What I like most about Oak’s wine list is its balance between the geeky and mainstream wines. It gives the diners the option of adventure while offering comfort with the familiar and tasty. Scroll all the way down if you’d like to see some winepairing suggestions for specific menu items.
Let’s start with the mark-ups which are between 2.5 -3 times of the wine’s general retail prices. That’s still within the higher end of the standard range. But it fails to promote experimentation. Well-marketed Veuve Cliquot Yellow Label will have its following at its list price of $120 but why not sell Gaston-Chiquet “Tradition” a little lower than $115 or Pierre Peters, a fabulous Blanc de Blancs from the Grand Cru Mesnil-sur-Oger, a bit less than $140? Fewer people will have heard of these two wines and a little incentive could give them the opportunity to discover something new and delicious. I completely understand that mark-ups vary by restaurant, but it always feels good to have a couple of “great values” on a list which I thought lacked at Oak.
Another issue with the wine list, at least in our experience, was availability. Our server came back with the information that the first wine we ordered, Scala Dei “Prior” Priorat, 2008 ($65) was not available. Then we ordered L’Ecole 41 Merlot from Walla Walla Valley ($65), but instead of the Walla Walla Valley, a bottle that said L’Ecole 41 Columbia Valley was presented, without any explanation. Here, it may be useful to know that L’Ecole’s Columbia Valley Merlot generally sells for about 30% less than its Walla Walla Merlot. When I pointed out that this was not the wine we ordered, our server disappeared for about 10 more minutes and came back with the information that the bottle we ordered was again not available. By then, our appetizer courses had finished and we were well into the main course. At this point we gave up and ordered a Gustav Lorenz Pinot Noir Rosé 2012 from Alsace ($58) which showed up at the table midway into our main courses.
Perhaps this was an unfortunate time to visit Oak as we were later informed that there was a management transition at the restaurant and they were looking for a new Manager/Wine Director. Hopefully a dedicated and competent Wine Director who will also work as a floor sommelier will improve matters in a short time.
Food and service
The starters that we’ve ordered were good but not great. The Braised Hearts of Palm did not show any evidence of having been braised, and tasted like they just came out of a can. The heirloom tomato in the same dish however was fresh, in season and full of flavor. Among the main courses, we liked the meat dishes we ordered better than the fish dishes. The Niman Ranch Pork Chop and its side of local greens were perfectly seasoned and cooked. The BeefTenderloin was truly divine as it was perfectly charred on the outside and cooked to an absolute perfection inside. The glazed carrot when combined with the miso mustard and a piece of the beef had just the right combination of the sweet and savory flavors.
The service could use improvement in a few areas. Our server was polite and courteous with a good command of the menu, however, he didn’t seem to be in a hurry to make sure that a bottle of wine arrived at the table before we were almost finished with our food. The supporting staff were rather impatient with the collection of items from the table, reaching for a few of the dishes while we were picking up a last morsel from the plate. Maybe the future manager could address some of these issues as well.
Even after a few hiccups during this visit, I would still go back to Oak for some of the brilliantly executed dishes and to see how they fare with some of the wines on the list.
A few food and wine pairing suggestions at Oak
Crispy Frog Legs
with spaetzle, vermouth, fine herbs
- Zonin Nerello Mascalese Brut Rosé Veneto, Italy ($9 by the glass)
- Sigalas Assyrtiko Santorini, Greece ($55)
- Patz & Hall Chardonnay “Dutton Ranch” Russian River Valley, California USA ($72)
with crab, morel mushroom, sherry emulsion
Asparagus is a toughie, being poached makes it even harder. I’d either do something aromatic and savory like Sauvignon Blanc to go above it, or stay neutral with a Pinot Blanc to make it shine.
- Craggy Range Sauvignon Blanc “Te Muna Road” Martinborough, New Zealand ($13 by the glass, $52 by the bottle)
- Josmeyer Pinot Blanc Alsace, France ($11 by the glass, $44 by the bottle)
- Livio Felluga Pinot Grigio Collio, Italy ($60)
- La Battistina “Nuovo Quadro” Gavi, Italy ($42)
Wild Salmon Tartare
with radish, meyer lemon, pineapple
- Le Caprice de Clementine Grenache/Cinsault Rosé Côtes de Provence, France ($9 by the glass)
- Salmon Run Gewürztraminer Finger Lakes, USA ($44)
- Au Bon Climat “Hildegard” Santa Maria Valley, USA ($78) – This one is a blend of mainly Pinot Gris and Pinot Blanc.
Copper River Salmon
with sunchoke, baby artichoke, leek, watercress
- Copain Pinot Noir “Tous Ensemble” Anderson Valley, USA ($14 by the glass, $55 by the bottle)
- Gaston Chiquet “Tradition” Brut Champagne, France ($115)
- Merry Edwards Pinot Noir Russian River Valley, USA ($145)
Niman Ranch Pork Chop
with spring onion, local greens, green strawberry mostarda
- Domäne Wachau Grüner Veltliner Federspiel Wachau, Austria ($11 by the glass, $44 by the bottle)
- Cune Rioja Reserva, Spain ($65)
- Long Shadows “Sequel” Syrah Columbia Valley, USA ($98)
with glazed carrot, miso mustard, dill
- Juan Gil Monastrell Jumilla, Spain ($12 by the glass, $45 by the bottle)
- Chateau Montelena Cabernet Sauvignon Calistoga, USA ($25 by the glass, $100 by the bottle)
- Ridge Zinfandel “Lytton Springs” Dry Creek Valley, USA ($85)
- Chateau Musar Bekka Valley, Lebanon ($105) – A Cabernet blend
- Paolo Scavino “Bric del Fiasc” Barolo, Italy ($275)
Goat Cheese Ravioli
with sorrel, green garlic, pimentón
- Schloss Vollrads Riesling Kabinett Rheingau, Germany ($14 by the glass, $55 by the bottle) – FYI, this will certainly be sweet but a beautiful match for the goat cheese and green garlic
- Henri Bourgeois “Les Baronnes” Sancerre, France ($50)