Fans of chef Kim Alter's food at Haven in Jack London Square were sad to learn that she was no longer in the kitchen there as of last fall. But owner Daniel Patterson (who also owns Coi, where he's executive chef, and Alta CA in S.F.) decided to move her over to the more intimate, and more typically ambitious kitchen at Plum (2214 Broadway, Oakland). Alter has won a number raves for her food in the past, first at the short-lived Plate Shop in Sausalito (where GQ's Alan Richman named her smoked risotto one of his top ten dishes in the Bay Area in 2011), and her work at Plum hasn't slipped an inch, as I found at a meal there last week.
I tasted a few stellar things, including a wildly delicious, lightly creamy green garlic soup with a roasted onion base; and a free-form raviolo with an egg yolk in its center that was served in a burnt onion broth with black garlic, ramp pesto, melted spring onions, Meyer lemon, and an onion-fromage blanc purée.
But the star of the meal was a perfectly grilled Monterey squid served with warm, crisped potatoes from farmer Roscoe Zuckerman, sautéed fiddlehead ferns, and garnished with green strawberries and a green strawberry-onion soffrito a Latin and Portuguese type of sauce base that Alter makes by slow-stewing onions, garlic, and fresh green stawberries into a rich, flavor-packed paste.
Alter's food has always been unapologetically bold and ballsy in its flavors, opting for Mediterranean punches of garlic, herbs, and acid that are always balanced but rarely subtle. This squid was no exception, and like the rest of the meal was both perfectly seasoned, surprising, and encapsulated the bright green flavors of spring.
Plum - 2214 Broadway at Grand, Oakland - 510-444-7586