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Sep 27, 2012 02:50 PM

Five in Berkeley

Haven't seen much discussion on this restaurant in downtown Berkeley, so I thought I'd chip in here. After a movie at the nearby Landmark Theatre, headed to the Hotel Shattuck to check out the restaurant. I really liked the look of the place with its spiffy tile floor and dramatic space.

One of my friends ordered the prix fixe menu (beet salad, roasted game hen, and cinnamon apple strudel. I ordered the scallops and prawns with the pork belly as an appetizer. The table of four also shared biscuits with pimiento cheese and cornbread with honey butter.

Everyone liked their food, but the top dish was definitely the pork belly. My seafood was high quality and fresh, but interestingly I liked the black rice the best of everything in my entree. Oddly enough the "head-on prawns" didn't have their heads on. Maybe it meant they were cooked on and then later beheaded?

The biscuits were great -- light and fluffy. Although I think I would have preferred the honey butter with them instead of the pimiento cheese. Unfortunately, I didn't get the chance to try out the cornbread; I was hoping to compare it to Pican's, my favorite so far.

My husband and I split the buttered pound cake with berries and creme fraiche. My only regrets were that I never saw any lemon curd and that my husband finished it off while I wasn't looking, a rarity with him for desserts.

All in all, a great meal!

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  1. After a few visits, I really like Revival better - five is OK though.

    1. Oh, I agree - Five is our fav in Berkeley. Great service, especially from Dwight, who is terrific, a real professional.

      We haven't gone back to Revival in a while - the food was a bit erratic. A great sauce on the rack of lamb but some dishes were just messy. And the service was terrible - one of those big empty dining rooms so all the waiters decided it would be more entertaining to chat in the back, near the kitchen, instead of paying attention to the half-dozen tables in the front that were occupied. But we do enjoy Venus, though not as much as Five, so maybe we'll give Revival another shot soon.

      Our last meal at Five back in May this year (our eighth visit since late 2009) was the best ever. The flatbread with duck sausage, and the grilled prawns with chickpeas, were amazing! We really like Chef White's cooking.

      1. We've always gone pretheater and had pleasant meals and good cocktails, although I wish the menu would change more often given how brief it is. I like that it's a different feel from the other Berkeley rests and easy in and out.

        1. i read somewhere recently that there's a chef change coming. we went last night. everything was tasty but not really amazing. maybe the cheesy biscuits were amazing. the orzo mac-n-cheese with mushrooms and sundried tomatos was good but actually a tad bland.
          the young lettuce salad was very fresh and nice.
          i didn't get to taste our friend's fried chicken, though she said it wasn't breast, as she'd been told (she doesn't like dark meat). but overall she liked it.
          our rib-eyes (substituted for the prime rib that was listed on the menu - i guess they were out) were delicious. huge, and perfectly cooked. good with blistered shisito peppers.
          the robuchon-style butter puree was very good too, though i detected a lot of little lumps - i didn't mind them but it's not the silky experience i would have expected. but exceptionally buttery.

          the service was really pretty sub-par, and what really turned me off to the place. really slow. we were ignored a lot of the time, though the place wasn't busy. i saw a lot of the staff kind of just playing around, chatting, but out of earshot or gesture-shot, so it was hard to get their attention. they also forgot to put the puree in my sister's to-go bag, which she'd asked for.

          i really was not impressed enough to go back.

          13 Replies
          1. re: mariacarmen

            The last two visits to Five (Aug-Sep) haven't been up to par with the past (the most recent visit before a movie was actually pretty bad: soggy spring rolls and quite small portions). The menu descriptions still sound good until you get your food. I heard the exec chef left earlier this year and unfortunately it tastes like it. There was supposed to be a new chef in place in August. I hope for a change soon or else we'll need to find a new pretheater spot.

            1. re: rubadubgdub

              pre-theater for me in that area is Comal. find something new and excellent every time.

              1. re: mariacarmen

                A recent trip to the Freight ("new freight", sigh) had me trying to sneak into Revival, but they were booked fully and full at the bar. We walked down to Five and had a quick and acceptable meal. The waitstaff seemed hard to find but earnest once they showed up, and got us back out on time. Biscuts were a hit.

