Plum > Ume [Oakland]
- Robert Lauriston May 16, 2014 09:12 AM
Inside Scoop reports Daniel Patterson is pulling the plug on Plum. Starting Tuesday it will have a Japanese-ish menu with prices in line with Plum Bar. Opening chef is Bradley Cooper, most recently of Outerlands, though he has another project in the works.
I like the food at Plum. too bad it didn't quite work in the neighborhood. Hopefully Ume turns out better.
why do you say that? Coi is quite successful and the level of food has always been good there, same for Haven. I'm not a fan personally of Alta CA but that place is always packed when I've been there. Not to mention that his financial backers have money to spare and it's a bit of a vanity project for the ones at Alta CA. I also like that he doing a partnership Kim Alter rather than just making her the ex. chef at a new place. I think it's smart if your concept isn't working out and you have the cash flow to try to reimagine it before shutting down.
Even though Coi was my favorite restaurant in the Bay Area for many years, it is no longer a place I would return to, and my opinions of Haven and Plum are uncertain at best right now.
I really enjoyed Plum under Charlie Parker and even more so the desserts from Bill Corbett. Once he left and other chefs started rotating through, the food went downhill just slightly and that was enough for me to take my business elsewhere.
I've had two meals at Haven, both of which were the chef's menu. There were a few successful dishes in each, but each meal included one main course that I did not eat after the first bite. My expectations for restaurants in this price range that serve relatively mainstream food is that it must be solid. There are too many other choices of restaurants in this category for me to want to return. The caveat is that I will try to make it to Haven while Parker is there.
I love how Coi is constantly doing new things, and introducing diners to new tastes. However during my last visit I had two courses that were so ingredient/technique focused that the dish completely failed. I can appreciate a new way of preparing popcorn, but the dish would have been much better if there were a few more components. I am sure there are plenty of people who will disagree, including the Michelin folks.
I think you're mistaking accolades, and a full dining room with fiscal success though. Speaking of which, Coi hasn't always filled the place up, and it's a very small room. Sure, it can be smart to retool a restaurant and tweak things which aren't working. When you have to remodel your kitchen and dining room yearly, overhaul concepts, and you have a rotating door of chefs - it usually indicates some managerial issues. Patterson doesn't seem capable of hatching a fully realized project. Opening a Izakaya theme smacks of desperation. Sticking a random name chef there that doesn't have a history working with those dishes is curious as well.
Is Coi successful? By Patterson's own words, it just breaks even and he could never attempt to open something like it today. Saison strikes me as even more ambitious and surviving, so I'm not sure I agree with Patterson, but whatever. Coi has been open like 7 or 8 years now? By that measure, nobody can call it a failure, but it's not sustaining a portfolio of protege restaurants.
I believe Haven is the only Patterson project currently making a substantial profit. His reputation, business wise, is not very strong, and his office has pretty much been Boyd, and a press person go between.
I'm not sure what happened to his interest in Il Cane Rosso at the Ferry Building, but maybe we should consider Plum a delayed casualty of the split with Lauren Kiino?
"Daniel Patterson opened Plum in Uptown Oakland in fall 2010. It was his second restaurant, his first follow-up to four-star Coi."
So the "journalists" at the Inside "Scoop" department of the Chronicle never heard of Babette's in Sonoma which he opened in 1994. Nor of Elisabeth Daniel that he opened with his then wife Elisabeth and that earned him a 28 food rating in the 2001 edition of Zagat, same as perennial Zagat favorite Gary Danko and one notch above the 27 for Boulevard that year.
So much for food journalism at the Chronicle.
The Elisabeth Daniel space on Washington St. was a bit awkward and later taken over by Tartare, George Morrone's somewhat short-lived project.
re: Robert Lauriston
I think Paolo Lucchesi is doing a good job, generally speaking. But claiming that Coi was Daniel Patterson's first restaurant smacks of ignorance, especially if coming from a food writer at a major newspaper. And all of this stuff is something you could look up in 5 seconds. Between opening Babette's in 1994, opening Elisabeth Daniel, and being the opening chef at Frisson (where I guess you could argue he was just a hired hand. Hired by people with too much dotcom Paypal money and way too much attitude, having gotten lucky, but with way too little common sense.) Only after that did he open Coi.
