A mouthwatering new blog from New York I have been following (importantfood.tumblr.com) focuses on dishes that are so compelling, so complete, so craveable, they lodge in your taste memory. You judge the success of all other dishes by them, no matter the ethnicity. The pozole verde at Cosecha, from chef/owner Dominica Rice-Cisneros hit me that way. It is a dish I can’t get out of my mind.
Cosecha’s Pozole verde ($5/$8) is a bowl of Mexican chicken soup tinted green by a tart puree of roasted green chiles, tomatillos and aromatics. What makes this version so incredible is its layers of flavor: toasty garlic, pungent dried Mexican oregano, the piquancy of lime, the heat of chiles, all counterbalanced by a base of rich chicken stock. Thin but potent green broth gets texture from dewy shreds of chicken and big, soft nuggets of pozole–rehydrated hominy kernels. A salad-like topping of paper-thin radishes, avocado, onions and cilantro adds brightness. Each spoonful tells an intriguing story even as it delivers pure comfort. This is one of those miracle dishes that satisfy deeply while staying lean.
Essentially a counter in one of the last remaining market areas of Oakland’s old Swan’s Market, Cosecha also prepares utterly delicious tacos and quesadillas, all made with a Chez Panisse standard of ingredients and sensibility. Rice-Cisneros cooked there.
Tacos are built on made-to-order soft tortillas that taste like popcorn. The fish taco ($4.50), a Cosecha signature, stars a finger of golden, deep fried Pacific cod set off by lime-dressed threads of cabbage and a drizzle of smoky, pink chipotle crema– a Baja California-style taco. The pork belly taco ($4.50) is also a knockout with crisp lardons of Stone Valley pork, pickled red onions, a few red beans and fresh-flavored tomatillo salsa. A generously filled grilled vegetable taco ($3.65) comes off almost as meaty, with dollops of guacamole, beans and salsa.
Another Cosecha dish that all the food tribes are talking about is an inventive roasted yam and Oaxacan cheese quesadilla ($8.75), a Mexican style grilled cheese sandwich. The quesadillas here are made with fresh corn tortillas–not flour ones– in this case filled with cubed sweet potato scented with cumin, and a mixture of mild jack and sharp dry cheeses. The corn tortilla crisps up on the griddle, the cheese oozes and the spiced sweet potato brightens it all. Cut into four strips, the quesadilla is easy to share and to dunk into a chunky tomatillo or a pureed cilantro salsa served with it.
The chef/owner’s years in the Chez Panisse pantry must have inspired a juicy blood orange and kumquat salad of butter lettuce, cucumber and jicama in citrusy dressing. Toasted, salted pumpkin seeds supply the umami.
I have rarely met an aqua fresca that is worth the calories because they’re always too sweet, even when made with fresh fruit. The restrained sweetness of Cosecha’s refreshing cucumber-lime aqua fresca allows the scents of both cucumber and citrus to come forward.
Only a soft, freshly baked chocolate chip cookie stands in for dessert, but it is exceptional, even for a crisp cookie lover like me. Melty chunks of high quality bittersweet chocolate are captured in an almost honey cake-like cookie.
Orderers are given a number on a stand, and runners deliver the food to tables either outside on the sunny sidewalk or in the cool, cavernous space indoors. You buss your own table when finished.
Street parking is easy, but locating Cosecha can be a little tricky. Though the address is 907 Washington, the taqueria is actually on 9th Street, just west of Washington. No matter where you’re coming from, Cosecha is a place you want to find.
907 Washington Street, Oakland 510 452-5900 www.cosechacafe.com
Monday through Wednesday 9 a.m. to 8 p.m., Thursday through Saturday 9 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Closed Sunday.