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Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Haven: New California Cuisine Gets Super-Sized

Posted By on Wed, Feb 22, 2012 at 4:15 PM

Haven's baked California with avocado fluff. - JONATHAN KAUFFMAN
  • Jonathan Kauffman
  • Haven's baked California with avocado fluff.

I've been a restaurant critic for more than a decade now, and I can't say I've ever had the chance to review the same chef twice in one year -- at two different restaurants. In fact, I probably would have avoided it if the chef hadn't been Kim Alter, whose food I enjoyed so much when she was cooking at Plate Shop. Alter's now at Haven, the subject of this week's full-length restaurant review in the Weekly and Daniel Patterson's new Jack London Square restaurant. 

Haven's food takes many of the characteristics of the New California Cuisine of Coi or Commis -- plates that look as if they've been gathered up from the forest floor, flavor combinations designed to surprise rather than comfort, and lots of playing around with texture -- and super-sizes them. On one of my visits, several friends and I ordered an appetizer and an entree to ourselves, and we were overwhelmed by food -- these are plates designed to share. More importantly, it was interesting to see Alter's food evolve so much in one year, growing richer, bolder, and, for all its grace notes and twists, more approachable. Alter's a good fit for Haven, and Haven is a good fit for Oakland.

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Jonathan Kauffman


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