Any reports on month-old Origen in Berkeley?
The menu looks inviting ("farm to table," so TMI re sourcing but the dishes are well-thought-out, great flavor combinations) and well-priced (esp $32 tasting menu with $18 wine pairing) and they're starting out ambitiously--both lunch and dinner service, serving dinner until 11pm, and open on Sunday:
But I've driven by several times in the middle of the evening and haven't seen much action. Several very strong reviews on Y____p, but I'm hoping for an opinion from refined chowhound palates.
2826 Telegraph Ave, Berkeley, CA 94705
I stopped by last night (Sunday) a little after 9PM. It's a large space, and was pretty empty. They were out of pizzas, tamales, and one of the fish dishes.
There were several interesting beers, but I got the Navarro Gewurztraminer grape juice. Wow--- I am definitely stopping up at Navarro winery to pick up a case.
We started with a brussel sprouts appetizer, made with pan fried brussel sprouts, sherry vinegar, sieved egg whites, shallots, and chestnuts. It was exceptional. The first bite had a transient asian flavor to it, almost like soy sauce. $9 seemed a little steep for brussel sprouts when I looked at the menu, but in terms of quality and serving size, it was well worth the price (Firefly's $9 sprouts in truffle oil and parmesan sprouts is good, but not worth the price).
The duck sliders ($12.50) came with 3 small sliders and fried sweet potato chips. The soft rolls were great, and the sweet sauce worked well with the duck. The chips were thin yet flavorful.
The hand rolled potato gnocchi were served with a pork ragu and a homemade mascarpone. The ragu was a little bland. The gnocchi were a disaster. They had no noticeable shape, no resistance, and literally had the consistency of mashed potatoes. We considered sending them back to the kitchen, but were happier to have ragu on well seasoned mashed potatoes than we would have been eating leaden gnocchi.
For dessert, we enjoyed their dense chocolate bread pudding.
We sat in booths that didn't have an easy line of sight for the server, but he was still good and attentive.
In a word "DISAPPOINTING "
I typically do not go to restaurants soon after they open. However, given the track record for this location I figured the sooner the better.
As you approach the restaurant you notice the remnants of the old Locanda sign still hanging as just an empty box lit up on the side of the building. The Origen sign hangs over the doorway but without any lights. So they decided to put a neon "OPEN" sign in the window so if you are lucky enough to sit at the window you can have the blue and orange glow of the sign overhead.
The inside is rather nondescript. A study in brown and beige with generic wall hangings.
The menu lacks focus, as pretty much every cuisine is represented. There is Mexican, Italian, Spanish, American, Asian. It reads like a food court. You want a hamburger? Pizza? Pasta? Tamale? Paella? Sliders? We'll even throw in a prix fixe menu for good measure.
When we arrived which was prime dinner hour they were out of paella. I thought it was called "paella of the hour" but maybe more like paella for an hour?
We ordered a variety of dishes, some that were suppose to be hot were lukewarm to cold. The pizza had a strange tough and leathery quality to crust. The shrimp cake was bland and spongy.
On the plus side the service was friendly and attentive.
We also encountered some expected issues with a new restaurant: we asked questions about the menu and often times the server had to run back to the kitchen to find out the answers. Also the timing of courses was spotty with entrees showing up on top of apps.
Overall I would not go back. There are restaurants that serve a better example of every dish on their menu within a 10 minute drive. It really felt like this place was trying to replicate Gather but with a much more ambitious menu of items.
For me it did not work.
2200 Oxford Street, Berkeley, CA 94704
2826 Telegraph Ave, Berkeley, CA 94705
My wife, teenage daughter and I had a good experience there last night. The two of them shared the tasting menu, made easier by the fact that the server accidentally brought an extra dish! The gnocchi was the standout for them, also the pate. I got the flatiron steak, which was fine, if not exactly huge. Timing was definitely off, there were long intervals between some of the courses. It's definitely a large, ambitious menu with almost a confusing amount of information. The decor is nothing to write home about, it reminded us very much of visits to previous restaurants on the site, like Zax Tavern. We'd go back.
I agree, we went there for lunch after thankgiving, so understandably, place was a little empty.
The menu itself was visually hard to read, what with the font changes, and bold typeface, etc. They would be better off with a short blurb at the bottom about the various suppliers. It almost make me feel like they're trying too hard.
Thought the food was good (no angels sang) and just a tad pricey, $40 for 2 at lunch. The prix fix dinner sounds interesting, and I might go back and try that. But, like someone else mentioned, no sure how long it will last.
re: Robert Lauriston
We went to Origen for dinner in Dec 2011 with a friend, and all three of us enjoyed it. Waitstaff, however, is typical Berkeley, mediocre to average except for Liz, who did a very good job for us. But none of them know how to pace a meal where everyone orders a different # of courses; the front is poorly run.
That said, the pizza with chorizo and Manchego cheese was superb. Origen was happy to alter the chicory salad for our friend, something Gather superciliously refuses to do for anyone, even someone with medical food allergies. 5-course pre-fixe was a great bargain, with some very nice dishes on it, including a beautifully handled duck breast altho the pomegranate sauce was sweeter than I like.
Desserts were good, bread pudding very light and a generous serving. Note that the salads are large enough to share, except on the pre-fixes where they're properly sized for one.
We prefer Origen to Gather. Gather's got a real attitude going, and it's getting worse over time. We love FIVE @Hotel Shattuck best of all, but parking around there is a real hassle, day or night. FIVE has the best service of all, though, proving that there are some well-trained waitstaff in Berkeley.