Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Hibiscus



I had heard about a new restaurant opening in Oakland with a Southern/Caribbean style menu. I was able to get in on opening night at 9pm.
I’m glad my dinner partner wasn’t able to make it as when I arrived I was told there was only one chair available at my table.
Cornbread & Maple Butter
I was seated in the corner, along a wall of windows, the streetlight and a single tea candle illuminated my table. I decided not to use a flash to take my photos as the restaurant was dimly lit and it would have drawn repeated attention
Hushpuppies
I was informed by my server that they were out of waffles and that the Chicken and Waffles were being served with cornbread. Damn! I’ve been hearing about Bacon Waffles for ages now.

I decided to go with the Prefix menu and add a few extra sides. The Amuse-bouche, “Chef’s choice”, Shrimp and Grits, Braised Pork Belly and Shoulder, and Bread Pudding. I added Mac & Cheese and Hushpuppies. I was in for a treat!
Shrimp & Grits
A small square of cornbread and a spread was dropped on the table with no explanation. I was able to get the hostess’ attention, she said it was a maple butter. It was good, not too sweet and the cornbread’s texture was nice too. I’m guessing that was the Amuse-bouche?

Next came the Hushpuppies and Shrimp and Grits. The Hushpuppies looked by 3 dog “presents” placed on a plate, the were DARK brown and the size of a large kiwi. I gave them the benefit of the doubt and bit in. They were crunchy and tasted of oil. I really couldn’t taste much seasoning, the oil really overpowered them. They also weren’t flipped while they were frying, the bottoms were not cooked at all. The Shrimp an Grits looked really good and tasted good too. Unfortunately, the grits were room temp. Even though the shrimp were pan seared, they had a grilled flavor. So good, until I got to the last shrimp that was mummified. It was hard and dry.
Macaroni & Cheese
Next came the Macaroni and Cheese & the Braised Pork Belly and Shoulder! The Macaroni and Cheese dish was very hot and placed on a side plate that allowed it to slide around. It really should have been placed on a beverage napkin to prevent it from slipping and preventing the guest from grabbing it to support it. The Mac and Dish lacked in flavor and was dry. I really wasn’t impressed. The Braised Pork Belly and Shoulder saved the dinner. The sauce was savory and had some slight sweet notes to it. I could have gone for a little less fat though, yes I know it was pork belly, but when more than half of the pork belly portion is fat, it is a little disappointing. 
Braised Pork Belly and Shoulder
I told my server that in addition to the bread pudding, I also wanted the Crème brûlée. He mumbled something along the lines of “right on” as he walked away. Um, ok. The bread pudding was huge, dense and cold. The only flavor on the plate was the sauce it was sitting on. Even the bananas didn’t have any flavor. The Crème brûlée had too much sugar on it, causing the torch to be used too long, causing the sugar to burn and ruin the dish.
Crème brûlée
All in all, I was disappointed, which sucks since I really wanted to experience this new restaurant. Unfortunately, there seems to have been some fishy business going on, the entire kitchen staff was let go a few days into the relaunch.
Bread Pudding

Hibiscus on Urbanspoon

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