We woke up bright and early. Mostly because we accidentally woke up at 6AM because my phone didn't automatically change timezones (WHY).
In front of our hotel on 4th and Mission.
We had sandwiches at Ike's in Castro.
They were big, meaty, drippy, and delicious. Sorry, no pictures. We were hungry. =|
We had fancy sodas.
Stuff blew in my eye.
We did nonstop shopping for about 5 hours and headed back to the hotel to get ready and make our 6:30 reservations at Chez Panisse in Berkeley.
Chez Panisse is currently rated #37 on Restaurant Magazine's "Best Restaurants in the World" list and was awarded a Michelin star. Type of food? Typical "California Cuisine."
All prettied up outside the restaurant.
Chez Panisse has a prix fixe menu that changes every week.
(Sorry for such terrible pics. We only brought the point-and-shoot and I refused to use flash.)
Olives and an aperitif
The aperitif was made of prosecco and anise. Too bad I hate licorice.
So what is "California Cuisine?" Well from what I've gathered from eating at places that hold themselves out to serve such food, the dish focuses on the presentation of the ingredients, as opposed to the method of cooking or the seasoning. The ingredients are all grown locally, so everything is super fresh (and you can totally tell!). The preparation of the food and any seasoning is meant to bring out the natural flavors of the food, not mask it or overwhelm it.
Eggplant parmigian "sandwich" with ricotta and fresh mozerella.
So was Chez Panisse successful at "California Cuisine?" YES.
The best way I can describe it is that every single ingredient played an integral part. You never felt like those tiny pieces of fresh basil or the slivers of fennel were an afterthought. Every ingredient really added something to the dish and you could tell that the chef thought about it before adding it.
And the quality of the food? OMG. Everything tasted so....refined...yet BRIGHT. I don't know how to explain it any better. It was just damn good, right down to those cherry tomatoes.
Squab with morel mushrooms; rosemary noodles with cannellini beans, gizzard pieces, and carrots.
Ok, how they somehow got a QUAIL to taste like RIBEYE cooked MEDIUM RARE just blows my mind. It tasted nothing like poultry!
Tu even exclaimed to the waiter, "it doesn't even taste like chicken!"
Hmm. Because it's not chicken. *sheepish*
Cassata for dessert.
I had to wikipedia "cassata." It's a type of cake, but a variation of it is a cake made of icecream. That's the kind we had. The best kind. Because it was like neapolitan lol.
Bottom line? If you're ever around Berkeley, definitely make a RSVP for Chez Panisse. Tu said it was the best meal he's ever had. I think I've been spoiled by French Laundry, but Chez Panisse is right up there and for less than half the price.
I think one of the best parts of Chez Panisse is that it's great food, but without the stuffiness. The dining room is really cozy and we saw people in jeans as well as people pulling up in limos. The waitstaff is young and really friendly. We even joked with our waitress about taking our segway tour, to which she asked, "do you watch Arrested Development?" Imitations of GOB ensued. COME ON!
Chez Panisse also has a cafe on the 2nd floor of the restaurant. You can order entrees off the menu a la carte, so it's a lot cheaper. Also easier to get a RSVP, I hear. It's going on my list for our next trip!