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Wednesday, February 2, 2011

This Week's Review: Plum, Where Devices and Ideals Go Hand in Hand

Posted By on Wed, Feb 2, 2011 at 9:09 AM

Squid with smoked lentil puree at Plum. - LARA HATA
  • Lara Hata
  • Squid with smoked lentil puree at Plum.

I had a funny little off-the-record exchange with Daniel Patterson a few weeks ago, in which I asked him if he wanted to update his 2005 essay on how straightjacket California cuisine had become. His response was, essentially, that he'd said all he'd cared to back then. If I wanted to know what he thought of California cuisine, I should eat his food.

So I did.

Which is how this week's review

came about. Actually, Patterson's food at Plum is belonging more and

more to the chef he brought on board in December: Charlie Parker is a

talented Manresa vet whose food at Cellar Door Cafe was rumored to be so

good San Franciscans I knew were taking trips to Santa Cruz just to eat

it (and you know how much energy it takes to get a San Franciscan to

leave the city...). The moment I heard Parker was coming north, I

postponed my plans to review Plum. And while the two chef share similar

approaches to food ― I'll post an interview with Parker in a few hours

― during my first meal there, I could sense a lingering bit of

disconnect between the two men's styles. Which was completely resolved

by the time of my last, exquisite meal.

Patterson was right: Plum

is effortlessly forward-thinking, with no disconnect between its ideals

and its creativity. The only seafood on the menu, for example? Local

sardines and squid. All of the vegetables came from local farms. In

fact, Plum is so vegetable-friendly that I felt comfortable sharing a

four-course meal with a strict-veg friend without feeling like I was

exiling her from half the dishes. Normally I hate sitting at the

counter, but given the fact that my own culinary training ended before

the immersion circulator went mainstream, it felt like a master lesson

to watch the chefs integrate device-driven cooking without making it the

centerpiece of each dish.

One last thing: Lara Hata's slideshow of Plum is 100 percent porntastic.

Follow us on Twitter @sfoodie, and like us on Facebook. Follow me at @JonKauffman.

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