After hearing a lot of hype about Hibiscus being the new place for creole and Caribbean food in the Bay Area, I was really excited to try it. In fact, I love Caribbean food so much that I was prepared to accept quite a lot and still love this place. I am extremely disappointed to have to leave such an ambivalent-to-negative review for a place I was so predisposed to like.
The main problem with the food at Hibiscus is that it suffers from attempting to do too much and therefore crash landing hard. It sells itself as eclectic fine dining, but unfortunately fails to deliver.
Simply, the food is mediocre at best and flavourless and poorly prepared at worst. The amusebouche, two croutons covered with avocado spread, were clearly old. The bread had gone soggy and the spread was cold and unpleasant to the palate. It had no other flavour or texture.
The meals highlight, and what got Hibiscus its three stars, was the crab and grits starter. The grits were heavy and cheesy and drowned out the crab, but the few bites that had more crab than grits were delicious. A solid four star dish.
Sadly, the entrées were extremely disappointing. I had the escoveitch, which is a simple white fish. Unfortunately, that is all that can be said about it. The fish's texture was unpleasantly chewy. The menu's description of the fish was vague, and it turns out that it is just the fish with a small sample of pickled vegetables on top. That is it. There is absolutely no flavour at all. I had to drown the fish with the hot sauce the waitress provided to get any taste from the meal at all. The rice and peas tasted stale.
My dining partner had the fried chicken. I have heard people rave that this is the best fried chicken in the Bay Area. I think they are mildly deranged.
The chicken was extremely heavily breaded, which smothered any of the meat's natural savouriness. All that we could taste was the seasoning, and nothing of the meat. The potato salad on the side also tasted old, and the potatoes had lost their texture after sitting in their dressing for too long.
The service as well was highly disappointing and impersonal. After being asked at least five times what we wanted to drink, the servers disappeared for at least twenty minutes before returning to take our meal orders. From then on, it was a further hour before we were given our food.
What a disappointing way to spend the evening.
1745 San Pablo Ave, Oakland, CA 94612
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