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Is something up with Adagia?

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  • Jess Leber Nov 7, 2005 07:34 PM
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I've been to Adagia with my wife three times in the past few months, and had a fantastic experience each time. When my wife went last week, however, things seemed...different. The portions had become smaller, the prices increased, and the food lacking the zing it formerly possessed. Did she go on an off night, or have others experienced a similar decline recently? It would be a real shame if they've tinkered with their winning formula.

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  1. Funny you mention it. My husband, a grad student at CAL, had dinner at Adagia for the first time on Thursday when a visiting prof came to town. When he got home, he could not stop raving about the sweet potato gnocchi and, most notably, the lamb entree, which he described in raptures. He was so elated about the dinner that he insisted I try it on Saturday.

    I ordered the grilled romaine salad, which I enjoyed thoroughly (great mix of tart and salty flavors, especially with the whole anchovies.) My husband ordered the sweet potato gnocchi again; he enjoyed it but said it wasn't nearly as good as on Thursday.

    Then came the big disappointment...the entrees. The lamb dish was so salty that I could only eat a few bites (and then only by taking several mouthfuls of polenta.) My husband finished it off for me (he also found it overly salty but isn't as picky as I am). He was shocked at how different it tasted from the meltingly tender and flavorful lamb he had relished on Thursday. His entree, the pork chop, was also oversalted, though not as much as the lamb.

    I asked the waiter if they had a different chef on Thursdays and Saturdays. He said no, though he said the preparation of the lamb might have been different.

    We wondered if the chef had gotten sloppy with the bigger crowds on Saturday, but we were there at 8 p.m. when barely half of the room was full.

    The tab for the two of us (no wine or dessert) came to $66 + tip: a bit of a splurge for the two of us (we're cheap eats kind of people). Given the restaurant's inconsistency, we won't be returning anytime soon.

    3 Replies
    1. re: Lillian Hsu

      I'm guessing that they just have some serious inconsistency right now. The night your husband was there for a fabulous meal -- last Thursday -- was the exact same night my wife was having a notably sub-par experience. That being said, the recent changes in both price and portion lead me to believe that something more fundamental is at work.

      1. re: Jess Leber
        b
        Berkeley Diner

        I've just come from a meal at Adagia, and it was substandard. I haven't eaten there before, but the gnocchi in gnocchi with chantarelles and brussels sprouts (hit dish description for me) were gluey and the chantarelles were undercooked, their flavor masked by something acidic in the sauce. The scallops with pancetta and braised oxtail with preserved lemon risotto was at least two dishes mashed together. The crab cakes were full of crab, and yet totally unremarkable. Low marks. Too bad--such a nice dining room.

        1. re: Berkeley Diner

          I know that Adagia now has a new chef named Omri. He's been there a few months and is great. They catered a very special event and the food was superb. They are also making a real push to incorporate more seasonal, local and organic ingredients into the menu and have started shopping at the farmers' market.

    2. I work on the Berkeley campus, and at the time Adagia opened, I was delighted to have an option to the Faculty Club fare, and to the generally dismal food on Northside (Nefeli Cafe being an exception).

      When they first opened, I was intrigued by their menu and the ambience, somewhat like Hogwarts is what one chowhound said, and I couldn't agree more. Although service was spotty, and the food was not consistently well prepared, the ingredients were of high quality and the portions were generous. A year later, I had a luncheon event there for 45 that went over very well. Despite a limited menu and months of advance warning, the kitchen was overwhelmed. I subsequently took my daughter out to lunch there on a monthly basis for several months, and then more recently have taken visiting faculty from overseas and individual prospective graduate students there. With each passing meal over the last year or so, the experience got worse. Service was erratic, varying from pushy fast to glacial but rarely where you wanted it to be, timely and attentive. One thing that I liked about the place early on was that the wines, although not inexpensive, were at least generously poured. The last time I went you almost felt like asking the waiter what he thought of the wine; it seemed like half of it was gone. For an $8 glass of wine, I would expect my glass to be more than wet on the bottom. Food portions have also gotten smaller, perhaps a way to limit price increases. Finally, I don't know if she is still around, but the woman who manages their events, and also for Stradivarius Catering, is unpleasant to work with and totally inflexible, and it seems to reflect an arrogance that has developed in Adagia's kitchen that their food simply doesn't warrant.

      There is always the possibility of change, and I do hope that they are getting the message. I will perhaps go there again, and see if things have improved. Would be happy to hear from others that things have turned around, but if not, then I am hopeful that the restaurant will meet the same fate as some of the arrogant places on Center that had forgotten the meaning of customer service. It is a great location in many ways, and it would be nice to have a reliably good restaurant there.

      3 Replies
      1. re: tutti_a_tavola

        We were extremely pleased with our meal at Adagia this past Sunday night. This was our first time there. It was a pleasure to have such an unusual (and quiet) ambiance along with reasonable prices when lately when my husband and I have been feeling so ripped off at every somewhat nice restaurant we go to as prices continue to climb into the stratosphere and portions get smaller. For 106.00 (before tip) the two of us had the following: a bottle of Shooting Stars Merlot, fruit salad, fresh greens salad, entrees of pappardalle and mushroom risotto, two cappuccinos, and one order of a trio of Ici ice creams. Portions were just right as was the service. The bread and olive oil were also excellent. We will definitely return.

        1. re: Wendy_san

          link

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          Adagia Restaurant
          2700 Bancroft Way, Berkeley, CA 94704

        2. re: tutti_a_tavola

          I am totally with you, tutti. In 2005 I hosted an event there and the food was excellent. I went back this summer and was shocked-- the food was weirdly out of season (cranberries in June?) and bland, bland, bland. Then a little bird told me the secret: the Stradivarius woman was running the joint!

          It's too bad; I won't send people to the Bancroft Hotel for events because their food is terrible, and now I'm going to have to avoid sending people to Adagia.

          More money for the great folks who run Liaison Bistro!