Any adult food critic can give a balanced, articulate critique of a restaurant; yet here at The Bold Italic, we instead continue to take adorable, illiterate four-year-olds to fancy restaurants for the most honest, least useful food reviews in the world. For our fourth installment, we took Elai Rubinsky (favorite food: “orange”) to Plum Restaurant in Oakland.
Plum is the kind of restaurant where every dish is an explorative twist on ingredients you thought you knew, the kind of place that pickles green strawberries and ferments oatmeal – which, for the photographer and me, were a little mind blowing. Four-year-olds don’t care about fascinating twists, though, and Elai was difficult to impress.
The meal started with a tiny, beautiful amuse-bouche, and Elai started out tame, delicately taking the bite out of her mouth before delivering her simple critique.
The bread that came before our dishes was an awesome mix of salty and sweet, and it was Elai’s favorite part of the meal. Obviously, she is the kind of food reviewer who would send any restaurant into a panic the second she walked in the door, because this is her “likes it” face.
Cranberry Ginger Mocktail
Elai was pleased when the drink came out because it’s pink, and she’s really into anything pink. However, Plum made one fatal mistake: ice cubes.
Roasted and Raw Beet Salad
with Sherried Yogurt Spuma, Granita, and a Mint-Sherry Vinaigrette
Instant points for another edible pink thing, but upon closer inspection, Elai grew concerned. “Oh no, that’s paint! I can’t eat paint.” Bravo to her parents for instilling such a deep reluctance to ingest anything even remotely paint-like, but it did take some work convincing her that this gorgeous dish was not an elaborate attempt to poison her.
on Forbidden Rice with Mint, Cilantro, and a Fish Sauce Vinaigrette
Elai took what could go down in history as the SMALLEST bite ever known to man and immediately insisted that it be taken off her fork – a pretty baller request that any adult food critic should consider adopting.
Cooked on the Plancha with Fried Potatoes, Green Strawberry Sofritto, Pickled Green Strawberries, and Fiddlehead Ferns
By now I should have known that tentacles are a one-way ticket to Sobsville, USA, when it comes to these things, but I just kept ordering them. This was the dish for which our calm, scrutinous reviewer took a turn and started doubting her professional skills.
Roasted Squab Breast
with Week-Long Fermented Oatmeal, Chocolate Oil, Charcoal Roasted Beets, and Squab Jus with Brown Butter
In hindsight, following squid with pigeon was like orchestrating the “things kids don’t like to eat” parade; but hey, you never know! (Except now I do know.) Plus, Elai was once again convinced that someone had drizzled paint all over the dish (and she does not eat paint!!).
with Pine Nut Puree, Pickled and Raw Grapes, and Braised and Charred Endive in Chicken Jus
At this point the photographer had taken about 40 photos of this adorable little girl sobbing, and we were starting to feel like monsters. So having this crazy-delicious layered chicken come out (topped with flowers!) was a bit of a relief. But I think we pretty solidly severed Elai’s trust back at the squid dish (and the “paint” didn’t help), and so from this dish on she would just start crying any time a dish came to the table. But hey, being a professional food critic is emotional work!
In the end Elai’s review of Plum was boiled down to “too fancy,” (read: delicious flavors, seasonal ingredients, and plates so pretty they look like paintings), so if you’re over four years old and into interesting, beautiful, incredibly fresh cuisine, I highly recommend getting over to Plum. (If you’re still skeptical of paint-like dollops of puree, bring tissues.)