Haven - Oakland
Went tonight on the spur of the moment. Haven does a really nice multi-course family style option ($55 for 4 courses, $65 for 5, we were warned that 4 courses would be ample). It was a super way to try a wide range of what's on the menu.
With 5 of us, our first course included generous servings of the Little Gem Salad w/ blue cheese dressing, hot sauce, and crispy chicken skin (a play on Buffalo wings), Chicory Salad with persimmon and pomegranate, and Brussel Sprouts. The salads were nice, but the sprouts were amazing. The menu listed them as including mint, lime, and garlic, but the real key was fish sauce. They were beautifully caramelized and possibly the best sprouts I have ever eaten.
Our second course consisted of the mysterious sounding Smoked Pasta, which was a silky and smoky rendition of an Alfredo. We also had an amazing rich stuffed squash dish that was as tasty as it was beautiful.
The third course was Chicken two or three ways (the staff couldn't quite agree on this) on a bed of wheat berries and root veg. It was served with a bowl of crispy Fried Fingerlings with seaweed, soy, and miso. The potatoes were definitely salty, but there was nothing aggressively Asian about their flavor.
Our fourth course was an unusual take on the Shepherds Pie. The meat was pork, rather than the usual lamb, and the spicing, described on the menu as "winter spice," was a sort of baking blend that seemed to have a good deal of cinnamon in it. The potatoes on top were also unusual, some whole, and some pureed into a creamy (almost) foam. The dish was tasty and hearty, though much lighter and brighter than the usual shepherds pie. This dish was accompanied by Sweet Potatoes with a marshmallow and crispy shallot topping, a dish that was not as cloyingly sweet as one might be led to expect.
We also had two desserts, so I may be mistaken about where the line between courses was located. The Chocolate Cake was good, but the rice ice cream that topped it was sublime. It was really more like a sherbet, super smooth and creamy, but without a strong impression of dairy. It was not very sweet at all. The other dessert was the aptly named Lime Tart, which was indeed quite tart. It was a wonderfully refreshing end to the meal.
Service was attentive. The only fault worth mentioning is that the servers who brought the food would describe each dish as they brought it, only to be followed by our waiter with a fuller description soon after. This was a bit repetitive, and also a source of amusement when the Chicken "three ways" became Chicken "two ways" in the second telling. Not a major flaw, and one that I'm sure they'll sort out as the staff grow more accustomed to their roles.
I never take pictures while eating because I hate how it distracts from the enjoyment of the moment, but I did take a poorly lit phone snap of the squash because it just looked so cool I couldn't help myself. And before I forget, I should mention that the cocktails were great.
We went last Friday and the meal was very good. The family style option is a good deal for the amount of the food. Highlights were the brussel sprouts, smoked pasta, the roasted potatoes with seaweed, the unusual sheppard's pie and a special hamachi collar. Loved the "Baked California" for dessert too. We had them match some wines by the glass for each course, which worked great.
HAVEN’S BRUSSELS SPROUTS
Haven is Daniel Patterson’s new restaurant in Oakland.
20 Brussels sprouts
1 Tbs fish sauce
3-4 mint leaves, diced
1 Tsp honey
1 Tbs Balsamic vinegar
Chili flakes or minced red chilies (optional)
1. Set oven at 450 degrees. Trim off bottom of sprouts and halve. Oil sprouts, put them cut-side down on a sheet pan and sprinkle generously with rock salt. Bake for 10-15 minutes until cut side is browned.
2. Meanwhile, in a serving bowl, combine fish sauce, mint, balsamic vinegar, honey, and chilies.
3. Remove sprouts from oven, drop them in 3 inches of high temp oil like canola oil and fry for 2-5 seconds until edges turn brown and crispy.
4. Remove sprouts and place in serving bowl. Mix with the sauce. Season. Serve.
So I finally made my way over to JLS to try Haven. Having read previous reviews I decided to put in my order for the rolls immediately. They came out rather quickly and were as previously described, "dark, salty Parker House-style rolls." However, they did not appear baked to order. When they arrived at the table they were not warm at all, and the iron pan they were served in was cold. They defintely had been baked well ahead of time. They were fine but not great.