But I guess that kind of stuff is way too hard to figure out for a food writer at a major newspaper writing about a chef at a 2-Michelin-star restaurant.
re: Robert Lauriston
I get it. If Larry Ellison starts a new company, something like Netsuite or whatever, and a beat writer at the Chronicle writes an article about it claiming it to be the very first company by LJE because what happened more than ten years ago doesn't really matter, it's the epitome of investigative journalism. He didn't exactly found Oracle? Because of what? RNM? Sorry, but that's not how I think about journalism.
Clicking "Publish" in WordPress lets a lot of sloppy writing through that would have been caught in the old publishing model of editor, copy editor, and proofreader.
Bauer made a similar mistake today: "I originally reviewed [Saison] when it opened in its new spot on Townsend … a little more than a year ago."
re: Robert Lauriston
" because people trust him to get the story right. Other times he digs up information nobody would put in a press release."
Can you give some examples of these scoops?
The of the moment chefs trust him because he frames things in a good light for them. Put two and two together.
re: Robert Lauriston
Really? He opens a restaurant with his then wife Elisabeth Ramsey and calls it "Elisabeth Daniel". He gets a 28 (out of 30) Zagat rating for food, which is a pretty nice accomplishment. And that doesn't count as opening a restaurant? Really? Sorry, but claiming that Coi was his his first restaurant just smacks of incompetence and ignorance on part of the Chronicle food "journalists".
I lived around that area for a time and went only twice. The first time Parker was already gone, but I didn't know. Had a delicious tripe stew and a salad for over $30 for a solo brunch, handed to me by Boyd.
The second time was under Manfred Wrembel with my wife, a no drinks meal that cost more than $100, which was mixed for me, but a meal which she actively disliked. As someone who reads others opinions instead of trying to discover on my own, I'd say the frequent chef rotation is part of the reason why I did not go more often. Too bad.
If price point was the main issue, I'm not sure $17 ramen and rice bowls will do the trick.
In Plum's final iteration, appetizers were $11-14, entrees $27-30, and desserts $10-11.
The Ame menu has eight small plates for $4-7, seven for $8-11, rice bowls and ramen $16-17, and two desserts $3 and $5. That's in line with the prices at Plum Bar next door (which shares the kitchen).
I would not be surprised if the departure of the Punchdown had an effect of diminishing revenues at Plum and Bar. The only times I've ever been to Plum Bar were after visiting the Punchdown, and the only reason I was there in the first place was to visit the Punchdown. The successor place has already closed after a run of "months."
I think Plum Bar is successful. It was usually busier than Punchdown before they closed and has always been busy when I've gone since.
The Punchdown was bought by the Ike's guy and some partners. It seemed highly unlikely to me that they could take a shoestring operation that provided a living for the two partners who did 90% of the work, hire employees to run it, and make a profit.
We had a very good meal there last night. Four of us shared 3 cold apps, 3 hot apps, 3 larger bowls, and 4 cocktails for roughly $50 each, so the prices have dropped from previous incarnations of the restaurant.
One of my favorite dishes was the roasted eggplant, a cold appetizer. I typically avoid eggplant because most versions are bad to mediocre (seedy, watery, bitter, undercooked, dry, etc). Ume's version was creamy and moist, most similar to durian in texture.
The English peas in our pea dish were a little hard, which resulted in a slightly grainy texture similar to undercooked beans. Otherwise the dish was very enjoyable and I could see it being a seasonal favorite once the dust settles.
The squid was another favorite for me. It was nicely cooked, aromatic, bright, and well balanced.
Pork ribs were deep fried to give a dry crust, and then topped with ume sauce. The pickled mustard greens on the side were excellent. My rib was quite meaty, and I would have preferred a fattier rib, which the dish can handle with all the acidic components present.
The oxtails with kimchee were delicious, velvety, and super soft. We were able to take the meat off the bone with a spoon.
Most of the components of the fried chicken ramen were very good, including the fried chicken coated with panko, the pickled onions, the veggies, and the egg. The broth does not compare well with authentic Japanese preparations, as it was too sweet. Despite this, the dish still worked well because there was not much broth, and the addition of the spicy onion condiment/chutney served on the side balanced out the sweetness.
