.A Bit of Vegas in Uptown

Neon hues, LED lights, and electronica make Camber a bit of a novelty. The drinks and food, however, fit right in.

The Red Bull is a curiosity. It is — or rather they, a dozen or two slender, shiny cans are — lined up inside a glowing box on Camber’s bar, right under an equally orderly collection of identically frosted vodka bottles and a set of neon twinkling lights; the effect is somewhere between that of a beacon and an especially futuristic-looking toaster. The effect, in case it is not yet patently clear, is weird — especially here, in the far end of a well-appointed tapas restaurant on 17th Street and Broadway in Uptown Oakland.

This is the owner’s first bar and, according to him, Camber — which opened a bit more than a month ago — is, simultaneously, a sports bar, an “Asian tapas” restaurant, and a lounge. (Its name, by the way, is another hybrid, a portmanteau of his kids’ names, Cameron and Amber).

If you’ve ever been to BEC’s, in downtown Berkeley, it’s sort of like that, but more pleasant: Part niceish restaurant, part neon-hued lounge, and little in between. When you first walk in, it’s all cool blues, candle-topped tables, and large-scale paintings of Oakland. Depending on the time of day, you might see a business-y-looking group of guys or an older couple sharing big plates of egg rolls or pad se ew. But back near the bar, you will be greeted by a floor painting in the style of what can only be described as “stoner art”; to the right, against the wall, the aforementioned centipede of twinkling LED lights changes colors, turning the display of bottles lime, cobalt, lavender, fuchsia. The bar itself is adorned with a pile of what appears to be balls of yarn, except they are hollow and made of straw. They’ve hired DJs for the weekends — mostly house and electronica, the owner said. Last Thursday, the DJ in question had a business card that he distributed unbidden and on which he declared among his musical inspirations “beautiful women.” There’s a lofted little space above the rest of the bar with faux-leather couches and, on both levels, lots of televisions. “I feel a little bit like I’m in Vegas,” my drinking companion told me, the implication being: not Uptown.

But then again: A mango mojito (rum, mango purée, mint, syrup, soda, $10) that could have gone truly, terribly wrong emerges from behind the bar spicy and surprisingly light and not at all too sweet; the jalapeño-basil gimlet (vodka, basil, lime, syrup, jalapeño, also $10) is grassily delicious; an order of could-be-microwaved Indian flatbread and curry dip comes out of the kitchen looking and tasting like not only real food, but good real food; a pair of ah, unnamed, patrons who order a plate of beef larb dumbly, hubristically hot and find themselves tearing up and gasping for breath and generally making a bit of a scene on a Thursday night are met with plenty of no-questions-asked water refills, a plate of free cucumbers and lettuce, and much, much less derision than deserved. The Red Bull toaster, however, remains weird.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

East Bay Express E-edition East Bay Express E-edition
Support the East Bay Express, local news, donate