Zero for Three
Daniel Patterson is a famous chef. He has three restaurants in the Bay Area–Coi, the temple of molecular gastronomy in San Francisco, Plum, the “modern” cafe improvisation in downtown Oakland, and now Haven, his new flagship “modern American” in Jack London Square. Patterson is regaled as inventive, modern, ground breaking and creative.
I’ve eaten in all three of his restaurants, and so far Chef Patterson has not managed to provide me with a single happy dining experience or a memorable meal. His batting average, with me at least, is .000
This wasn’t a busy night for Haven. People were staying home to watch the vice presidential debate, or the A’s game. (Sob!) We arrived for our reservation and were promptly seated. The facility is new, with an open kitchen, lots of wood, high ceilings and decent lighting. I didn’t care for the volume of the music, but that’s probably just me–these places are designed for a younger crowd than I represent.
Our waiter came to take the drink order, and told me that they didn’t have iced tea. I’ve seen this before, and just ordered hot tea and two glasses of ice. A mere 35 minutes later, long after the drinks had arrived for everyone else at the table, they found me a glass of iced tea. I asked for sweetener. I got sugar. I asked for, more specifically, the yellow stuff (Splenda come in yellow packets.) He brought me a tiny pitcher of some kind of syrup (agave? honey? something too cool for words? who knows?) I”m not a fan of chefs who think they know so much that they won’t give the customers basics like a common artificial sweetener.
The first courses arrived
Chef Patterson is relentlessly inventive, using new ingredients and odd combinations to change your perceptions about a dish. My salad had smoked ricotta, lovage (some kind of plant), saba agrodolce (I think that some kind of vinegar), and pumpernickel (which I though would be a bread but turned out to be a more like a powder) The idea was odd, but the flavors were surprising and interesting.
Gail had the beef marrow bone, which is always wonderful even if it is death on a plate. She shared it with Joyce Hart, and they both loved it. Too bad the photo wasn’t very good; the presentation was very attractive.
On to the entreés, and the major failure. I chose the seared Ahi, which should be an easy dish for a busy kitchen. I got an excellent piece of top grade ahi, on a bed of Israeli cous cous, with some bits of pork belly for contrast. This would have been wonderful if only it had been warm, but it wasn’t. Getting food to the table hot is a basic element of a professional kitchen, and Haven failed miserably. Not a single item on my plate was sufficiently warm.
David Lee had the Duck Boudin Noir, which would also have been a great dish if it had been hot, but once again the kitchen failed.
Gail and Dick Hart both had the Bavette, also often called a hanger steak. The plates looked marvelous, and the steaks were perfectly cooked, tender and flavorful.
I thought the best thing this evening was a side order of the sauteed brussels sprouts. They were also the hottest thing on the table.
Getting our dinners to the table took over an hour, which was definitely excessive in general and certainly on a not-very-busy night. I suspect that my dinner and David’s were finished and sitting on the counter for an inordinate length of time until the other dishes were prepared–very poor planning in the kitchen.
Dinner didn’t much fill me up, and there was no bread and butter, either. Still, after sitting there for over 2 hours just to get a salad and a piece of fish, I was too antsy to want dessert: I just wanted out of there. Joyce, though, craved a bit of something sweet, so we had the chocolate sponge, which turns out to be like a little cake. There was some frozen white stuff on top, maybe gelato, maybe not. A coffee based something else on the bottom. I had a small bite, but wasn’t much excited.
I’d call this evening a failure, and the management of Haven should be ashamed of the service, the poor execution in the kitchen, the lack of a basic sweetener for my tea, the uninteresting dessert and the hefty check for a mediocre (at best) experience.
Someday, Daniel Patterson will open yet another restaurant and foodies will be talking, but I don’t think I’ll give it a try. Three strikes and you’re out.