Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Marica in Rockridge

During lunch a couple Mondays ago, my friend mentioned she went to a fantastic seafood restaurant at the end of College Avenue in Oakland. She raved about the affordability, quality and all the complimentary dishes from the chef. I hardly crave going to a restaurant, but after hearing her compliments I had to try it. The next day, I dragged myself through the rain to Marica Restaurant.

Marica is a cozy family-run bistro. Walk by quickly and you may miss it. The space is well lit and bright with welcoming walls of art and mirrors. Entering, I felt as if I was visiting a friend's home, and the hostess-waitress-owner greeted us as such.

The menu is small with two daily fish specials and about seven entree staples that include chicken and beef for land lovers. The best deal is their three-course prix fixe of soup or salad, fish of the day and dessert for $25, or $21 if you are seated before 6:30 p.m. The dishes can be flexible, as our waiter kindly informed me that I could substitute the mussels as my appetizer and the steelhead for my entree.

Everything we had was delicious and flavorful. Marica makes one of my favorite mussel appetizers. Cleaned properly with a buttery, tangy sauce, they are the candy of the sea. The entrees were also good and hefty. This isn't a minimalist restaurant with a delicately placed piece of medium-seared fish on a pristine white plate. This is like going home to mom when she says you have gained weight but continues to give you an enormous heaping of her pot roast.

We were so impressed with Marica after our entrees that we appreciated even more all the little things the staff did, such as a free calamari appetizer and chocolate souffle dessert. It was our first visit, but whatever the occasion, Marica seems to give each table something complimentary. It is the type of service I have seen only on birthday and anniversary dinners, never for something as simple as just visiting.

Marica is a great place that I'm surprised to have found in Rockridge, one of the more affluent Oakland neighborhoods. Walk a few blocks up College and you'll find plenty of eateries that cost twice as much but are not half as good. From the three course prix fixe for $21 and all-day happy hour of $5 cocktails and appetizers to the 10% cash discount, Marica offers terrific value. Our tab for three appetizers, two entrees, three desserts and two cocktails was $51 before tip.

I wish more restaurants were like Marica, but until there are, I will be making many return visits.

Marica Restaurant
5301 College Ave., Oakland
Reservations recommended

Photo: MilkConspiracy

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