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Sea Salt

I just ate at Sea Salt. For a seafood place there were surprisingly few things on the menu that I could eat (I eat CA kosher style.) We shared some salads that were yum, the chicory salad had a bit of cheese and orange to balance out the bitterness, the beet salad also a bit of dairy to enrich the beets. The portions were not generous for the $10, but the quality and flavors were good. We had fish & chips which were good, I don't know if $18 good. Certainly not really as good as an English fish & chip house that wraps the whole thing in newspaper, but certainly fresh, quality ingredients and a whole lot cheaper and time friendly than taking a plane to England. We also had the arctic char ($25) which was served over a smattering of braised root vegetables in broth. The fish was cooked perfectly with the skin crisp and the inside moist, no lemon on the plate which I always thins enhances salmon. The food was very good, simple competent preparations.

The thing that was a detraction was the service. Our waiter did not flash a smile all night. We had no idea what the cocktail on the menu that started with juniper and was named for a Hemingway novel- could he not have said it was a gin & tonic pleasantly? In any case all through the evening we were scared to ask him anything and then he spilled coffee on me and his initial comment was," I don't know how that happened." There it was coffee pot in his hand coffee on my shirt. Of course the rest. offered to pay for cleaning but really is this enough? I now have a stained new shirt that I have to take and fetch from the cleaners and then present them with a bill- I think it's a bit more than making me whole - why not throw in a round of drinks or some dessert- they could have thrown us each a $1.5 truffle, but I guess it was just too much of a transaction.

In any case the bottom line review is that the food is good sort of what CA cuisine is, the room is nice, the prices elevated and the personalities humorless, condescending.

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  1. I've had really great, friendly service there. Sorry you didn't. I agree they could have comped you something in addition to paying for the cleaners. It's such a nice place, though, I hope you'll consider giving it another try.

    1. Sea Salt's one of our regulars. I've usually had very friendly service, and never any serious problems.

      $12-15 for appetizers and $25 for entrees is pretty average for good seafood around here.

      1. I've always had good service at Sea Salt. I stick to the less expensive items like the Banh Mi, and usually leave full for about $50 for two after tax and tip. Not too many good restaurants in Berkeley with table service in that price range. Of course, it would be easy to spend more money there.

        1. I had some service issues at Sea Salt when I went there a couple of months back. But most of that revolved around the timing of entrees and waits. However, we were comped both our oysters(which were the big problem-it shouldn't take an hour to get them) and our dessert. The waitstaff was friendly if a bit hurried given that the place wasn't half full.

          1. Hm. We were there last week and were served by a guy we didn't recognize. He was definitely more sullen then the waiters we usually had, so I wonder if that was the same guy you had?

            1. I had v. nice/good service at SeaSalt but the food the times I've been there was mediocre....especially apetizers and oysters....much too $$ for the quality. By the way what is CA kosher style?

              2 Replies
              1. re: Pollo

                Generally, that you eat in restaurants whether or not they are kosher, but you don't eat foods that can not be kosher (shellfish, pork, etc., and often you don't eat meat in non-kosher restaurants).

                1. re: Pollo

                  Where do you get better seafood in the East Bay? I find the prices competitive with those at other places that use quality ingredients.

                  I've liked just about all the appetizers I've had since the first few months they were open, including:

                  salt cod croquettes with harissa aioli

                  grilled octopus with roasted peppers

                  black salsify with bottarga

                  monkfish liver torchon

                  grilled sardines

                  gigantes with tuna confit

                  clam chowder with bacon and cream

                2. We ate there last week for the first time and had great service. They even asked if we wanted to sit in the livelier, more crowded front room or in the back room that was nearly deserted. We picked the back room and were afraid we'd be forgotten, but service was attentive and very friendly.

                  We had a nice chat with the waiter about the Islands in the Stream, the cocktail you mention. The menu states that it is made with gin, tonic and bitters. I am confused by your comment that you didn't know what it was. He didn't hesitate when I asked for fries instead of potato chips with my eel bahn mi (which lived up to all the hype it's gotten on this board).

                  We did not have dessert, but I love that they have a single truffle for $1.50 on the dessert menu, since sometimes that little bite of something sweet is really all I want after dinner. And I agree, they could have thrown you a couple of truffles to smooth the coffee incident.

