heavenly haven

I’ve been posting a lot about restaurants lately. I don’t intend to make this blog all about restaurants, but I guess I spend a fair share of my life eating and enjoy the occasional meal out. Now that our kids are going to bed reliably every night, we have reinstated Friday night date nights. Our grad student neighbor is happy to come over a couple Fridays a month. The kids sleep while she studies. Not a bad gig.

We like to try new restaurants and lucky for us, there seems to be a new restaurant opening every week in this area. Last Friday we decided to check out Haven, which opened last December in Jack London Square. It’s located in the newer building that’s supposed to be the Oakland equivalent to the SF Ferry Building, though sadly no merchants have really moved in. Only Haven. Which is a really good start.

I thought Haven was much better than its sister restaurant, the popular Plum, in downtown Oakland. We dined at Plum several weeks ago and while I was content with the experience, I wasn’t amazed. The Plum interior is dark, cozy & cool which has become the standard vibe at many of the new restaurants. The Plum menu showcases vegetables, but it’s not entirely vegetarian. I was less than overwhelmed at Plum, but it was decent. We sat at the bar at Plum and liked watching the open kitchen cooking show. The open kitchen concept is repeated at Haven and we sat at the bar again to witness the spectacle. But I found certain touches at Haven to be much nicer, like the cloth coasters with Haven embroidered on them and the beautiful arrangement of votive on wood block with succulent and salt at each place setting. Pretty and perfect. The space at Haven was brighter than Plum, a little less cozy with its soaring ceilings and seemed a bit more “commercial” due to its newness. This is JLS, after all. Just south of downtown cool.

The food at Haven is heartier, and better in my opinion, than at Plum. We went to town on the meat offerings, ordering the braised bacon AND the braised lamb. We can never get enough braised meat. We also got the smoked pasta, arctic char, fried fingerlings and cauliflower side dishes.¬†After I ordered my appetizer, entree and side, the waitress closed her book and thought we were done ordering for the both of us. Oh no, wait. We want more. Then Hubs’ ordered his appetizer, entree and side. That’s right. We came hungry. The pasta had a raw egg yolk on top which the waitress expertly mixed into the pasta (she said they are trained in perfecting the egg-mixing technique). The braised bacon was also delicious and came with potatoes which made our side of fried fingerlings redundant. The portions for the starters were big enough to be mains. Good thing we were still hungry for more.

smoked pasta with egg, pancetta, pepper & chive

braised bacon with chicory, potatoes, whole grain mustard & gribiche

The entrees were perfectly executed. The braised lamb was tender and not too salty, as some braised meat can be. And it didn’t taste like beef stew. The arctic char was seared to a perfect crispness on the skin and not too well-done on the inside. The cauliflower gratin was pretty amazing too. Cheese baked in a dish usually never fails. For dessert we got the Baked California, their take on Baked Alaska. I must confess, I’ve never had a Baked Alaska but ALWAYS wanted to try one. I can’t compare their version to any true version of Baked Alaska, but it seemed pretty good. Strawberry ice cream inside with a tangy layer of citrus, and a crunchy bottom with meringue all around. A refreshing end. I also ordered a slice of chocolate cake to go. It was creamy and good with coffee crunchies on top. (Sorry, forgot to take pictures of the desserts before I devoured them)

arctic char with brassicas, king trumpet mushrooms & pear

braised lamb with carrots, allium, and firelit liqueur

sides: fried fingerlings with seaweed, shiro & miso; cauliflower with soyoung's cheddar, balsamic & orange

Oh, and the drinks. Good. I got the Flash Gordon which was a bright green color made from gin, celery, yuzu and lime. I was a little afraid that it might taste too “celery-y” but I wasn’t in the mood for a super sweet fruity cocktail. What I got was a perfectly balanced cocktail, not too sweet and very refreshing. I like the name too.

flash gordon, the cocktail

Thank you for a lovely meal, Haven. You are very welcome.

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