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Sep 4, 2009 11:10 PM

Five - Berkeley So close but so so far

We walked in having the best of expectations. A nice space (although the dining room is somewhat odd, and the tables are oddly quite far apart) and we thought the meal would be great. We shared 2 starters, each had a main, and I was done 45 minutes after siting down. The service velocity was absurd. Now, more detail:

We sat down at 8:30. I'd say it was about 10 minutes before we ordered, a squash blossom and the pork belly. Right before the appetizers came, the biscuits came, which were tasty. The appetizer plates were picked up at 8:50. The squash blossoms were tasty (not as good as Town Hall, but good), and the pork belly was quite tasty, too. It came on a bean puree, which would have been nice to taste more of, but unfortunately, that dish was removed before we had a chance to finish the puree. Then, my small plate was removed right from under me with food still in my mouth. We did ask why service seemed so rushed, with some excuses (but there was no excuse for this, as they weren't turning any more tables tonight). Fortunately, it took about 10 minutes for the mains to arrive. I had the pesto spaghetti, which was tasty. I didn't taste the duck, but that plate was licked clean, and removed at 9:17. I was done by 9:15. If it wasn't for drinking the wine at a normal pace, and still having some left, we'd have been in and out in 45 minutes. Instead, we were there just over an hour. The time on the bill is 9:35, and on the credit card slip, 9:41.

We didn't want dessert because well, we really wanted to leave. It is a shame. The food is good to very good, and could be great with a few little touches. It wasn't just our server - they were all running, literally, almost sprinting to/from the kitchen. Please get the kitchen timing and service act together, and I'll be back. It was a really uncomfortable dinner. And believe it or not, everyone was nice.

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  1. Sounds like the other side of my 2 hour dim sum debacle.

    FIVE American Bistro & Bar
    2086 Allston Way, Berkeley, CA 94704

    1. We had a similar experience our first time dining at a table at Five. We had done a reconnaissance mission at the bar couple of weeks earlier, and had a nice experience with cocktails and the smoked salmon with potato cake appetizer. So then we decided to try dinner. We too, were dismayed at the velocity of the service. Our appetizers arrived before our drinks, which was awkward and annoying. Food wise, the apps were great, as were the biscuits and pimento cheese that they serve instead of bread. The rest of the dinner continued at the same warp speed, beverages always arriving from the bar 10 minutes after each course was served. We were out of there in a hour, standing on the curb and wondering what happened.

      It is a shame about the service, because the food was truly delicious, and a refreshing change from the pizza-salumi-small-plates that make up the east bay dining scene. I really want this place to succeed. So we went back last night.

      This time we sat at the bar, hoping the service staff wouldn't be hovering all over us. Again the food was delicious, and this time we deliberately slowed the pace down by ordering the next course only after we'd finished the preceeding one. The husband had a phenomenal short rib dish with cheesy orzo and yellow waxed beans. My halibut was flaky and tender, with a lovely bright green herb sauce. Pretty refined stuff for the amazingly low price point. There were a couple of service bloopers, such as setting food down when we had no silverware. If they can get the service down, they won't have any trouble being successful.

      1. that's too bad about the friends and I went and had almost the opposite experience. We actually sort of thought the pace was a little slow. Though I do agree, pretty much everything we ordered was a hit. I had the flank steak, which was a much bigger portion than I originally thought it would be, which was very flavorful and tender. And I absolutely loved the jalapeno biscuits and pimento spread.