The menu was rather hit/miss. The standouts were the clams starter and the scallops entree. The baked California dessert was good too. The lamb shank was fine but a little heavy handed and off the bone which I did not expect. The cauliflower side dish had a baby food-like consistency and was topped with a couple of pieces of raw broccoli for textural contrast which was odd. The service was very attentive and the space is very well done. There is good separation between tables and a chef's counter if you want to view the action in the kitchen.
Not bad overall, it seems like they are still working on a few issues but there is promise. I will probably go back but I won't be rushing.
Had a really great meal there over the weekend. Went in with mixed expectations given some of the so-so reviews, and I was really happy with the food. They strike this nice balance of using modern techniques to create comfort food with familiar yet exciting flavors.
Chicken in a box was my standout - it was a "terrine" of sorts of sous vide chicken, liver and skin that is one of the most "chickeny" flavors I've tasted (if that makes sense). Also loved the rabbit roulade (sous vide, bacon wrapped, stuffed with liver), and the lamb two ways (shank + rack). All of the proteins were cooked and seasoned perfectly with sauces and vegetable accompaniements that worked well. And the whole table enjoyed the parker rolls with honey butter (ours did arrived warm).
In the "still working out the kinks" section, I have a few nit picks:
The menu is really poorly written. The description of the entrees in particular gives you no sense of what you are ordering. The proteins don't indicate the cut, the preparation, etc (for example, the above dishes are just described as "rabbit" and "lamb"). And when I asked the server to provide clarification on "all" of the entrees (because it was the only way to make an informed decision), he acted really put out. This sort of cryptic writing is fine for a multi-course tasting menu, but unhelpful for a la carte (and frankly it kept me from eating here earlier because the descriptions didn't sound exciting).
The mocktail my wife ordered was sickeningly sweet like candy. No acid, no balance, no subtelty.
Anyway, the above issues are easily addressable. Overall, a great meal and I will definitely return.
Finally got around to going. Nice space, comfortable seats. Except for the larger portions, the food was very reminiscent of Plum.
In serving the parsnip soup with Dungeness crab, Meyer lemon, and pine brown butter ($11) they used the Plum trick of bringing out a bowl with crab, croutons, etc. in it and adding the soup at the table. Fantastic.
Smoked fettuccine with pancetta, black pepper, onion, and egg ($14) was a lighter variation on carbonara. They smoke the semolina. I just had a bite, good but not as exciting as the soup.
Duck breast and confit duck leg accompanied by quinoa with huckleberries and cashew and chunks of smoked sweet potato ($29) was fantastic.
Bavette with cabbage, kohlrabi choucroute, "Russian béarnaise" (a variation on Russian dressing), "rye spices," and Roscoe's potatoes ($28) was good though not as exciting as the duck. The potatoes seemed more like fried bread but the server said they're just super-fresh new potatoes.
Brussels sprouts ($7) with garlic, mint, Aleppo pepper, and I forget what all else were great, sweet-sour-salty-spicy. Huge portion.
Desserts were brilliant. Cardamom panna cotta ($8) with pumpkin seed brittle, candied squash, and pomegranate seeds was a great mix of flavors and textures. Bourbon pecan pie ($9) was pretty conventional but the smoked vanilla ice cream it came with took it in a new direction.
Service was a bit scattered, seemed a bit understaffed. Overall great food and a good value. It's nice to eat Plum-style food in a more comfortable setting.
We liked our meal last week so much we went again to try the $60 prix-fixe. This might be the biggest restaurant bargain in the area right now.
