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Here’s What You’re Missing at CDP, the Sexy Bar by Commis

March 26, 2018
popcorn and sparkling wine

When I first heard about the expansion plans for the Michelin-starred restaurant Commis, my reaction was mixed. Sure, it would be cool to have a chic bar by chef James Syhabout right next door to my place in Oakland. But it also meant saying goodbye to my favorite designer second-hand store, since they lost their lease to make room.

But after just a few visits to CDP, I’m very happy with the swap.

If you haven’t made it over to Piedmont Avenue to try  CDP (short for chef de partie) yet, you’re missing out on an exquisite cocktail and dining experience where every detail has been considered carefully. considered. The first thing to catch my eye in the space designed by Gensler was a wardrobe fronted by coppery chain curtain — what an unexpected and sexy way to store coats. A gleaming Carrara marble waterfall bar is the focal point of the dimly lit room framed by potted palms starburst chandeliers and sinuous pendant lights.

oakland 09 cocktail commis bar cdp oakland

CDP’s Oakland 09 is a play on the classic French 75.

CDP specializes in brandy and bubbly — two of my favorite things. The signature cocktail is the Oakland 09, named for the year that Commis first opened. Their riff on the French 75 is all kinds of extra: it stars Pineau des Charentes and housemade demi-sec bubbly (seriously, who else does that??)  The final touch: A spritz of jasmine essence, one of the aromas Syhabout associates with his Oakland neighborhood.

Brandy lovers will want the Blood Orange Side Car, a juicy twist on the classic. It’s spiritous enough to relax you, but I like the way the blood orange juice rounds out the flavors.

But for me, the big draw at CDP is the exquisite bar food that shows Syhabout’s creativity and chops.

brussels sprouts with chervil CDP

CDP’s brussels sprouts just might be the best in the Bay Area.

I know Brussels sprouts are on every menu in town, but trust me — you won’t find any as good as these. They’re crisped in a pan, then crispy cook sprouts and raw leaves are bathed in a luxurious, tangy vinaigrette that gets a lift from the under-appreciated herb chervil. That distinct licorice flavor surfaces again in the steak tartare with chervil creme. Syhabout deftly evokes the satisfying flavors of a rib-eye steak with bearnaise, with none of the heft.

And yes, you do need to try the warm boule of bread and chicken skin butter — it’s a nearly life-changing experience and the butter, topped in delicate flower petal and herb design, is downright beautiful.

butter decorated with flowers

Tweezer food alert: CDP’s schmaltzy butter topped with flower petals and herbs.

There’s even a happy hour menu (early from 5 to 6 and late from 9:30 close) that starts at $3 for fine nibbles like Marcona almonds dusted in pink peppercorn and rose sugar, a funky little ham sandwich sweetened with honey or my favorite — the popcorn in seaweed brown butter. Try it with a flute of the Gramona Brut Cava or — maybe the Thienot champagne. And then repeat.

The team at CDP knows the way to a bubbly girl’s heart.

August 2018 Update: CDP no longer offers its happy hour menu. But you’ll still find an array of dishes, such as seared scallops with exotic spices, offered a la carte. The popcorn and other special creations are part of a $65 Cote de Boeuf prix fixe tasting menu that requires advance reservations via Resy.





Cocktail Recipes, Restaurants

The Bubbly Girl Drink of the Week: Mango Ginger Fizz at Twenty/20 in Carlsbad

August 1, 2009
The Mango Ginger Fizz and a Blood Orange Mimosa are two of the cocktails featured at Sparkling Sundays at the Sheraton Carlsbad Resort & Spa. (Photo by Maria C. Hunt)

The Mango Ginger Fizz (recipe below) and a Blood Orange Mimosa are two of the cocktails featured at Sparkling Sundays at the Sheraton Carlsbad Resort & Spa. (Photo by Maria C. Hunt)

I have to admit I’m not much of a brunch person. But a bubbly brunch like the one at the Sheraton Carlsbad Resort & Spa is a different story.

Most places that do brunch offer a few de riguer sparkling cocktails like Mimosa or Bellini, because they know diners expect it along with their eggs Benedict. At Twenty/20 Grill & Wine Bar, however, they go all out, creating a Sparkling Sundays menu from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sundays that features 10 drinks with sparkling wine or champagne.

We walked through the modern lobby to the neo-classic style Twenty/20 restaurant which offers great ocean views on a clear day. Brunch is served on a sunny patio where guitarist played jazzy modern music and chefs cooked in plein aire.

We started with the Mango Ginger Fizz, a tangy golden mix of Domaine de Canton Ginger liqueur, mango nectar and bubbly a Twenty/20 Mimosa that was tangy with the taste of blood orange juice. Other sparkling drinks include a French 75, a lemony gin cocktail; The Fraise with strawberries and champagne and the Au Pear with Hangar One Spiced Pear vodka and St. Germain Elderflower Liqueur. All are priced from $7 to $10.

The vineyard style pork sandwich is served open-faced and drizzled in pinot noir sauce. (Photo by Maria C. Hunt)

The vineyard style pork sandwich is served open-faced and drizzled in pinot noir sauce and colorful cherry tomatoes. (Photo by Maria C. Hunt)

The brunch menu created by resort chef Steven Patrick is unconventional too, offering wine friendly, California style tapas created with local ingredients in season. Offerings priced from $2 to 6 include small golden sweet peppers stuffed with herbed goat cheese, a delicious mini Kobe slider crowned in maple cured bacon and an open-faced pork loin grilled cheese sandwich drizzled with pinot noir sauce and sliced summer cherry tomatoes.

One of our favorite choices was a giant sweet prawn grilled with a bay leaf and paired with citrus aioli and black sea salt. And if you want a taste of something sweet, try the mini pancakes with Carlsbad strawberries.

A giant prawn is served seared with a bay laurel leaf, citrus aioli and black salt.(Photo by Maria C. Hunt)

A giant prawn is served in a deliciously simple way at Twenty/20 Grill: seared with a bay laurel leaf, citrus aioli and black salt. (Photo by Maria C. Hunt)

The tapas menu is so popular that it’s also offered on Thursday nights. For reservations or for more information, visit The Sheraton Carlsbad Resort & Spa web site or call 760-827-2500. The resort is located at 5480 Grand Pacific Drive, Carlsbad, Calif. 92008

Mango Ginger Fizz

2 ounces fresh mango nectar (see note)

1 oz Domaine de Canton ginger liquor

3 ounces brut sparkling wine, chilled

lime slice, for garnish

Add the mango nectar ( available at Trader Joe’s) and Domaine de Canton to a champagne flute. Top with the chilled sparkling wine. Garnish with a lime.

From Twenty/20 Grill & Wine Bar at the Sheraton Resort Carlsbad & Spa