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Revival Bar and Kitchen, Berkeley

Revival, in the former Downtown space, opened just over a week ago, with the executive chef and part ownership in common with Venus. I had dinner there tonight, as it was chosen for a birthday by a family member.

There is a large bar, and another area opposite with more bar stools. Right now it's open for dinner Tuesday to Saturday, 5:3--10; the bar is open until midnight, and there is apparently a bar snacks menu, available until 10. They'll open for lunch June 17.

There's a cocktail list with a few creative drinks and some classics (a Pegu was very well made) and a brief wine list. The menu has half a dozen each or so appetizers, salads (these are as much meat-heavy as veg), and entrees. The food is along the lines of Venus's offerings - New American/Californian, seasonal, sustainable and local seafood, etc. - but more refined and a bit more expensive for entrees (low-mid $20s, vs high teens-low $20s). Entrees include fish, duck, goat, apps/salads include squid, (I think) pork cheeks, and soup of the day had goat. the one veg entree was pasta.

I tasted: Grilled sardines with white bean puree and dill pesto. The two sardines were small enough and well-enough charred outside that one could eat them bones and all. The dill pesto was pleasant, the puree a plate filler.

A special of potato gnocchi with morels and truffle oil, browned in a cazuela with a bit of broth. Nice and light, the truffle oil not overdone.

Halibut with morels, asparagus, marble potatoes, olives. The halibut was perfectly cooked with a nicely crisp exterior, morels fulfill their own mandate, asparagus shaves too thin to have much presence, olives superflous. Overall, successful.

I didn't taste the duck breast; the person who ordered it thought it was okay, not great; it was cooked medium-well. Forgot to ask about the raw kale salad with prosciutto, but the eater seemed to like it.

Brioche beignets came with four slicks of sauce, chocolate-chicory, caramel, blackberry sage (maybe? the herb wasn't really present), and custard. The beignets were well made, being brioche, not as light as some others. Five bite-size beignets, four slicks of sauce - good, but not a ton of there there.

It is clearly aiming for the pre- and post-theater and concert crowds (we dined early and were asked if we needed to get to a show), and it will be good for that. It's a handsome enough room, lots of distressed wood, distressed, walls, but it will be plenty loud when full, with a dropped ceiling that's still quite high around the perimeter only.

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Revival Bar & Kitchen
2102 Shattuck Ave, Berkeley, CA 94704

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  1. On Tuesday night starters and salads were $8 to $12.50 and entrees were $18.50 to $24.

    1. Nice report. Sounds like they might have the space pointed in the right direction.

      The thing about Downtown was you could never get a good sense of the place. Really nice space as you mentioned but it always seemed to want to be more then it could and never hit its mark.

      Being in the heart of a large student population and the prices, didn't help. If they hit the theater and the out-of-town mom and dad dinner, seems like they have a chance.

        1. re: rworange

          I ate there with three friends on June 25. We had the squash blossoms, which were awesome: rich without being greasy. The grilled sardines were also very good; they convinced a non-fish eater that she loved sardines. I don't remember the bean puree mentioned by the OP; maybe they've dropped it? The bone marrow/arugula flatbread was good enough, but it paled in comparison to the other two starters. We also had two salads, which I honestly don't remember. I think one had beets.

          We shared two entrees between the four of us: the Mixed Pig Plate was delicious, especially the house-made sausage and the slow roasted shoulder. The sauce was excellent. The loin and the ribs were fine, but the other two items were standouts. Also, it wasn't really THAT much of a pig mix, especially for a place that bills itself as "snout to tail." (From the EB Express article it sounds like they've replaced the ribs with pork belly; a step in the right direction, but still...). We also had a fish dish.... I think it was halibut? Very well cooked but I remember the sides (arborio rice cake) and the sauce (a very delicious and non-baby food-y carrot puree) better than the fish.

          So, that was all the good stuff... alas, service was pretty uneven. I think the bar may have been a big part of the culprit: we waited 20 minutes for each round of (not very complicated) drinks, and orders were forgotten. We also got the wrong salad and then we were overcharged. Getting the bill fixed took 15 minutes even though we had already told our server that we needed to get to a show soon (we wanted dessert but we didn't have time). Our server was very apologetic but it didn't fix the fact that the last 20 minutes of our dining experience were stressful and irritating. Good thing I had that sausage memory to keep me happy.

          Overall, it was a good reminder to me that service can make or break a restaurant experience. Hopefully they'll work out the kinks soon.

          1. re: Mola

            I went with my folks and ordered two of the same apps, with opposite results - we loved the fig/bone marrow/arugula flatbread (like a prosciutto and fig pizza, but way more luxurious), and found sardines to be just ok. We also had goat meatballs in a yogurt sauce, which were interesting but too salty.

            The mixed Pig Plate was excellent for us as well, while the halibut and goat stew were just ok. For the style, I prefer Camino, but I would go back to Revival for a cocktail (which I didn't have at this dinner) and the fig and marrow flatbread.

        2. A large, dim, cool (air conditioned!) space for an early dinner. I like the floor lamps, the banquets that look like leather sofas, the bookcases and "Persian carpet" in the middle of the room -- all giving the suggestion of an eccentric uncle's library.