The mochi bun dessert was the only failure of the meal, which is not too surprising given that the other dessert offering was a bowl of fruit. For me, a dessert with the word mochi in it needs to have a chewy soft texture, regardless of whether the dish technically qualifies as mochi. This version was dry and sucked the moisture out of my mouth. Our waitress graciously took it off our bill, and I think it is perfectly ok to just offer fruit for dessert.
Overall I see this as a fancier version of Hawker Fare just a few blocks away, with slightly higher but still reasonable prices, and most importantly, quality food.
Last week I had the chance to join “felice” and friends for the dinner she described up-thread,
As expected, the dishes were pretty. But more important, they were nearly all winners and I’d happily cross the bridge to eat here again.
MARINATED TROUT, SHIO KOJI, YUZU, TURNIP 13 – Interesting flavors, combining floral acidic tones with salty fermented depth. And the dice of turnip added peppery bite. I liked this more than felice did, and am newly inspired to play around with the shio koji in the fridge in raw fish applications.
ENGLISH AND SNAP PEAS, WHITE MISO, PURPLE SHISO 10 – Others have posted this was a favorite, and flavorwise, I would agree. The minty freshness from the shiso, umami play of miso, and the fresh sweet flavors of peas were a lovely combination. Too bad our peas were hard and undercooked.
ROASTED EGGPLANT, FERMENTED CHILE, MINT, BONITO 8 – Forced to pick the dish of the night, this would be it. While I was leery of a chilled prep, our server said this was her favorite thing on the menu. Roasted so expertly to bring out creamy texture and sweet caramel flavors, this rendition really showed off what this vegetable can be. As felice said, too often kitchens miss the mark . . . Cotogna, I’m looking at you.
SEARED SQUID WITH BASIL, LEMON AND CHILE 11 – Perfectly seasoned with herbal, acid and spicy elements not overtaking the natural sweetness of the fresh and tender squid. The ribbons of fennel detracted from the dish, IMO, but they were easy enough to ignore. With squid so plentiful and inexpensive, I kind of resented the addition of filler components. Give me a bigger pile of squid.
UMEBOSHI-GLAZED PORK RIBS, PICKLED MUSTARD GREENS 11 – Only one bite from the fattier and wide end of the rib was not too hard and desiccated, the rest of the meat was overly tough and dry. Too much ume sauce as well that I had to wipe off. This one did not work for me.
STICKY PORK AND BROWN RICE BOWL WITH CHARRED GEMS 17 – Not crazy about this dish either. Kudos for cooking such perfect pearls of brown rice, but the chunks of braised pork were overdone and turning cottony.
BRAISED OXTAIL, KIMCHEE, CRISPY POTATO, GINGER 17 – Loved this dish and all its beefy, sticky, braised softness. Just the right amount of spicy tartness from the kimchee and the green and bitter notes of the chrysanthemum greens kept the rich oxtails in check. The crispy roast potatoes made for great palate cleansers after the assault of flavor. A more robust statement than the other things we tried.
FRIED CHICKEN RAMEN 17 – In truth I didn’t want to order this dish because it’s not an easy one to share with more than one person. But my friends would not be denied. I have to praise my dining companion’s ability to divide a soft, runny-yolked egg four-ways, as well as everything else equally. The sweet soy sauce tare added to the chicken stock base was much, much too sugary. The pickled onions and the very spicy condiment served with the chicken helped pull things back toward a pleasing balance but not entirely. My piece of fried chicken had some intriguing flavors going on, but the white meat lacked juiciness. I had let my portion sit a bit, and the noodles held up well in the bowl considering. I’d come back to try this again to see how the ramen style evolves here. Based on this sample, Ume enters the ramen ranking at #45.
COCONUT MOCHI BUN FILLED WITH PLUM JAM 3 – Didn’t taste this.
My drink choice was the barrel-aged Conquistador, $12. Very smooth as promised, but for me, a bit too sweet and in need of a bigger dose of the housemade bitters.
