Dining Out

Red Sea Restaurant & Bar

5200 Claremont Ave.
Oakland, CA
(510) 655-3757
Monday -Friday 11 a.m. – 2 a.m.
Saturday-Sunday 11:30 a.m. – 2 a.m.

Who knew Oakland had its own 2nd Saturday. It really does-it's called First Friday. We headed down because two artist friends, Danny Schieble and Zara Hayes, were exhibiting their new piece, "Leviathan," a giant fish made out of coat hangers and fabric, at The Front Gallery in Oakland.

Knowing that the various hors'dourves and cheap wine likely to be laid out at the various galleries would not be enough to sustain us for three hours of viewing art, we first headed to the best Ethiopian restaurant I know of. Now I've rarely ever had bad Ethiopian food, and never in that epicenter of Ethiopian cuisine, Oakland. But even among that heady competition, Red Sea still takes the prize.

When we entered about 6 p.m. last Friday, we were the first customers, but the place seemed to be hopping. Lively music pulsed through the restaurant and connected bar, making it seem like a party was well underway, despite the lack of people. One knock against Ethiopian food is that it can take awhile, but we were seated and served right away.

Not really feeling like making decision, we went with the sampler plate-which fed four people for a mere $33.95 plus tax (and endeared me to the Capitol Weekly Group accounting department). Now I've always like Red Sea because their food seemed to have a little more pizzazz and spice than most Ethiopian food I've had (not that such food usually lacks pizzazz). Perhaps the style difference is because they advertize as both Ethiopian and Eritrean cuisines (Eritrea broke off from Ethiopia in 1993 after a 31-year civil war).

Much of the plate included old standbys like hamli gomen (collard greens), shiro (chick peas), alitcha dinish (spicy potatoes), and lamb tibbs (super succulent!). One dish I'd never had before, and which proved to be a hit, sebhi shrimp-small shrimp sautéed in a spicy red pepper sauce. In short, Red Sea proved worth the drive (thanks for the low gas prices, crappy economy).

Then it was off to see art. We arrived to find one of the directors of the gallery explaining that Danny and Zara would reassembly Leviathan in the home or office of anyone who bought it. Of course, Danny and Zara themselves were nowhere to be seen, having slept four hours in the previous two days assembling the thing the first time. We passed our time checking out the other galleries on Grand Avenue and their resident hipsters. Overall, the quality of the art, and the hipsters, didn't seem much different from SacTown.

Danny and Zara did show up eventually, so we were able to wish them well. Then it was back to Sacramento, wondering where the heck the Third Thursday art walk is (Glen Falls, NY, as it turns out).

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