Oakland's Commis Goes Under the Microscope

Now that James Syhabout's ambitious Oakland undertaking has been open for nearly two months, the mainstream reviews—and very possibly, the subsequent crowds—should start arriving sooner than later. Thus, it's time to take a look at the early buzz from Commis, arguably the year's most exciting newcomer. Syhabout took the old Jojo space boasting quite the resume: certified David Kinch acolyte at Manresa, 3.5 stars at PlumpJack, plus stints at Fat Duck and El Bulli. Opening a brilliant, upscale prix-fixe-only endeavor nowadays is an admirably bold undertaking, and it took only a few weeks to bump up the pricetag to $59. So how's it been, two months in? To the internet chatter we go:

Very Good News: "What a fascinating set of contrasts. On the one hand, this is perfectly precise, precious, pretentious food and food styling. On the other, it's tasty, substantial, presented effortlessly, friendly, and all-in-all pretty cheap. Best meal of the year so far, by far." [Chowhound]

More Good News, From the Locals Edition: "I’m very glad that Chef Syhabout chose to open Commis in his hometown Oakland which is undergoing a restaurant explosion. We had a memorable meal with inventive and delicious dishes and I’m still thinking about that egg plate… The service was friendly too, we felt very pampered and well tended." [Foodhoe]

Bad News, Kind Of But Not Really: "If I had to find something to criticize it would have to be the service. Perfect but a little -too- perfect for where it is. The waiter had no qualms at all steering us right up to the top of the high end of the wine list ... Some flourishes, like pretty much the entire staff swarming to the table to deliver all the dishes in perfect simultaneity, Which was nice and skillful and all but after dinner we were heading next door to Cato's Ale House, not the opera." [CH]

Requisite Yelp Idiocy: "i had the waiter laughing at our table talking about spitting my wine at him,pretending that it was bad,12 inch dildos and facials" [Yelp]

Price/Value News: "... Commis is neither 'pretty cheap' nor 'dirt cheap.' It is, however, priced fairly ... Given the type of food and service that Syhabout has chosen to put out, Commis offers good value, but it's good value within that context." [CH]

Newsy Noise: "Having nothing on the walls makes the space feel larger than it is, and clean, but it makes for a noisy room when only half the tables are occupied." [Yelp]

Final Word ... For Now: "Commis has only been open 6 weeks now, and it deserves to be discovered. The cost may seem a bit steep to folks more inclined to pick up a pizza at Zachary's, but at $59 for 3 courses and $29 for wine pairings, I felt like I was eating better than I did at Cyrus last year for at least 3 times that cost." [CH]

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