          Loved the crunchy breadcrumbs on the tuna-stuffed piquillo peppers. The halibut was well-cooked. My friend found the pig plate to be almost too much of a good thing.

          Good service, well-paced meal before a 7PM show.

          Only problem was that I ordered a gross cocktail. At least I found it so. The Farmer Jane tasted like cough medicine. Bleh. The server offered to replace it, but I felt funny accepting, since it was my own fault. Otherwise, a very nice meal.

          1. Went last night for the first time in a while.

            The two salads we ordered ($11 each) were outstanding. One included asparagus, dandelion greens, roasted sunchokes, and artichoke hearts, nice combination of spring flavors and textures. The other had black kale, roasted cauliflower, hard-boiled eggs, Carmody cheese, and walnuts, this was outstanding and a very generous serving. The waiter said they pack the kale in salt, I'm not sure what that means but it was somehow wilted while retaining its raw flavor. I want to try to duplicate this at home.

            Flatbread with smoked garlic and fennel sausage with peppers and onions ($12) was a lot more food than the flatbreads I'd had here previously, they piled on the toppings, so it was almost like an open-faced sandwich. Very tasty.

            Entrées are a *lot* of food, next time I'd skip the flatbread. Wine-braised beef cheeks ($22) came with sunchoke purée (I think mixed with potatoes), big chunks of tender beets, and sautéed red chard, a really earthy combination. Pork chop ($25) came with grilled rapini and spring onions and duck-fat fried potatoes (could have been fried more).

            At that point we were stuffed, and taking home a bunch of leftovers, but managed to find room for apple sorbet (tasted like it had a healthy splash of Calvados), orange-cardamom sorbet, and roasted coconut ice cream. These were some of the most creative combinations I've had and all worked really well.

            Good service, delicious wines, good music, overall very nice. I'm not sure what they did to the space but it's a lot cozier feeling than Downtown.

            Chalkboard said happy hour M-F 2:30-5:59.

            1 Reply
            1. re: Robert Lauriston

              +1 for revival. This place is firing on all cylinders. Good service handsome room... but the food.

              I blew in late, my friends had already started, and had ordered for me. There was "some kind of soup", which was pretty good but not great (and I never found out what kind of soup), some very nice grilled veg for the table, an astonishing stuffed rabbit, and flatbread (meh).

              Later, I came in by myself and got a squash blossom stuffed with goat cheese in a ragout-type tomato slow-cook thing. That was a very good dish. The tomatoes were a slice of summer, deep taste, not too sweet.

              The depth and pure *amount* of flavor they were pulling into the dishes, without too much salt, was impressive. And, I think we were at $150/5 people (half with one glass of alcohol, no desert), means the place is reasonably priced.

              Compared to Spruce a few days earlier --- I'd go to revival every day of the week and twice on sunday.

            2. revival feels a little bit like the East Bay's version of NOPA

              6 Replies
                1. re: bbulkow

                  they sound pretty good and looked pretty good going to the other tables. what went wrong?

                  "Marin Sun Farm's grassfed chuck, housemade bacon, seascape cheddar, lettuce, and dijonaise"

                  served with house salad or hand-cut fries

                  1. re: drewskiSF

                    Pretty sure that's a lunch item, but not on dinner menu. Definitely not on the current dinner menu when I walked by yesterday.

                    1. re: Caitlin McGrath

                      you're right, it's not on the current dinner menu.

                2. re: vulber

                  I think that's because both spaces use to be banks or similar nice institutional type buildings and serve Cal/new American cuisine.

                  1. re: ML8000

                    not to mention open late, in a busy area, have market-driven cocktails, wood-burning stoves....i even recognized a server there that used to work at nopa (not that it means a whole lot)

                3. Had a decent if pricey dinner here this week. NOPA (a place I don't especially like) is probably an apt comparison, although I don't think Revival's execution is as good.

                  Chicken-fried rabbit appetizer was a generous portion of boneless fried bunny. Tasty, but served with a drowned sliced fig and overdressed greens.

                  Goat-cheese stuffed squash blossoms in a cazuela with roasted (canned) tomatoes was an odd disappointment. The squash were missing, so this was a mess of hot cheese and canned tomatoes. Didn't taste bad, but not really the summer dish I'd hoped for.

                  Little gems salad with avocado, beets, and turnips was very good, but overdressed, and I'd asked for light dressing. Not sure why the baby beets were hidden under the lettuce. Whatever they did to the sliced turnips was great.

                  The dishes all tended on the sweet side; a lighter hand with dressing and more acid/balance would have helped. I found myself longing for bitter greens.

                  Service was eager but not terribly professional. Two different servers and at least three bussers, one who kept taking away unused utensils even though there were more dishes to come. The main server checked on each dish too late to resolve issues, or I might have pointed out the salad had a ton of dressing.

                  A note that the apparently very popular happy hour has moved earlier. It now ends at 5:30. Cocktails are pricey, and didn't appeal especially. The wines by the glass are well priced and interesting. It is a pretty place. Would like the bar better if the bar stools had backs.

                  1. Great banh mi with house-made ham, pate, and mousse for Sunday Streets today.