                  20 Replies
                  1. re: Pistou

                    Lucky you. I realize we were there on a Sat. night so the table proffered was really our only choice but my complaint was not with inanimate objects, or even the food- I just thought it was a bit expensive for portions definitely NOT outrageous, but with the personalities- our waiter who we were literally scared to ask anything of and who spilled all over me and the apology was barely audible and as we were paying (tipping which I gave my standard 2x tax =17% & I after thought why) to not having a smile or a nice thing to say all evening, to bussers who when asked for more water we were ignored, to the manager who although nice didn't do much of anything but give me his card and said he'd take care of it (except he won't I will and then I'll give him the bill- as my dining mate said you may as well peel off the shirt right here and I should have. We had 1 nice server who brought us something- that is remarkable for that should not be what you remember.

                    As for the cocktail, Islands in the Stream- it is not listed as you say. I clearly remember that menu said Juniper (not gin ok now i get it but it was just intimidating and the fact that I haven't read Islands...

                    I agree it is nice to have truffles on the menu because of that wanting just 1 little sweet thing and not a full dessert.

                    btw, our bill worked out to probably $60 per person.

                    As to Robert's Q- I think you can do as well at Chez Panisse but my experiences there have been far superior.

                    Milklady has it right to the description of CA Kosher style (but I heard that joke Wolfe.)

                    Chow on

                    1. re: 510jeff

                      Chez Panisse's current sample cafe menu (from 2/8) has three seafood dishes, a dungeness crab and fennel salad appetizer for $12, squid with chickpeas, kale, garlic toast, and aïoli for $19, and roasted petrale sole for $24. Those prices seem similar to Sea Salt's to me.

                      1. re: Robert Lauriston

                        My point exactly the prices are similar and I've had some great meals at the cafe, and you're eating at an institution and the service has always been superior.

                        I'm not saying there isn't room for Sea Salt or I'd never try it again, but I am a bit hesitant, and I just wanted to share my experience there and see if it jibed with others' ( I guess so.)

                        1. re: 510jeff

                          We go to Sea Salt on impulse when we're craving non-Asian seafood. Can't do that with Chez Panisse, unless maybe it's after 10 on a weeknight and the line's not too long. And even then you won't get much choice of seafood. And thanks to the more tempting wine list my total bill is usually substantially more than at Sea Salt.

                          The only other good non-Asian seafood place I can think of in the East Bay is Maritime East. It might be a bit cheaper but I'm not sure it's quite as good.

                      2. re: 510jeff

                        A fair warning if you plan on going to any of the other Krikorian restaurants (T-Rex, Fonda, Lalime's) - all of their restaurants are a bit expensive for the portions. ..Yet, somehow, this never seems to stop me.

                        1. re: adrienne156

                          I disagree. T-Rex and Sea Salt both offer an enormous range of price points. It's easy to spend $50-$70 per person if you're splurging. But I consistently eat at both for $20-$27 per person. Here are my standard orders:

                          Sea Salt:

                          Split salad to start ($10)
                          Two Eel Bahn Mis ($14 each, $28 total)
                          Pint of draft beer ($4) (Mrs. Mousse isn't much of a drinker)
                          Total: $42.
                          Tax: $3.50
                          Tip: $9.50
                          Total bill: $55 for dinner for two.


                          Fried chicken entree (big enough for two): $18
                          Either a split salad ($10) or Two Sides ($9-$12 Total)
                          Draft Beer at Happy Hour ($3)
                          Total: $33 (sometimes less)
                          Tax: $3
                          Tip: $8
                          Total Bill: $44 for dinner for two, sometimes under $40 if we order cheap sides.

                          We're always full after Sea Salt. We usually have leftovers after T-Rex.

                          1. re: Morton the Mousse

                            Another question - what makes their Eel Bahn Mi so spectacular? I have to confess that I would have a very hard time paying $14 for a bahn mi when they're $2.25 at my favorite local place.

                            1. re: adrienne156

                              It's delicious. I crave it all the time. It made several hound's top ten lists for 2007. When they tried to take it off the menu, people revolted.

                              Why is it worth $14? I dunno. I guess that's a matter of relative value. I've got no problem paying $12 or $13 for a gourmet hamburger. But I can't tell you whether you'll find it worth the $14 or not.

                              1. re: Morton the Mousse

                                I don't doubt that it's delicious and the eel is definitely special, I just wondered if that was what was so great about it. Guess it's just one of those things you've got to try.