                1. re: mariacarmen

                  So Comal's no res policy hasn't been an issue w timing? Sometimes we only have 1-130h before curtain.

                  1. re: rubadubgdub

                    i've hit Comal early enough before a 6:30 or later movie, and it's not crazy busy yet.

                    1. re: mariacarmen

                      That definitely varies. I've gone to Comal right around 5:30, when they open, and been told the wait was over an hour.

                2. re: rubadubgdub

                  Chef Banks White left FIVE on May 31, 2013. He is now in NYC, and will be cooking at Minton's Jazz Club, a classic 1930's historic revival.

                  I wasn't able to find anything about a new exec chef being named yet. All the sous chefs have remained, according to the restaurant mgr. We ate at Five shortly before Chef White left and were able to thank him for many great dinners, and wish him good luck in the future.

                  Five's portions were never large. Designed for 3- and 4-course meals.

                  1. re: jaiko

                    The new chef is Stephane Tonnelier, he started a few weeks ago.


                    1. re: Robert Lauriston

                      Anything more about this lately? The online menu is still from the fall.

                      1. re: Glencora

                        We went twice late 2013:

                        - Dinner Oct 2013
                        Very good but not as on point as when Banks White was running the kitchen. Chef Tonnelier has a little too much of the "more is better" and the food lacks that exquisite sense of balance under White (who was classically French trained).

                        The duck ala orange variant was good, but adding grapes was unnecessary and too sweet when there were already oranges and pomegranate seeds. Plus, Tonnelier likes blazingly hot plates, so the duck breast cooked to the medium state by the time it got from the kitchen to our table.

                        Burrata starter with an eggplant terrine (basically a stack of ratatouile ingredients was excellent. But again, on spouse's gnocchi, it went overboard with a wild boar ragĂș, mushrooms, fried sage, pickled red onions, seasonal vegetables, and glazed walnuts.Too many ingredients, but the flavor of the ragĂș was very good and the gnocchi, although oddly triangular in shape, were excellent if not the lightest we've ever had.

                        Dessert was better than average but not stellar. Coffee has improved but is still a weak point.

                        Service has suffered. I've seen complaints about service on Yelp have risen. We were comped an order of the biscuits (left from White's reign, and just as good as ever - we consider them the best in town) in between starter and mains, due to lengthy wait. Didn't have to order them, the manager simply brought them by and said they were free, which was smart and a nice touch.

                        - Brunch Nov 2013
                        Extremely good, the best brunch we've had there yet. Although again, those blazing hot plates almost did in a lovely confit duck hash. Tonnelier really needs to back off on this.

                        The pancakes were phenomenal, and I don't say that lightly. Like the biscuits, previous chef White had Five using only the best soft white flour, and they are still clearly sticking to his recipe. Skip the fruit and go for the maple syrup. It's the real stuff, and they'll bring you more (we weren't charged for additional syrup, unlike most places).

                        Steak and eggs was hanger cut and done perfectly, with a lovely mushroom jus.

                        1. re: jaiko

                          Thanks. That's helpful.

                          Trying to find a place for a weekday birthday dinner in downtown Berkeley. We've done Revival several times and one of the (grumpy) guests hates Comal and Gather. I think it's down to Five or Belli Osteria. I've enjoyed the food at both places, but not recently. Five is probably more festive, assuming the service doesn't ruin the experience. I loved the pasta at Belli Osteria...but it isn't my birthday.

                          1. re: Glencora

                            Usually the mgr is roaming around the restaurant at Five. Get him on your side by letting him know right away that you're celebrating a special occasion. Helps stack the odds in your favor. Have a great time!

                            1. re: Glencora

                              i don't know if you've been there, but i personally didn't find the look/atmosphere and yes, service to be particularly festive. i actually found it rather bleak. but it's been months.

                              how about Stella Nonna, on San Pablo? a bit more casual...

                              ETA, OOPS - just read below that you've already been....

                3. I went in for drinks with a friend the other day because they were open around 4 when most places were closed. Mixed seasoned nuts seemed less crunchy and flavorful than they should have been. Olives were fresh and fruity. Big portions for the price. Wine prices were good.