French Flavors and Contemporary Design Merge at Oakland’s Occitania￼Author:Michelle Konstantinovsky
Earlier this summer, the Triangulo Restaurant Group (the team behind Bay Area staple Duende) opened the doors to Occitania, their highly anticipated French-inspired restaurant on the ground floor of the Kissel Uptown Oakland hotel.
Inspired by the ancient Occitan linguistic region which extends from southern France into Italy’s Piemonte in the East and into Catalonia in the South, the restaurant draws inspiration from an eclectic array of flavors and cultures. Chef/Owner Paul Canales heads up the menu, which he says “reflects the incredible diversity of southern French cuisine.”
The restaurant itself, designed by Oakland-based Arcsine, makes numerous architectural references to the southern French region and includes artwork specifically commissioned from a number of local artists include a series of hanging sculptures inspired by the mistral winds that shape southern France, a wall mural inspired by Toulouse Lautrec’s work, and tapestries by a local textile artist.
The Arcsine team took advantage of the restaurant’s corner location which features expansive, arched windows and played up light and shadow throughout the overall design. Inspired by the aesthetic of Provence, the color palette features gold, lavender, terracotta, and lush green hues. The
curved ceiling of the dining room references the Mistral winds of Southern France and serves as a backdrop to the collection of suspended ceramic artworks by Peter St. Lawrence. Oakland artist Ramona Downey’s woven artwork adds softness to the space, accentuating the main wall.
Beyond the restaurant’s back-lit sculptural brass bar, guests will find a series of spaces characterized by wave-like walls and varying ceiling heights. One particular table area features a river rock-inspired Maya Romanoff wall covering, leading to a curved gold ceiling over a second main dining area. The partially open kitchen is visible in the space between the two larger dining rooms and a private dining room features a lime-wash painted mural designed by Sam Strand and painted by her and Emily Ritz. Another semi-private room is designed to conjure images of the Notre-Dame du Haut church by Le Corbusier in Ronchamp France.
Occitania’s menu changes daily, putting a modern spin on traditional culinary techniques. Canales and his team specialize in adapting ancient recipes to showcase local, sustainable ingredients. Recent menu features included game birds like duck or squab, contemporary interpretations of classic chicken dishes, predominantly local seafood, house-made sausages, and Steak Frites. The menu also includes a cassoulet that will change with the seasons, featuring ingredients like dried white beans, duck confit, and braised lamb in winter, and elements like fresh shelling beans, salted rockfish and house-made seafood sausage in summer. Desserts, under the direction of pastry chef Jen Kenny Nguyen, focus on contemporary interpretations of French favorites, like Tarte Tatin or Crème Brulee, and feature seasonal fruit.
The comprehensive wine program focuses primarily on French wines, followed by Californian wines done in a French-style with a few from Italy and Spain as well. Beverage Director JB Reynolds has also created a list of a dozen cocktails ranging including everything from aperitif style drinks like the Fire & Orange Spritz with Aperol, rosemary white vermouth, cava and charred cara cara orange, to the spirit forward All Night Long with Fancy Stiggens pineapple rum, roasted espresso bean infused cognac, amaro, cinnamon, and creole bitters.
Occitania is located at 422 24th St, Oakland, CA. Visit occitaniaoakland.com for more information.