                            2. re: Morton the Mousse

                              Mort the M,

                              we found the salads small and in fact ordered 2 for 4 pax but then ordered another 1 because it was good and 2 because it was small-ish.

                              1. re: Morton the Mousse

                                I just noticed you're kind of a big tipper. ex rest. worker?

                              2. re: adrienne156

                                I find T-Rex's food prices competitive. We usually split a slab of spare ribs, which at $28 costs about the same or less than at takeout dives, and several of the delicious vegetable sides, which at around $6 each seem like a bargain to me. Ironically, we often go there when we're craving lots of vegetables.

                                For comparison, Everett & Jones charges $37 for a slab of their inferior ribs. That does include three side orders and corn bread, but I just throw those away.

                                1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                  I see what you and Morton are saying and for T-Rex, the consistency is that you split an entrée while I prefer a bit of variety. Here's what I usually end up with:

                                  -split salad ($10)
                                  -flank steak ($22)
                                  -half slab ribs ($14)
                                  -1 glass of wine ($9)
                                  -1 draft beer ($4)
                                  Total: $59.00
                                  Tax: $4.86
                                  Tip: $10
                                  Grand Total: $73.46

                                  -1 Calmado ($13)
                                  -2 Margaritas ($18)
                                  -1 Seared Scallop w/ frisee (3 scallops – $13.50)
                                  -1 Tostaditas (3 small – $9.75)
                                  -1 Grilled Skirt Steak ($12.50)
                                  Total: $66.75
                                  Tax: $5.51
                                  Tip: $12
                                  Grand Total: $84.26
                                  Aside from the drinks which are extremely expensive and take up most of the bill, the amount of food here is not enough to be split and full. One of those drinks could easily be another dish.

                                  Haven’t been there in about 2 years, but the one thing that really stands out to me was a 2”x2”x1/2” piece of foie gras on a piece of equally sized toasted brioche in some kind of a fruity consommé (cherry?) that I paid $19 for.

                                  1. re: adrienne156

                                    I have to agree that I often find Fonda expensive (but that doesn't stop me from going) so I try to hit their happy hour which makes it a great deal for the quality of ingredients. Seasalt I also tend to go to for happy hour, but that's because we eat so many oysters. When we were there for New Year's I thought it was reasonably priced. Although the server was a bit off.

                                    1. re: adrienne156

                                      Sometimes Mrs. Mousse and a split a two way at T-Rex. You get protein variety at a fraction of the cost. The two way is always plenty of meat for us both (especially if you order the long cut beef rib which they can't actually split in half).

                                      It does help our bill that Mrs. Mousse doesn't drink, and I drink beer. If we were both cocktail or wine lovers we'd easily add $20 to the total.

                                      We don't eat at Fonda. We don't like the food.

                                      1. re: adrienne156

                                        I find the beer prices at Sea Salt / T-Rex / Fonda more competitive than the wine or cocktails. Though the food at Sea Salt and Fonda makes me want wine.

                                        1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                          I admit that I am a wine/cocktail gal and am quite set in what I pair beer with food-wise. Bbq is one of the things that I would more likely drink beer with, but then I don't order bbq at T-Rex. ..So, I guess I'm in the minority and deserve what I get. <g>

                                          The food at Fonda does lend itself much better to wine, but I just can't pass up their cocktails with the order of chips and guac that usually ends up in front of me.

                                2. re: Pistou

                                  The menu says Islands in the Stream is made with junipero gin. . .Junipero gin is the gin made by Fritz Maytag at Anchor. Since it's all in lower caps i'm guessing that is where the confusion lay.

                                3. Just came by to say that I went to T-Rex for a work related social last night, ended up having a quick dinner, and would have stayed longer but we got such rude service that we left and went to Fonda. The staff at T-Rex, Fonda, and Sea Salt go back and forth between the restaurants and it turns out that two of their main bar people are leaving/have just left and there is a bunch of new staff and most likely why the service is off.

                                  1. Never been to Fonda. The portions at the other places seem fine. I actually couldn't finish my delicious mussels at Sea Salt. My only complaint about these places is that the glass of wine I ordered at T-Rex was tiny, tiny, tiny! I don't drink beer, so I think I'll stick to cocktails there.

                                    4 Replies
                                    1. re: Glencora

                                      I've had many glasses of wine at T-Rex, the pours seem pretty standard to me.

                                      Was it a sparkling wine or sherry or dessert wine? Those come in smaller glasses.

