Finally, a full (and tasty) meal at Plum

21 Jan

In honor of Oakland’s first Restaurant Week, which starts this Sunday, I thought it was about time I posted my very belated review of Plum, one of the restaurants participating in Restaurant Week. After having stumbled into Plum’s grand opening party in September, I didn’t manage to make it back for a full meal with my parents and wife until December 26th. It was definitely worth the wait.

Going into the meal, I knew what to expect, since I had read reviews and talked to friends about there experiences. I knew that they annoyingly tack on a service charge no matter how small your party so I was ready for that. And I knew that the plates were pretty small and some complained that they were too small. So when our waitress told us we should order about three plates a piece, we listened and ordered close to that.

I’m a vegetarian and since we all wanted to share we ordered every vegetarian item on the menu, plus a couple of seafood dishes. We started off with the three vegetarian “snacks” on the menu – popcorn (not pictured here), potato chicharrones, and a chickpea based panisse (thanks to Jasmine for figuring out the name!), which was one of my favorite dishes of the evening. As you can tell by the photos, these really are snacks, not appetizers so don’t expect to fill up on them and you won’t be disappointed.

Next, we moved onto the “to start” part of the menu. My mom ordered a salad – I can’t remember what it was and they don’t have it on the menu anymore, but we all enjoyed it. I ordered the turnip and apple soup, which was perfectly balanced between bitter, sweet, and earthy. I nearly licked the bowl. My wife got the oyster and parsley root stew, which she enjoyed as well.

Moving on, we chose from the “vegetables” and “animal” sections of the menu, ordering the beet boudin noir, cauliflower, and grilled clams. The cauliflower was good, though I can’t remember much about it beyond that. The beets, which came with brussel sprouts, were intensely flavored – my wife liked them but couldn’t eat too much of them, which was fine by the rest of our table, as we finished them off. The clams also were all eaten, and I heard they were delicious.

All of the food we ordered was delicious, but none of it was as amazing as the dish the hostess brought us. Why was the hostess bringing us a free dish? Well, it’s probably because she’s a really great hostess and could see what terrible service we were receiving from our waitress. It was the worst service I’ve ever experienced at a nice restaurant. Our waitress would disappear for long periods of time, which was extra frustrating because she had our bottle of wine chilling in the back. For our second bottle, we had her leave it on the table unchilled. Luckily, the hostess noticed and since she had seen that we had vegetarians at the table, she brought us over carrots. We nearly inhaled them and had to order a second serving of them.

As it was the evening after Christmas (and my wife’s birthday), we were a bit tired of sweets so we skipped dessert. I’ve heard Plum has an amazing pastry chef though so I’ll definitely save room for dessert next time.

Despite the poor service, I still highly recommend Plum. Our experience seems like an anomaly since everyone else I know has received excellent service there – maybe our waitress was new or just having a bad night. When you go, remember to order many dishes and be prepared for the 16% service charge that will be added to your bill. And make reservations! I had to make mine a month in advance, and even if you want to sit at the bar, you probably still need reservations – it’s just that good. Or, go during off hours – for lunch or after 10pm. I’m not sure what their menu looks like for Restaurant Week, but give them a call and find out, since it’s a perfect time to try out Plum if you’ haven’t already.

8 Responses to “Finally, a full (and tasty) meal at Plum”

  1. V Smoothe January 21, 2011 at 8:57 am #

    I was looking at Plum’s menu the other night and eyeing those carrots. I’m glad to hear they’re as good as they sounded – I will have to go try them soon.

    I haven’t been back to Plum for dinner since they first opened, but I’ve been for lunch a couple of times. I had a delicious sandwich there that was like avocado and pulled pork and pickled onions. Highly recommended! Their late night menu is also good and pretty reasonably priced. I think they start serving that at 10:30.

    • Becks January 21, 2011 at 9:17 am #

      Yes, you need to try the carrots. And I need to go for lunch or late night, since I’m terrible at planning ahead for meal and making reservations.

  2. Chuck January 21, 2011 at 10:36 am #

    My favorite dining experience in Oakland, so far, has been at Plum. We sat at the counter, interacted with the chefs, and just had *fun*, for lack of a better word. It was just a great experience. Oh yeah, and the food was dandy, too.

    Y’all are gonna make me have to go back 🙂

  3. Jasmine January 21, 2011 at 1:58 pm #

    That other appetizer they call a panisse, and it’s chickpea based (and awesome). I was there this week and had those carrots and cannot get over how good they were, can’t wait to try them again.

    • Becks January 21, 2011 at 4:28 pm #

      Thanks! I’ll update the post. Now I really want to eat those carrots…

  4. Hometown grrl January 21, 2011 at 6:24 pm #

    You may not be restaurant critic but this was way more enjoyable than reading Zennie’s review. One day I may get there. Until then, you can find me at Punchdown.

    • Becks January 21, 2011 at 6:31 pm #

      How’s Punchdown? I somehow still haven’t been, even though I walk by it several times a week.

  5. Marc January 23, 2011 at 8:45 am #

    Thanks for the write-up of your visit. Plum is high on my ‘to try’ list.

    If that 16% service charge is intended to replace tipping, I say “hooray!” I’d much rather have restaurants, hotels, hair salons and elsewhere just put a mandatory service charge on the bill than have to figure out the mine-field and small-bill-juggling-act of tipping in America. Sure, it removes some of the “control” over the service, but I suspect that a note to the manager about good or bad service is far more effective than leaving a 5% or 25% tip. And there is nothing stopping you leaving something beyond the mandatory 16% if the service is exceptional.

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