Dining Outside at Pomet
Second-generation farmer Aomboon Deasy admits she never harbored fantasies about owning a restaurant.
After all, being a part of a family-run farm, K&J Orchards in Winters and Yuba City, was work enough. But when the owners of Homestead restaurant in Oakland — longtime buyers of the farm’s produce — approached her about taking over the space, she thought it over for a few weeks, then decided to dive in whole-heartedly.
“It was another challenge, another chapter,” she told me.
And one she obviously couldn’t resist.
The result is Pomet on Piedmont Avenue, which I was invited in as a guest of the restaurant to try last weekend. The cozy establishment takes its name from the Romanian word for “orchard,” a fitting choice for the farm, founded by her parents, whose pristine fruit can be found at farmers markets around the Bay Area, as well as incorporated into dishes at some of the region’s most respected restaurants.
Pomet represents farm-to-table cooking — beyond.
About 80 percent of the fruit used at the restaurant comes from K&J Orchards. The rest of the ingredients are sourced from local farms and ranches, nearly 20 in all, which are listed on the back of the menu.
Pomet may be barely a month old, but it already feels like it’s firing smoothly on all cylinders, which is no easy feat these days, given the labor and supply-chain issues plaguing all industries, particularly the hospitality one.
Much of the credit goes to the team she’s assembled, which includes Chef Alan Hsu, a former sous chef for five years at Michelin three-starred Benu in San Francisco and nearly one-year in that same role at Michelin two-starred Blue Hill at Stone Barns in New York.
Pomet has a laid-back, neighborhood feel, but the fine attention to detail abounds, from the Riedel wine glasses to the beautiful platings and even the house-made scallion roll, a fluffy football-shaped bun rather than pancake that gets fanciful slashes overtop and is served with soft butter dotted with flecks of nori.
Even if you didn’t know Hsu’s pedigree, you’d guess that someone with a deft fine-dining background helms the kitchen, not because the food is fussy in any way, but because it’s so thoughtfully made and presented.
Boonie, as Deasy is known, is a warm presence, coming by each table regularly during the night to chat and make sure everyone feels right at home.
With Oakland’s mandate still in place, you’ll still need to show proof of vaccination to dine inside the dining room. Or if your preference like mine is still to dine outdoors when possible, Pomet has a few tables in its airy alley decorated with string lights. The restaurant is in process of getting heaters. Until then, it offers blankets to ward off any chill.
The charred Brokaw avocado ($18) set the tone for the night. Chunks of avocado cooked in the live-fire hearth take on such amazing depth that you find yourself imagine them piled atop the ultimate avocado toast. Paired with slices of cured trout, salmon roe, and blood orange, it’s a dish that feels like pure silk on the palate.
You might overlook the fried Zuckerman Farms potatoes ($12) on the menu at first glance. That would be a major mistake. The chunks of potato are first smoked, then fried, resulting in an incredible texture: The exterior is as crisp as can be, especially the little pieces of skin that fall off into the fryer and transform into potato chip-like crunchy bits you’ll be fighting over. The interior of the potatoes is where it’s really happening — so creamy that it’s almost like mashed potatoes enfolded with a little cream within. The piece de resistance is the house-made ranch dressing that’s thick, rich, and herby. The whole dish sings of umami, too. If you wind up with a little ranch dressing left, dunk your toasted sesame and scallion roll ($6) into it.
There are two pastas on the menu. Each is worth getting. The “Ugly Mushroom Filled Pasta” ($20) is a powerhouse of earthy, mushroom flavor. The tender, supple tubes of pasta are filled with a mushroom forcemeat, before getting napped in a velvety miso butter sauce fortified with honeynut miso by San Francisco artisanal purveyor Shared Cultures.
The duck confit noodles ($24) includes large, tender chunks of duck confit with sugar snap peas, wild leeks and Parmesan, making for a hearty, homey taste of spring.
The smoked Half Moon Bay black cod ($30) with the lilt of lemongrass is flaky, and so moist that it practically does melt in your mouth. Nutty sunchokes are roasted with nice, crispy edges to finish the dish.
The aged Stemple Creek short rib and riblet ($45) is so marbled and succulent it tastes nearly as rich as Wagyu. This isn’t a beef dish that you pound down, but savor each piece slowly and thoroughly.
For a light, refreshing, not-too-sweet dessert, it’s hard to beat the Shinko snow with shiso ($12). It’s a small mountain of granita dotted with precise cubes of the Asian pear apple and minty shiso leaves. It’s delicate and floral tasting. Look for this signature dessert to change with the seasons. Loquats will star in the next iteration in the days ahead.
Shared Cultures miso again starts on the menu, this time in a black sesame cake layered with peanut butter and chocolate-cacao nib ganache. You expect this cake to be heavy and decadent. Instead, it’s surprisingly not. With its more Asian esthetic, it is a light-as-air chiffon cake with salty, savory and sweet notes.
Appropriately enough, the last bites are not the usual mignardises of tiny chocolates and cookies, but slices of Shinko, unadorned to show off the fruit’s natural beauty and flavor.
It’s a reminder that Pomet is a special restaurant, whose heart and soul are firmly planted in the orchard.