.

  • Credit: Virginia Miller

    Flowers add a splash of color to the modern-sleek dining room.

  • Credit: Virginia Miller

    There are three types of bomba, a style of paella named after chewy bomba rice, which soaks up more of the broth — and thus, flavor and moisture — than other paella rice options. These large, shareable platters are a highlight at Shakewell. We love the bright pop from preserved lemon and pickled Fresno chiles in Calamari Nero (pictured, top), a squid-ink bomba accented by fennel sofrito and roasted peppers. There's also chewy bomba rice (pictured here) with Manila clams and a wonderfully savory chorizo cooked in carrot-jalapeño sofrito, accented by saffron and oil-cured olives.

  • Credit: Virginia Miller

    A simple, clean and gratifying dish: silky sardines are stacked on toast with silvers of avocado, a smattering of arugula, pickled onions and a dash of chile oil.

  • Credit: Virginia Miller

    Bracing yet clean, Chapman's Alpha Amor hits smoky notes with mezcal, floral notes with chamomile-infused tequila and it's all reigned in with celery bitters, agave and a squeeze of grapefruit.

  • Credit: Virginia Miller

    Larger plates are also shareable, including a meaty-tender chile-chocolate-braised short rib over butter beans and these plump chicken albondigas (meatballs), cooked with aromatic tomato, marjoram and pimenton in Fino Sherry, with slivers of almonds dusted on top for textural contrast.
     

  • Credit: Virginia Miller

    Nugent's churros arrive piping hot and dipped in bittersweet chocolate sauce. Bite in and they almost dissolve in your mouth. They're even better with a glass of Gonzales Byass Solera cream sherry.