                                      1. re: Glencora

                                        In my comment above, I should have left out the word portion and put in something along the lines of 'expensive for what it is' as I always have leftovers when I leave T-Rex and am full after a meal at Sea Salt. Two drinks and a bowl of chips will set you back $30, easy. But this is of course the opinion of someone who eats out most nights of the week on a student budget. I'm happiest when spending $25 or less on a meal.

                                        Fonda, however, is expensive for the portions.

                                        1. re: adrienne156

                                          I feel like I get roughly the same amount of food for the money at Fonda as at other small-plates places like Cesar and À Côté.

                                          I don't feel like the wine is as good a value at all.

                                          1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                            A Cote gives significantly more food for the money than Fonda (and Cesar, though not quite as much). The prices are about the same per small plate, but the plates at A Cote have much more food than the ones at Fonda, so I tend to have at least one plate less per person at A Cote, which makes a difference in the bill.

                                      2. Went to Sea Salt around 7:30 on Monday night. Food was, as usual, tasty. I'm generally very pleased w/ their nice veg sides, and thought the escarole with beans and purple barley was really nice. The sturgeon portion size was not large, but it was rich enough that size was not an issue. It was certainly not cheap, however, priced at $25. I really enjoyed the foie gras and chicken terrine, but it too was far from cheap ($25). The chicories salad was excellent. The friend who ordered the sweet gems lettuces was, however, shocked by the size and simplicity of his order--5 to 6 lettuce leaves looking pretty lonely on the plate at $10 is tough to swallow (he sent it back). I guess my point here is that if you're not going early for $1 oysters or limitng yourself to the sandwiches, Sea Salt cannot be classified as a bargain. Salad and a traditional main course will be $35 before bev/tax/tip. Opting for an appetizer other than salad will probably mean more like $40. Splitting a side veg will add another $5. With dessert, a traditional dinner out is over $50 per person before bev/tax/tip. I like the food a lot, but unless I'm careful it is out of my casual dining price range.

                                        On service, I thought our service was poopy. The waiter took drink orders right away, but the drinks were slow to arrive. He removed our wine glasses without ever asking if we would be having wine. He also never asked if we wanted another drink. I don't know about you, but I'm not happy with one Pimm's Cup over a two hour meal. Not sure how he could have missed that I was subsisting on melted ice for the last hour. Pretty sure my water glass didn't get refilled either. I probably could have had better service if I'd been more aggressive about demanding it, but I really didn't want to make the effort, and I don't think I should have had to.

                                        2 Replies
                                        1. re: lexdevil

                                          Huh, maybe T. Rex and Sea Salt did a staff rotation, because I've always gotten good service (though not all that friendly) at Sea Salt, and I've always had friendly but incompetent service at T. Rex. It sounds like Sea Salt now has the worst of both restaurants.

                                          1. re: JasmineG

                                            Let me just say that after having some good food with mediocre service and then having coffee spilled over me I did send the restaurant the bill and they promptly reimbursed the cleaning and enclosed a $25 gift certificate. So I will give them another shot (no not at spilling.) This is what a restaurant of that caliber should do and I think it's only fair to mention it since i did mention it in my review.

                                        2. We just went to Sea Salt for the first time. Menu must have changed, as there is no entree above $15. We had two items from the bar menu, fried oysters and sweet Maine shrimp, as well as clams and fish and chips for entrees. I could not believe how many shrimp we got for $4, and they were excellent, though they did come in shells. The clams and fish are both fresh, though the clams are tiny (meat is half the size of a dime), and the fish batter is rather blah. They comped dessert on account of us having to wait, which was very nice. I should also mention that the bread is very good. In general, we found Sea Salt to be good value for what you get, and would go back again.

                                          5 Replies
                                          1. re: Maple

                                            Sea Salt has been one of my regular go-to places in the East Bay for a few years now. They have definitely been reducing their prices due to the current situation. I'm mostly there for lunch and they even have reduced the size, and price, of their lobster roll, now calling it a "mini" lobster roll. The sweet shrimp are great, and I had a grilled mackerel dish recently, for probably about $14, that was amazing. I'm impressed by how often they vary their menu, even within a 2 week period. They seem to be in the mode of still trying to be creative with their selections, seeing what sells and keeping prices down.

