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Dec 27, 2009 08:44 AM

a taste of "Gather"

I applaud the folks at Gather for bringing both elegance and healthy food to downtown Berkeley. Last nite, a few of us enjoyed our lite meal there.

For me, most impressive was the treatment of grains -- the quinoa with mushrooms was outstanding. Nothing at all like the simple (but protein filled) grain I make at home. The bed of kamut on the chicken dish was similarly unique and enjoyable.

But I thought the squid in a kind of Moroccan-inspired stew with garbanzos + tomato sauce + merguez was interesting but not ultimately not successful. The taste of the squid was overpowered by all the other elements in the dish. And the side of greens while tasty, was a little too bland for my taste.

My fellow diners were annoyed by the precious attitude of the servers. When the shoestring fries arrived, someone asked for ketchup, and was promptly told the restaurant doesn't have any. It was like getting reprimanded for asking for milk at a kosher home when served a meat dish. Ultimately, they brought over a small serving of tomato sauce that's probably used as a pizza topping.

And I'm always irked when a restaurant charges extra for bread: $3 for some Acme bread in this case.

But it's a lovely spot, and I look forward to enjoying more of their amazing treatment of grains.

2200 Oxford Street, Berkeley, CA 94704

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  1. Went last night. The place is pretty big, but was almost full when we walked in around 8:45, and was still maybe half-full when they locked the doors at 10.

    Three menus: main, daily specials, and drinks. Here's a new one: "Ask to see our source book."

    The vegan "charcuterie" (i.e., antipasto platter) was really good: eight items including salads, a crostino, a fritter, I forget what all. Everything was well seasoned. One saladish item was a bit overdressed. The spiel for the platter goes on and on. I'd say it would not be easily shareable by more than two people, a party of four should get two. Comes with a plate of grilled Acme levain.

    Special pizza of the day ($16) was a bianca with Savoy cabbage and ... pancetta? guanciale? Great and new-to-me combination. Crust was OK, I'd have liked it slightly thinner and a darker bake. 12", eight slices, ample for two to share as a main course or 4-8 as an appetizer.

    Got the greens ($5) with the pizza, escarole or something like that, tart and well seasoned.

    Cheese plate ($10), two pieces each of three cheeses, nicely selected though a bit cold. Came with a few excellent spiced pecans, a dollop of spiced apple butter, what the waiter said was a spiced apple gumdrop but tasted more like persimmon, and a too-small piece of a great salty cheese cracker, plus a plate of Acme.

    Service was kind of scattered, especially given the seemingly ample staff-to-customer ratio, e.g. we didn't get knives with the pizza or any utensils with the cheese plate.

    The all-California wine list is thoughtful but not to my non-mainstream taste. Only one of the wines sold by the glass (a pinot blanc) was my kind of thing.

    I'll go back. Good addition to the downtown scene, especially with Downtown closed.

    3 Replies
    1. re: Robert Lauriston

      You know, back when they had just opened, my first pizza at Dopo was Napa (possibly Savoy) cabbage with pancetta. It was super, and I have not seen it since.

      1. re: Robert Lauriston

        I also ate at Gather last night. We were a large party celebrating birthdays and, to our chagrin, were split into two tables though we had not been informed that they would be unable to seat us all together.

        The vegan "charcuterie" (my SO found that to be a bizarre term) was the highlight for me. I especially liked the mushroom crostini and the beets with citrus. The cauliflower with garlic bread crumbs was also delicious.

        The special pizza, however, was a huge disappointment. The crust was flavorless, limp, thick and doughy. The topping was flavored mainly by the bacon and I couldn't discern any cabbage. One of my dining mates mentioned that he had been to Gather a few weeks before and had been similarly disappointed in the pizza. He had warned his table away from ordering the pizza, but unfortunately I was sitting at table number 2.

        My SO's fries and burger were solid, particularly the fries. The homemade tomato chutney they serve on the side was delicious. They did run out of buns and subbed with grilled Acme bread slices (again with no explanation or warning), which made the aioli ooze out of the bread holes. My son's chicken under a brick was fine, though nothing special.

        I like the concept and atmosphere and the service was very friendly so I'm sure I'll be back to try the other menu items, but not the pizza.

        1. re: Hungrymama

          We had a good balance of pork and cabbage on the pizza. Crust could be improved.

      2. We tried Gather before Berkeley Rep tonight, after finding FIVE booked up.

        The pork with polenta, escarole and breadcrumbs was really tasty, with a bitter edge. I loved the crunch the breadcrumbs added. The two starters were not as good as they sounded, though. We shared the fried mushrooms with pickled sunchokes and the crispy cardoons with almond pepper sauce and grilled scallion salsa. They both tasted mostly like *something fried*, though the almond pepper sauce was good.

        I was surprised how crowded it was on a Sunday night. The service was fine, maybe a bit cool, but not scattered.

        1. We went to Gather on January 30. As it was a celebration I ordered a cocktail. We ordered our apps and entrees. Our vegan charcuterie plate(very good) came as I was sipping my cocktail. Then our entrees arrived when we were one half way through our vegan plate! We decided not to order dessert and instead ordered two coffees. When the waitress brought the coffees, she also brought the bill. Because I have worked in the restaurant as a pastry chef, I do understand the inner workings of the restaurant business. Perhaps we should not have ordered our food until I was finished with our cocktail. It is evident in out experience that the server and the kitchen were not coordinating. Although the service was pleasant, it was very rushed. There was many tables that were unoccupied when we were finishing our meal.

          2200 Oxford Street, Berkeley, CA 94704

          1. I enjoyed a light pre-concert dinner here last Sunday. Of the vegetarian charcuterie selections, the roasted purple haze carrots, baby potato and celery root salad with marrow bean puree, and roasted white and purple cauliflower with almond pepper sauce were excellent, the vegetables perfectly cooked and the sauces interesting. The mushroom bruschetta was fine but not memorable, and the beet tartare was unseasoned and so rather bland. Wild mushroom and spinach pizza with fontinella was very good. Seems like they've improved their crust compared to earlier reports: it was puffy at the edges but fairly thin throughout, with a bit of char, and not doughy. These two dishes together made a medium-sized meal for two.

            When we sat down, we told our server that we needed to be out in a bit over an hour, and they managed the timing of our two courses well, giving us plenty of time without feeling rushed. When we left at around 7, the place was completely full. Not surrising, after Bauer's good review a couple of weeks ago.

            1. I was downtown craving a burger so I thought I'd try Gather's. Prather Ranch patty, Acme bun or very similar, cheddar, sautéed onions, and aioli, plus good fries and a small green salad, $13. Hit the spot. Hasn't displaced Mua as my favorite but I'll likely order it again.

              This place is doing a good business--at 9:30 on a Monday night it was nearly full.

              They are serving lunch now, 11am-2pm weekdays. Brunch "coming soon."

              2200 Oxford Street, Berkeley, CA 94704