A meal this weekend at the upstairs cafe at Chez Panisse was somewhere between ok and disappointing (for Chez Panisse). Please understand that this report comes from a fan of Chez Panisse.
Pizzeta. Considering other places that serve full sized pizza with better results at same or lower price, the pizzeta was a huge disappointment. Undercooked and felt more like random ingredients tossed on top of a piece of flatbread versus a small pizza. The egg supplied the richness that was needed to cover the blandness of the broccoli that couldn’t been helped by the olives alone. This dish reminds me of the ‘fig on a plate’ comment.
The rockfish and shellfish stew came with a bunch of clams cooked in a saffron broth and fennel. Came with a toast and rouille. The seafood was adequately prepared. The fennel added a sweet and floral dimension to the dish and was my highlight. I was hoping to sample, dip the toast in or drink the broth but it was extremely salty so its impossible.
Grilled duck breast with rapini and carrots. Medium rare duck breast was tender, juicy and simply prepared. My wife liked the rapini. Adequate.
Warm, personal and efficient service.
I hadn’t been back to Chez Panisse cafe for almost a decade since moving away from Berkeley.
My memory of the cafe was that they had always coaxed maximum flavors from the top notch ingredients supplied to the restaurant (I still remember that wonderful squash soup from many years ago). The dishes from this meal ranged from subpar to adequate, but I had a hard time remember any of the flavor components that stood out. The meal struggled to differentiate itself from Cal-American joints in the suburbs around the Bay Area, let alone SF/ Oakland.