                                            1. re: Maple

                                              i'm going there for dinner tonight and am thrilled to hear that they've lowered their prices. the restaurant is in my neighborhood and i don't go there very often. i think of it as some place to go for a special occasion....like when my boss takes us out for lunch! but i'd certainly spend more time there if the food was as good as i remember and the prices had come down. will post a report tomw.

                                              1. re: lacerise

                                                The only thing to remember is that they have also reduced their portions. The lobster is now a "mini" lobster roll. It didn't bother me because you still get enough food and I would imagine that's how they keep the quality of the food up while reducing the price. I'm planning on going again on Saturday.

                                                1. re: Missmoo

                                                  My experience last night was very good. There was only one menu item over $15; unfortunately, i don't remember what it was, but i believe it was meat and it was $19. we were offered our choice of seating, were almost immediately met by a waitperson who was very accommodating. my friend ordered a martini and i an oyster shooter w/vodka. it was the first time I'd had one and i can't say i'm a convert, but it was ok. we sat for a long time talking before we even looked at the menu and weren't hounded by our waiter. when we were ready to order, our waiter was right there. we had a green salad, a caesar (excellent!) and fish and chips and crab cakes. I was very happy with the crab cake order for $15. the two dishes (caesar and crabs) were more than enough for me. my friend seemed to enjoy the fish & chips and then ordered a vanilla creme brulee which he devoured. all in all, it was a very nice experience and we were some of the last people there at around 10:15. they were very un-busy. i'll certainly return often now that the prices have come down and the ambience and service were as good as ever. plus, it's walking distance from my house!

                                              2. re: Maple

                                                I went there recently for the first time too, but I wasn't as impressed as you. I thought the food was just OK, and I had a really watery clam chowder. They use fresh ingredients but the prep is a bit off. I went for the $1 oysters and I felt my experience with the raw bar was better at Cafe Rouge.

                                                In reaction to the original poster of this thread, I did find most of the servers very pleasant and helpful. Maybe that one guy from last year is gone now?

                                              3. link

                                                Sea Salt
                                                2512 San Pablo Avenue, Berkeley, CA 94702

                                                1. Sea Salt's brunch is really good. Their pork rillons (carnitas) with grits and Soul Food Farm eggs is one of the best things I've eaten in the past year. I see they've added maple syrup to that, makes no sense to me.


                                                  Unfortunately they dropped the weekly porchetta special.

                                                  1. "The happy hour here is $1.00 chef's choice OYSTERS daily from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. as well as a small bites bar menu with lots of crunchy, tasty treats for you to try with our $5 Well Cocktails, $5 House Wine by the glass & $3 Draft Beer."


                                                    4 Replies
                                                    1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                      I called SeaSalt last week to find out what the "new, exciting small plates" bar menu was and they said only the oysters and $5 wine. When are they going to start up?

                                                      1. re: oaktowngirl

                                                        The Web site says, "We have also unveiled our new Bar Menu," so if they haven't started offering it, there's some miscommunication.

                                                        1. re: oaktowngirl

                                                          When we were there a few weeks ago, there were definitely a number of choices on the bar menu besides the oysters... including the house-made salmon caviar that I loved (with house made potato chips and creme fraiche, for $4).

                                                          1. re: Joan Kureczka

                                                            Sounds yummy. I went for brunch a few weeks ago, they said they were expanding the bar menu. The website says coming soon. I called because we wanted to try the new menu, but the person answering the phone seemed very definite about the oysters and wine, with nothing different than the regular between service menu. So we went to T-Rex.

                                                      2. We went last night for the first time in a while. Seemed like prices have dropped a bit.

                                                        I don't usually order cocktails but the "Shank" appealed to my sour tooth: Herradura tequila blanca, grapefruit juice, and Campari. Bracing and delicious. I had a taste of some clam chowder before I finished the drink, BAD pairing, it brought out the bitterness in the clams.

                                                        The eggplant appetizer was as fabulous as the last time I had it: fluffy, crunchy fried cubes in a creamy sauce of puréed eggplant with lebne, mint, and ras al hanout. It's worth a detour to visit Sea Salt just for this genius dish. We were oohing and ahhing over it to the point that the people at the next table asked what it was ... sadly for them the kitchen had run out.

                                                        I also had some nice izakayaish grilled chicken hearts and some lovely grilled squid with cranberry beans and a "basil-almond pesto" (romesco-ish thick sauce).

                                                        Sea Salt
                                                        2512 San Pablo Avenue, Berkeley, CA 94702