1517 Shattuck Ave (Near Vine St)
Berkeley, CA 94709
We had dined at Chez Panisse Cafe almost 3 years ago.. Our last visit to the Main restaurant was decades ago. Tons of restaurants have come and gone since they opened over 30 years ago. It was time to see how Chez Panisse has stood the test of time.
Chez Panisse is the flagship where it all began, a prix fix menu restaurant upstairs from famous Alice Waters. She 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.
Chez Panisse has 2 chefs. Each works for six months of the year, then they spend time studying and coming up with new inspirations. An interesting arrangement.
Prices for the daily prix fix 4 course meal in the Restaurant costs $60 Mondays, $80 Tuesdays through Thursdays and $95 Fridays and Saturdays, not including beverages. Monday night’s menus are simpler and more rustic or regional than on other evenings. Friday and Saturday night menus are more elaborate and are the best bet for foodies. We came on a Thursday night.
The Cafe is a la carte and is located upstairs. You need to book way in advance, so it is a crap shoot what you will be eating that day, downstairs. 17% service charge applies to both floors. Each floor has its own kitchen.
Decor, Vibe – Non descript building facade. Lots of exposed wood with ornate decorations and fresh flowers all over. Cramped and noisy, this is not a fancy state of the art billion dollar decor restaurant any more. Folks in their 40’s to 60’s were dining, definitely the older set.
Chez Panisse Menu
The menu changes every week based on availability of fresh ingredients. They also have a vegetarian menu.
Acme bread Rustic Batard from alum Steve Sullivan, starts off the meal
Grilled local halibut with Roe, Savoy cabbage and Meyer lemon butter starts off the adventure. Simple, clean, well prepared.
Belgium endive and watercress with roasted beets and ricotta toast was super fresh with a lite dressing. A testament to the quality of the produce that they receive from there suppliers. The beets were exceptional.
Green garlic soup with egg and Comté cheese feuilleté was nicely done, and not too strong. Slightly creamy.
Carrot Soup with Ginger, chervil and cilantro was another example of purity. Very clean and solid flavors.
Poached Wolfe Farm quail with mushrooms and greens, winter vegetable ragoût, and horseradish cream was the main course this evening. Again, perfect cooking, juicy and tender meat. No strong sauces allowed the freshness of the meat to shine through.
Almond cake with citrus and blood orange gelato did not possess any wow factor, but was solid nonetheless.
Apple and sour cherry galette with creme fraiche was also a solid dessert, not overly sweet, very fresh ingredients and a perfect crust.
Tiny Chocolates and caramels rounded out the meal.
Chez Panisse had solid but not exceptional service with the waiter or a bus boy not far away. Professional but not particular warm.
Prices in the are reasonable for the quality and quantity of food you receive. The food is super fresh, flavorful, cooked well, health, and unburden by heavy sauces. We came in with moderate expectations, having read many marginal reviews, but left as believers. The food in the was simple but excellent. You could make most dishes at home, if you could buy the ingredients and cook as well as they do..
Medium Wine markup with glasses from $8.25, bottles from $32, Corkage: $25 per bottle. $45 per magnum.