The server said that the dishes may change throughout the night so different tables get different things, hence the lack of a printed menu. That's a brilliant idea for eliminating waste, if the kitchen has only a small amount of something they can use it up. We had:
amuse of chicken liver mousse with quince jam, nice, the combination reminded me of chocolate
coconut-squash soup with I think hazelnut-infused butter, pomegranate seeds, and hazelnuts, really good, family resemblance to the soup we had last week
smoked "forbidden" black rice with uni and citrus gel, fantastic
ten mussels in a little delicious broth and toast with soy butter to sop it up, delicious
root vegetables cooked "risotto style" with grapefruit and a little bone marrow, fantastic
small piece of trout with potatoes, good though kind of boring compared with the other dishes
beef tongue, best I've had since my restaurant closed, similar style, salt-cured, long cooked, seared to finish
slight variation on the same duck dish as last week, maybe half the entree portion so a quarter when split two ways
pork belly shepherd's pie, just a few bites, tasty
eggnog, flavorful but didn't taste super-rich
gingerbread with ... quince? good, homey, not mind-blowing like the desserts we had last week
I don't think I'm forgetting anything. Portions were larger than on Michelin endurance-test tasting menus so I didn't feel like I was making a meal of canapés, but small enough that we were full but not overstuffed. Drank Vouvray and Crozes-Hermitage from the bottle list, both nice.
Went on Wednesday night, for our third trip. It was not completely full, but had a nice busy vibe. The food was mostly amazing as usual. Very innovative interpretations of comfort food (shepherds pie, sausage and lentils, pecan pie). The duck breast was expertly prepared and perfect. The celery root soup with whipped lardo was heavenly. The cocktails, however, fell very flat (particularly Autumn Leaves). I dont think I have EVER left half a cocktail (esp at $11) sitting in the glass.
The service was also not great. After seating, we sat for twenty minutes without being approached by our server. They could have charged us for consuming 4 cocktails by the time we finally found out who she was! She seemed nice and was perfectly adequate but it was not anywhere near up to par with the quality of the food. Another friend who has been there regularly warned me before going that the service had gotten "really slow." Its really too bad as the rest of the place is absolutely pheonmenal. I hope they step up service emphasis soon.
Is this really the only thread on Haven?
Anyway, Windy and I joined four other people for dinner at Haven Saturday. Since there were six of us and six appetizers and six entrees, we ordered one of everything (we also ordered all three of the desserts) and shared. I'm of two minds about this: it's fun to taste everything at the table, but sometimes I feel like I missed something not experiencing the dish as a whole and the whole thing becomes sort of a blur. Plus, it feels like nibbling, not dining, which means sometimes I end up eating too much and sometimes I end up feeling unsatisfied.
I can say, however, that there was not a bad dish. I even liked the trout, which is not one of my favorite fishes. My favorite may actually have been the side dish of Brussels sprouts with garlic and mint.
Here's the menu:
horseradish cream, beet caviar, dill – 10
DUNGENESS CRAB SALAD
blood orange, foraged herbs, porcini crisp, crème fraiche – 15
miso dressing, apple, candied peanuts, fine herbs – 12
braised oxtail, green garlic, nasturtium, smoked ricotta – 14
black garlic broth, roasted alliums, toast, bonito – 15
vadouvan, turnips, croutons – 14
HEIRLOOM BROWN RICE “CONGEE”
brassicas, slow egg, oyster mushroom, ginger – 17
smoky kale, roasted kohlrabi, cipollini – 28
artichoke, sunchoke, red quinoa, roasted shallot – 24
MT LASSEN TROUT
cooked on cedar, roscoe’s potatoes, celery
bulgar, potato-parsnip puree, hedgehog mushroom, roast fennel-29
anson mills grits, wild nettles, asparagus, carrots– 27
HONEY PANNA COTTA
balsamic, citrus salad – 8
teeccino ice cream, cinnamon crumb – 8
chocolate mousse, coconut, caramelized banana, almond – 8
Of the starters, my favorites were the soup -- I thought the pungent horseradish was a great foil for sweetness and earthiness of the other ingredients -- and the fresh, delicate crab salad.
Of the entrees, the trout and the lamb were particularly to my taste.
Apple crumble might not seem like something you'd order in a "fancy" restaurant, but it was really delicious; my favorite, though, was the honey panna cotta, with a powerful honey flavor that captured the slight bitterness of some honeys to take the edge off the sweetness.
