The story: Haven in Oakland is part of Daniel Patterson’s restaurant group, opened three years ago in Jack London Square offering seasonal California cuisine. Recently the restaurant had some chef shuffles, with the opening chef (Kim Alter) moving on and Patterson bringing back Charlie Parker, who opened Patterson’s former Plum restaurant and most recently worked in Los Angeles. The restaurant got a slight redo, and the format is a prix fixe menu.
Why I went: The restaurant invited my friend Christina, who writes the informative East Bay Dish, to be its guest so she can check out the new format. She graciously asked if I wanted to tag along, and we went for dinner on a weeknight. Dinner and drinks were comped, so thanks to Haven for the meal.
The vibe: I ate at Haven when it first opened, and the warm wood styling and natural light remains. Several tables were removed from the dining room to give it a more intimate feel, and a lot of greenery (from hanging plants to large bouquets) have been added, giving the place an almost arboretum feel.
The menu: The prix fixe menu is $45 for three courses from Sunday to Thursday, and $60 on Friday and Saturday nights for four courses. It always start with a fantastic “breaking bread” platter that includes a lot of home-made pates and pickled vegetables. You have a choice of a meat or vegetable entree, which comes with about three sides that are shared around the table. Then you end with a dessert course. On this night, I had the leg of lamb with pea pesto and Christina tried the vegetable entree of asparagus with slow egg and grits.
The booze: The large side bar continues to bustle with diners, and Haven offers an extensive cocktail program. I tried the “vodka” martini, and the quote marks on the vodka plays on the fact that some juniper blossoms are added to give it a hint of gin flavoring.
My favorite dish: The “breaking bread” platter to start the meal was the most fun, and even though not every element on the platter worked, it was an adventure trying all the various bits. The furikake rice cracker was a nice lavosh-type cracker, and I really enjoyed the chicken liver mousse. The platter also came with bowls of glazed brussel sprouts and squid with a spicy Fresno pepper tapenade (the squid was cooked perfectly tender).
The last bite: Chef Parker’s menu (which changes daily) is one of the more creative prix fixe dinners I’ve seen around. Servers are very knowledgeable about the dishes and ingredients, but service can sometimes be neglectful (our sides never came with our entrees so we ate them after our entrees like some mishmash of food). The dishes are strong, however, and Parker’s execution of the food is spot on for a fine-dining establishment even though he’s going more for sophisticated family dinner. For the price, it’s worth going to his “home” for dinner.
The rating: 2.5 out of 4 camera snaps
The deets: Haven, 44 Webster St., Oakland (at Jack London Square). PH: 510.663.4440. Open daily for dinner, 5:30 to 10 p.m. Reservations, major credit cards accepted. www.havenoakland.com
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