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Friday, May 25, 2012

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By Emma Krasov, photography by Yuri Krasov
Disguised as a casual “seat yourself” bar, the new District restaurant in the quiet Old Oakland is anything but your neighborhood watering hole. It does not take reservations and does not have a host station, but the moment you land on a bar stool by a reclaimed wood table, or on a plush sofa in the lounge, prepare to be amazed.
It’s not every day that you get a glass of aromatic 1989 Dr. Heyden Riesling from Rheinhessen, Germany, to compliment your shrimp escabeche bruschetta and ahi tartar with Peruvian chili, cucumber, and Meyer lemon dressing.
And it’s not even every other day that an Italian movie star look-alike (a.k.a. Caterina Mirabelli, wine and spirits director) pairs your charcuterie plate with Angel’s Envy port-finished bourbon.
As I said – not your neighborhood joint!
Classy, elegant, and obviously understated, District is a thing of beauty, waiting to be discovered and frequented by the true connoisseurs.   
Located in a historic building with high ceiling, oversized windows, and exposed brick walls, the dining room is spread around the horseshoe bar which opens to the building’s original doorway header from 1878, now serving as a frame for a wine closet.
Flat TV screens showing vintage movies and a display of local artists’ works add to the atmosphere of sophistication.
Chef Bob Cina puts up and extensive menu of Italian-inspired small plates with some very creative twists on time-honored classics.
He takes escargot out of its shell and off the traditional indented dish. Lightly battered and crispy, delicate snails are now enhanced with bright-green garlic-lemon-parsley cream, and served with earthy grilled ham and mushroom salad. 
Seared sea scallops are garnished with ginger-sour orange sauce and candied jalapenos – all preserved and pickled in-house.
Spinach and fontina arancini come with smoked tomato sauce, while made-from-scratch bratwurst contains veal and foie gras, and tastes decidedly European.  
Chef Bob’s charcuterie platter is not only abundant, but probably the most creative in the Bay Area – with all house-made pork and duck rillettes, truffled chicken liver mousse, smoked duck breast, various cured meats, and even beef jerky. 
Wine director Caterina pairs it with a rare bottle of big red Monje Hollera from Canary Islands – the only place that produces this incredible Listan Negro.
Adamant about her “no added sugar, no coloring, no preservatives” bar policy, she spends several months a year traveling to wineries all over the world, trying their product, buying, or asking to age wine for her, and choosing the most interesting bottles for her exquisite wine list. 
If you are looking for a wonderfully relaxing, conversation-friendly place where food and wine pairing develops into art, where it’s easy to impress your significant other, and where you most definitely will find plenty to write home about, come to the new District in Oakland, eat, drink, and be merry.
District is located at 827 Washington Street, Oakland. The restaurant is open Monday through Friday from 4:00 p.m. to close, and on Saturday beginning at 5:00 p.m. (closing times range from midnight to 2:00 a.m.). The daily happy hour from 4:00 to 6:00 p.m. (5:00 to 7:00 p.m. on Saturdays) features $1.00 oysters. Reservations are recommended for parties of eight or more. Email: or call (510) 272 9110. For more information, visit


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