Review: Chez Panisse Café.

One of Berkeley’s most iconic restaurants has been around since 1971.Chef Alice Waters opened Chez Panisse over forty years ago and was truly the pioneer of Californian cuisine (she’s even one of our chef contributors at In Situ). Her vision was to showcase sustainable and local ingredients working directly with farmers, ranchers, and dairies. The restaurant offers a nightly tasting menu that changes everyday depending on what is available. In 1980, she opened Chez Panisse Café upstairs, a more casual dining experience without a prix fixe meal. Since getting reservations for the downstairs is more difficult and only available for dinner, I decided to try the casual café for lunch where their menu also changes daily.

Bread and Butter.

Complimentary bread and butter is always nice especially since restaurants now charge for it.

Dirty Girl Fam Chicories with Green Goddess Dressing and Marinated Beets (7.5/10).

A simple salad with bitter winter chicories dressed nicely with a creamy green goddess dressing. I loved the combination of classic red beets with those beautiful chioggia striped beets. However for a beet salad, they were skimpy on the beets!

Pizzetta with Tomato Sauce, Anchovies, and Green Olives (8/10).

A little mini pizza with a fresh vibrant tomato sauce, salty anchovies, and green olives. The crust was crispy yet still had a pillowy texture.

Sonoma County Duck Confit with Butternut Squash Gratin, Leafy Broccoli, and Black Olives (8.5/10).

Duck confit is one of my favorite ways to prepare duck and this was delicious with crispy skin and tender melt in your mouth meat. The butternut squash gratin was also super tasty. The black olives in the dish were slightly random though.

Wood Roasted Scallops with Celery Root Purée, Radicchio, and Golden Beet Relish (7.5-8/10).

The roasted scallops had a nice char on the outside but they could have been cooked just a tad less (I like a little translucency in the middle). I loved the sweet golden beet relish on top that added a freshness and sweetness.

Chocolate Pavé with Bourbon Pecan Ice Cream and Bittersweet Chocolate Sauce (7/10).

The chocolate pavé, a flourless cake, was good but not my favorite. The bourbon pecan ice cream was bomb though.

Tangerine Sherbet Meringata with Passionfruit and Blood Orange (8/10).

The meringue with tangerine sherbet had a tropical vibe with the passion fruit sauce. The silky sherbet with crunchy meringue was scrumptious together.

Pink Lady Apple and Cherry Galette with Vanilla Ice Cream (8/10).

Any type of fruit tart or galette is right up my alley. Thinly sliced juicy sweet pink lady apples were fanned across the pastry crust with a few cherries and served with classic vanilla ice cream.

While all the food was tasty, the portions were slightly on the small side even for me. For the price point I expected a little more food. The food isn’t anything revolutionary, just great fresh ingredients prepared nicely. Therefore my rating is an 8/10.

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