Two things were disappointing about dinner at Comal: we got there too late to try any of the meat tacos (they were sold out), and there were only two of us so we had to leave a large portion of the menu untasted. Other than that, this new addition to the Berkeley food scene is yet another reason I feel lucky to live in the Bay Area. Not only is Comal a large, open, fun and inviting wooden space great for large parties and couples, it is open fairly late for Berkeley standards, (11pm Fridays and Saturdays). Best of all, there is an outdoor patio with its own bar. What’s not to love? Comal is owned by John Paluska, (former manager of the band Phish), and is headed by Chef Matt Gandin (formerly of Delfina). Chef Gandin’s main focus will be on cuisine from the Oaxacan region, but he’ll allow his love of regional Mexican cooking free reign. Spicing things up are smoky, complex and well-balanced cocktails and flights of Mezcal.
Of course we had to try a Mezcal flight! It arrived accompanied by skewered tropical fruits, which you dip in chicharrones salt and use as a chaser. The overall taste is like liquid smoky bacon with a hint of sweetness and a kick of alcohol.Yum! I also tried the Jack Satan cocktail, made with Partida Reposado, hibiscus syrup, infierno tincture, lime and salt. And let me tell you—if this cocktail were a man (and I wasn’t happily married) I’d definitely invite it to take me home…
The food was solid and good. There were many more items on the menu that beckoned, which we simply couldn’t try being only two, but my favorites of the night were the meatballs and the artichokes.
Maybe this will change as the restaurant matures, but for now the presentation is practically non existent. As you can judge from the photos, the food does not look very pretty, rather, it looks like something a very good, plump and good-natured home cook would make for you (if you were lucky). It also tastes absolutely home made, which I loved.
We also tried the salmon ceviche, which was good, but I’ve had better and the fish tacos, which although also good, didn’t merit the $12 price for two.
Overall, dinner was a delight and we came away knowing that we would be back soon. Next time we will come with backup so that we can try more and will arrive earlier before everything sells out. Just a word of warning—if you want to come to Comal, plan ahead. This is the hot new spot of the moment and reservations are hard to come by!