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Pican in Oakland: Review

pane | May 20, 2009 01:26 PM

Last night I ate at Pican in Oakland with two other hounds who may chime in.

We shared:
-Buttermilk fried chicken with smoked gouda mac and cheese
-Bourbon and molasses lacquered duck
-"Southern foie gras" (pan-fried chicken livers with Benton's bacon)
-Crispy smoked pork belly with poached egg and black-eyed peas
-Cole slaw
-Lemon pie
-Chocolate pecan tart

What I loved:
The food was really excellent, skillfully and carefully prepared. I enjoyed everything we ordered, including the surprise star: coleslaw. Coleslaw? Yes, even the coleslaw was great, and a nice break from the fatty meatiness of our other dishes. Our other vegetable option, california collards (trademark!), were solid but not life-changing.

The fried chicken, however, was the best I've had in the Bay Area, bar none. In fact, when they set our shared platter down on the table, I threatened my tablemates with physical harm should they attempt to hoarde the drumstick. Thankfully, cooler heads (not mine) prevailed and we shared--the seasoning, skin and meat was just perfect, exactly what you'd want in chicken: crispy, crackly, moist and salty magnificence. I liked the little sidecar of mac + cheese, especially the crispy bits.

Pork belly was great, especially with Benton's bacon, but "Southern foie gras" was just lovely--I'd have this again each time I visited. And I agree with the poster who wrote the excellent early report on Pican and noted that people who generally turn up their noses at liver or offal might be swayed by this fine dish.

My favorite dessert was the chocolate pecan tart, rightly noted to be of a size for sharing. The lemon pie filling was nice enough, but the crust was too thick for my taste.

Of the intangibles: the dining room was lovely, with well-spaced tables and strangely, not deafeningly loud. Perhaps because I dine mostly in San Francisco, I expect cramped tables and to have to lean in to hear anyone. Oakland, maybe you're on to something?

What I didn't:
Service was very friendly but a bit rough around the edges. We received our entrees fact, so quickly our appetizers hadn't appeared. When the server was alerted by the busser, he apologized and asked if we should be served that course after we completed our entrees or as the dishes were ready, and we chose the latter.

The pacing seemed a bit off at times--we spent a while waiting to order dessert and waiting for our check. All in all, the meal had a relaxed pace--I think we sat down near 6:45 and left at 9--but many of our fellow diners appeared to be dining before a show at the theatre next door, so I don't doubt they can speed your meal along if you request it.

So my advice is: go now, but save some chicken for me.

Pican Restaurant
2295 Broadway, Oakland, CA 94612

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