My third restaurant reservation during my trip to the San Francisco Bay Area was at Pomet on Piedmont Avenue in Oakland, California. The previous two restaurants I went to were both omakase experiences, so I added in an American restaurant to mix in some variety into the roster.
We started our dinner with four appetizers, the first two being two different kinds of Tomales Bay Miyagi oysters. The first pair had Fuji apple cider mignonette and sansho, and the second pair was roasted with Shared Cultures urfa chili miso… at least that’s what the menu said.
I’m a big fan of raw oyster, so it’s probably not a mystery that I like the actual flavor of oyster. Unfortunately, both of these dishes had overwhelming flavors that completely masked the oyster, and I could barely tell that I was even having oysters.
The first was sour, as you’d expect from the mignonette; I would have much rather preferred the mignonette to be served on the side, but instead, the oysters were drowning in it. The second was greasy and almost cheesy, and the flavor completely conflicted with the oyster.
Our third appetizer wasn’t much better. We ordered the San Pedro yellowfin tuna mixed in with smoked mushroom tamari koji and a medley of citrus.
For me, this was no better than a glorified miniature overpriced poke bowl. The tuna was fleshy, the ratio of fish to fruit was way too low, and I almost couldn’t even distinguish the flavor of the tuna from the fruit.
The presentation of the dish was also incredibly disappointing. Using the greens as a bed, ornating the citrus in alternating types around the edge, and having the tuna in the center would have probably made the dish pop a lot more and allow people to realize that they actually got the tuna they ordered.
Once we got to the fourth appetizer, I started enjoying the food—it was smoked Zuckerman potatoes mixed in with trout roe beside house-made ranch and black garlic sauce.
The trout roe was an add-on, and I do not recommend getting it—none of it stuck to the potatoes, so the roe was basically just left behind every bite and accumulated at the bottom, and the richness of the ranch overwhelmed any roe flavor anyway.
As for the rest of the dish, the potatoes were cooked nicely with a crispy crush but soft center, and the sauces had strong but clean flavors that nicely complemented the potatoes.
For my main course, I ordered the McFarland trout with Rancho Gordo beans, carrots, and mustard.
The fish was nicely cooked, but my favorite part of this dish is how clean and “natural” the rest of dish tasted. There wasn’t too much seasoning, so the beans, carrots, and other vegetables were able to shine through and add their own flavors to the fish, creating a “the whole is greater than the sum of its parts” effect.
My friend got a Liberty duck confit with noodles, sweet potato, nettles, and herb salsa. I only had one bite of her dish, but my assessment of it is the same as my dish—the chef let the core ingredients do most of the work, so it had a clean flavor without being disrupted by excessive or intrusive seasoning.
For dessert, my friend ordered a chocolate crepe cake with Wonderful pomegranates. This is the same friend who joined me at Utzutzu in Alameda, California who had just celebrated a birthday last week, and this restaurant also added a candle to her dessert.
My dessert was a satsuma creamsicle pie. I thought it was a fairly normal slice of pie, though I do appreciate that they added some sort of sear to the top of the whipped cream, which added a nice contrast of flavor to the fattiness of the cream and pie.
To end our meal, we each got a complimentary slice of Asian pear.
Here is a breakdown of what we paid:
|Tomales Bay miyagi oysters with Fuji apple cider mignonette||$ 10.00|
|Tomales Bay miyagi oysters with Shared Cultures urfa chili miso||$ 12.00|
|San Pedro yellowfin tuna||$ 14.00|
|Smoked Zuckerman potatoes with trout roe||$ 17.00|
|Liberty duck confit and noodles||$ 25.00|
|McFarland trout||$ 30.00|
|Chocolate crepe cake||$ 12.00|
|Satsuma creamsicle pie||$ 12.00|
|Service charge (20%)||$ 26.40|
|Tax (10.25%)||$ 16.24|
This is much cheaper than the omakase restaurants we went to, but I think it was proportionally less food and less special of an experience.
One thing I want to point out—there is a 20% service charge, in lieu of gratuity, which is mandatorily added to your bill. Also note that the sales tax is charged after the service charge (which is not customary, as gratuity generally does not get taxed), so in practice, this restaurant requires you to tip 22%. I’m sure you can negotiate this down if you’ve had a particularly bad experience, but I accepted this stipulation when I made a reservation, and I had no problem paying it.
Pomet apparently has a great reputation and is allegedly considered one of the best restaurants in Oakland, but based on my experience, I think it’s sort of a hit-or-miss. The entrées were excellent, and the potatoes and desserts were good, but the oysters and tuna were a big miss. I don’t know if my perception is a bit biased simply because I had just finished eating at two high-end sushi restaurants, but I think my analysis is still fairly sound with regards to the seafood dishes.
The reason we got so many starters is because there were actually more appetizers than entrées, and the starters were presented far more prominently on the menu. Pomet had an extremely limited entrée menu with only six dishes total: two vegetarian, two duck (one with noodles and one without), one trout, and one short rib. Based on this observation, we assumed that this is one of those restaurants where you’re supposed to order a bunch of different starters so that you can try out a wider variety of foods.
Overall, I’d still recommend this restaurant, as long as you avoid the seafood dishes. I think this restaurant’s specialty is being able to prepare American-style dishes in a way that emphasizes the underlying flavors of the ingredients; their specialty is definitely not seafood. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if I found out they intentionally tried to cover up the taste of the tuna and oysters under the premise that those who like seafood would go to a real seafood restaurant, and that people who show up at Pomet are probably there for foods more friendly towards traditional American palates.
This concludes my short “high-end restaurant crawl” in the Oakland area for this trip (the other days, we went to regular restaurants, cooked meals ourselves, or got take-out). This was my first time going to some nice restaurants in a while, because when I’m traveling alone, I usually prioritize convenience over luxury; it was pleasant having a companion for a week so I had a good reason to do things I wouldn’t otherwise bother planning.