Thursday, July 30, 2009

PICAN - Oakland establishment celebrates the South in all its glory

Often my discoveries occur over the lunch hour. In the past several years, I have watched food choices grow, as establishments all over this wonderful city have come and sadly, also gone. Hopefully I will be able to revisit all of my favorites, and then many new finds, to fill you all in on the most delectable places to dine in Oakland. It will take awhile, but isn't that the fun?

Today my BH and I returned to Pican in Oakland, for a crack at their lunch menu, having been delighted recently with a birthday dinner spent there several weeks ago. Pican is fairly new, in a structure located very near the intersection of Grand and Broadway. Which makes it an easy walk from my office. Lucky for me.

We started our lunch with the Sweet Corn Bisque which is nothing short of sinful. This soup is a combination of creamy sweet corn, delicious fatty bacon bits, good-sized and chewy, they appear to be cut from slab bacon. It looks home-cured. Topped with a perfect sprinkling of red pepper flakes, this soup is a combo of flavors that is incredibly successful. It seemed to be sweetened with perhaps a hint of maple syrup, but that's only a guess. The fat in the bacon melds with the fresh sweet corn and the combination is genius. The red pepper flakes (which my husband chose to do without) added just the perfect amount of heat to the sweet cream base. I love sweet and hot, so if you don't, just have them hold the peppers. This dish is probably a summer special, so I've gone in for it twice and may return before sweet corn is no longer in season and the dish is taken off the menu.

For our next course the BH and I shared something they've named Bayou Pate. The dish is a skillet of creamy cheese mixed with blue crab. It is intended to be spread onto, or dipped with, giant homemade Bar-B-Q potato chips. They make them fresh daily and the chips are perfection. I preferred to spread a thin layer of the rich cheesy dip over my chips, BH just dug in and dipped his. A few broke, but the skillet kept the sauce hot enough to remain melted and liquid for as long as we were eating the dish. I loved it, as did he. This sort of fanciful 'twist' on the labeling and presentation of high end cuisine using comfort food ingredients is one of the things I like best about this place. They take comfort food favorites of the deep south (the chef is from Atlanta and the owner from New Orleans) and make them their own. The presentation and flavors are extremely upscale, the portions generous, the platings are appealing and the service is excellent. Welcoming, professional and prompt.

I followed my soup with the Louisiana Crawfish Cake, a thick, patty of perfect moist shredded crawfish, blended with seasonings I found complimented the seafood's flavor wonderfully. Crab Cakes are a personal favorite of mine, and I found this twist on the dish thoroughly enjoyable. Simple, fresh and mouth-watering. It was accompanied by a well-dressed salad of greens and halved baby tomatoes. The dressing was a light, inobtrusive oil and vinegar that added just the amount of flavoring required to round out the dish.

My BH ordered the Shrimp and Grits. He loved it, so I tasted it and soon discovered why. The large prawns were cooked perfectly, but it is the grits that make this dish. They are a cloudy pillow of buttery goodness. Soft, creamy and golden, if you have ever hesitated ordering grits --- hesitate no more --- this is the place to begin. You might find yourself an instant convert.

Since it was the lunch hour, we had to dash. No dessert today. But when we had dinner the other night at Pican we shared the complimentary Banana Pudding (a hospitable touch for a birthday guest) and an order of the Fried Peach Pie. The pudding was simple pudding with vanilla cookies tucked into the folds, and while it was good, the peach pie was out of this world. Surrounded with a flaky crust, resembling nothing so much as a croissant, the filling was sugary fresh peaches. The chef named the filling "sweet sexy" and it's an apt description. Imagine that concoction deep fried, served hot, with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and well, wow.
Pican is a jewel in the new Oakland Gourmet Ghetto and I predict it will be around for a good many years to come. Business seems lively, and it's a great spot to meet people in the evenings. The decor is gorgeous, open and welcoming. Really reminiscent of some of my favorite New Orleans hot spots. The cocktails deserve a blog of their own. They've got a Bourbon Bar!

A Taste of the South
2295 Broadway, at 23rd
Oakland, CA 94612
Check it out, and Bon Appetit!
Price: Expensive
Eating Time: Lunchable (can be done in an hour if needs be)
Table Size: Comfortable. When all food is served there is plenty of room for the plates.

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