Legume is one of those restaurants that has been around for many years and has always been on our list to try, but somehow we'd never made it in for dinner.
The recent James Beard Award semi-finalist nomination for Outstanding Restaurant was just the motivation we needed to finally check out this highly regarded spot – and we're so glad we did.
With a refined yet relaxed atmosphere, and dishes that are simple yet intriguing, we thoroughly enjoyed our meal at Legume.
Order Drinks from Butterjoint's Menu
The beer, wine, and cocktails come from neighboring sister bar, Butterjoint (which also has its own bar menu and a great happy hour). We tried the Annoyin' Criminal cocktail with barrel-aged gin, lemon, orange, amaro, and rooibos-lapsang tea. The resulting mixture was slightly smokey balanced with good citrus flavors and hints of vanilla from the barrel-aged gin and rooibos.
I ordered a glass of French Cabernet Franc from the decently sized wine by the glass menu. They also have carafes of house wines which is a nice touch, along with a full bottle menu and a nice beer selection from Pittsburgh breweries.
Table Bread and Appetizers to Start
The bread basket included slices of a homemade whole wheat bread with a deliciously crackly, crispy crust and soft interior. The butter was a perfectly spreadable temperature, which may seem like a small detail but is something I always appreciate as I am a bread and butter fiend.
We started off with a few small appetizers – some goat cheese crostini and french fries. The goat cheese crostini were thin, well-toasted slices of bread layered with creamy goat cheese and a red pepper jelly. It was a classic creamy/sweet combination that we're always up for.
Normally we're not ones to jump up and down for French fries, but the ones here are worth taking note of. They caught our eye as the menu describes them as “tallow fries” fried in beef fat. Yum! They didn't taste beefy, per se – just delightfully thin, crispy, well-seasoned, and served with an unctuous housemade aioli.
A Menu Updated Daily Based on Seasonal Ingredients
The menu changes daily based on what's seasonal; on our visit in late winter entrees included a vegetarian option, several kinds of fish, pork, beef, and lamb dishes. We decided on the lamb leg steak and the walleye.
Our server recommended the lamb leg steak to be cooked medium rare, to which we happily obliged. My biggest fear when ordering red meat is that it is going to be overcooked, but this beautiful piece of meat was decidedly medium rare and unbelievably tender. The accompaniments were grits and a rhubarb chutney which seem simple but were just perfect. We really loved the fruitiness of the chutney with the earthiness of the meat, and the simplicity of the sides allowed the tender meat to remain the star.
As a side to share we tried the baby carrots and turnips which were bathed in a maple syrup sauce with a berbere spice mix that had warm baking spices like cinnamon and clove with a hint of chili heat. It was a comforting dish great for the cold winter weather.
The walleye was equally impressive. A skin-on filet was served skin side up to maintain the crispiness of the skin, which contrasted with the buttery creaminess of the filet itself. A salsify puree, charred broccoli greens, and a Meyer lemon relish all accompanied the fish. The overall flavor profile was garlicky and buttery with just the right amount of freshness from the lemon.
The Chocolate Truffle Cake is a Must
We were undecided on whether or not we wanted dessert until the menu appeared in front of us. Immediately we knew the answer: chocolate truffle cake. I didn't really know what it was and didn't even need to ask – it turns out my intuition was correct that this was a brilliantly decadent and perfect cake.
Run, don't walk, and come eat this cake. The entire cake is soft and melt-in-your mouth like the center of a chocolate truffle. It's rich like fudge, light like mousse, and basically the best thing ever.
Legume is a very solid choice for New American cuisine in Oakland, serving up refreshingly simple dishes that are executed with care. Our only regret is that it has taken us so long to make it here!
Legume is located at 214 N Craig Street in Oakland.
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