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Rockridge Bungalow Blog

Michelle's Rockridge Bungalow Blog

Entries in plum bar (3)

Monday
Feb272012

Plum Bar

If you saw my earlier posts on Haven or Plum, then you already know I'm a huge Daniel Patterson fan.

So no need for me to go on and on about how all of his restaurants seem to deliver on the delicious handcrafted cocktails, mouthwatering menu and perfect atmosphere that effortlessly and simultaneously infuse you with energy AND a relaxing sense of ease.

Oh wait - I'm going on and on again. Well, whatever. After 3 visits to Plum Bar, I think I have decided it's my favorite out of the 3 (in the East Bay anyway) and here's why. Mainly, I like how "approachable" the menu and the atmosphere are by comparison.

Don't get me wrong, I really enjoy 4 - 5 - 6 course dinners but sometimes the thought of sitting ANYWHERE for 2-3 hours makes me restless. And just because I'm on the go, doesn't mean I'm looking for "fast food".

I love that you can breeze in and out of Plum Bar - they're open until 1:30AM on the weekends, so you have all night. There's no guilt about lack of commitment and no concerns about lack of quality. Come for a drink before dinner, or come for one after, or for dessert. Heck, camp out the whole night and have drinks, dinner, dessert and drinks again. Whatever you decide, you will revel in the goodness all-round.

All of the cocktails are impeccable - I like the Ol' Saint Fashioned with Templeton rye, brandied cranberry, candied orange and orange bitters. Try the Chicken Wings & Skins with hot sauce & cilantro - it's not what you think - remember who we are talking about here. The Double Burger with Gruyere is amazing and so is the Poutine - a delicious concoction of fries, gravy and cheese.

If you order all of that, don't eat all of it. If you do, you will not have room for the Brioche Doughnuts. Which will mean that you'll have to come back - again and again perhaps, and that will be a tragedy.

Tuesday
Feb142012

TrueBurger

I can hear all the screams of protests from other burger joint lovers - and Burger Joint is actually the name of a top-contender and Sparky's is another, but I do not care. I still declare TrueBurger the best burger joint in town - hands down!

If you like a hearty, perfectly-cooked burger with no fancy garnishes or accoutrements, this is your place. Call me crazy but I'm such a purist when it comes to burgers, I don't even order them with cheese. If the beef is outstanding and cooked exactly the way you like it, you don't need no stinking cheese.

What you need is certified Angus beef, ground on-site daily, atop those delicious toasted egg buns - also made on-site daily, with a touch of garlic mayo, lettuce, tomato and onion. Absolute heaven.

I could not figure out what they did to that patty to make it so mouthwatering - apart from actually listening to you when you order it medium rare, until I watched the YouTube video on their website. Apparently smashing the patty on a hot griddle will produce a perfect crust on the outside while preserving a super juicy inside. That technique makes me want to sell the BBQ and invest in a gas range with a built-in griddle.

The fries are spot on too. I know the cheesy fries are a big hit with some people but again, my preference is no funny business. If fries are cooked right, all you need is salt - maybe a little ketchup.

There are lots of other enticing menu items that made their way to my table, including the Bacon Cheesy Trueburger, Spicy Cole Slaw Dog, Chopped Caesar Salad and Whole Spiced Dill Pickle - all with a resounding two thumbs up! There's one thing I missed and need to go back for - the milkshake with TOASTED marshmallow. What could be wrong with that?!

Here's my one warning. The only libation available is beer but they do have an outstanding one if beer is what you like. If you want to make a budget-friendly night of it, with that minor limitation in mind, you might want to try this Grand Avenue crawl:

Start at Room 389 for cocktails - a cozy neighborhood bar with stiff drinks. Head to TrueBurger for an amazing dinner. And then depending on your mood, you're off to Plum Bar for an after dinner drink and/or those incredible donuts or you're kickin it up a notch with a DJ and dancing at ERA Lounge.

Either way, TrueBurger is sure to make a true believer of you too.

Thursday
Feb022012

Haven

Daniel Patterson is raising the culinary bar in the East Bay so high that pretty soon there will be little reason to pay that bridge toll. His flagship restaurant might be in San Francisco but he's steadily building a very worthy fleet right here in Oakland.

First there was Plum and then Plum Bar. Now, his latest venture, Haven, located in Jack London Square will leave you awestruck in every way. The décor is at once hip, contemporary, cozy and warm. The attention to detail is crazy and everything they place on the table screams supremely tactile - from the monogrammed felt coasters, to the Heath ceramics, to the air plants in place of flowers, to the sea salt that's so tasty it must be worth it's weight in gold.

Notice I haven't even gotten to the food yet, which can only be described as over the top. No, maybe decadent redefined is a better description. They say "technique-driven food" - yeah, I'll say. The list of techniques is long and varied including sous-vide, foams, reductions, firelit - all producing combinations that are as incredible to look at as they are to eat.

We ordered five different dishes from pasta to scallops to chicken to cauliflower to dessert and they were all so painstakingly prepared and presented that I cannot pick a favorite. 

The handcrafted cocktails featuring concoctions like the Clipper Ship with gin, elderflower, lime, and fresh fennel juice clearly require the same dedication to quality and technique as the food.

Then there's the music which is edgy, loud and unexpected - especially for a "fancy restaurant". You'll likely hear something from The Vines or The Big Pink. And even if you don't normally listen to their music, you will like it because it keeps you on your toes and fully engaged in a full-sensory experience.

I've saved one of the the best features for last and that is the top-notch service. Yes, the wait staff is prompt, friendly and professional but that is not what ranks as over the top. Their true skill lies in their deep knowledge and enthusiasm for each and every item on that menu. Like a captain needs a crew, they make navigating this restaurant so much more rewarding.

 Yes, Heaven - I mean Haven indeed.