Haven: Stick-to-your-ribs fare (and the tiniest bread oven in the world)
Last night Daveena, Dave MP and I met for dinner at Haven in Jack London Square, part of the Daniel Patterson group of restaurants with Kim Alter as the executive chef.
SMOKED PASTA, egg, bacon, pepper, chive – 13
BONE MARROW, yuzu, radish, leek, toast, parsley – 15
BRAISED LAMB, carrots, allium, firelit liquor – 26
BRUSSEL SPROUTS, mint, lime, garlic – 7
FRIED FINGERLINGS 7
BAKED CALIFORNIA, citrus, avocado, meringue – 12
And two other items not on their online menu--an arctic char entree and cauliflower side dish. Both Daveena and I had cocktails. The cocktail list was fairly standard (for a restaurant of this quality) with a few flourishes. I had a corpse reviver #2, but prefer a stronger herbal Absinthe note missing here.
The atmosphere is lovely, with pretty lighting and warm stone, wood and tile accents. We sat in the side area by the bar, and the noise level was lively but not overpowering.
Food wise, my top picks were the rich, eggy smoked pasta (the flour is smoked before being made into noodles), brussels sprouts (though I love all sprouts), and the bone marrow. We held on to both pasta and marrow dishes so that we could sop up the liquid with bread.
When all the marrow had been scraped away and a seemingly edible knob clung to the outside of the ravaged bone, David asked if it would be terribly gauche to pick it up and gnaw. "No one will judge," was the response, which I think speaks to the deliciousness of that dish and the joy of eating among friends.
Dark, salty Parker House-style rolls are served upon request, and they're worth requesting, though the wait is long. Our waiter explained that the bread oven only bakes two rolls at a time. I imagine this as some type of child-sized Easy-Bake set-up, and asked to see it--he laughed, but I wasn't kidding. I heard many servers explaining that bread would take a while, and I'm curious why a restaurant with maybe 30 tables would guarantee a back-up and apologies every night.
Maybe time to spring for a second Easy-Bake?
44 Webster St, Oakland, CA 94607
I like this place a lot, and will definitely come back. The bone marrow was one of the better ones I've had - the top had developed a really nice, toasty crust, so there was a great textural contrast with the luxuriously fatty core. It was served with three or four little croutons of the soft, addictive rolls, which disappeared in a second - the three of us scooped out the rest of it with spoons and ate it straight, with no carbohydrate intermediary. Then we waited for another order of rolls to come out so we could soak up the remaining pools of fat.
A note on the brussel sprouts - the lime note was unusually bright, much more so than I would have expected from lime juice alone. We think they used dehydrated lime powder - I remember having chicharrones flavored with lime at Plum Bar that tasted very similar. We didn't ask, though - while a lot of the servers I've had at Plum Bar seemed like food-nerd types who knew everything about every dish and welcomed questions about them, I didn't get that vibe off the Haven waitstaff. They were professional and efficient, and very busy, so it didn't seem right to bombard them with questions about how things were made.
The fried fingerlings, which had an odd seaweed topping, didn't quite work for me - the textures and flavors seemed to negate, rather than enhance each other.
Timing between courses seemed a little long, but aside from that, there were no major service mishaps.
I think the brussels sprouts almost definitely had dehydrated lime powder. The taste reminded me of lime-flavored Tostido chips, and when I squeeze fresh lime on vegetables, I am unable to recreate this flavor.
I also agree that the seaweed didn't really work with the potatoes, although I did like the potatoes themselves (most bites I had didn't have any seaweed anyway).
Interesting about the bread. I was recently at Plum and they have changed the bread service. They now make their own bread to order and it takes about 10-15 mins once requested. The bread they offered was akin to a savory fry bread with a naan-like consistency. I am not sure if they rotate the bread offering or if it will always be of this type.
Thanks pane for starting this thread - overall, I thought the meal at Haven was very good.
I agree that the atmosphere was lovely, though the music choice seemed to alternate between unobtrusive songs and more questionable ones (i.e. loud and weird)
The smoked pasta and bone marrow were my favorite dishes, although I wished the portion on the pasta had been a bit larger. Actually, there was plenty of sauce - the quantity of pasta could have increased by 50% and it would have been fine. The bone marrow was some of the best I've had, though gnawing on the bone wasn't as satisfying as I hoped it would be. Next time I'll stick to the spoon.
Lamb and artic char were both good, though maybe not particularly memorable. Just solid dishes, with good flavors. The lamb in particular reminded me of something I might make at home (though perhaps my version would be slightly less good). The sides were kind of small and expensive for what they were, but the brussels sprouts were great and creative, with lime and mint - I liked these a lot and normally I do *not* enjoy brussels sprouts.
I thought the dessert of Baked California was good but also not transcendent - my favorite part was the dollop of sweet avocado puree on the side of the plate. The meringue part was toasted nicely and had a great sweetness level, but the center of the Baked California was orange sherbet and vanilla ice cream, neither of which were that special.
The bread was good - reminiscent of the brioche rolls at Canteen, but less sweet and darker. To be fair, our waiter told us the oven cooks four rolls at a time (each small cast iron pan contains two rolls, and the oven fits two pans). Still, it seems ridiculous that a restaurant of this size only can bake four rolls at a time. They're gonna need a bigger oven. Our meal got held up for 15 minutes waiting for more bread, and I noticed that the neighboring tables experienced the same thing. We weren't in a rush, so this didn't matter too much to us....but it could be a disappointment/problem for some.
This meal wrapped up a 6 day visit to the Bay Area for me, and I'll be posting about my other meals soon (and will provide the link here, once I do). But the meal at Haven was a great end to a great trip!