Around the Bay: Daniel Patterson’s New PLUM in Oakland

Plum’s interior

Easily the best new opening in Oakland in 2010, Daniel Patterson’s long-anticipated Plum delivers his impeccable technique in heartwarming food.

After a handful of visits both for dinner and lunch (and a preview dinner back in September), I come away with a sense of being enveloped, not by the communal seating or uncomfortable bar stools, but by the warmth of food wearing a simple guise yet prepared with a craftsman’s skill. Lunch is just a few bucks less than dinner, while everything is under $20 (note that 16% service charge is added to your bill already so tip accordingly).

I have eaten at Plum when both Patterson and chef Charlie Parker (of Bonny Doon and Manresa), were behind the stove. The pass-off of chef duties to Parker appears seamless.

Ham Hock/Brussels Sprout Soup

Soups are a impeccable and nuanced. At lunch, the option for 1/2 an order ($4.50-$6) is welcome, especially as large bowls are hefty ($9-12). Favorite soups include Ham Hock & Brussels Sprouts, rich with heirloom beans, onion, turnip, and lardo. On the creamy side (though silky with puree, not cream) is Turnip Apple Soup with miso and a dollop of sweet pepper cream. On a rainy night, I could have left happy with that.

Grilled Cheese at lunch

At lunch, Grilled Cheese ($10) is filling with creamy mountain cheese, dandelion salsa verde, an addition of fabulously meaty bacon and a side of Sweet Potato Chips. Beef Cheek & Oxtail Burger ($13 lunch; $15 dinner) is more molded, braised beef patty than actual burger. It’s ultra-rich, though not overwhelming in size. Autumn pickles come as a side but I add them on for a needed contrast to the burger’s fatty richness.

Deviled eggs

At dinner, “Snacks” ($4) kicj the appetite into gear. Try dehydrated potato strips reminiscent of chicharrones or Deviled Eggs with caperberry tarragon relish. Though the Cauliflower dish ($12) was a small in portion, it was gracefully prepared over bulghur with almonds and dandelion salsa verde.

Desserts are straightforward but two left a sweet impression: an ice cream special of Toasted Almond Apple ($6 for three mini-scoops), subtle on the apple.

Beef Heart & Oxtail Burger

The second, a mason glass of Buttermilk Panna Cotta ($7) layered with quince compote, thyme and a crispy brittle.

The wine list pleases and though only listed by glass, flask or bottle, our waiter graciously offered half pours allowing us to sample more. The best pour I had was Sean Thackrey’s 2009 Pleiades ($12 by the glass), a gorgeous blend of Sangiovese, Pinot, Viognier, Petite Sirah, Mourvedre, pleasant with the burger, perfect on its own.