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.
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.
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.
There’s even a happy hour menu (early from 5 to 6 and late from 9:30 p.m.to 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.