Haven - Oakland
- Robert Lauriston Dec 23, 2011 12:34 PM
Opened last week. Anybody been yet?
44 Webster St, Oakland, CA 94607
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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.
I noticed on Opentable that they have hours for Sunday brunch. Anyone been? The hostess on the phone told me they do a prix fixe.