So close and yet so far. That’s what this world famous restaurant has been to me after all these years even though it is right in my back yard. So today I woke up with a sense of determination to go on a long-overdue date with myself at this legendary spot where Alice Water revolutionalized the way Americans eat back in 1971 and thus the birth of “California cuisine”.
Thank goodness for my previous research that helped me notice the nondescript faded wooden gate that’s tugged in the midst of new and flashy eateries on this particular block of Shattuck Avenue in Berkeley. A few steps took me up to a small landing of another beautifully carpeted flight of stairs to the Cafe upstairs. Unlike dinner that needs advance reservation which sometimes can take up to six months, lunch at the Cafe is more easily accessible and that’s where I’m going today.
The dining room is cozy and buzzling with diners and wait staff even though it was almost 3 o’clock in the afternoon (their closing time). The entrance to the dining room was decorated with gorgeous fresh flowers and greens. The bartender who was peeling piles of green beans in wicker basket asked if he could help me in booming voice. I was led to a small table laden with white table cloth.Since this was my first time there, I decided to order a 3-course fixed menu ($24.00) of the day and since I had not had breakfast, I ordered a decaf coffee to start. Here, at Chez Panisse, they filter their own still and sparkling water which is a neat idea (really reminds me of France somehow).
I started the meal with the first course of Garden lettuce salad which was very fresh with very light dressing that tasted like vinegrette and salt. The taste wasn’t that exciting in the beginning but then I found myself finishing it in no time.
My main course was Spicy eggs baked in the wood oven with cannellini beans, pork belly (which I crinched a bit), greens, and chiles. The greens and the pork belly were very flavorful.
Then came my highlight of the day!!! DESSERT!!! Normally I do not like sorbet but this Summer berry sorbet with citrus shortbread was sooooo delicious. The sorbet tasted just right — not too sweet, not too tangy, oh and my first bite into the citrus shortbread was just like heaven!!!! It was just like a symphony of taste that just complimented each other — yummmmmy!!!