Le Bistro Elephant - Berkeley
Just though I would post a note about a better than expected experience at Le Bistro Elephant - a 14 table small plates bistro between Ben & Jerry's and Khana Peena on Oxford in Downtown Berkeley.
The restaurant is actually strcuturally open to Khana Peena, so when you walk in - it smells like an Indian restaurant. It is simply furnished, except an enormous wall hanging of the Hindu god Ganesh (depicted with an elephant head - thus the name I assume) that I would assume is a carryover from when Khana Peena was in the space.
My better half and I had the buttermilk battered onion rings with cotija chese, lamb sliders, duck tacos, and day boat scallops. We also had a 22 oz Racer 5 IPA and a glass of California pinot noir for $58 including tax and tip. Not bad at all.
All the food was very good. The 12-14 onion rings (thick cut) were crunchy, dusted with melted cotija cheese, and accompanied with a ketchup doctored with dried powdered chilis. The lamb sliders were 3 fresh tasting mini lamb burgers (2 inch diameter), simply seasoned and on soft mini buns with lettuce tomato and cheese on the side to add as desired. The duct tacos were 3 corn tortilla will generous soft strands of duck meat and a good guacamole. The 3 day boat scallops were bearly seared, but properly cooked (not overdone), on a bed of tiny fingerling potatoes, bacon and smoked tomatoes. Turned out to be more food than the two of us were expecting.
None of these dishes were the best versions that I have ever had, but all were good to very good and certainly a good value. I hope they survive as they were a perfect pre-theater option for us.
Sad news, which I hope is temporary. We had gone to Le Bistro Elephant perhaps a half-dozen times and were quite favorably impressed; for the price, a number of dishes were exceptional (truffled cheese, braised short ribs, and duck confit mini-tacos come to mind), and nothing was bad. When we brought some friends last week, however, the small plates format had completely changed. Since the imaginative tilt of the dishes seemed to be quite missing, I asked our server if the chef had changed. She confirmed he had (alas!), and said their menu was new after reopening at the beginning of Feb., after a two week remodel. Pretty clearly nothing had been remodeled. We were looking for a different type of meal that evening (i.e., along the lines of what the menu used to offer), so we politely took our leave.
I'd be interested if anyone has tried it out since the changeover at the beginning of February.
P.S. The wine and beer list seems to have remained the same.
re: Food Fiend
Head chef and staff got fired in a purge, Adam the real chef, creative and imaginative quit.
menu has become ordinary. I chose not to go in.
Old restaurant (excellent) was a reflection of the cooks, new is a reflection of the owner. Sad.
On the other hand, they just were not getting sufficient business to keep them aloft at the great prices that they had, and maybe the owner is just stuck trying to make a go of the real estate. Another sad moment.