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Uptown Charm at Oakland’s Posh New Fox Theater

Almost a two years after opening its doors down the street from the freshly renovated, eye-poppingly gorgeous Fox Theater, Flora -- the upscale California comfort food sibling to Mexican star Dona Tomas -- is buzzing stronger than ever as it serves up a long list of artisan cocktails and market-fresh California fare in a glamorous noir setting.

Stepping inside at 8:30pm on a Wednesday night, we were a bit surprised that we had to wait for a table, but with a cocktail list with classics like the Lillet, gin and vodka based Vesper, and original creations like Some Velvet Morning with 209 gin and prosecco, and our choice of posh seats in the lounge next to the open kitchen and expansive bar, the wait was painless.

If you’re in the East Bay, Flora is the restaurant you’d go to if you wanted to catch up with an old friend at the sleek wooden bar on any given night, especially if you’re in the mood for an excellent fancy restaurant burger. And if you’re from the city, Flora can be your destination to spice up date-night (nestled in the black button-tufted leather booth) or to sit with visiting friends and family (and show them something that they won’t find in our seven square miles).

The menu spans the spectrum -- and the globe -- from starters like a classic shrimp cocktail ($12) and arugula salad ($11) to fried mustard-crusted beef cheeks ($13) and pan seared Sonoma foie gras ($19). The entrees range from a hearty, fall-off-the-bone slow-roasted pork shoulder with creamy polenta ($24) to Spanish torta with asparagus, spring onions and salsa roja ($19).

Making our way through some of the apps, the spicy crab salad ($14) with chunks of Dungeness, avocado and cucumber scooped up with crisp lotus root (served in a martini glass) was standout, as were the teriyaki scallops ($15) perched atop an Okinawan sweet potato with a tangy-sweet mango and cabbage slaw.

As for the mains, the meaty mouthful that is the house-ground chuck burger is a definite must-try. However, if the occasion calls for something slightly more refined, you’ll want to get the grilled fish ($26) -- barramundi on this particular night -- which is a complete 180-degree shift. But if you stick with the fish, beware that the gingery rice porridge and green papaya salad are unabashedly Asian-inspired and might not mesh with a side of the signature mac’n’cheese.

From the cocktail, beer and wine list to the diverse food menu, Flora offers enough variety to satisfy every palette, and the décor feels like an escape into a 1920s Hollywood set -- all making a trip over the bridge more than worth the effort.

California Comfort

Reservations Essential? Yes, unless you don’t mind starting with a drink at the bar