Bistro Liaison - Berkeley
- Robert Lauriston Aug 11, 2009 12:36 PM
Tried the $28 (including a glass of wine) prix-fixe last night. I think it was the best meal I've had here.
Had a few slices of saucisson sec and olives to start, then a yellow and red beet "Napoleon" with toasted walnuts and goat-cheese fondue (huge helping), then perfectly roasted pork tenderloin with a red-wine reduction (?) and a nice corn pudding (again, big serving). By the time we finished, they had run out of the pain perdu, so we got our choice of desserts, and went for tart tatin, one of which would have been plenty for two to share.
The wines were good, an Arrogant Frog sauvignon blanc and a Cahors, $5 by the glass if ordered separately. We got a bottle of the Cahors, a good value at $23.
The prix-fixe is available Monday through Thursday. Wednesday nights there's no corkage.
1849 Shattuck Ave., Berkeley, CA 94709
Thanks for the tip, Robert! We tried the Prix Fixe on Monday and it was lovely. Looks like they aren't varying the menu too much, but I'm not complaining.
Same saucisson sec and olives--and great bread--to start, then a choice of mesclun salad or shrimp bisque (we got one of each, and both were good), followed by a large portion of roast pork with a prune-y sauce (I think they called it a demiglace but I'm not 100% sure) and garlic mashed potatoes. The sauce was a little too sweet for me but my companion loved it. Cherry clafoutis for dessert. Wine was decent, too, but I can't remember the details.
Also, the service was very good. Efficient, but not rushed. And it was fairly busy at 7:00.
Was just there 3 days before you! The Onion Tart was one of the best things I have ever tasted. Seaford/Bouillabaisse was beautiful but boiling hot, steam pouring off of it. I had to eat the delicate choices first so they wouldn't be overdone. Great flavor! Better than if it was cold! Too full for dessert!
That's certainly good news. We gave up eating dinner there several years ago because the prices kept going up to the point where the food wasn't just not good value for the price, it was downright bad value. And the menu was ordinary and predictable and seldom changed much. But we continued to eat lunch there. The lunch prices were still very reasonable and who cared if the food was essentially always the same. We'll have to give the prix-fixe a try. I had also considered going to one of their wine nights dinners. Has anyone done that?
I had the prix-fixe again the other night. This time it was a thick slice of pork terrine, a delicious minestrone thickened with bread, a classic blanquette de veau (veal stew) with mushrooms and pearl onions, and strawberry shortcake with a nice texture from some coarse cornmeal. Servings were generous, it was really a lot of food for the price.
I went a week or two ago and the prix-fixe wasn't appealing (roasted salmon, chocolate mousse) so I ordered a la carte. The Salade Quercynoise ($14) included a huge piece of duck confit, gizzard confit, walnuts, a hard-boiled egg, and greens, plus a small goat-cheese crostino that didn't make much sense. Really a lot of food for the money. I also got the "croque Americain," i.e., burger ($10) with a half pound of Niman beef. It was OK but I wouldn't order it again. The fries were really good, very crisp but creamy in the middle. I didn't expect the salad to be so rich, this was really too much food.
1849 Shattuck Ave., Berkeley, CA 94709
I had another good meal the other night. The chef rolled pork belly and then sliced it, so it was shaped sort of like a hamburger patty, and somehow got it crisp almost all the way through. This was served with a big helping of delicious lentils. This would have been plenty for a main course and was an sane bargain at $10. I also had a nice cassoulet with duck confit, Toulouse sausage, and merguez for $24, which was enough for two main courses (I took the confit home). Finished with an old-school baba au rhum ($7), yeasty, crunchy roll served with whipped cream and then doused with infused rum at the table so you had to wait for the liquid to seep in.
It's nice to have at least one place in the Berkeley area to put on the old-school French bistro feedbag.
Three of us descended upon Liaison without a reservation on an early Friday night and were pleased that they could seat us at the bar. Unfortunately, being seated at the bar did not necessarily mean we would see fast service as it took almost ten minutes to just get a menu.
To his credit, the guy manning the bar was fabulous in getting us some wine right off the bat and the addition of some bread certainly staved off the gnawing hunger.
I started with a simple Mesclun salad, which was fresh and well-prepared. For entrées, "S" went straight for the Steak Frites. She was happy but I found it horrifically salty and inedible. I believe it was just the sauce, but because there was so much of it and it was so thick and gooey, I couldn't get enough of it scraped off to just taste the meat. The frites were stunning, well friend and appreciated by all of us. "L" had a special of wild boar with grilled peaches and foie. Like the steak frites, I found the sauce on this to be too thick, too sweet, and too overwhelming for what might have been a good piece of meat. The foie was also not especially well-prepared; butchered poorly, one side was too thin and over cooked with the other side, too thick and under cooked.
I ordered the Bouillabaisse which was fine, but hardly exceptional. The shrimp were a nice size but the clams and mussels were puny. The rouille was at least served with croutons on the side so I had the option to add the amount that I desired. This was crucial as I found the rouille over-salted as well.
"S" and "L" both wanted desserts so the gambit was ordered; creme brulee, tarte tatin, and some pear thingie. The tarte tatin was the most disappointing, with incredibly mushy fruit and an intensely chewy crust that could barely be cut through, even with a knife and fork. The creme brulee was also a bit on the soupy side, and the pear dessert was poached pears served in a dish with some ice cream and sauce. Honestly, I don't remember what the sauce was. It might have been caramel, but the fact that I ate the dish only a few days ago and don't remember might be a good thing.
I will grant that it was a Friday night and they were very busy. The guy behind the bar was doing a great job taking care of those of us at the counter. But the quality of the food, while adequate, was only that -- adequate. Not bad enough to complain about, but far from exceptional or even memorable and nothing to warrant a return.
That is too bad. I have had the bouillibaisse several times and always thought it outstanding. Not only the stew but the rouille as well. I also really like the stuffed sole but it is very rich. On the plus side, it reheats really well in a microwave. The only thing I have had there I wouldn't order again was the Salad Nicoise. I found the tuna too thick and a little tough.
I had brunch there a few weeks ago and my omlette was cooked perfectly for my taste, although I don't know what makes the ham Zoe's ham (and didn't ask, which I should have.)
We stopped in last night for dessert and had a really great gateau de noix ($8 nightly special) that was unlike anything I've had before. Good walnut flavor with a hint of espresso and an unusual texture, which the server said was due to using bread crumbs instead of flour. Also had very good profiteroles ($7, like all items on the regular dessert menu), very crunchy puff paste and a nice, bitter chocolate sauce.
They had a sign up for a "night owl" special, after 8:30pm Monday through Thursday, wines by the bottle under $100 are half off, for a limited time only.