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Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Oasis Grille: For "Foodies", a thrill!

Lunch date #10: March 23, 2012

"I feel like I've come out of a cocoon!" marveled Mom as she reflected back over our ten lunch dates. "I never even knew this sort of food existed, or that I would like it," she admitted. I think her palate has been awoken! We have had many different types of food: Chinese, Italian, Greek, Indian…and now sitting at lunch, eating Afghan food, Mom has had a bit of an epiphany! It is amazing to see the transformation from a diet that existed primarily of cheeseburgers and roast-beef sandwiches, OK…so maybe with the occasional turkey sandwich or taco salad thrown in. But to see her really enjoying the experiment to try so many different types of food—this project, in 10 short dates, is already a huge success. So many different things to try, so many places to go…we are having a blast!

For our 10th date, we headed to Oasis Grille (and Wine Lounge) 780 MainSt. (www.oasisgrille.com). I've always loved the venue, since first built for Coffee Roast Express—and was sad when the owners decided to close that Pleasanton icon. I had tried Oasis several times, for lunch, dinner, appetizers/drinks and always thought it was fair. When I suggested it to Mom, I told her we'd eat Afghani food. She wasn't so sure…but being the sport that she always is (and even more of a "foodie" these days), she was all for it.

Critique #1 location: 5 points. Obviously everything downtown will get the full score. I especially love this building and greatly appreciate the improvement that this interesting architecture added to our downtown landscape.

Critique #2 ambiance: 5 points. The conversion from coffee shop to restaurant/wine lounge is not an easy one. We felt they did an extremely good job to create an inviting atmosphere to dine and relax. We were seated inside, due to inclement weather, but I've enjoyed sitting in the patio ("rose garden") and on the front porch several times; a perfect place for a summer afternoon or evening. When we first walked in, Mom was surprised: "It's nicer than I thought it would be!" We appreciated the décor and white linen table cloths. On the wine-lounge side, there are a few little couches and bar-style tables, and the main bar is beautiful.  I actually like that it still has a bit of the old Coffee Roast Express personality peeking through—like seeing an old friend.

Flame-Grilled Chicken Kabob
Critique #3 Menu Selection: 4 points. Oasis has transformed a bit since originally opening. They have diversified into a Mediterranean fusion of Greek/Italian and still offer some apparently authentic Afghan dishes. Where else can you get Aushak (a leek/cilantro pasta-meat dish) or Mantoo (ground beef/onion dumplings and yogurt sauce), or their amazing signature Pumpkin Borani?  The only criticism of the menu is that they don't have much in the way of specific lunch offerings. As per our server, the only difference between lunch and dinner is the addition of Gyros to the menu of the former. They could use some more economically priced and lighter lunch items, in our opinion.

Critique #4 Service: 4 points. Our server did an excellent job. We let her know that our mission was to try Afghani-style food that day, and she was quite helpful deciphering the menu by giving us good descriptions of the unfamiliar items. She definitely encouraged us to try the Pumpkin Borani. Our only complaint with the table service was that they failed to give us any appetizer plates with which to eat our Borani. We had  little plates for our flatbread, so we used those and dug in!

Phenomenal Pumpkin Borani
Critique #5 Food: 4.5 points. The Pumpkin Borani was out of this world, insanely amazing, heaven on a plate! Absolutely a perfect 10!  I've had it before, but really didn't remember it being this tantalizing. Must have been perfectly sweet sugar pumpkins…or perhaps it was a substitute with acorn squash (so says my friend Janis), but whatever it was…it was truly the very best treat we've had on our lunch dates yet. Just the right texture and blend of spices with the garlic yogurt topping that was absolute perfection.  The rest of the meal was fair to good. My Flame-Grilled Chicken Kabob was described on the menu as juicy, but was in fact a bit dry. The red-pepper chutney was quite tasty, however, and the asparagus grilled nicely. Mom got the Mantoo and liked it OK. The fresh flatbread brought to the table was very good and soft. If not for the Borani, we would have given it a 3.5; if only the Borani—it would have been 5 plus!

Critique #6 value: 4 points. If we had delayed lunch just a bit, we would have been delighted with the price of the Borani later. Between 2-6pm, half priced appetizers and happy hour wine pourings are offered. We started lunch at 1:00, so paid the full $10 for the Borani (quite worth it, by the way…but for $5 would have been the bargain of a lifetime). The entrées were a bit higher than what we had been paying elsewhere. The dinner menu is fairly similar with slightly higher prices…perhaps due to larger portion sizes?

Overall score for Oasis Grille: 4.4 points. We had a wonderful lunch date and enjoyed our experience at Oasis. We will definitely return…especially during happy hour! As per our usual, we ordered too much food—but we wanted to bravely sample some different items. Also as per our usual, we took home the left overs and this time, I think I was the excited one to savor more Pumpkin Borani that evening!

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