PERSONAL RAMEN RANKING
1. Ramen Halu, 375 Saratoga Ave Ste M, San Jose
2. Tsujita, 2057 Sawtelle Blvd, Los Angeles
3. Tatsunoya at Mitsuwa Kyushu and Okinawan festival, 675 Saratoga Ave, San Jose
4. Himawari, 202 2nd Ave, San Mateo
5. Orenchi Ramen, 3540 Homestead Rd, Santa Clara
6. Santouka, 675 Saratoga Ave, San Jose
7. Maru Ichi, 368 Castro St, Mountain View
8. Izakaya Mai, 212 2nd Avenue, San Mateo
9. Shin Shin Men Men, 21265 Stevens Creek Blvd, Cupertino (closed)
10. Gaku Japanese Charcoal Grill, 5152 Moorpark Ave, San Jose
11. Yonsei Ramen Shop @ Hopscotch, 1915 San Pablo Ave, Oakland
12. Ajisen Noodle, 47890 Warm Springs Blvd, Fremont
13. Maru Ichi, 530 Barber Lane, Milpitas
14. Ramen Dojo, 805 South B St, San Mateo
15. Shalala, 698 W Dana St, Mountain View
16. Kansui Ramen, 1185 Lincoln Ave, San Jose
17. Tanto, 1063 E El Camino Real, Sunnyvale
18. Izakaya Restaurant, 1335 N 1st St, San Jose
19. Alexander’s Steakhouse Lounge, 10330 N Wolfe Rd, Cupertino (closed)
20. Santa, 1944 South El Camino Real, San Mateo
21. Do-Henkotsu House of Tokushima Ramen, 4330 Moorpark Ave, San Jose (closed)
22. Ramen Tenma, 487 Saratoga Ave, San Jose
23. Hapa Ramen, 1 Ferry Bldg, San Francisco
24. Ryowa, 859 Villa St, Mountain View
25. Orson Restaurant Bar + Lounge, 508 4th St, San Francisco (closed)
26. Izakaya Sozai, 1500 Irving St, San Francisco
27. Sumiya, 2634 Homestead Rd, Santa Clara
28. Tamashii Ramen House, 3288 Pierce St, Richmond
29. Ramen Yamadaya, 1728 Buchanan St, San Francisco
30. Gen Ramen, 47890 Warm Springs Blvd, Fremont (closed)
31. Hana Japanese Restaurant, 101 Golf Course Dr, Rohnert Park
32. Iza Ramen, 2170 Bryant St, San Francisco
33. Ken Ken Ramen, pop-up at The Corner, San Francisco (closed, moved)
34. Kyora Japanese Restaurant, 1217 Wildwood Ave, Sunnyvale (closed)
35. Sobo, 988 Franklin St, Oakland
36. Kotetsu Ramen, 2089 El Camino Real, Santa Clara
37. BY Grill, 3226 Geary Blvd, San Francisco (closed)
38. Norikonoko, 2556 Telegraph Ave, Berkeley
39. Dohatsuten, 799 San Antonio Rd, Palo Alto
40. Casino Bar and Grill, Bodega
41. Hana, 4320 Moorpark, San Jose
42. Ozumo, 2251 Broadway, Oakland
43. Men Oh Tokushima Ramen, 5120 Geary Blvd, San Francisco
44. Muracci’s, 244 State St, Los Altos
45. Ume Restaurant, 2214 Broadway, Oakland
46. Katanaya, 430 Geary Blvd., San Francisco
47. Tadamasa, 34672 Alvarado Niles Road, Union City
48. Noodle Me, America’s Cup Village concession, San Francisco
49. Masa's Sushi, 400 San Antonio Road, Mountain View
50. Ippuku, 2130 Center St, Berkeley
51. Nombe, 2491 Mission St, San Francisco
52. Gochi, 19980 Homestead Rd, Cupertino
53. Shimo Modern Steakhouse, 241 Healdsburg Ave, Healdsburg (closed)
54. Oyaji, 3123 Clement St, San Francisco
55. Ramen Misoya, 3541 Homestead Rd, Santa Clara
56. Chubby Noodle North Beach, 570 Green St, San Francisco
57. Ame Restaurant, 689 Mission St, San Francisco
58. Yu-Raku, 104 S El Camino Real, San Mateo
59. Namu, 439 Balboa St, San Francisco (moved)
60. Halu Restaurant, 312 8th Ave, San Francisco
61. Sanmi, 3226 Geary Blvd, San Francisco (closed)
62. Hatcho, 1271 Franklin Mall, Santa Clara
63. Kahoo, 4330 Moorpark Ave, San Jose
64. Tomoe, 810 3rd St, San Rafael (closed)
65. Ringer Hut, 1072 Saratoga Ave, San Jose
66. Noodle Theory, 3242 Scott St, San Francisco (closed)
67. Ramen Seas, 173 S Murphy Ave, Sunnyvale
