After much anticipation, Kingston 11 just opened a brick & mortar so I met a friend for drinks and appetizers. We ordered the Salt Fish Fritters ($7), which were surprisingly soft and almost creamy inside. Both of the cocktails we tasted were balanced and complex without being over complicated: the unique Fern Gully (Angostura Estate White rum, Assam-cardamom syrup, Grand Classico Bitter, Fresh lemon juice, served up with a cardamom sugar rim, $9) and the not-too-sweet Smash Kingston 11 (4 Roses Bourbon, Cocchi Americano, Fresh lemon juice, Muddled mint & blackberries with a hint of maple syrup, $9).
My first visit was so memorable I had to go back to meet chef Nigel Jones and Vita Simone (Easy, Dogwood, Sassafras Seagrass), the woman behind those unforgettable cocktails. She made the other two cocktails on the current menu for me. The flavors in the boozy Local Roots (Vida mezcal, Bonal Quina, Cynar, $11) really opened up as the ice melted and the Skirt Slides Up (Dos Manos Tequila, Jamaical Sorrel, Cayenne, Lime juice, $10) really tickled my taste buds. She brings ingredients from the kitchen to the bar and creates innovative cocktails that compliment the food. There will be 8-10 different cocktails by the time she’s finished training the staff. Brendan Eliason (Periscope Cellars) is curating what sounds like an impressive collection of beer, wine and spirits. There are now 33 rums, and he’s aiming for 50, which will probably be the biggest rum collection in Oakland. And he’s planning to introduce rum flights (!) in the near future.
I should also mention the Jerk Chicken (with rice & peas and plantains, $14), which turned out to be incredibly smoky and charred. I’ve had “jerk” many times before, but this was my first real jerk experience. I get it now! Jerk is more about the cooking method than the spice mix. Jerk is not the spicy baked chicken you get at most restaurants; it’s more about technique – like legit barbeque. This jerk chicken is made with care and it takes 48 hours to prepare. There are only a couple restaurants in California doing jerk the right way, so we’re lucky to have one right here. Kingston 11 is for Jamaicans, Oaklanders and everyone.
2270 Telegraph Ave, Oakland
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