I went to Plum last night! Hooray, new DTO restaurants!

I was in such a good mood all day yesterday, absolutely giddy about my dinner reservations at Plum, which opened yesterday at Grand and Broadway, in the space that used to house Louisiana Fried Chicken.

I was so excited when I heard about Plum! I am a huge fan of Daniel Patterson, I absolutely adore Coi, and I still remember a dinner I had years ago at Elisabeth Daniel as one of the best I have eaten in the Bay Area. So of course the second I heard they were taking reservations (you can make them online) for opening night, I booked myself a table.

Plum Oakland

Anyway, I couldn’t stop talking all day to anyone who would listen to me about how excited I was for dinner (it feels like I never do anything fun anymore, so this was like a big treat, taking the night off to go for a fancy dinner for no particular reason) and people kept responding that they couldn’t wait to read my blog about the meal. At first, I kind of wondered if any of these people ever actually read my blog, because hello! It’s about politics, not restaurants. Why would I write about Plum? I was going to dinner, not to a public hearing about their liquor license. And besides, Becks already wrote about it last week.

But then I remembered that I will probably be writing about little other than elections for the next five weeks, and thought that a restaurant post might be kind of a fun break. And it’s not like it would be the first time I’ve done something like that. Flora opens tonight! (Updated with pictures) is still my all time most viewed post, and probably will remain that way forever.

One thing before I get started. You should know that I’m what some people might call a food snob. I used to cook professionally. The last job I had before I decided to get out of the business was cooking for a year and a half at a Michelin starred restaurant. So I have pretty high standards when it comes to dining out. I love going out to eat and trying new restaurants, although some people don’t like to go out to dinner with me because they say I’m too critical. My sisters always say that they don’t think I’ve ever once ordered something at a restaurant that I actually liked. Or I’ll say I really enjoyed a restaurant after we finish a meal there, and they’ll be like “Are you joking? You complained about every dish!”

But I don’t think about it as complaining. Just because I can think of a way that something could be made better doesn’t mean I didn’t like it. Anyway. I just wanted to mention that so that you don’t go through and read the whole post and somehow get the idea that I didn’t think Plum was good because I wasn’t all over the top drooling about every item. I thought Plum was very good. And even if it hadn’t been, you can’t judge how a restaurant is going to actually be based on what their first night. It takes a while for things to gel. I love to check places out when they first open, but I would never hold a bad opening-night or opening-week meal against a restaurant. Not that that’s what happened here. Anyway, enough babbling. Let’s talk about the meal!

We started out by ordering everything in the “snacks” portion of the menu, although they were out of one item. We did get POTATO CHICHARRONES, POPCORN escabeche powder, and FRUIT AND NUTS burnt onion-fig leather, almond crisps. They were all really good. The fig leather one was the best.

Starters at Plum

One of my dining companions (who is even more of a food snob than I am) ordered ESCAROLE SALAD pomegranate, mint, lemon and complained that it was unevenly salted, which is like, the worst on a salad. I didn’t try that one.

Another of our party ordered Chilled EGGPLANT SOUP fresh pole and shelling beans, preserved lemon, cilantro, which I had one bite of and thought was really good. I love cold soup.

I had a bite of the NEW HARVEST POTATOES staffan’s lardo, fresh shallots, chanterelles, wild arugula and mostly thought it was okay. I ordered for a starter BRAISED CAULIFLOWER bulghur, almond, dandelion salsa verde. I was totally going to get the soup, and then the potatoes, but other people ordered them first so I had to end up going with my third choice and OMG I am so glad I did.

Braised Cauliflower at Plum

I loved this dish. I could have done with a little less of the dandelion salsa or whatever, which I’m sure would be good in moderation but became kind of overwhelming. But overall it was my favorite thing I ate all night.

Let’s see, what else? Oh. I really wanted to order SLOW-COOKED FARM EGG savory chicken-giblet fried farro, sprouts, but then it seemed like everyone else wanted that too, so I changed my mind and got something else.

Slow cooked egg at Plum

It looked great! And I love eggs so much. But unfortunately, I did not to taste this one, so I can’t tell you much more. Our waitress did say as we were ordering that the egg is the best dish. “The best.” That’s what she said. So there you go. I look forward to trying it when I return.

I got LAMB STEW sunchokes and wheatberries, grilled bread with chicories instead. I don’t know why I ordered this dish. Really, no clue. I don’t even like sunchokes.

Lamb Stew at Plum

The lamb was cooked well, I guess. And I liked the sauce. Mostly I was really bummed because the little crostini that came with it was covered with mayonnaise. I do not eat mayonnaise due to a scarring childhood experience and actually I have kind of a hard time even looking at it. Also. A lot of people really do not like mayonnaise. DEAR ALL RESTAURANTS: IF THERE IS MAYONNAISE ON A DISH, YOU SHOULD SAY SO ON THE MENU. Also, I’m personally not squeamish about these things, but it really does seem only fair to let people know if you’re feeding them brains, which was also not indicated on the menu. Anyway, wasn’t a huge fan of the lamb stew, but then it was really not the right thing for me to order for several reasons. So I don’t really have anyone but myself to blame there.