68. Watami Shabu Shabu and Ramen, 5344 Geary Blvd, San Francisco (closed)
69. Where’s Buta by Elgin Espiritu and June Lee, Eat Real Festival, Oakland
70. Kumako, 211 E. Jackson Street, San Jose
71. Japanese Restaurant Hoshi, 246 Saratoga Avenue, Santa Clara
72. Ramen Club, 723 California Dr, Burlingame
73. Ramen.Co, Soy and Tofu Festival, San Francisco
74. Saiwaii Ramen, 2240 Irving St, San Francisco
75. Ryowa, 2068 University Ave, Berkeley (after ownership change)
76. King Won Ton, 1936 Irving St, San Francisco
77. Tazaki Sushi, 3420 Judah St, San Francisco
78. Ramen Rama, 19774 Stevens Creek Blvd, Cupertino (closed)
79. Ogi-San Ramen, 10789 Blaney Ave, Cupertino (closed)
80. Kaimuki Grill, 104 S El Camino Real, San Mateo (closed)
81. Tanto, 1306 Saratoga Ave, San Jose (now Dan Izakaya)
82. Okazu Ya SF (Noriega), 2445 Noriega St, San Francisco
83. King's Garden Ramen, 39055 Cedar Blvd, Newark (closed)
84. Sushi Bistro, 445 Balboa St, San Francisco (closed, moved)
85. Genki Ramen, 3944 Geary Blvd, San Francisco
86. Mitsuwa Hokkaido festival booth, 675 Saratoga Ave, San Jose
87. Dan Izakaya, 1306 Saratoga Ave, San Jose
88. Lakuni, 325 E 4th Ave, San Mateo
89. 100% Healthy Desserts, 1155 Taraval St., San Francisco
90. Mifune, 1737 Post St, San Francisco
91. H2A Noodle, 42318 Fremont Blvd., Fremont (closed)
92. Iroha, 1728 Buchanan St, San Francisco (closed)
93. Chotto, 3317 Steiner St, San Francisco
94. Miraku Noodles, 2131 N Broadway, Walnut Creek
95. Manpuku, 2977 College Ave, Berkeley
96. Tanpopo, 1740 Buchanan Street, San Francisco
97. Sushi Yoshi, 39261 Cedar Blvd, Newark
98. La Shang Niang Ramen (OEC), 42 Dixon Rd, Milpitas (closed)
99. Oidon, 71 E. 4th Avenue, San Mateo
100. Taraval Okazu Ya, 1735 Taraval St., San Francisco
101. Suzu Noodle House, 1581 Webster Street, San Francisco
102. Bushido Izakaya, 156 Castro St, Mountain View
103. Fresh Taste, 2107 El Camino Real, Palo Alto
104. Asuka Ramen, 883 Bush St, San Francisco (closed)
105. Sapporo-ya, 1581 Webster St, San Francisco
106. Tokyo Ramen, 678 Barber Lane, Milpitas (closed)
107. Ramen Tomo, 4390 Telegraph Ave, Oakland
108. Kamakura, 2549 Santa Clara Ave, Alameda
109. Mama-san!, 312 8th Ave, San Francisco (closed)
110. Katana-ya Ramen, 10546 San Pablo Ave, El Cerrito
111. Hotei, 1290 9th Ave, San Francisco
112. Bear's Ramen House, 2521 Durant, Berkeley
Well, here's another opinion on the pork ribs, Bauer's:
"And the plum-glazed pork ribs ($11) are mottled with what look and taste like fresh crushed plums, on a cool bed of pickled greens. It's a dish that is both rustic and refined, a paradoxical quality often found in well-crafted combinations."
It's sort of weird that he refers to the sauce as fresh plums. Umeboshi are salted pickled plums though these were probably a housemade version and quite mild/fresh in pickling intensity.
re: Melanie Wong
It sounds like all three of us concluded that there was very little pickling of the plums. I assumed that they sourced umeboshi from Japan to make the sauce, and thought they diluted the intense flavor of traditional umeboshi intentionally. Now that you suggested it, it makes more sense that they made "umeboshi" in house (after all it is the season) and ended up with something that tastes like fresh plums.
This irks me more than their California interpretation of ramen. It's like calling a California sparking wine Champagne when it isn't.