First Look: Sister opens in Oakland’s former Boot and Shoe Service spot

By JESSICA YADEGARAN | jyadegaran@bayareanewsgroup.com | Bay Area News GroupPUBLISHED: August 16, 2019 at 11:09 am | UPDATED: September 6, 2019 at 2:32 pm

Last August, Oakland’s Richard Clark and Jen Cremer purchased Boot and Shoe Service from Charlie Hallowell after the chef-owner was accused of sexual harassment by more than 30 of his employees. Following a year-long re-branding which included hiring a new staff and implementing a zero-tolerance harassment policy — they hold guests to that policy, too — the husband-and-wife owners are celebrating the restaurant’s official re-launch with a new name: Sister.

We popped in for dinner on a recent weeknight to sample Executive Chef Martin Salata’s take on ingredient-driven Cal Ital cuisine, as well as Bar Manager Alex Phillips’ tasty craft cocktails.

THE VIBE: The new name evokes family and familiarity, and you get that warmth from both Clark and Cremer and the exceptional servers. The interior remains largely unchanged from its Boot and Shoe days, from the floor-to-ceiling wood and intimate back bar to the cafe-style front of the house and ivy-strewn back patio. Sister’s cafe serves breakfast items, like avocado toast and savory porridge, from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. then reopens at 5:30 p.m for dinner. They also do weekend brunch.  TOP ARTICLES2/5READ MOREProspect makes highly-anticipated debut in Athletics winover the Astros

THE FOOD: Salata, formerly of Pizzaiolo and Alice Waters’ Cafe Fanny, utilizes local and hyper-seasonal ingredients — more than half the menu’s dishes are plant-based — and snazzy techniques within the kitchen’s pizza and pasta programs. By our assessment, most everything is made in-house, including that sensational seeded bread ($4), which is served alongside butter and sea salt that’s studded with dehydrated maitake mushroom dust.

Salata plates with an artist’s eye. Yolk-yellow Ricotta Agnolotti ($17) with skinless sungold tomatoes, basil and lovage looks like a fall hillside. Glassy ribbons of celtuce, or celery lettuce, decorate a bed of Cured Local Halibut ($17), a savory, bright-green broth swaying beneath it. For sheer yumminess, our vote goes to the housemade Bucatini ($22) flavored with peak-season local anchovies that were pickled in-house and dusted with toasted breadcrumbs. Dee-vine.

We’ll also return for the blistered-crust pizzas, especially the gooey mozzarella-based Tomato and Salametto Piccante ($22), its heat cleverly matched and tempered by the addition of spicy honey.

DON’T MISS: The cocktails. Phillips’ beverage program is fabulous, with a mix of farm-to-glass and spirit-forward cocktails ($13), concise, Italy-heavy wine list ($12-$19 by the glass) and housemade non-alcoholic drinks, like a zippy spritzer made with wild blackberries, shiso and La Guinelle Vinegar Soda ($7). Oh yes. We’ll be sipping that on the patio through September.