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

Categories: 'Eat'
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.

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