Mua: Hip and Happy in Oakland
Spacious, eclectic, techno-industrial-urban, and artsy, Mua restaurant in Oakland is as much ambience-affective as it is food-forward. Its high-ceiling, exposed warehouse-like dining hall pleasantly reminded me of a cross between a design studio and an experimental theater stage.
On the night we dined, a warm feeling of being at a nice place patronized by a friends-and-family crowd permeated the time and space. We spotted a birthday, a girlfriend getaway party, a young couple with their respective parents, and several romantic dates, all obviously having a great Sunday night.
Chalk-on-plywood graffiti art, dancing red and green LED dots on the ceiling, an obscure motion picture projected mutely on the wall, and a good selection of infectious rhythms streaming from the second-floor gallery DJs set the mood for an evening of casual dining and friendly chatting.
White linen napkins and candle lights on bistro-style marble tables hinted at serious kitchen attitudes and skilled service.
I liked that the menu was Oakland-diverse (arugula salad, beet salad, crispy tofu, and blackened catfish shared it nicely), and that the majority of items were offered as smaller plates.
Our cocktails arrived promptly, soon followed by creative appetizers. The Mua Manhattan was smoothed and sweetened with the fashionable St. Germaine, and vodka-based Rialto included Lillet and agave nectar, balanced out by parsley, lemon, and cucumber.
Blood sausage, a rare treat, was made in-house and served with white beans, a sprig of watercress, and some garlic aioli. Braised lamb cheeks came in a pool of demi-glace, decorated with sweet-pepper ragu. Both were worth writing home about and a good opening for the bigger things to come.
For his main course, my husband ordered blackened catfish with dirty rice, prepared traditional Southern style, with crushed chicken liver. Following our server’s suggestion, I voted for the hamburger, although this is not what I usually have in decent restaurants. This time, I was thankful for the suggestion, and very satisfied.
My hamburger was made to order medium-rare, and maintained the necessary juiciness just the way I like it. It was served at my request with pungent white cheddar, crispy smoked bacon, and the freshest California avocado, and topped with farm-fresh fried egg. Skin-on fries on a side were complemented by their own side of ketchup and aioli.
For dessert, after another of our server’s valuable suggestions, we shared a pineapple upside-down cake with coconut ice cream—and that was just dreamy.
Mua has a full bar with a very impressive list of small-production beer, wine, and house-created cocktails. It stays open until 2:00 a.m. on Friday and Saturday. Actually, there are two bars—one by the entrance downstairs, another, more secluded upstairs, where the DJs do their magic.
There is also some outdoor seating at the front, with potted plants and wooden benches. This month, Mua opened for lunch as well as dinner, to their regular patrons’ added satisfaction.
Mua is located at 2442a Webster Street in Oakland, California. Open seven days a week. For reservations call (510) 238-1100 or visit their website.