PORK TROTTER BURGER kohlrabi slaw, apple mustard and SEARED QUID kohlrabi, mustard greens, black rice porridge both made it to our table, but not in front of my camera or into my mouth, so I can’t say how those were. From where I was sitting, it looked like there was mayonnaise on the burger, which was also not stated on the menu. But I didn’t try it, so I can’t be sure. The whole mayonnaise thing really threw me off my game. It was just so unexpected.

I stepped outside for a cigarette between courses and happily managed to get my head back on straight for dessert.

Our waitress recommended MILK CHOCOLATE CREAM basil, pine nuts, which one of our party ordered and it was great. I’m not really a pudding person, so looking at the menu this was not something I would have ever ordered if the waitress had not been so insistent that it was the best, but I’m so glad we got it. If you go to Plum and order dessert, order this!

Milk Chocolate Cream at Plum

I got burnt cinnamon ice cream, which the waitress also raved about. That was just kind of fine. I mean, it tasted like cinnamon ice cream. Nothing special.

dto510 ordered GOAT CHEESECAKE niabel grape, graham cracker and kindly let me try it.

Goat cheesecake at Plum

The graham cracker crumbs were fine, the cheesecake was pretty good, but that grape sorbet really weirded me out. I tasted exactly like those cheap grape popsicles they would give you at, like, camp or something when you’re a kid. I’m assuming they made it taste that way on purpose, but I was not expecting that at all and it really wasn’t a welcome surprise. Other people at the table really liked it, though.

The one thing that bugged me about the meal was that when the bill came, they had added a 16% service fee. I really hate it when restaurants do that. I mean, I get why you have to do it for big parties or whatever, but for a normal table? That is obnoxious. And also, it’s confusing. Am I supposed to tip again on top of that? I mean, I can’t think of where I would go that I’m only going to tip 16% on a meal. But then, if they’re deciding they’re just going to put the charge in there and not let you decide, and they picked 16%, then why should I give more? I don’t know. It’s becoming increasingly common in restaurants and I really hate it. I can’t complain that much about the bill, though, because they did take 10% off the whole thing as like a treat for people who came on opening night. So that was sweet.

Plum Oakland

And that was our opening night meal at Plum! I loved it. I’ll probably give them a little time to get settled before I go back. But I can’t wait to visit again in like a month or so.

11 thoughts on “I went to Plum last night! Hooray, new DTO restaurants!

  1. Mary Hollis

    V

    Every time and any place I have gotten a service charge like that 16% you saw, I have asked for them to take it off again. They always have done so.

    Presumably it is not legally enforceable, or at least no place is willing to argue the point if pressed on it. Rather it is an administrative convenience (for them; not us).

  2. MarleenLee

    Your restaurant review is almost as fun to read as your April Fools fashion piece. Guess I’ll need a dictionary to eat there, however. The menu does sound a bit pretentious. Popcorn and leather on a menu – hmmm, doesn’t exactly make my mouth water. I agree with you about the service charge. Obnoxious.

  3. Kevin Cook

    In my and the kitchen’s defense, I did note that escarole itself was superb. I love escarole, but almost always braise it. The buyer has to know their stuff if you’re going to serve escarole raw–though I imagine Patterson gets what he wants from purveyors.

    Mayonnaise is one of humanity’s greatest achievements. You should go into therapy simply to overcome this aversion. Brains, and especially lamb brains, make me aroused. Brain mayo–I should have asked for a bowl of it on the side.

    The trotter burger was tasty–though I’d just as soon have had the fried trotter served without the bun in the usual way–now I’m thinking about whole hog.

    The seating was plenty comfortable–D.P. has some money to spend on furnishings.

  4. ralph

    This is good stuff. Just one thing, Plum occupies the former fried chicken joint. FSWB, though closed, looks like it is just waiting for the right day to re-open. In other news, I think the last of the kitchen crap was removed from the Chinese joint now we just need to wait for Plum expansion.

  5. Gene

    I read ABO for your writing, V. It’s almost always about Oakland, whether it’s food or politics or whatever, and it’s almost always well-written, so what’s not to like?

    Re: mayonnaise, I like it well enough, but I’d want to know if it’s in/on a dish ahead of time, too. In no small part because it’s typically 70-80% fat. (Which is part of why it’s so tasty.)

  6. Kevin Cook

    Real mayonnaise, made by hand, not the garbage from the store, is 99% fat. The two primary ingredients in standard mayo are egg yolks and oil with a bit of mustard and lemon juice or other acid. Why anyone buys the stuff in the jar is beyond me. It takes about 10 minutes to make a cup of it by hand–less with a blender or food processor–and simply bears no comparison to the stuff in the jar. Before the tomatoes run out, make some homemade mayo and have a BLT–you deserve it.

    If you’re deeply concerned about the fat content of dishes than braised meat is probably not a good idea to begin with. Really no good restaurant food is.

  7. dto510 aka Jonathan Bair

    I really enjoyed Plum the other night – the service was excellent and the food was very good. The music, however, left something to be desired. Lauryn Hill and other late-nineties mellow hip-hip artists were an odd choice.