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Thursday, June 5, 2014

East Bay Bite of the Week: Tripe Guisado at Comal

Posted By on Thu, Jun 5, 2014 at 11:00 AM

YELP - ANN. L
  • Yelp - Ann. L

Downtown Berkeley is a bit strange. Amid decades-old copy shops, small spots hawking spices in bulk, and cafés serving the kind of espresso that's built more to get you through an all night study session than compete with the soft stonefruit notes of third wave roaster's coffee, a few ripples of new culture are catching light.

See also: East Bay Bite of the Week: Uni Risotto at Iyasare

East Bay Bite of the Week: Breakfast at Elmwood Café

East Bay Bite of the Week: Pedro's Favorite at Brazil Café

Somewhere between a dingy den that hawks late night sliders and a convenience store that sells ice cream from the front counter, Comal gleams. Inside, steel and wood accent a big space that bleeds into a back patio. A bar keeps singles and waiting parties occupied with a mezcal-heavy cocktail list, and the open kitchen teases Matt Gandin's Mexican menu. Gandin was the chef de cuisine at Delfina for five years, and has furnished Comal with the same market fresh, Californian sensibility. This time, it tastes a little more southern.

The tripe guisado is an unsuspecting winner. The soup is a spicy, ruddy concoction peppered with garbanzos and morita chile, pinched together with a pleasant soft acid of tomato. By nature, tripe can lean towards the gamey side, and defeating that animal funk can take an awful lot of violent spicing. In this case, the tripe is stewed in bacon and onions, and cooked in a mix of guajillo, pig trotters, and chicken stock -- furnishing the soup with balance and an earthy complexity. It's got the same romantic appeal as the candlelit tables next to the outdoor fire pit. The rest of the menu offers creative riffs on standard Mexican fare, from tacos to quesadillas. The chile relleno is a simple take, plumped with queso fresco and epazote, and the spiced chocolate cake is perfectly dressed up with the biting appeal of Mexican hot chocolate. But whatever you do, don't bypass the homemade chicharrones.

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Molly Gore

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