The simpler the dish, the more likely it seems to fall short. A salad of Little Gem lettuces larded with nickel-sized curls of pink shrimp, sliced olives, and hard-boiled eggs ($10) left me wanting. Sweetly braised beef shortribs ($20) with beans came off as one-note, and her take on escoveitch fish ($19), perhaps half that. It started right: a pan-fried whole fish with the moistest, mildest pale flesh. Rather than letting the cooked fish soak up a vinegary marinade, she merely scattered a half-cup of sharply pickled vegetables on top; the contrast between the meat and the garnish was too stark. (The herbed-up rice and beans on the side, though? Amazing.)

Miss Ollie's fried chicken: So good, the chef will have to cook it to the end of her days.
Kimberly Sandie
Miss Ollie's fried chicken: So good, the chef will have to cook it to the end of her days.

Location Info

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Hibiscus

1745 San Pablo
Oakland, CA 94612

Category: Restaurant > Caribbean

Region: Downtown Oakland

Details

1745 San Pablo (at 18th St.), Oakland, 510-444-2626, www.hibiscusoakland.com. 5:30-10 p.m. Sun.-Mon. and Wed.-Thu.; 5:30-11 p.m. Fri.-Sat.; closed Tue. Reservations recommended after 7 p.m. Noise level: moderate.

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And then there is Miss Ollie's fried chicken ($20.50). Using a family recipe, the chef brines a split chicken, then stuffs a mix of herbs into slits in the meat. The chicken is fried until the skin forms a permanently crisp shell, yet the moment you bite through, the meat itself is aromatic, its tenderness surreal. There is a whispery heat to the seasoning on the chicken, which blares brassily with the addition of one precise dot of Kirnon's homemade habanero sauce. It's a dish with its own gravity, one so good you orbit it on the menu, pretending to be tempted away by other dishes until the waiter takes your order. It's a dish so good that Kirnon will be damned to repeat it until the end of her days.

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