Dine About Oakland: Bocanova

November 28, 2009

This is a long overdue review, since it’s been close to six weeks since we had a terrific dinner at Bocanova, one of the newest spots in Jack London Square. But I finally have a little time to write today, so here’s a quick rundown.

Bocanova had been on our list to try ever since the Eat Real Festival, when I poked my head into their almost-open space and was excited to see what they’d have to offer. D. also liked the idea that it had a tapas-ish menu with a lot of Spanish/Latin inspiration. We finally made it there in mid-October when we headed to Jack London Square for dinner and a movie—the perfect combination.

I knew it was promising when D. took a look at the menu and announced that he wanted “pretty much everything.” After a little debate, we settled on an avocado, endive, and heart of palm salad; fried yuca; smashed roasted beets;  and the day’s special, mahi mahi crusted in roasted plaintains. (I was also supposed to order the fried padrone peppers, but forgot; they’re on the list for our next visit.) For the most part, we enjoyed everything we tried; the salad was the one weak point since it was mostly endive (normally that wouldn’t be something to complain about, but we wanted a bit more balance!) The yuca, which had been a spur-of-the-moment order because it’s one of my favorite foods, was terrific, as was the fish special. I liked the beets, though they were less up D.’s alley; in retrospect we would have swapped them out for something a little less starchy, though. We rounded out the meal with a Bocanova Manhattan, which was excellent (and even prompted the people at the next table to lean over and ask, “What is that? It looks amazing!”), and a Drake’s IPA for D.

While we didn’t get to sample a huge chunk of the menu (which has a sea of small dishes to choose from), the ones we did try got points for being creative (in the case of the fish and the salad) and just plain old well-prepared (in the case of the yuca, which was prepared in a pretty traditional style, but was fried to perfection—soft and moist inside, crispy outside, with just the right amount of sauce). I was sorry to see that the mahi mahi wasn’t on the regular menu, so we may not have another chance to try it—ah, well, more room to taste something else!

For dessert, we tried another daily special: tiny doughnuts with pumpkin cream filling. These were excellent—D. rated them as “not quite as good as Marzano‘s” (our gold standard, although sadly you can no longer get these now that they’ve stopped serving brunch!) and better than everywhere else we’ve tried them (which is quite a lot of places, since we’ve been on a doughnut kick lately; we still need to make it to Flora for brunch to round out the Oakland variations). The dessert menu had several other items that are on my list for next time, too, including a flan and a banana cake that sound tasty.

Overall, we had a wonderful first experience with Bocanova—I’m excited to add this to the growing list of Jack London Square destinations! We’ll definitely be back for more.

Grade: A
Cost: $$-$$$



  1. I am glad to hear you enjoyed it. When we went there the first week it was open, service was very scatter-shot, and my memory is that the food had a lot of potential, but had its ups and downs. Maybe now that things have settled down, we will give it another try. It certainly has a fabulous location when you can sit out on the patio. With the umbrellas and heaters, the patio should be usable most of the year.

  2. Yes, one reason we actually waited a bit to try it was that I’d heard the same thing in the opening weeks; they’d been open about six weeks when we went. (I’d also heard that the waits were incredibly long, so we made a reservation—but on a mid-October Saturday night, they were pleasantly busy with enough room to handle some walk-ins too, so we likely would have been fine without it.) Half of the dishes we ordered were specials, too, so I’ll have to go back and try out more of the regular menu to see how it compares. We did sit out on the patio, though, which is a pretty hard location to beat (especially pre-DST, when you could watch the sunset!)

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