HOME > Chowhound > San Francisco Bay Area >
Are you making a specialty food?

Looking for Chez Panisse Level Dinner in East Bay

jb_montclair Apr 19, 2007 03:53 PM

I waited too long and missed getting a reservation at Chez Panisse for our anniversary so wondered if anyone had another recommendation along those lines? $100-200 is fine - want something really special. I'm not an official foodie but my friend at work recommended I post here. We don't like Bay Wolf or Olivetos. We like Citron but always go there. Any other ideas? Oakland, Berkeley, Walnut Creek, etc. as long as we don't have to cross a bridge. Thanks!

  1. Robert Lauriston Apr 19, 2007 03:54 PM

    Pretty thorough discussion of the other top places:


    1. k
      kinipela Apr 19, 2007 04:06 PM

      i've never been to chez panisse... although i know of her theory of cooking... BUT i recently went to forbes mill steakhouse in danville.. and it was delicious!!! we had the crab artichoke appetizer. i had kobe filet mignon and lobster, my bf had porterhouse (try the peppercorn sauce, yum!). we also ordered a side of creamed spinach. he also had a spinach potato soup. they were all out of the chocolate molten lava cake... so we go tthe dessert sampler which had lilikoi cheesecake, apple tart with vanilla gelato, flourless chocolate cake, kona creme brulee. i think he had a glass of syrah and i had a glass of rose champagne. at then end we finished it everything off with a very rich and tart glass of dessert wine. we spent about $200. the service was impeccable, our server would talk to us and was really well informed. in fact, when our tealight candle was out, our server made it apoint to relight it. they also have seared ahi tuna, crabcakes, salads, petit filet mignon bites, other seafood on the menu. the ambiance is very romantic. it's in a plaza that is shrouded with lots of trees and greenery. (i've been telling my friends that we went there and i find out that they have been there and they have all said that they love it =) )

      i don't think bing crosby's gets a lot of recommendations on here, but i personally like it for the ambiance and the service. it's by the broadway plaza.. they have a doorman.. they have a man and lady who sing piano tunes. i loved the food when i was there. i especially like the desserts. when we went, we ordered something like a beef carpaccio which was okay... but not my fav. i ordered the scallops and was pleased with the size of them (i don't eat those dinky sized scallops because they are not as tender) however, during the middle of the meal, my guests and i were joking about making requests to the piano bar, and our server came by with a piece of paper and a golf pencil. we made our request and ended up leaving our table in the middle of dinner to dance to "the way you look tonight" on the small area by the piano....

      i really found that to be a special place as well.... i think we spent about the same amount, but there were 4 of us... although we didn't have as much alcohol that night as opposed to when we were at forbes mill.

      happy anniversary!!!!!!! =)

      3 Replies
      1. re: kinipela
        Melanie Wong Apr 19, 2007 04:11 PM

        You didn't find Bing Crosby's overpriced and tacky?
        Other reports,

        1. re: Melanie Wong
          kinipela Apr 19, 2007 05:00 PM

          actually no i didn't... i will agree with some of the things folks said... and i can see where folks are coming from.... which is why i prefaced the entry with the fact that bing's doesn't get a lot of recommendations here... and i'm not as well-lived as the main clientle that they attract... and about the vibe, but i'm pretty much open to everything... i will eat shrimp off a truck, go to frou-frou places, even scarf down a 6 piece chicken mcnugget meal--with sweet and sour sauce hahaha =) when i go to a restaurant i enjoy the whole experience, not just the food, the ambiance... etc. i hadn't gotten up to dance by a piano in the midle of dinner and my friends and i had a great time... i suppose i'm not a real chowhounder =) but that's okay too =) in the short time that i've been posting on here, i figure i can post what i think, put qualifications, and in the end the person who will be going to whichever spot they decide after weighing everyone's suggestions will have to make their decision. i'm not forcing anyone to go there... just offering my opinion.. however unpopular it may be =) haha i think i've gotten "yelled" at before for posting a place on here that wasn't so popular, but then someone said to post what i want since this is a collaborative site =)

          when i went to bings, i didn't have anyone ask what kind of napkin i should get... i like the fact that they introduced their names. our server was very friendly. i like the fact that we got to request songs. i did not really like the beef carpaccio type of dish we had, but i thoroughly enjoyed my scallops. they were a good size sea scallop and were very tender and flavorful. i forgot what my guests had, but i remember one of the desserts they got was pretty fancy and was pretty yummy. =) hahah i'm a newbie to chowhound, what can i say? =)

          in reference to the post below, i do like bridges... but i haven't been there in a while either....

          but i'm sure that wherever you end up dining, jb_montclair, you will havea great time with your sweetie =) happy anniversary again =)

        2. re: kinipela
          baseballfan Apr 19, 2007 05:28 PM

          I agree....I have had 2 very good experiences at Bing Crosby's. It has a very fun vibe and the food is better than average. It's not the best food ever but there is certainly a lot worse in the same price range. I am trying Forbes Mill this weekend and looking forward to it. Regarding the mention of Bridges below, I find that to be highly overpriced and the service is extremely snotty. Not wasting any more money there.

        3. r
          rubysage Apr 19, 2007 04:41 PM

          not sure if these 'measure up' to chez panisse, but I like them:
          berkeley/oakland: eccolo in berkeley (on 4th street), a cote (near citron) on college, garibaldi's on college.
          Bridges in Danville is good, but I haven't been there in years.

          good luck!

          2 Replies
          1. re: rubysage
            Robert Lauriston Apr 19, 2007 06:36 PM

            Eccolo might work. Chef-owner was the chef at Chez Panisse for ten years.

