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Apr 21, 2007 08:02 AM

Fried rabbit @ Chez Panisse Cafe

It's on the menu now, and it's AMAZING. Perfect crust, super juicy, flavorful meat, accompanied by a pile of simply cooked fava beans and shallot. Best part is, they implicitly invite you to dig in with your hands by providing a hot towel. Don't know how long it's going to be on the menu, but I may have to go back at least once more before it rotates off.

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    1. re: Robert Lauriston

      It's on the Cafe menu, so it may repeat a bit. Hard to predict. But I guess folks could take this as a strong recommendation if it happens to be on the menu when they're there.

      1. re: lexdevil

        I had the fried rabbit last September, and I wholeheartedly agree. Wonderful dish.

          1. re: Robert Lauriston

            Question about the rabbit - marinated, or simply battered or breaded and fried?

            1. re: Alice Letseat

              Marinated in buttermilk, battered, and fried. Don't know if the marinade had anything else besides salt... all I tasted was pure rabbity goodness.

              1. re: daveena

                "rabbity goodness"! I love that!

                Especially this close to Easter. (note to self...been too long since you cooked rabbit...)

      2. Note a side point: This helpful thread implicitly highlights a difference in theme between the café and the restaurant, that longtime regulars remark about: Higher-temperature cooking. Café's cooking leans toward grilling, pizza oven; and here, frying.

        Good to hear about the hot towel. (You need that with some other kinds of foods too in the US, but it's not always provided.)

        9 Replies
        1. re: eatzalot

          Upstairs and downstairs both rely heavily on the wood oven and grill. This week's downstairs menu had a grilled or spit-roasted entree every night but Monday.

          They don't do a whole lot of frying upstairs or down. There are sometimes one or two fried items upstairs, sometimes none. Downstairs fried entrees are relatively rare but I've had fried things in appetizers or as sides to the entree many times.

          1. re: Robert Lauriston

            Yes indeed Robert! You are mentioning similarities, I was trying to illuminate differences. Both have been visible for the past 29? years since the café opened on top of the existing restaurant, and began serving things like pizzas and calzones ("on the menu every day" at the café -- Alice Waters). Other longtime fans than me have highlighted the difference; one of them phrased it as greater "exposure" of the ingredients in the restaurant and "higher temperature cooking," typically, in the café. (In case it wasn't clear above what I meant.)

            1. re: eatzalot

              Your post was clear, I just feel the opposite way. To me, the cooking's generally quite similar in style upstairs and down. Except for the pizzettas, any of the dishes upstairs could be (and sometimes have been) on the downstairs menu. Downstairs I've occasionally had more elaborate dishes than I've seen offered upstairs.

              I'm pretty sure the grills or oven are no hotter upstairs than down. CPC doesn't actually have a proper pizza oven like Pizzaiolo's, they cook their pizzas in a lower-temerature regular wood oven, as Zuni does.

              Sad to say calzone's no longer on the menu every day. Not sure they ever make it any more.

              1. re: Robert Lauriston

                Maybe fried rabbit poorly illustrates the differences. But I have tried to point out not just my experiences but a formative, or guiding, philosophy behind differences in the two kitchens, even if not every impression bears it out. This reflects a lot of experience with these places -- dining in the 70s when the café just served coffee, comparing notes with a carpool partner early 1980s who taught at Berkeley and was/is a very regular diner (and was offered an interest in the business); a couple of very memorable experiences in the café in the 1980s. Decades of discussions of the restaurant on Internet public forums like this one. For years, many people's initial experience or memory of the café was pizza. Today I see comments like "the [café] is better than the [restaurant]" which may be a sincere opinion, but strikes me like "apples are better than noodles" -- they are different entities designed for different kinds of eating. Some first-time visitors may appreciate hearing about that side of it.

                1. re: eatzalot

                  There are certainly major differences between the two restaurants that can make the overall experience quite different.

                  I just find the style of cooking to be one of the things they have in common. How easy is it to tell which of the following are from upstairs and which from downstairs?

                  Carrot soup with fresh coriander and ginger

                  Beet soup with crème fraîche and chives

                  Riverdog Farm asparagus with pancetta and fried herbs

                  Asparagus salad with bread pudding

                  Grilled rack and loin of Dal Porto Ranch lamb with tapenade, cardoon gratin, and wild rocket salad

                  Grilled Dal Porto Ranch lamb leg with artichokes, peas, crispy potatoes, and anchovy salsa verde

                  Bittersweet chocolate pavé with Grand Marnier cream

                  Bittersweet chocolate and Grand Marnier ice cream profiteroles

                  1. re: Robert Lauriston

                    Hi Robert, yes that is a very good list (and helpful for prospective diners), the sorts of dishes you might find in eaither restaurant or Café. That seems to be what you are posting about here, while I was stressing the things that are more distinct. Both exist (not to be repetitive here), and people notice them. Thus you likely could have created a similar list, if you chose, highlighting differences, which are what friends and I tend to dwell on.

                    This is getting remote from fried rabbit, so I put other experiences of the two restaurants in a separate thread :


                    1. re: eatzalot

                      That list was pretty much random. I just picked dishes that had the same primary ingredients.

                      Except for the oysters, pizzettas, and fruit bowl, I don't think any of the dishes on the upstairs menu are easily identified as such.

                      1. re: Robert Lauriston

                        Excellent! (Again) that has not been my experience these 25+ years, but if it does continue that way for another 25, then you will have basis to argue that higher temperatures are no longer historically typical, when comparing upstairs to down. Of course in that time, the menu could change considerably from this week's ...

                        1. re: eatzalot

                          I've had meat grilled by the same cook upstairs and downstairs. I don't think he's firing the grill any differently. I'll ask him next time I run into him at the farmers market.

        2. Just to comment on the fried rabbit itself, I was upstairs at Chez Panisse on Monday, and even though you got my hopes up for some succulent rabbit, daveena, they didn't have it. Thankfully, I instead had a perfectly crisp duck confit with the most delicious gratin accompanying that more than made up for any initial feelings of disappointment. I'll be looking for it next time, though.

          2 Replies
          1. re: LikeFrogButOOOH

            Oh! That's too bad. Except that you got something just as delicious, so I guess it's ok. I was under the impression that mains tend to repeat from day to day for periods of time, with changes in the veg accompaniments, but I guess it's less predictable.

            1. re: daveena

              The menu changes daily based on what comes in and what they run out of. If they have rabbit two or three days in a row, it's likely to be a different prep every day.