Occitania - southwestern French from Paul Canales - Oakland

Sample menu:

  • Amuse-bouche: Duck liver paté croutons
  • Salade: Red gem & red oak leaf lettuces, dijon violette vinaigrette, lamb ventrèche , walnuts
  • Soupe: Velouté de châtaignes: chestnut soup, wild mushrooms, black truffle oil
  • Entrée: Occitania Cassoulet: Braised lamb, duck confit, saucisse à l’ail, gigante beans
  • Dessert: Walnut chocolate galette with armagnac soaked prunes, chantilly cream

Forgot to take a picture of the amuse. It was good.

So was the salad. Broke with tradition in that not one of the walnuts was rancid. Also that it was lamb belly rather than confit of goose gizzard.

Great soup. Similar to A Cote’s porcini soup.

So good. Looking forward to having a place to get it whenever the craving strikes.

Great meal. Left stuffed even though we’d eaten only half the cassoulet.

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Big place and was close to full when we got there a little after 8:00 on Friday.

Ordered all four items in the charcuterie section of the menu. I would have liked some fresh bread in place of the toasts but forgot to ask so I don’t know if it’s available.

Terrine de Ris de Veau
terrine of sweetbreads, veal, duck livers and leeks; garnishes

This hit the spot. I’m always craving a chunky pâté but they’re way less common than smooth liver ones around here these days.

Rillettes de Porc
classic pork rillettes with grain Dijon mustard; garnishes

Excellent version.

I thought I took a photo of
Saucisson de Chasseur et Fromages
dry-cured “hunters” sausage, comté, bay blue, Delice de Bourgogne
Given the description I expected more saucisson but it was a pretty small portion, really more of a cheese plate.

didn’t get a photo of this either
Pâté de foie de canard
classic smooth duck liver pâté; garnishes
Very good.

also got
Salade Lyonnaise
frisee with sherry vinaigrette, poached egg, lardons and crispy onions
Not to my taste. With croutons and more egg and lardons it would not have seemed overdressed.

The wine list doesn’t really match the menu, not enough of the wines from the region. Drank a 2014 Ch. Trapaud ($85) which went pretty well with the food, though I would have preferred something more rustic with less alcohol. Maybe I’ll get over to Aquitaine in SF soon.

Robert, your dinner sounds much better than our lunch in September! :rofl: :rofl:

We tried lunch but weren’t impressed. Salad Lyonnaise was mediocre, but any Lyonnaise served on a plate isn’t going to create a good dressing anyway. Way too much/too old frisee, a medium-sized poached egg struggled to make any impact at all but failed against what looked like a solid quart of frisee molded into a layer-cake pan shape. The lardons were clearly cooked way ahead of time, dry and leathery with no needed fat to offset the sherry vinegar. The housemade crispy onions, altho not a traditional addition, were actually the best thing about the dish, LOL.

The burger was frustrating. A beautiful, tasty patty on good fresh baguette was drowned in Canales’ choice of a strong, hot whole-grain mustard with a heavy dose of horseradish. This was smeared generously on both sides of the bun and was simply horrible, harsh and salty. It didn’t help that the sauteed mushrooms were salty and so was the cheese - both tasty, but salty even with the bread.

The onion soup was good. The steak frites suffered from poor quality fries - okay when hot, mealy when cold - and unfortunately Spouse didn’t like the pistachio cream sauce. He’s a purist about steaks and there was a good amount of cream sauce both underneath and on top of the steak.

Desserts were 50-50. The chocolate mousse layer cake was good but oddly described on the menu as a ‘chocolate lava cake’ which it very definitely was not, nor did it resemble one in any way, being light and airy, not dense and fudge-y. The almond cake was very nice (I love nut flour cakes) but the melon puree didn’t work with it. I wouldn’t say they clashed, but altho both were delightful by themselves they didn’t play together well.

Espresso, for those who indulge, is Red Bay. We prefer Mr. Espresso or Illy. FYI Occitania doesn’t have regular coffee, but will make espresso drinks so one can order an Americano instead.

