Why is it so comforting to sit 10 feet away from the butcher’s case at Oakland’s Clove & Hoof, cutting into a butter-soft medium-rare rib-eye within sight of a stack of bright red New York steaks, thick slabs of pork belly and more?
I can’t explain it, but if you’re an unabashed carnivore, this is close to nirvana.
Oakland restaurateurs John Blevins and Analiesa Gosnell — the husband a chef who has cooked at restaurants across the country, the wife a 4-H veteran who studied agriculture and sold meats at farmers markets — have combined their passions in their small shop at the corner of Broadway and 40th Street. There, they cut, sell, cook and serve a variety of meats, all antibiotic- and hormone-free and raised and slaughtered humanely.
That love is easily seen (and tasted) in every dish we tried on a recent visit to check out their dinner menu. The lineup changes almost every day, so you’ll always encounter something new. Blevins notes that in a butcher shop, seafood is something of a rarity, so he loves putting it on the menu when he finds something good.
The grilled beef tongue appetizer ($13) was shockingly tender, served with crunchy potato tots, big chunks of soft beets, dill cream and horseradish. A carefully assembled bite highlighted flavors that were salty, sweet, earthy and tangy, all at once. A crispy baton of smoked pork belly ($12) revealed luscious, fatty meat when sliced; served with collard greens, cornbread puree and red-eye gravy, it was close to a home-cooked Southern meal in one dish.
The intriguing flavors of the Panzanella ($12) — a riff on the bread salad theme that included roasted red kuri squash, fennel and goat cheese pureed with piquillo peppers — were almost outshined by the richly flavored bread chunks fried in beef tallow. Together, they were surprising and complex.
That 16-ounce grilled rib-eye ($28) was luxuriously marbled, with little bits of fat adding lip-smacking salty flavor to each bite. Served over toasted barley with charred broccoli rabe and sunchoke chips, it made for a perfect late-autumn dinner. A deep reddish-pink smoked pork chop ($25) was intimidatingly sized; I’m a man of significant size and appetite, and I don’t think I could have taken it down in one sitting without a promise to put my framed picture on the wall if I did. It was lean but still juicy throughout, a testament to the difference between a carefully selected piece of meat and a dry slab with a strip of fat at one end to disguise poor quality.
Chicken and Waffles ($18) used fish sauce in the chicken batter and fennel and pollen in the waffle to achieve a unique flavor, piquant and herbaceous rather than the traditional salty-sweet.
Storing away significant portions of leftovers for the next day, we proceeded to dessert: butterscotch pudding ($7) over brûléed bananas. I wouldn’t have minded more peanuts over the top of the pudding to add a little more crunch and salt to the rich sweetness. The vanilla pot de crème ($6) with poached cranberries was almost whipped-cream light, a great change from the typical heavy texture.
With Clove & Hoof, Blevins and Gosnell have combined their lifelong pursuits and built a shrine to great food, selected and prepared with skill and care.
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WHERE: 4001 Broadway, Oakland
CONTACT: 510-547-1446, cloveandhoofoakland.com
HOURS: 11 a.m.-9 p.m. daily
CUISINE: New American
PRICES: Entrees $14-$28
VEGETARIAN: Usually one entree option, plus salads
BEVERAGES: Beer and wine
RESERVATIONS: Not accepted
NOISE LEVEL: Medium loud
PARKING: Street parking
KIDS: Kids will enjoy the burger and fries.
PLUSES: A+ quality meats, set up to shine on every dish.
MINUSES: Enormous portions make it difficult to finish most entrees in one sitting.
DATE OPENED: November 2014
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