And finally, no restaurant with any kind of aspirations towards being on trend these days is without fancy cocktails. I enjoyed my SALVE A TI (rum, apple liqueur, lactic acid, habanero shrub), which I thought was really well-balanced.
In the past, walking by, I hadn't been very intrigued, but now I'd certainly consider going back (once the wallet recovers!).
re: Ruth Lafler
Thanks for the update. How was the crowd on a Saturday night? I was surprised to walk past on a recent Thursday evening and see the restaurant probably about two-thirds empty.
The place seemed packed all the time when it first opened, so I wonder if the spate of recent (less expensive) openings in the JLS area have affected business.
re: Ruth Lafler
We walked in at 8 p.m. last Friday and got a spot at the dining bar. We had the $60 fixed menu and it was a spectacular bargain. Can't recall everything we had - the turnip soup (loved the horseradish and beet caviar), the always-wonderful smoked pasta carbonara, sweetbreads, shortribs. Everything was very good and high end. And, the wine was really great and interesting too. We paired the courses with wines by the glass. the wine director sometimes gave us two half glasses for a course to compare wines and styles. For the shortribs, for example, we compared two spanish reds. Had an orange wine at one point too. Just perfect.
Just got back from a stellar dinner tonight. A friend treated me (lucky me!) & we shared everything:
risotto with salmon roe & charred corn
smoky black rice fritters with artichoke & fresh garbanzos
chicken with red quinoa, carrots, heart of palm
Everything was beautifully plated, delicious & pitch-perfect, imaginative without getting into the realm of weird or trying-too-hard. We were so enchanted with the starters that we worried the entrees would be a let-down, but they weren't.
The food felt like it had tremendous dynamic range, conceptually as well as flavorwise -- a pedestrian-seeming ingredient like chicken breast meets of-the-moment (in a high-tech sort of way) sous vide treatment & of-the-moment (in a back-to-the-land sort of way) carrot greens, meets old-skool-harking heart of palm. Plus pea-macadamia pesto!
I think my favorite was the risotto, which is not generally something you order or eat for its looks, but I have never seen a prettier risotto. The flavors were complex & interesting without unmooring the dish from its essential... comfort-food-ness, for lack of a better word.
We were too full to contemplate a whole dessert, but requested & got a small scoop of the popcorn ice cream that was part of one of the desserts. Even this impressed; the texture was so soft & smooth that I couldn't understand how it held its shape, & the popcorn flavor subtly caramely & salty. It came with a sprinkling of sugar-cone-flavored crumbs, a delightful touch.
The only imperfection was a small fried chip of some kind (not sure what root vegetable) in the chicken entree. Whatever oil the chip had been fried in was old. Says a lot about how great everything else was that we really didn't even care.
Lovely view, good service, not too noisy... definitely will be going back!
We had the "Market Menu" at Haven which is a family style set menu for $60/pp and changes daily:
- a mushroom based amuse
- a chilled corn soup, with among other things a black garlic paste - served out of a pitcher - refreshing
- toast with peaches and house made ricotta
- a dish that included octopus with fried potatoes. The octopus was perfectly cooked, as were the potatoes.
- smoked black risotto with sea urchin - excellent, the warm smokiness of the rice really went well with the briny urchin
- bone marrow (added on) - this was really good, served with bonito flakes and croutons
- a sorbet that I think had shiso in it
- pork jowl with quinoa, vegetables, chanterelles and trumpet mushrooms - really good, pork jowl was crispy on the outside and soft and unctuous and rich within. I'm not really a fan of quinoa but this was very flavorful, cooked in a rich broth.
- braised beef with grilled spring onion, hearts of palm, green garlic sauce - the beef actually reminded of me of the pork jowl from the previous dish, perfectly cooked
- dessert was a semifreddo with a salted caramel sauce, and a sort of deconstructed cheesecake that consisted of gobs of cheesecake filling with graham cracker crisps and berries. Both tasty, especially the semifreddo with salty caramel sauce.
