Thursday, May 01, 2008

A Lil' Bay Area review - Maritime East

So isn't weird when you and your siblings grow up enough so you're not just siblings but also friends? Stef, considering your brother is like super cool and you seem to get along, when did that happen for you?

When J and I were in the Bay Area, we got together with my brother who lives in Fremont and is some kind of entrepreneur (and not that kind of entrepreneur that says they're an entrepreneur as an excuse for slacking; he works his ass off and has the income to show for it). We asked my brother where we should all get together for dinner and he suggested Martime East in Berkeley. What he didn't tell us was that he was friends with the owner. It was a really enjoyable evening where we got to talk with the owner about the restaurant business and catch up with my brother.

The dining experience itself was really wonderful, even apart from the free appetizers and dessert. I will agree with the posters on Yelp that say the storefront sign does make it seem like Maritime East is an aquarium store. But the inside looks well designed and upscale. We were worried that we were underdressed but this really was a neighbhorhood joint and we saw people in jeans. The decor modern but warm and the onwer highlighted the showpiece which was a wall with 2-inch lines of colored sand. One thing I will have ot highlight is the excellent sound control. People never think about it unless it totally sucks. And this time the designers did a great job to make sure that the background noise was loud enough so that you didn't feel like you were in a funeral home but not so loud you couldn't hear your tablemates. That is the downfall of Cafe Asian in Arlington where you feel like you are ain a train station.

The food itself was truly excellent, and not just because we got a free appetizer and dessert. There was a clean and fresh quality to the dishes, even the burger tht my brother ordered. This was not a restaurant that depended on heavy sauces and overpowering flavors. Like a good seafood restaurant, Maritime East knew to choose fresh fish and get out of the way. Their flavors are very citrus and spice focused.

We started with cocktails. J got the Maritime margarita and I got the White Out, with citron vodka, white cranberry juice and cointreau. Both were excellent as I like fruity drinks. I ordered the seafood chowder to start that had clams, fish, mussels , bacon, and fingerling potatoes. The soup was resonant with fish broth and scallions. Rather than being heavy, the chowder broth was light and allowed for the individuality of each of the ingredients. As a bonus, we got an order of the dungeness crab gratinee. This is where I am a total west coast boy because dungeness crab RULZ! I find it interesting that they call this a gratinee becuase it's a fresh salad with apples. blood oranges, and micro greens. The sweetness of the crab really comes through.

For dinner, my brother got the burger, I got a wood fired pizza and J got the sole. Surprisingly, the burger was excellent. You would have thought it would be an afterthought but the burger was perfectly cooked. The wood fired pizza had the appropriate chewiness and crunch that you would expect. The toppings of bonito tuna, olives, and capers was wonderfully briny. Craving vegetables, I got the brussel sprout and pea sprout hash, a lovely combination of the two sprouts shreeded and sauteed. The best of the bunch was J's sole which was served with pureed cauliflower, capers, and brown butter. This was an earthy treat for a cold Berkeley night.

While we were all stuffed, my brother's friend gave us complimentary desserts - the chocolate pot de creme, the sorbet and gelato selection, and the apple and cranberry tart. All were excellent but the pot de creme was pure indulgence in a cup.
I asked about the lack of vegetarian options and the owner said that the chef made a vegetarian meal upon request. Knowing her skill with seafood, I hope they would let everyone know about that option.

It's very nice to have a go to place in the Bay Area. This is perfect for a quiet evening or a celebration. Thanks to the brother for a great choice!


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