A couple of months ago, Daniel Patterson closed the doors on his Oakland hideout Plum, only to kick them open a few days later with his Japanese-flavored reinvention, Ume — a more casual iteration to suit the neighborhood's enthusiasm for joints like Plum Bar next door.
The switch came right after Kim Alter took the reigns at Plum and rolled out some of the best food to come from that kitchen. Now, Alter is out (with plans under the Patterson Group to open her own spot), and Outerlands' Brett Cooper came on to open Ume. In lieu of Plum's slow stride and fancy menu, this new iteration offers quicker bites for the more casual, noncommittal crowd.
The plates are small and refined, Californian in subject but Japanese in color. Between the rounds of umeboshi-glazed ribs and bowls of beefy noodles, one small and pale bowl of lumpy fluff turns up as a show stealer. A whipped scramble of egg and maitake, the dish banks on the richness of eggs — cooked soft and slow — fortified with yuba and the in-your-face umami of maitake. All in all, it feels a bit like eating custard in the woods.
It's the kind of understated dish that bodes well for Ume's future: creative and nurturing, evidence that concept does not overshadow the pure and simple mission to feed, and feed well. Just remember to order double the pork ribs (and coconut mochi buns, come to think of it), you'll thank yourself later.