We tried La Calenda for lunch on Sunday 3/17/19 and we liked it. It was about 1.5hr drive from Fremont so I was pretty hungry when I got there. They have some parking on the side of the restaurant, and street.
They have a bar area, large dining area, and outdoor dining area.
Cachete de Res en Mole Chichilo $13 - braised beef cheek, mole chichilo, charred jalepeno escabeche, tortillas. The meat is super tender, mole I felt was very mild, homemade blue tortillas - came with only 3. This was an appetizer.
Tacos de Barbacoa $13 - braised short rib, cilantro, watercress, salsa avocado, 2 per order on stone-ground tortillas. I liked the one I tried, hubby got the other one. Pretty tasty.
Puerco en Mole Verde $22 - pork jowl in mole verde, white beans. Meat was very tender, mole very mild, beans fine. Came with more of the blue tortillas (3 pieces).
Frijoles Refritos $5 - refried black beans, queso fresco. Very tasty. We liked them.
Hubby got a glass of Margarita $12. He enjoyed it.
Our total after tax, but before tip $70.04. Pricey food, but we liked it.
Music is loud here and in the bathrooms (2 unisex) the music is super loud!
We went this weekend and had a very mixed experience. Here is my review:
We recently ate at La Calenda in Yountvile. This is a Thomas Keller restaurant specializing in the cuisine of Oaxaca.
I was curious to try it because I like Oaxacan food. But I am leery of Napa restaurants which tend to be overpriced, cater to nouveau riche tourists and have mediocre food. And though I enjoyed my one meal at French Laundry many years ago I have not enjoyed any of his other restaurants. So what is my verdict on Calenda? Very mixed. The restaurant is huge, not particularly visually appealing, was packed on Saturday evening and was very loud and expensive. The people in the restaurant were a mix of tourists with some locals and recognizable wine bigwigs sprinkled in. Service was mostly fine. Here is what we ate:
Chips and guacamole. A meager portion of mediocre guac for $13. The first chips they brought us were hard and saturated with grease. I sent them back. The next batch was not as greasy but the chips were hard and the same time lacking a satisfying crunch. The salsas were bland and tasted like they could have come from Safeway. The overall reaction this inspired was a craving for the far superior and less expensive chips and guac at Picante in Berkeley. If you look closely at the picture, which is actually the second less greasy batch, you can see the chips have that shiny translucent look indicative of greasiness from being fried in oil that is not hot enough.
As a main course my husband had the black mole chicken enchiladas. Both of us found this dish mediocre. The chicken was dry flavorless chick breast and the mole was one of the blandest and most uninspiring that we have ever tried.
For a main course I had the pork jowl in green mole. This was excellent. The big pieces of pork were unctuous and moist with char on to and paired amazingly with the flavorful green mole sauce.
Our friend ordered the chicken tacos which were forgettable and left mostly unfinished on the plate.
We also had cocktails which were excellent.
Had we only had the pork jowl and cocktails we would have thought the meal was excellent. My impression was that the cuisine was dumbed down for the tourist palate and QC is lacking as was apparent by the horrible chips. Overall this is a sad representation of the vibrant cuisine of Oaxaca. After dinner we discussed if we would return. The answer is probably no, although the cocktails and pork jowl were so good we might consider returning and ordering those items only.