Pressure Cooking With Precious Results at Italian Colors Ristorante
Never tiring of trying new things is a sure sign of genius. Picasso was not afraid to change his style even at the height of his career, and venturing out of our comfort zones usually works well for the rest us.
Alan Carlson, prominent chef/owner of the Italian Colors Ristorante in Montclair Village Square in Oakland, constantly changes his seasonal and daily menus, implements the newest trends into his acclaimed cuisine, and recently started adding ingredients prepared with the sous vide cooking method to his enticing spring plates.
Vacuum-sealed meats and veggies retain all their nutrients, moisture, color, and flavor when boiled at precise temperature, defined individually for each kind of food. They also store much longer, thus reducing waste.
On the night we dined, amuse bouche of sous vide chili-honey glazed carrots with garbanzo beans and romesco sauce was not only healthy, but had that undiluted fresh taste to it.
Roasted organic beet salad, due to its uncompromised brightness, looked like a piece of modern art rather than a meal. Large paper-thin slices of watermelon radish, green rounds of grilled asparagus, and orange-brown goat cheese arancini were complimented by toasted hazelnuts, turnip puree, edible violet flowers, and “Tuscan clouds” made of white balsamic foam.
Sous vide duck confit significantly enriched ever-popular spinach salad with dried cranberries, red onions, and candied walnuts. Slices of ricotta salata on top made it irresistible.
Chef Alan’s famous sourdough pizza was split at our request – half buffalo mozzarella, roma tomato sauce and basil, half prosciutto di Parma, grilled sweet onions, manchego, arugula, and shaved grana. I know that many regulars come here for pizza alone – and now I understand why.
However, the new seasonal pasta, appropriately called Gnocchi Primavera, is a definite winner and a must-have. Delicious hand-made soft dumplings, bathed in lemon butter sauce, are mixed with heavenly sous vide artichokes, green peas, asparagus, garlic, white wine, prosciutto and Parmesan.
Two great California wines pair nicely with this dish – Talbott 2008 Chardonnay from the Central Coast, and Watts 2005 Old Vine Zinfandel from Lodi.
Another great sous vide-prepped entrée, Bisttecca, is a marinated skirt steak with grilled sweet onions on a slice of peasant bread, garnished spring greens and absolutely amazingly crispy fries.
A chocolate soufflé cake with ganache center and espresso cream is made in-house, and it takes 20 minutes for it to rise to perfection.
Chef Carlson opened Italian Colors with GM Steve Montgomery in 1993. The restaurant is steadily attracting – and never disappointing – its old and new patrons on any given night ever since. On Wednesday through Saturday nights there is live classical guitar music performances. It gets really busy on holidays, like the upcoming Mother’s Day, so advance reservations are highly recommended.
Italian Colors Ristorante is located at 2220 Mountain Boulevard in Oakland. Dinner nightly, lunch Tuesday through Saturday. Reservations and more information at 1-510-482-8094 or online.