            1. re: rubysage
              lexdevil Apr 19, 2007 08:30 PM

              I really don't think any place in the East Bay hits the same mark as Chez Panisse downstairs. Eccolo, A Cote, Jojo, Pizzaiolo etc. play in the same ballpark, but lack the star power. Garibaldi's is, however, minor league in comparison. I guess I'd sum up the difference as a lack of subtlety and finesse. And, considering the occasion, a dining room that can be louder than the bar at A Cote. I'm a big fan of Eccolo for brunch, but I can't speak to its dinners.

            2. lexdevil Apr 19, 2007 05:07 PM

              West of the tunnel, I think Jojo on Piedmont may be your best option. Many of my faves for food are just too casual for your occasion. You'll get out for around $80 before wine, tax, and tip. Not really fancy, but nice and quiet. The trio of salads is always a winner. http://www.jojorestaurant.com/menu/menu.htm

              A bit more casual, but also more glam is A Cote. It is noisy, but the food is good and the drinks are great. Shared small plates. The mussels are excellent. We went for Valentine's day and were very happy, so it can work for a romantic occasion, so long as your concept of romance has space for a lively atmosphere and noisy bar. Reserve to avoid the communal table (a must on your anniversary). http://www.acoterestaurant.com/menus/dinner.shtml

              If you're into seafood, you might like Pearl. A modern, glam room. Haven't been in a while (after really liking it a lot at first, and then feeling like it was slipping a bit...what can I say, the Thai Ceviche somehow lost its spark), so others would have to speak to its current level of yumminess. Desserts were always a standout when we went. The no res. thing might cramp your style. http://pearloncollege.com/dinner.html

              If your last dinner at Oliveto was a few years ago, you might try it again. Their reliability has improved. If, however, you're just not into the simple/rustic preparations of high quality ingredients, you're unlikely to be all that happy with Dopo or Pizzaiolo either. They are also quite casual.

              And don't give up on the Chez. You might be able to catch a cancellation. Ask to be notified if there is one. There tends to be movement at the start of the week when the downstairs menu comes out (and folks see that they don't like the meal) and in the 24-48 hour window before the cancellation penalty kicks in. Of course, if what you dislike about Oliveto is the unfussy preparations, Chez Panisse may not be your bag.

              5 Replies
              1. re: lexdevil
                JasmineG Apr 19, 2007 05:23 PM

                I agree with all of this -- Jojo is a really romantic restaurant, the food is great, and the staff is very warm. But yes, definitely keep calling CP back (and see if you can get on a waiting list, if they have one).

                1. re: lexdevil
                  Robert Lauriston Apr 19, 2007 05:53 PM

                  I like A Cote but it's too much of a bar-like scene for my idea of a proper wedding anniversary celebration. Same goes for Cesar and Pearl.

                  1. re: Robert Lauriston
                    lexdevil Apr 19, 2007 06:03 PM

                    I agree. I think Jojo is the best bet for that reason. I mentioned A Cote and Pearl in case the OP is young and enjoys that sort of scene, especially if it's not any sort of a landmark anniversary. I'd certainly choose A Cote for my own anniversary over many more "suitable" restaurants that have lame food (though we have spent our anniversary at Oliveto every year for more years than I can count). I hope my post was clear enough on the nature of Pearl and A Cote.

                    1. re: lexdevil
                      Robert Lauriston Apr 19, 2007 06:34 PM

                      Jojo's a good call. First-rate food, good service, quiet, a little more formal than most places. Maybe not as splurgy as the original poster wants.

                      1. re: Robert Lauriston
                        maria lorraine Apr 19, 2007 06:55 PM

                        Jojo is a good recommendation. Wonderful food, very romantic. What Robert said.
                        Be sure to have dessert.

                2. grocerytrekker Apr 19, 2007 05:13 PM

                  I ate here years ago, and I wonder if it would work for you.
                  You might want to try Mezze. Recent reviews have been good.

                  3407 Lakeshore Avenue

                  1. j
                    jb_montclair Apr 19, 2007 05:22 PM

                    Wow, thanks everyone - for the recommendations and anniversary wishes too. This is the first time I've ever posted here and I'm really amazed at all the responses.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: jb_montclair
                      blexo Apr 20, 2007 04:32 AM

                      Unless you are going out on a weekend night, reserve someplace but don't give up on Chez Panisse. While I've only been downstairs twice in both instances I've gotten my reservation just days before. The credit card deposit seems motivate people to make the call to cancel a rez.

                    2. s
                      slapstick Apr 20, 2007 12:25 PM

                      definitely try rivoli, on solano avenue in albany. Romantic, excellent service, beautiful food, and elegant surroundings. Very romantic. http://www.rivolirestaurant.com/ Lalime's is also a good Berkeley option along the same lines, although slightly less romantic.

                      3 Replies
                      1. re: slapstick
                        Robert Lauriston Apr 20, 2007 12:32 PM

                        Some comparisons of Rivoli, Jojo, and Bay Wolf:


                        1. re: slapstick
                          Glencora Apr 20, 2007 02:21 PM

                          I think the room at Lalime's is very nice, maybe even romantic, but the last time I was there it was also very noisy.

                          1. re: Glencora
                            psb Apr 20, 2007 07:07 PM

                            Maybe lalame has better service for regulars or something like that,
                            but I think it is incredibly overrated [I've eaten there maybe 4 times,
                            including at least one special event/special menu type occasion].

                            I also think the table density is too high.

                            Food was ok, but fails price perf test, especially with so
                            many better palces around at that or lower price point.

                            And service was competent but never especially warm or
                            anything like that. I usually dont mind some minor "problems"
                            with service as long as they dont piss me off [condescention,
                            upselling, argumentative etc] but the total indifference of the
                            service and the feeling [based on the high density seating]
                            that this was a business transaction rather than a dining
                            experience is the main lingering memory.

                        Show Hidden Posts