The warm Homestead on Oakland’s Piedmont Avenue is among the restaurants playing with fire – that is, cooking all their dishes over a wood-fueled flame, typically in a brick oven.
Mastering the fire can be tricky since heat can be inconsistent, but when done right you have a meal rich in flavor and color. It’s like getting that great char on the grill at home.
Homestead, opened last year by chef/owners Fred and Elizabeth Sassen, has created some buzz for its Mediterranean-inspired, fire-cooked dishes and limited menu reflecting the sourcing of sustainable and local ingredients.
Similar to Camino, not too far away in Oakland’s Grand Lake neighborhood, Homestead has a large open kitchen that runs the length of the space. It create a nice, cozy setting and provides diners with a dinner show as everything is done at the counter, including prepping ingredients and breaking down whole animals.
I went for dinner recently, and while reservations are recommended, I was able to grab a seat at the four-seat “chef’s counter.” Ironically, the chef’s counter is off to the side of the long kitchen counter, and you really spend most of the time watching the servers getting drinks or tallying the bill.
The menu is broken into four sections (first, second, third and sides) with just a few options under each category. They include several familiar items like lasagna, mussels and grilled brick chicken, and several items include Mediterranean spices like harissa.
The only oddball was the kampachi crudo, $12, which has a Korean touch with kim chi and spicy sauce (very spicy, BTW) that’s served with lettuce cups. The kampachi itself was served plain, sashimi style. I think I would have just enjoyed the crudo without all the accoutrements.
Meat from the pit shine like the lamb dish ($24), served with chickpeas and tapenade. The lamb was simply seasoned, taking most of its flavor from the char of the fire. For a side, I ordered the rosti potatoes, which reminded me a lot of Jewish latkes or shredded potato pancakes. While tasty, I thought the edges could have been crispier. Maybe it sat too long in the crème fraiche.
For dessert, I was intrigued by the baba, which was described as a brandy-soaked cake. The cake came out beautifully plated with cooked rhubarb and pistachio ice cream. But the cake itself was on the dry side, surprising since it supposedly was soaking in brandy.
The Last Bite
Service is welcoming, which gives Homestead a real feel like you’re going to someone’s home for dinner. The fire-cooked dishes offer interesting twists and turns, reflecting a creative approach to a style of cooking that attempts to highlight the integrity of local ingredients.
Rating: 2.5 out of 4 camera snaps
Homestead, 4029 Piedmont Ave., Oakland. PH: 510.420.6962. Open dinner, Tues.–Sat., from 5 to 10 p.m. Reservations, major credit cards accepted. homesteadoakland.com
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