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The Oakland Berkley Book March 2013

54 theberkeleyoaklandbook.com Chez Panisse 1517 Shattuck Ave., 548-5525, chezpanisse.com. More than 40 years after she served her first prix fixe dinner (back then, the price was $3.95), Alice Waters and her 100-plus staff are still doing simple magic with the season’s best ingredients. Meals in the Craftsman-style dining room are all about showcasing these ingredients. Reservations are essential, and you can book up to one calendar month ahead. The menu changes daily. A wideranging wine list offers interesting bottles from California and Europe. Dinner Mon.–Sat. 1$$$$ Chez Panisse Café 1517 Shattuck Ave., 548-5049, chezpanisse. com. This younger sibling of the restaurant downstairs continues to offer a brief but intriguing menu of à la carte dishes that reflects the season. Some say that the “California pizza” was born in the rustic brick oven here, as was the crusty baked goat cheese served with a garden salad. Those classics share menu space with pastas, grilled fish, and meats, as well as desserts devised by pastry chef Stacie Pierce. Take some time with the excellent wine list. Lunch and dinner Mon.–Sat. 15$$$ Comal 2020 Shattuck Ave., 926-6300, comalberkeley.com. From the sleek interior and huge, gorgeous back patio to the topnotch cocktail program and lovingly updated Mexican fare, Comal is a cheese, and onion puff pastry tart. Service is professional, and cocktails are made with fresh fruit and quality liquor. You’ll want to save room for dessert. Lunch daily, dinner Tues.–Sun. 234$$$ César 1515 Shattuck Ave., 883-0222, cesarberkeley.com. César has more in common with its neighbor, Chez Panisse, than location. This Berkeley tapas bar also shares a pioneering standard of excellence. Serving small plates of vibrant Spanish-style food, César looks like a restaurant but is really more of a bar-café hybrid. The concept definitely fills a need for a grown-up gathering spot in Berkeley. Tapas such as fresh shrimp in paprika and garlic oil, a crock of spicy salt cod, and sandwiches with spare but flavorful fillings are designed to go with cocktails. A 20-page bar book offers flights—three small pours—of top-shelf brandies or vodkas. Mix and match food and drink all night long, or use César as a jumpingoff point for a night in Berkeley’s revved-up arts district. Lunch and dinner daily. 235$$$ BERkELEY Belli Osteria 2016 Shattuck Ave., 704-1902, belliosteria.com. It’s very hard to go wrong at this art deco/rustic Italian restaurant a short walk from Berkeley’s theater district. Tagliatelle in Gorgonzola fonduta; pappardelle with lamb ragout; ravioli stuffed with pork and pickled cabbage—just a few examples of Belli’s star power. We loved the salads, too: shaved and seared brussels sprouts tossed with oyster mushrooms, and stunning citrusy mixed greens with goat cheese. The all-Italian wine list is as affordable as the food, and the desserts are worth the calories. The kitchen was still a bit inconsistent on our visits, but with an inviting dining room and service that is friendly and precise, Belli has the potential to become a Berkeley favorite. Lunch Mon.–Fri., dinner daily. 1$$ Café Rouge 1782 Fourth St., 525-1440, caferouge.net. This spacious Fourth Street restaurant has a meat counter in the back that sells cuts from small, sustainably run ranches. The same products are served in the dining room, and the sourcing is evident in the scrumptious flavor, from rib-eye steak (dry aged in-house) with red wine shallot butter, to spit-roasted chicken seasoned with green garlic. On our visit, the steak came with crisp, golden fries, and the chicken was paired with an apple, Gruyere The restaurants that appear in this section are reviewed by Diablo magazine’s panel of restaurant critics, who dine anonymously and at our expense. We do not accept advertising or other consideration in exchange for a listing. If your experience of a restaurant differs greatly from ours, please call our reader hotline at (925) 943-1199, Ext. 4, or e-mail dish@maildiablo. com. Not all restaurants reviewed appear; for the complete listing, go to diablomag.com. All area codes are 510 unless otherwise noted. key to symbols $ Cheap ($10 or less per dinner entrée) $$ Inexpensive ($11–$17) $$$ Moderate ($18–$24) $$$$ Expensive (more than $25) 1 Wine and beer 2 Full bar 3 Outdoor dining 4 Private room or parties of 50 or more 5 Late-night dining (service after 10 p.m.) dining listings »


The Oakland Berkley Book March 2013
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