Friday, April 13, 2012

Dinner @ Haven

We got to check out the brand new Daniel Patterson restaurant in Oakland tonight. Overall, a great experience!

The space is brand new and really lovely. Swanky and rustic at the same time, with lots of stonework and wood. It gives an upscale yet relaxed vibe. The kitchen is an open kitchen, with bar seating all along it. We were seated at a table since we were a party of four, but I'd love to sit at the counter and watch the action sometime.

The food was slightly upscale versions of classic comfort food. All very well executed. Portions were large for this caliber of food and certainly for the price point. I'm not sure if the Oakland location is responsible for the pricing, but I was really quite shocked at the quality/price/portion sizes. For example, mains were ~$25; for the same quality they would be $35 at most places in SF and the portions would be significantly smaller. House made complimentary sparkling water as well.

Like any Patterson establishment, the repeated standouts were the vegetables - even when they are just a side element on a plate, they shine!

The service was good and they went above and beyond when there were some slight issues. The starters actually came very quickly (faster than most places), and then there was a short lull before our mains arrived. I wouldn't have thought anything of it, as it really wasn't any longer than most places, but the manager came over to tell us that there had been a problem in the kitchen and that our dishes would arrive soon. Then one of the serving spoons they gave us had a particle of food on it, which someone overheard us noticing and quickly replaced. And our brussels sprouts didn't arrive with the mains. Once we ordered dessert, the manager brought over glasses of dessert wine for all of us to make up for the issues. This was a nice gesture, and wasn't really expected, as these issues were all fairly minimal and we didn't complain about any of them. Then the biggest surprise came with the bill. They told us that due to the mishaps they had discounted a few things. I assumed that meant the brussels since they were mis-timed. But ... they comp'ed us all of the entrees, the sides, and the desserts (and the dessert wine they added). Seriously? This was completely unexpected and rather amazing.

Top bites of the evening: caramelized brussels sprouts, seared scallop, seared fennel, merengue.

Summary: I would gladly go back, and wish it were located in San Francisco and not Oakland. It wasn't the meal of a lifetime or anything like that, but it was all very good, I liked the atmosphere, and the prices (even when not discounted!) were very reasonable. I really wish this was in my neighborhood!

Little gem salad, with gorgonzola dressing, pickled celery and jalapeno, crisp chicken skin, hot sauce. $11.
This was their play on a classic iceberg wedge salad crossed with buffalo chicken wings.

From the iceberg wedge side of things, to class it up, instead of iceberg, they use little gems. Instead of ranch dressing, it was a blue cheese dressing. Which seques into the wings portion, with crispy chicken skin and hot sauce.

This was a very well executed salad, but at the end of the day, still a salad.

The little gems were fresh and crisp, and the perfect lettuce choice for the dish. The pickled celery added a really delicious, creative touch, although it was easily lost in the dish if you didn't specifically pick out pieces to taste. The crispy chicken skin was incredible. I wouldn't have identified it as chicken skin without some hints, but it was tasty fried goodness. The hot sauce, the blue cheese, and the chicken skin did taste exactly like chicken wings. I wouldn't go out of my way for this dish again, but I'd gladly eat it.
Smoked housemade fettucini, with onion soubise, pancetta, egg, chives.  $13.
Another play on a classic, this time on pasta carbonara.

In this case, they smoke the flour that is used to make the pasta, imparting a deeply smokey flavor. The onion soubise was nice and creamy, and the pancetta added another nice flavor component. The pasta was clearly fresh and handmade, and was cooked perfectly.

That all said, this dish didn't wow me, as my expectations were high due to all of the reviews I'd read raving about it. Don't get me wrong, it was good, and the smoked pasta was definitely interesting, but it didn't blow my mind.

One side note - I later dipped bread in the leftover sauce, and found that the sauce flavor complimented the more plain flavor of the bread better than the smoked pasta. But I also really appreciated the smoked flavor in the pasta, just not with the sauce. This is a case where the sum of the parts just wasn't actually better than the individual components. I'd like to see what other directions they go with the pasta in the future.
Parker House rolls, topped with sea salt.
Parker House style rolls. Served fresh out of the oven, nice and warm, soft, slightly sweet, with crisp exterior with a touch of salt. A good roll.
Dayboat scallops, with heirloom beets, frisee, seared fennel, black trumpet mushrooms, blood orange, endive. 
Delicious! Definitely the best entree we had, and I'd order this again in a heartbeat. In fact, I sorta almost considered ordering more for dessert :)

The scallops were nicely seared and tender, with simple if any spicing on them. I was surprised by how flavorful they were for being so plain. Very well executed.

The other surprise on this plate for me was the seared fennel. It had an amazing smokey/charred flavor that was really complex. I could have easily eaten a side just of the fennel :)

The heirloom beets, mushrooms, assorted greens, and blood orange sauce didn't really do much for me, but they certainly didn't detract.
Chicken (breast, wing, thigh), cooked sous vide, then stuffed with foie gras, then seared in a pan, with wheatberries, root vegetables, in a foie gras and banyuls sauce.
I don't normally order chicken at restaurants, but I'd read many good reviews about this dish.

The chicken was very moist and tender. I guess it was a nicely prepared chicken, but it was just ... chicken.

The wheatberries and the foie/banyuls sauce made for some pretty tasty bites, bursting with flavor and richness.

But the standout on this plate for me was the root veggies, cooked perfectly (not too soft, not too raw) combined with the sauce. Surprisingly delicious.
Crispy, caramelized brussels sprouts with mint, lime, and garlic.  $7.
ZOMG. Winning dish of the night.

Any person who doesn't like brussels sprouts would have their mind changed by this dish. Then again, anyone who loves brussels sprouts would probably be upset at this dish.

Let me explain. As you can probably tell from the picture, the sprouts are very crispy and caramelized. The leaves that had separated were like fried chips. And the flavors ... wow! People use the phrase "explosion in my mouth" and I usually roll my eyes at it, but this is a case where it really applies. So. Flavorful. But, you don't really taste the brussels themselves much at all.

Can I have more of these ASAP?
"Baked California", fennel merginue filled with vanilla ice cream and orange sorbet, on top of a lemon cookie crust, and served with kiwi and citrus sauces. $10.
Their play on Baked Alaska.

The merengue on top was insanely fluffy and flavorful. I've never had merengue this good in my life before. Usually merengue is just sorta there as a topping; for me this stole the show. I could kinda care less about the rest of the dessert, I just wanted more and more merengue. I have no idea how they got it so fluffy and delicious!

Inside was vanilla ice cream and orange sorbet, which were nice enough flavors combined together, sorta like a classic creamsicle. The cookie base it was on added a textural component to the dish but wasn't really necessary.

Can I please have more merengue?
Lime tart, with sesame brittle. $10.
My least favorite dish of the night, but not one I'd normally order, so this is likely just personal preference.

Slightly tart lime filling, on top of a crust, with some sesame brittle stuff. Not bad, but particularly noteworthy.

[ Originally posted January 20, 2012 ]
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