Comal review: Linking Mexico, California
I’ve always said that if I were crazy enough to open a restaurant, it would be Mexican because the cuisine is so misunderstood and underrepresented in this area. Comal is exactly the type of place I’d have liked to open.
Berkeley's Comal rocks its regional Mexican cuisine
Let’s cut to the chase. We have a new favorite restaurant — and it’s smack in the midst of that hotbed of dining glory, Berkeley’s Arts District. John Paluska’s new venture, Comal, may just be the most exciting new restaurant to land here in years.
The Best New Restaurants in San Francisco
An authentic Mexican restaurant that doesn’t feel like one, Berkeley’s 140-seat Comal trades serape prints for raw-concrete walls. There’s a party vibe, but it’s not noisy thanks to innovative acoustics by audio lab Meyer Sound.
The Regular: Comal
The ingredient sourcing is very focused, from the fantastically fresh seafood to the appearance of chepil in the housemade tamales. (The masa here is really good—the first thing you’ll smell when you walk in is the fresh corn tortillas.) Even simple dishes like jicama and cucumber pop with flavor—the spice level of everything is just right…
Taste of the Town: Oaxacan Roots
I was already thinking this was Berkeley’s most beautiful new restaurant in years when we reached the outdoor area, with another dining area under large heaters hanging from a translucent canopy, a full bar and an open-air beer garden with picnic tables. Suddenly we didn’t mind that we might have to hang out for an hour for a table.
Patricia Unterman weighs in on Comal
Comal is the restaurant that the beloved Delfina would be–if it were Mexican. Its food possesses that same clarity. Like Delfina, Comal’s kitchen reveres simplicity and balance, and achieves even more because of the way it handles ingredients.
Comal: A study in excellence
Even early in the evening the place fills up. By 6 p.m. on a recent Sunday, the tables in the 70-seat beer garden were filled, as was much of the 150-seat dining room. The only seats were at the communal tables surrounded by the open kitchen and the bar — which turns out some exceptional cocktails.
Esquire chooses Comal's Joaquin Murrieta as their Cocktail of the Week
This is a big, flavorful cocktail with a lot of both herbal and bitter notes. It’s definitely for the more — I’d say, experienced drinker. The beauty of it is that it’s really just a simple stirred cocktail. Use a nice large ice cube.
Comal chosen by SF Chronicle's Michael Bauer as one of the top ten best new Bay Area restaurants for 2012
Matt Gandin was chef de cuisine for five years at Delfina and he carries over the same exacting standards to what he’s now doing at this Mexican restaurant. Gandin offers tacos, enchiladas and other typical fare, but there’s a subtle fanaticism that’s missing at many other Mexican places.
Comal, New Authentic Oaxacan Spot in Bay Area, is Surprisingly Good
If you’re reading this mom I apologize in advance because I don’t know if it was the Cafeta in the air or the alcohol in my blood but honestly, it’s the best tripe I’ve had in my life – and I’ve eaten plenty of menudo in my time.
A Oaxacan Oasis in Berkeley
Owned by John Paluska, the former manager of rock band Phish, Comal is the first restaurant anywhere to feature a newly developed sound system by Berkeley-based acoustic experts Meyer Sound. As Paluska notes, restaurant owners often get complaints from diners that their spaces are either too quiet—lacking vibrancy and buzz—or too loud. The Meyer system is intended to straddle the perfect middle ground.
Comal, Berkeley, good for drinks, bite
Signature drink: Too many to choose from, but we’re especially fond of the spicy Jack Satan ($10) with reposado Tequila, hibiscus syrup, infierno tincture and lime; and the refreshing Margarita ($9) with blanco Tequila, orange-scented agave syrup and lime. There are 10 specialty cocktails in all; we’ve yet to come across a bad one.
First Look: Comal in Berkeley, CA
Gandin is taking a similar approach to the food at Comal as he did at Delfina; the menu will change daily. “I’m treating the Bay Area like my region of Mexico,” he said. “That being said, there are a lot of ingredients that might not be traditionally found in Mexican cuisine. But I’m not afraid to use them.
At Berkeley's Comal, John Paluska feeds his passion
Comal restaurant in Berkeley was born from John Paluska’s longtime passion for Mexican food. The word means “hearth” in Spanish, and informed every aspect of the restaurant’s creation.
“I wanted to create a place where food was made by hand and with love, and served in a warm and friendly environment,” he said.
“I feel like we’re helping to build community at these tables,” he said. “It’s the most gratifying thing, and why I opened Comal.”
Tender pork, beef meatballs at Comal
The thing about meatballs, however, is that they cross cultural boundaries. You’ll find them in Europe, North America, South America, Scandinavia and Asia. I’ve rarely met one I didn’t like, but very few that I absolutely loved. In fact, I’d been searching for several years to find a version that matches the recipe we ran for A16’s meatballs. I found them at Comal.
A Restaurant With Adjustable Acoustics
When John Paluska envisioned Comal, his Mexican restaurant in Berkeley, California, he wondered whether he could find a new way to overcome what Zagat Survey says is restaurant-goers’ second-most-frequent complaint: noise.
New cocktails now
The hook for drink lovers is a cocktail menu created by the Bon Vivants (www.bonvivants-sf.com), Josh Harris and Scott Baird. I went on opening night, May 5, and no surprise from that expert bartending crew: each drink tried was a winner, featuring South of the Border spirits from tequila to mezcal.
High-tech system lets restaurant set noise level
John Paluska and Meyer Sound, a world-renowned audio engineering company in Berkeley, teamed up to test a relatively new technology that controls reverberation levels with the press of a button. By using a combination of sound absorption materials, microphones, speakers and a digital processor, Paluska can make his restaurant as loud or as soft as he wants.
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The chips and guac are as good as it gets, the chile relleno screams Mexican comfort food, and the tripe stew rewards the daring with layers of richly deep flavor.