Chez Panisse Cafe Review, Berkeley
Posted by Foodnut.com
Chez Panisse Cafe is the lower cost, more casual, a la carte menu restaurant upstairs from famous Chez Panisse. We dined at the main restaurant Chez Panisse previously. Alice Waters started a food revolution here, way back in 1971. She strives to serve only the highest quality products, and only when they are in season. All produce, meat, poultry, and fish come from farms, ranches, and fisheries guided by principles of sustainability. This restaurant has produced many famous chefs that have gone on to start their own restaurants. Our last visit was in February 2014.
They serve Acme bread from alum Steve Sullivan, who started as a bus boy and worked his way up. Yes there is hope for all of us.
17% service charge applies to both floors. Each floor has its own dedicated kitchen. Be sure to walk by and checkout the beauty.
Decor, Vibe – Chez Panisse Cafe is located in a non-descript building facade. Lots of exposed wood with ornate decorations and fresh flowers all over. Folks in their 30′s to 50′s were dining. They had a fire in 2013 and revamped their front porch because of it.
Chez Panisse Cafe Menu Pictures (Click to zoom into any picture)
The menu changes daily, based on what’s fresh and some other overriding themes like holidays.
Chez Panisse Cafe Food Picks:
Six St. Simon Oysters On The Half Shell With Champagne Gelée, ($16.50) can pre-treated with the gelee. Interesting touch as we figured they would keep them more virgin.
Yellowtail Jack Tartare With Shaved Winter Vegetables, Ginger Vinaigrette, And Steelhead Caviar, ($14) Seems like every restaurant has a tuna tartare on their menu around here. Small cubes of very fresh fish along with their signature fresh veggies.
Carrot Soup With Coriander, ($9) tasted like pure carrots. Awesome. The yogurt drizzle on top was pretty tart and should be nixed.
Wild Mushroom Lasagna Baked In The Wood Oven, ($18) is a meaty treat for vegetarians and even carnivores. Pretty filling and rich.
Full Belly Farm Lamb Shoulder Braised In Red Wine With Squash Purée, Little Turnips, And Fennel Relish, ($25) was a bit on the messy side, but tasted better than it looked. Braised till 100% tender and infused with a strong wine broth.
Grilled White Sea Bass With Artichokes, Leeks, And Saffron Mayonnaise, ($28) looked plain as heck. Few restaurants have the balls to place a piece of fish on a plate with no sauce. They did it well, fresh fish, cooked just right, and some hi end tartar sauce substitute.
Pan-Roasted Scallops With Savoy Cabbage, Chickpeas, Meyer Lemon, And Rosemary, ($29) are some of the best around. Nice carmelization and some strong essence in the broth.
Pizza With Rapini And Parmesan, ($19) shows off some nice crust with lots of fresh rapini.
Little Gems lettuce with green goddess dressing and beets ($9) was simple but very good. Very fresh greens and tart beets tossed with a light dressing.
Baked Andante Dairy Goat Cheese With Garden Lettuces, ($11) is a classic with 2 large delicious baked cheese nuggets and some very simple but tasty greens. The goat cheese was not to heavy in flavor, yielding a subtle balance. French Laundry also uses this cheese.
Pizzetta with tomato sauce, Monterey Bay squid, and aïoli ($15) was not as good as Cheeseboard across the street, but was cooked well. Not soggy, not crispy, solid ingredients, balanced flavors, nothing flashy.
Northern halibut in saffron broth with cannellini and fava beans, rocket, and rouille ($28) looks weird in the picture as it was poached, making it very healthy. On its own, the fish was on the bland side. Combined with the beans and rouille, the fish came to life.
Grilled Becker Lane Farm pork loin with snap peas and polenta ($26) was excellent. Tender, thinly sliced, perfectly cooked, medium rare pork loin with lots of natural au jus.
Wolfe Ranch quail roasted in the wood oven with asparagus, new potatoes, and herb salsa ($25) had one huge perfectly roasted quail dripping with juices. Some of the skin area was a little salty. The asparagus was super fresh and very crunchy.
Pink Lady Apple And Sour Cherry Galette With Kirsch Ice Cream, ($10) was a nice fruity dessert. Again, their super fresh fruits and veggies can’t be beat.
Crème Caramel With Chino Oranges And Black Currant Tea-Poached Prunes, ($9) was akin to a flan. Not too sweet and just enough texture to make it great. Not sure why they added prunes?!?
Chocolate-Hazelnut Marjolaine With Almond Praline And Crème Anglaise, ($12) is perfect if you really like chocolate. Very dense and rich.
Fresh Ginger Cake With Crème Chantilly And Candied Kumquats, ($10) looked great by the kitchen and hit the mark. The kumquats were really well done bits.
Crimson rhubarb tart with strawberry ice cream ($9.75) had some pretty sour rhubarb. The tart had a real nice crust to it.
Neopolitan ice cream bombe with Catalan Farm strawberries ($8.75) was a delicious 3 flavor ice cream cream with fresh strawberries. Pretty good quantity on the ice cream cake. It only lasts until they run out of their limited supply each evening. Yes it was someone’s birthday.
Chez Panisse Cafe had very good service with the waiter or a bus boy not far away. Service does not match those at other high end restaurants though. We did have to hail the server on many occasions, more so than we should have had to.
Prices in the cafe are reasonable for the quality of food you receive. The food is super fresh, flavorful, cooked well, health, and unburdened by heavy sauces. We came in with low expectations, having read many marginal reviews, but left as believers. The food in the cafe was simple but excellent, this does not make it any easier to cook! You could make most dishes at home, if you could buy the ingredients and cook as well as they do.. I certainly could not do that.
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