Aomboon Deasy has a gift for making people feel comfortable. Last week, on the opening night of her restaurant, Pomet, Deasy greeted arriving diners like they were old friends. Her hospitable approach didn’t feel calculated. It felt like a natural extension of her public-facing experience at farmers markets. Growing up as a self-described “farmer’s daughter,” Deasy’s parents started K&J Orchards in 1980. Although her father passed away four years ago, Deasy’s mother is still at the helm of K&J, along with Deasy’s husband, Timothy.
With orchards in both Winters and Yuba City, K&J has been supplying Bay Area restaurants with produce for decades. Deasy said that Homestead on Piedmont Avenue was among her customers. Last year, Homestead owners Fred and Liz Sassen casually asked Deasy if she was interested in buying the restaurant. “My husband and I thought about it for a while,” she recalled. They asked themselves the question, “Could we do this?”
But in addition to her farming experience, Deasy spent a decade and a half working in corporate finance. The numbers made sense to her. Having a restaurant would be a value-added outlet to distribute the orchards’ excess fruit. “We can only harvest so much,” she explained. There’s also a limit to how many farmers markets K&J can reasonably attend. They had already made some forays into making preserves and jellies and pickling their fruits. “But now we have a certified kitchen and can come up with new recipes for Pomet,” she said. Deasy added that they’re even using wood from their aged trees to fire the hearth.
Deasy hired Chef Alan Hsu to create the menu and to run the kitchen. They met 10 years ago when he was working in San Francisco at Benu. While he was there, Hsu was making hoshigaki, a Japanese and Korean technique for preserving persimmons. Deasy explained that the process takes about a week to make the persimmon soften. The more you massage it, the more pliable it becomes.
While Deasy and Hsu had kept in touch over the years, they met again by chance while Hsu was walking his dog on Piedmont Avenue. Hsu lives near Pomet, but at the time he and his partner were considering a move to New York. Deasy offered him the job, and after a weekend debate, Hsu accepted. He asked her what her vision was for the restaurant.
Hsu is especially skilled with the way he treats fruits and vegetables. We started with fried potatoes ($12) and a salad made with kohlrabi, bitter greens, pomegranate and pecans ($12). The kohlrabi was shaved into thin discs, which added to the overall airiness of the plate. This was a nice complement to the earthy bowl of potatoes served with a fresh, homemade ranch dressing. But if you see bread on the starter menu, order it. The scallion and sesame seed roll ($6) was exceptional, served warm from the oven, with a pliable dough that was biscuit adjacent.
We tried duck ($35) and cod ($30) for our main courses. Both proteins looked beautiful on the plate. The skins on both the duck and the fish had been nicely crisped. And, as our server had described it, the fish was tender and flaky. But the supporting flavors from pumpkin and sunchokes really made an impression. There was a tiny pear compote hidden in the duck jus that made the dish. My favorite bites were the misshapen squares of sunchoke. The flavor was startling, and more complex than a potato. They could stand on their own as an appetizer.