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Jul 2, 2012 12:50 PM

One upscale restaurant in Berkeley?

Hey, I'm a Vancouver chowhounder, visiting in the East Bay. My hosts want me to pick a "fancy" restaurant for Tuesday, but I don't know enough to make a decision on my own. I'm hoping some Bay Area chowhounders might be able to help me out. I'm already aware of Chez Panisse as the prototype Berkeley restaurant, but I'm curious what others might have to say about it and other upscale restaurants in Berkeley. I'm open to ethnic cuisines, but it seems like I should be aiming for something "California".


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  1. In general, "Berkeley" and "upscale" don't go together. There are good restaurants, of course--just not fancy ones. A couple of places to consider that fit your "California" category are Rivoli on Solano Ave and Cafe Rouge in the Fourth Street shopping area. Cafe Rouge is more consistent in its use of local, seasonal ingredients, and parking will be easy. Rivoli has a more charming space and the food and service can be quite good, although I've encountered occasional lapses in both. Either would be a good choice based on what you've described.

    1. Are you married to Berkeley?

      Oakland has Commis which blows just about everything else in the East Bay out of the water...

      After that, I would suggest Plum or Wood Tavern.

      1 Reply
      1. re: CarrieWas218

        +1 on all three of the above. Plum has tables Tuesday to boot. Another recommendation below is for Camino, but they are closed Tuesday just FYI.

      2. Oliveto is close to the Berkeley-Oakland border, has well-executed California/Mediterranean menu and "upscale" dining room ambiance and service (prices to match).

        1 Reply
        1. re: dordogne

          Go to Chez Panisse Cafe if you can get in. I've had outstanding meals there. It's in Berkeley proper. I haven't been to Oliveto since Canales left but recent reports say the food is still good, so I'd second this as an "upscale" choice. Love Commis but it's a tasting menu format only now and everyone would need to want to do that. Camino is my go to EBay restaurant for perfect cocktails, delicious food cooked on open fire, and relaxed, warm setting good for all occasions.

        2. Thumbs up re Chez Panisse Cafe (and the "fancier" downstairs Chez Panisse Restaurant, w/ a daily fixed price menu).

          Wood Tavern: good second choice.

          While I like Cafe Rouge, I don't think it's a special occasion place. Rivoli can be good, but isn't always. I'm down on Oliveto's these days (small portions, high prices, some items like pastas are brilliant, other dishes not so much). And I know I'm in the minority on this Board, but I find Commis precious.

          De gustibus..... And have a lovely time in the East Bay!

          1. I'm a big fan of Lalime, which is sort of Berkeley/Albany

            It's perfect for a special occasion. People have mentioned Rivoli, but I agree with sundeck sue that it can disappoint.

            2 Replies
            1. re: MagicMarkR

              Oh, and a follow-up. You asked about impressions of Chez Panisse. Be aware there is a downstairs and an upstairs. The downstairs is the "fancy" side of CP, and is a fixed price menu. It can be hard hard to get reservations. In my opinion, The interesting menus tend to be weekends, and of course are fairly highly priced on those days, and harder to get reservations. During the week I find there are more moderately priced menus, but too often in my opinion, you find it to be fare you could make easily enough at home (which of course was kind of the point and "mission" of CP originally). But spending $30 for a game hen? meh.

              The upstairs is more casual, and the menu gives choices. I've found the upstairs to be wonderful and disappointing --sort of depends on what you order. Of course, the times it was disappointing were when I went with overly high expectations based on the wonderful times.

              I think you are wise to look around for alternatives: CP no longer stands alone on the top of the mountain.