Was also impressed with the parker rolls, reminded me of king's hawaiian rolls, but better. A great meal and a lot of food.
sounds awesome. seems like the smoked risoto is often on the market menu and a stand out. i do think it's too much food. with 1 or 2 less entrees, it would be perfect. never left haven not feeling like i was about to burst, even with just having small bites from each dish (when doing the market menu)
I wouldn't expect uni this time of year.
The prix-fixe menu changes at the whim of the chef, so the server can't tell you what you'll get. As discussed above it can vary through the night from one table to another. If they have one portion of something left they'll send it out and the next table will get something else.
re: Robert Lauriston
yes, i fully understood the concept before we went. and they DID have the uni rice as part of the market table (which our server did let me know was a part of it), which made me very happy.
everything we had was very good to fantastic. my one complaint was the service was uneven, as others have mentioned. at times we had four people waiting on us - at times each of those servers was warm and friendly and knowledgeable, at other times they were abrupt, unsmiling (and it wasn't that busy), rushed - our main server mistook a wonderful dish of cod for octupus. she was very apologetic, though. almost every time a server presented a dish and described it, he/she rushed through the description so that we had to ask them to repeat it - and it was all three of us asking, it wasn't as if only one of us hadn't heard it.
we had a delicious amuse of breakfast radishes in a litlte pool of curry-scented lardo. the radishes played off the fatty lardo very nicely, though it would have been a better dish with bread - it was a bit hard scraping the lardo off the plate, and i didn't want to miss any of it.
the chilled corn soup with the fermented garlic was lovely. my favorite may have been the aforementioned cod, albeit it was a pretty straightforward dish - crispy golden cod served with very well seasoned, sauteed potatoes, cauliflower and broccoli. the smoked black risotto with uni and octopus were wonderful - loved the chewy contrasting with the creaminess of the sea urchin. this is obviously a favorite dish on the menu since she keeps bringing it back.
as Mr. Happy mentioned above, the pork jowl and beef dishes were standouts - i can't believe i liked the beef almost as well as the jowl.
our palate cleanser sorbet was concord grape with a marzipan powder - worked really well together.
dessert was a simple dish of vanilla ice cream with the salted caramel sauce - really good.
one of us did the wine pairing which we found very thoughtful and well-matched.
it was a lot of food, and we spent about $320, all told (we had cocktails pre-dinner and two of us had 2 glasses of wine by the glass each). I'd like to see how the menu changes in the future.
re: Robert Lauriston
the amuse was obviously served (and finished) well before the rolls made it to the table, and i'd forgotten that they had rolls. because everyone said there was going to be a lot of food, i didn't want to ask for bread. a nice little slice of something on the plate would have been great, but it was not that big of a deal.
re: Robert Lauriston
Oh dear. Alter was doing such wonderful things at Haven. Why not move Johnson to Plum and not mess with a good thing at Haven?
"The smaller venue will also allow Alter to offer a nightly five-course tasting menu ($65) in addition to an a la carte menu." As opposed to the excellent Market Menu that she was doing at Haven? Boooo!
My wife and I have made the move back to the east bay from SF and are now looking forward to checking out places in our new hometown of Oakland more often.
That being said we tried Haven for the first time a few weeks ago during restaurant week. We opted to pass on the set menu and dined a la carte. We ordered the fried brussel sprouts, salt cod and potato fritters, bone marrow, monterey squid, and shared the lamb. The place was about 3/4 full when we were seated and about 1/2 full when we left. This was on a Friday night. Everything was pretty good, nothing was great or memorable. We also had major issues with the way they coursed our meal out even after we had a specific conversation with our waiter, letting her know we would be sharing everything and would like the brussels/fritters first, then the squid/marrow, and finally the lamb. Unfortunately almost everything came out all at once leaving the lamb pretty much lukewarm by the time we got to it. The server apologized profusely, but stated that her kitchen was acting strange this week due to it being restaurant week. Not the greatest excuse, but somewhat understandable. In conclusion our meal was just ok and we won't be rushing back.