Chez Panisse (Berkeley, CA) – Big hype, decent food.
On our way back from our epic day of wine tasting in Santa Rosa, we made a reservation at Chez Panisse as it was apparently one of the meccas of modern fine dining, with focus on local foods and Californian cuisine. It wasn’t too hard to make this reservation for some reason, even though it was quite famous. We also tried to get into the French Laundry in Napa Valley but 200 phone calls later… it was a no go – they were fully booked.
This is the Lenil and cannellini bean soup with bacon and hot pepper for $9. It was warm, clear, and nicely seasoned. It simple and tasty where vegetables really shone through. It was a nice start.
This is the roasted cauliflower toasts with pine nuts, currants, marjoram, and hot pepper for $9. A really fresh and wonderful dish. The cauliflower was nicely seasoned with the pine nuts adding a nicely rich crunch. My only gripe: $4.5 per piece. Yikes…
This is the ricotta ravioli with black trumpet mushroom and gremolata for $20. This was really tasty. The noodle was cooked nice and crunchy with the ricotta warming up your mouth with cheesy and sorta sweet goodness. The mushrooms were delicate and oozing with flavour.
These are the Clams cooked in the wood oven with sorrel, cream, leeks, green garlic and flatbread for $19. I really wished that these were hot and steaming. Unfortunately, they were served lukewarm. Room temperature seafood is a big turn off. We were in a big rush to get to our Alcatraz tour so we didn’t make a big deal about it. Despite being lukewarm, the clams had a ton of flavour. Sigh. If only they were warm.
This is the Liberty Farm duck leg confit with chicories salad, fig vinaigrette, and rosemary for $22. The skin was sweet, salty, and crispy. The duck had a lot of flavour and fell of the bone. The fat melted in your mouth. A nice duck leg overall.
Overall, Chez Panisse was a good meal. It wasn’t the best one I had in the San Francisco Bay Area but I understand the mentality of the restaurant. Each dish was simple, really showcasing each of the elements on the dish. The price of some of the dishes was a bit crazy but overall, it wasn’t unaffordable. I’m glad I went… but I probably wouldn’t go back. None of the dishes jumped out at me enough unfortunately.
Chez Pannise, 1517 Shattuck Avenue Berkeley, CA, 94709,
(510) 548-5525, www.chezpanisse.com