Slow Restaurant - Berkeley Gourment Gulch area
They opened last Thursday and the crowds are still light, but with many curious faces peering in through the window. Slow makes up the last of the Trotter Trio (eVe & Chocolatier Blue also have Charlie Trotter alums) on that block of University Ave.
i stopped by for dinner. not what i was expecting at all, but i loved it. super casual, just a little narrow counter along the wall with little square seats to plop yourself down on like a little lunch counter for short people. service was very friendly and helpful behind the counter and the food smells coming from the stove had us on our tip-toes eyeballing the action going on in the kitchen. the place was not crowded on a thursday night at 5:30, only 2 other diners at that time, which was a total surprise cause the food rocked. we started off with the margherita "puffed" flatbread, chilled mussels in broth with citrus, i had the braised short rib and my friend had the chicken confit. additionally i tried the peach and strawberry lemonade. everything was excellent.
the flatbread was actually a puff pastry base with a medley of veggies and feta and balsamic and olive oil drizzled on top. WONDERFUL. the mussels came out in this small looking container but actually held quite a few shelled mussels, probably at least 15 in a light cool broth with pickled onions and had a great combination of subtle savory, sweetness and a little tart.
my friend enjoyed the chicken, which i also tried and found to be very tasty. it had a nice crisp roasted skin on it and went well with the beans, haricots and the beets. my short rib was sooo tender and flavorful it just pulled apart with my fork. juicy to the last bite, though there's little evidence to that fact, since i completely cleaned my plate. this was really a very generous portion in my opinion. i found the prices more than reasonable and can't wait to go back.
this is no fancy spot though, so don't go there thinking white table tops with fancy silverware and plating. they serve everything on paper plates and plastic (recyclable?) utensils. i actually found it very amusing to be eating such great, high quality, well prepared food on a standard paper plate, and appreciated every bite of it.
last, they were selling individual cookies at the front counter, nice thick, chewy cookies, (chocolate-chocolate, oatmeal-currant, peanut butter and chocolate chip). At $2, they are a little pricey, but they are pretty big, and i really enjoyed the oatmeal-currant that I bought. I actually think it's a contender for my favorite oatmeal cookie in the Eastbay, though I think I'll have to try it a few more times to be sure. the lunch menu also looks tempting with it's various sandwiches.
1964 University Ave, Berkeley, CA 94701
1966 University Ave, Berkeley, CA 94704
We went for dinner at Slow tonight and enjoyed the food on the whole. They were sold out of the flatbread, so we got the mixed vegetable crudite ($5, I believe) to start instead--two slices of baguette served with some hummus and a pretty generous mix of fresh and pickled veggies. The hummus was very mild (not garlicky) but wasn't bad; I just wished they gave us more bread to go with everything. Overall, this was OK, but I don't think I'd order it again.
My wife had the pasta entree ($9), which was listed on the menu as linguine, but what they served us was penne--maybe they ran out of the linguine? The woman who took our orders didn't mention anything. Anyway, the pasta was a bit too far past al dente. The arugula pesto sauce was tasty enough, though, and there were also some cherry tomatoes and olives. My wife liked the dish, but it wasn't anything special.
I had the chicken confit, as described above by the OP. This was simply outstanding, definitely the highlight of the meal. Really crisp skin, great flavor. I enjoyed all the sides too: the beets, the haricot vert, the flageolet beans. A bargain at $11.
Dessert was a fruit cobbler, which tasted pretty good, but I thought there was something off about it texturally. It probably would have been better served warm instead of at room temperature.
We also got one of the big, chewy chocolate chip cookies to go (they were sold out of the oatmeal). Pretty good, and I thought $2 was a fair price given the size.
Overall, the closest comparison I can make would be to Gregoire--but with a little bit more seating (but barely so) and more reasonable prices, at least for dinner. (Dinner entrees here are $3 to $5 cheaper than the ones at Gregoire, which isn't insignificant.) But it's the same gourmet-food-served-super-casually kind of vibe.
I have to say, though, that I found the dining environment at Slow to be a little off-putting. I didn't mind that it was casual, didn't mind ordering at the counter, didn't mind the paper plates and plastic utensils. But I felt like the seating was a lot more cramped than it needed to be. The OP describes it above as "like a little lunch counter for short people," which is apt, but I didn't see that as a good thing, especially since there wasn't really even anywhere to put your coat except in your lap. And when the couple seated right next to us, by the window, started making out--quite loudly and vigorously--well ... that was uncomfortable.
Anyway, I would like the place a lot better if they added a coat rack (simple things, I know) and maybe fit in a couple of small tables--and maybe a couple tables outside too, if that's allowed. In any case, I'll reserve judgment until they've had a few more weeks to settle in and tweak things.
(Also, not to get off topic, but what would people say is standard tipping etiquette at a place like this, where it isn't table service per se? I still gave the full 20%, but I'd be curious to know if that's the norm.)
1966 University Ave, Berkeley, CA 94704
I had lunch there today. I accidentally ordered two sandwiches, but it ended up being a good thing. (How does one do that? Well, I didn't notice the SANDWICH header on the menu and assumed the caprese was simply a salad.)
I was surprised when 2 sandwiches arrived on my tray, as I had already gotten a fork for the salad. The other "sandwich" was the pulled pork. I say "sandwich" because it was more like two little appetizer sized sandwichettes, the size of each might be passed around by a waiter at a cocktail party. That said, they were very tasty, as was my "salad on a croissant." Between the two things, I was almost full. I think the two together (sans tax/tip) was $11, which was fine, but just note that certain items are going to be on the quite small side.
I didn't really like the seating, and the counter seemed quite narrow. Friendly staff. I'll probably return to check some additional items out.
I've been back a few times since the above post, including today for lunch. The sandwich size has improved (substantially) and the food remains very good. It even warmed up enough to eat on the patio this afternoon, without a jacket. Pulled pork, the orzo salad, and we shared the cobbler. Yum. Lemonade was also very good.
Lunch there today was adequate. Braised shortribs in a sandwich had good flavor, but the portion was small and the flavor was buried among the dressings and toppings. It was on ciabatta bread that was sandwich-sliced, rather than bun-sliced, and the dressings seeped through making it kind of soggy and hard to hold. The potato salad was fine. I'll be back to try the dinner dishes.