Saturday dinner at Chez Panisse
Had dinner downstairs at Chez Panisse last night (prix-fixe $85).
- amuse of brandade toasts & olives with an apéritif of sparkling wine and "cherry cognac" (?): brandade was perfect, drink wasn't my kind of thing (I prefer their vin d'orange and variations)
-2006 François Chidaine Montlouis Sur Loire Clos du Breuil ($44), fruity, aromatic, off-dry, went better with the brandade than the apéritif did
- seared tuna with Sichuan pepper and lime-ginger vinaigrette and spring onion tempura: fish was nice and meaty and the sauce was just right, tempura was the best I've ever had
- 2005 Domaine les Pallieres Gigondas ($66), lovely but took a while to open up, should have decanted when we got the white
- wild mushroom ravioli in a squab brodo with fresh favas: subtle, earthy, delicious, light
- grilled loin and leg of Watson Ranch lamb with green garlic sauce (variation on salsa verde), peeled green asparagus, and salad with lots of herbs: this was great, asparagus the best I've had so far thsi year; one minor criticism, the lamb was plated in such a way that it wasn't immediately obvious that the fanned-out slices started with loin on the bottom and finished with leg on the top, which was the reverse of the way I wanted to eat them (leg had more fat and thus more flavor)
- 2004 Durban Beaumes de Venise ($48 750ml), delicious as always (been drinking this at Chez Panisse for at least 25 years; it's the wine they substitute for Sauternes in dessert recipes)
- individual passion fruit soufflés: very light, mousse-like texture, very intense and direct passion fruit flavor with nice egginess
- mint tisane ($5.50) with mignardises of amaretti and pieces of bitter chocolate with chopped hazelnuts: best amaretti ever, nice chocolate
Overall, food and service were as good as ever.
They don't update their online wine very often: judging by the vintages, the current version is over a year old.
1517 Shattuck Avenue, Berkeley, CA 94709
How does the experience upstairs compare to downstairs. I ask because I don't eat pork or shellfish, so ~50% of the time I wouldn't be able to eat some or all of the meal downstairs. I'd hate to get excited for weeks, then see the menu online and have to cancel the week of due to dietary restrictions. But I want to experience the best the restaurant has to offer. What's my best strategy?
re: Senor Popusa
re: Senor Popusa
Just keep reserving and canceling until you get lucky. This week, you could go any night but Wednesday without having to ask for any substitutions. Or look at the menu and then see if you can get a reservation or on the waiting list.
The style upstairs is similar but the dishes are often a bit simpler. E.g. the current sample upstairs menu (from last Friday night) has Dal Porto Ranch lamb shoulder braised with black olives, served with artichokes, spinach, and sunchokes; Thursday night's downstairs menu has grilled Watson Ranch lamb rack and loin with romesco sauce, couscous, and roasted spring vegetables.
The upstairs is well worth a visit in its own right.
I was at CP on Saturday as well. I thought the meal was wonderful. The tuna and the souffle were my favorite dishes- the best souffle i've ever had, but I can't say I've had a lot.
The asparagus that came with the lamb was out of this world. I couldnt quite tell how they prepared it- steamed?
The ravioli were very yummy but probably my least favorite bites of the night. That's not to say i didnt enjoy them. The fava beans in this dish were lovely. the mushrooms in the ravioli were very earthy and meaty- there was almost a sausage-y flavor to them.