We need someone to chime in and offer a brunch review for the full experience!

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The lunch menu seemed relatively uninteresting to me, the brunch menu even less so. Stick to the charcuterie and you’ll eat well.

The burger at Duende was really good the one time I had it.

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I went here once for dinner with a friend. Execution was pretty good, but a lot of the dishes were very challenging, even for me. I recognized a fair bit of it from my one brief trip to France, but mostly in the context of “the things I avoided ordering because I didn’t expect to like them much”. (And I was right.)

Not a big fan of Canales’ cooking, but we love French food and being desperate, did try Occitania for lunch Sept 2022. Very disappointed; nice interior, warm friendly staff, but the salade Lyonnaise was awful; the steak from Schmitz Ranch had a mushy texture.

The burger epitomized our experience with Canales. The big beefy patty was fabulously flavorful, precisely fitting a super-fresh, delicious baguette that had a crisp but tender crust, just the way we like it (we’re not big on hard-baked breads, sorry).

But both top and bottom insides were heavily spread with a Parmesan/whole-grain mustard that was simply awful. Way over-salty, with the harsh bite of horseradish as well, it permeated every bite. The sauteed mushrooms were salty, the Gruyere was salty (Gruyere is our choice at home, so I was expecting it to be salty). I couldn’t taste the caramelized onions at all. I could not even finish half of it before giving up and just eating the patty by itself, scraping it as clean as I could.

When we discussed it with the waitress, I received the impression it wasn’t the first time someone had complained about the harsh mustard. However, according to the Eater interview with Canales (May 2022), the burger is precisely how he wants it. Spouse and I will just have to take it as a given that our palates don’t match up with his, so we’ll pass on his restaurants (we’ve been to Oliveto when he was there and Duende as well) from now on.

I’m not surprised Occitania closed, just from an economic standpoint. There is still activity in downtown Oakland, unlike downtown SF (see the SFGATE article 3/20/2023 “Oakland’s downtown recovery is nothing like San Francisco’s. Here’s why.”), but the # of people is still down from pre-pandemic. It hasn’t dropped as much as SF has, but all the layoff news has probably caused a lot of people to cut down on their discretionary spending.

Even if you feel job-secure, there’s always that lurking “just in case” warning in one’s mind!

Occitania was packed both times I went there. Seemed like a lot of customers were staying in the hotel.

I’ve had many good to great meals at Duende, but there were execution issues at Occitania.

Oakland and Berkeley generally, restaurants I’ve gone to have been full even on weeknights. Could be luck of the draw.

Chefs have a specific style, so we just note which chefs cook in a style we don’t care for. We’re on low-salt diets and aren’t fond of overly sour flavors, although we love umami and also bitterness.

We are always willing to try, but after three experiences, we don’t see much point in fighting to like something we don’t. We don’t care for George Morrone either, whereas we loved Roland Passot, Geoffrey Deetz, Sophinia Uong, Michele Belotti, and many others.

It is one of the best things about the SFBA that there is room for everyone to have their favorites, after all! The variety and number of choices we have is truly astounding.

I didn’t find the food at Occitania at all similar to what I’ve had at Duende, or at Oliveto when Canales was chef there.

Canales uses more salt than we like, and like the horseradish-heavy mustard on the burger bun, is often heavy-handed. His paella at Duende was close to inedible, especially in light of the much better versions we have had at Zarzuela, Bravas (under Cody Thomasson, not the current chef), Gerard’s, and Venga Paella; in addition to the many Portuguese and Peruvian versions we’ve had around the SFBA.

My spouse likes salt more than I do, but he objected to the dish as well.

And yes, we do believe chefs have a specific style in the way they like to cook. Nobody’s palate is quite like another’s; taste is always an individual matter.

If the only problem at Occitania had been Canales’s style, I’d have liked it at least as much as I like Duende. The preview meal at Duende was great.

Good, I’m happy for you. Many people are fans of Canales.