Chef Sophina Uong has mad talent, y'all.
Formerly the Executive Chef at Picán, Sophina has temporarily taken over the kitchen at Revival Bar + Kitchen until her next project opens. I've been following her on Instagram (@girlslantee) and have been drooling over her creations.
Sandy (Foodhoe), Christina (East Bay Dish) and I went to visit Revival Bar + Kitchen for dinner. Big props to Sandy for the suggestion! I told Sophina we were coming to visit, hoping she'd come out to take a break and say hello. It turned out that we were in for one hell of an evening full of wonderful and delicious surprises!
We had a glorious feast of traditional comfort food with a "twist", as Christina would say. The food was inventive, showing thoughtfulness, technique and experience in the kitchen.
In 2013, Patrick and I used to visit Revival often for their lip-smacking handcrafted cocktails and charcuterie, but after having a mediocre dinner we never returned. Now that Sophina's in the house, I'll come back and trust her to feed me whatever she wants to combat my hunger any day.
Pork Liver Mousse
To kick off our evening, Sophina sends us an amuse-bouche of pork liver mousse on toasts, topped with mustard seeds and edible flowers. It was smooth, rich and lovely.
Housemade Milk + Butter Roll with Whipped Lardo
Our eyes bulged and jaws dropped the moment these rolls arrived to our table. "This will turn my day around," says Christina. The rolls were accompanied with a spicy smoked paprika whipped lardo topped with black salt that melted graciously into the warm rolls. I would come back for this alone. Best surprise, ever.
Fried Soft Shell Crab with Deviled Egg Sauce
It's uncommon to see soft shell crab served on the menu, unless it's a Japanese restaurant. This dish wasn't even offered on the menu, but arrived to us like a gift sent from someone who clearly knows the way to our hearts. We, unknowingly, were the guinea pigs for Chef Sophina's new experimental dish. Her version of fried soft shell crab is definitely something that I've never had before. The crabs sit over a deviled egg milk-based sauce with pickled fiddleheads, shaved rhubarb and asparagus. It's likely to be coming soon on the menu and when it does, you will definitely want to order it.
Spicy Mushroom Pho Flatbread
What the pho?! You know that warm feeling and after taste you get after taking a bite into that raw sliced chili that's been gently cooked in your hot bowl of pho? I'm talking about that heat, along with all the wonderful anise fragrance in pho. That's captured in this flatbread. You're looking at a yam purée base with anise, housemade ricotta, savoy cabbage slaw, porcini gastrique, fried onions and serrano chilies. The porcinis were wonderfully flavored, meaty and tender.
It's unlike anything I've ever had before and I would highly encourage any pho lover to order this, take a bite and have your mind blown.
Grilled Happy Boy Fava Beans
I loved the texture and flavor of the fava beans coated in pecorino oil. Tiny slices of meyer lemon gives the dish a nice boost in brightness.
Chilled Sugar Snap Peas
A refreshing salad made of sunflower seeds and pureed sunflower seeds for an earthy taste, along with nutty shoots and salty thick feta.
Pan-Fried Duck Pistachio Scrapple
For those unfamiliar, scrapple is a popular food of the Pennsylvania Dutch. Traditionally, it's a mush of pork scraps made into a loaf, like a terrine, then it's sliced and fried. I am a huge fan of scrapple. The version at Revival steers away from tradition and comes off almost like duck country pate, served with grain mustard, sweet potato confit, peppercress and sliced radishes. It's not mushy and fried to a crisp like other versions of scrapple I've had before. It was tasty, but was the one dish that we didn't care for.
Southern Style Fried Chicken
By this point, we were more than half-way full. Of course, we still had to try the fried chicken. Sophina sent us two orders and I felt like I had to pinch myself to wake up from this incredible dream. The chicken is tender and well-seasoned, both the dark and white meat are perfectly cooked. At one point, we wondered if what we believed to be the breast was actually a thigh in disguise. The exterior was light on the batter, lightly crispy. I drizzled the spicy espelette honey over both the chicken and insanely moist cheddar biscuit, took a bite and went into a state of bliss.
Even the greens and sea island peas were memorable. Sophina uses Portuguese collards, which tastes like a cross between collards and kale, and sea island peas that are sweet and meaty in texture. The dish was really, really satisfying.
Rhubarb Upside Down Cake
No words can describe how good this dessert is. A super moist, buttery rhubarb cake that offers both sweet and tart, complimented by a carrot sorbet and buttermilk ice cream with puffed black rice and fennel fronds. Created by Raquel Coronado, Picán's former pastry chef, who also previously worked with Sophina. Simply amazing!
Revival Bar + Kitchen has really upped their game with Sophina as their temporary Executive Chef and Raquel Coronado taking over desserts. I'm not sure how long Sophina plans to stay at this point, but I'll keep coming back for more as long as she's in the kitchen. I would highly suggest you make a visit, too.
Visiting Revival Bar + Kitchen
2102 Shattuck Ave, Berkeley, CA 94704
- Monday: Closed
- Tuesday - Sunday: 3:00 pm – 12:00 am