San Francisco Bay Area is the birthplace of “California cuisine,” a style of cuisine emphasizing on high-quality locally-grown organic sustainable ingredients. The cuisine tends to be light and is considered healthy as it mainly features abundant fresh fruits and vegetables. If you visit the Bay Area and plan to visit a place where California cuisine began, Chez Panisse will be a good choice. The founder of the restaurant, Alice Waters, is a famous American chef and is one of the pioneers of the concept of California cuisine. The restaurant creates best meals possible from French recipes and also from only the freshest and finest ingredients available from local Californian farmers.
Located only a few blocks away from the campus of University of California at Berkeley, California, the restaurant consistently ranks among the best in the world. The Café is upstairs and has a la carte meals such as pastas and pizzas. The Café has a casual ambience with an open kitchen, grill and wood-burning oven. The Restaurant is downstairs and offers a fixed dinner menu that consists of 3-4 courses. The menu changes daily depending on the availability of the locally-sourced fresh ingredients that mostly are seasonal. Reservations are essential since the restaurant’s size is small. I would recommend a casually elegant dress code for the restaurant.
We had a dinner at Chez Panisse Restaurant (downstairs) together with our daughter. Children are allowed as long as they don’t disturb other restaurant guests. The service was good, as expected. After every plate, the server came to refill our water glasses, replace our utensils with new ones, and provide warm bread and butter for our enjoyment between plates. I had to restrain myself from eating too much bread because it was so delicious.
The weekend dinner menus are slightly different from the weekday ones, both in terms of the food and the price. We went there on a weekday evening, so the menu was a bit less expensive and also less elaborate. Our dinner started with a very fresh salad appetizer: Sheep’s milk ricotta and roasted fennel salad with house-cured coppa.
We came there at the right timing. That night, they served black cod fish and quail for main entrées. We both really love those ingredients. First entrée: Pan-fried Bolinas black cod with wild nettles and artichoke caponata. The grilled fish was fabulous. It’s cooked just perfectly (not overcooked). The fish was delicately tender, moist, and buttery smooth.
Second entrée: Wolfe Ranch quail with grilled potatoes and radicchio, wild mushrooms, and pounded sage. The quail was nicely roasted with seasoned crispy skin. It was astonishingly tender and juicy. Very delicious! The served vegetables were a perfect combination and cooked into perfection.
Dessert: Crepes Suzette. It was light and not too sugary. The crepes was just okay for me, perhaps because I’m not a big fan of orange/tangerine that was used for the sauce.
Our dinner was concluded with a cup of hot tea and a complimentary plate of petite fours, containing chocolate-covered nuts and lemon cookies. They tasted good, though not too special.
I highly recommend this place. Our overall dinner at Chez Panisse was great. One downside is that the place is small, so packed that we could clearly hear next table’s conversation. Every dish was simple and elegant. Undoubtedly, the freshness of the used ingredients was outstanding. The highlight of our dinner was the quail. Best fresh ingredients prepared by experienced chefs really make a huge difference!
1517 Shattuck Ave
Berkeley, CA 94709