Today my bookclub met at Pican, a beautiful upscale restaurant located in the Uptown district in Oakland for brunch. Advertised as “A Taste of the South,” it was the perfect location for the eight of us to meet over a meal and to discuss “Beautiful Jim Key” which is a true story about a very smart horse and his trainer that takes place in the South.
One of the first things our waiter (JL) asked us was whether he could start us off with some beignets. As we were still waiting on a couple more members of our group, we gladly said yes. The pillows of fried dough, tossed with cane sugar and cinnamon, came out fresh and hot. They were crisp, airy and very good; much closer to the real deal (New Orleans) than other restaurants serving them in the area.
We decided to order another “dis & dat.” That’s what they call their appetizers. The fried green tomatoes we ordered came with sheep’s milk feta, tomato salsa and spicy buttermilk dressing. Most people at the table never had fried green tomatoes and it appeared they enjoyed them, but I had a few criticisms being the expert I am. (Read my blog about fried green tomatoes.) I didn’t like the inconsistency of the cut of the tomatoes. One was too thick making it a bit too hard and there was a thin sliced tomato that ended up a bit mushy. Although I enjoyed the buttermilk dressing for dipping, I thought the feta and salsa was overkill. I also didn’t think about it, but tomatoes aren’t in season so should they really be on the menu?
We each ordered our own entrée which they call “Southern Exposure.” With eight of us, we had a variety of five dishes. It was a no brainer for me, my eyes went straight to the catfish & grits. The crispy fried Alabama catfish came with white cheddar grits, sunny-side-up eggs and pickled chilis. I knew this combination was going to be good. I loved my dish and I cleaned off my very generous portion of food. After eating about half of my dish, I noticed the sliced chili peppers on my plate. I took a small chili with a scoop of fish, grits, and egg and it ended up an ever better bite! Prior to eating my chilis, I had used my friends Pican hot sauce that came with her food. I thought their homemade hot sauce was excellent.
I was able to sample a couple of other things and I think highly of the fried chicken benedict for its taste and creativity. Fried chicken on an English muffin, topped with poached eggs and hollandaise sauce? Wow. Another friend’s meal came with a buttermilk biscuit with butter and an interesting fruit jam mixed with a chili sauce. The little bite that I had was like a tease, like a child in a candy store with no money.
I would rate Pican as a great spot for a lovely Southern meal. And if you are into bourbon, they are well known for having an extensive list and even named their private room the Bourbon room. This week is restaurant week in Oakland and Pican is one of the participating restaurant. For $40, you can get a three course dinner that includes some bourbon.
P.S. If you are looking for a good read, I highly recommend Beautiful Jim Key.