Contra Costa County: Sweetbreads

On CH someone asked for any referrals to EBay restaurants that regularly serve sweetbreads. This is a copy of one of my posts; we had visited Reve/Lafayette and were very pleased with their sweetbreads in May 2018. However, a 2nd visit last night was more erratic:

Report on 2nd visit to Reve with friends Sat 7/14/2018:

Sadly, it was an uneven dinner. Service was professional/engaging but very slow in a couple of areas, seemed a little stretched.

Gougeres, boar pate, and foie gras torchon (all repeats) were excellent. Absolutely do not miss the gougeres, they are stunning. Salads excellent. French onion soup very good but spouse said it was just a bit too salty by the end, not the best version so he’s going to skip it from now on (he prefers the version at Bistro Moulin/Monterey or our now-closed fav, Bouchee/Carmel).

Entrees were mixed. Best was the pork chop special. Sous-vide, perhaps? Meltingly tender, flawless medium rare and absolutely delicious.

Sea bass with corn pancake was very good: ingredients in proportion to one another (e.g.; fish, starch, veggies). Fish was okay but overcooked. Spouse doesn’t care for the brand of cultured butter Reve uses; says he will avoid their butter sauces from now on. He’s pretty fussy about fermented flavors, even slight ones; I thought it was very good.

The important dish: we had 4 orders of sweetbreads (one was shared). Supposedly roasted, served over corn cake/diced zucchini, truffle sauce. My order (fortunately not our guests) was badly overcooked and hard around the thinner edges. All were a little dry with no real seasoning. 1 plate had truffle sauce (2-3 Tblsp as it should be), 1 plate had the barest trace of a drizzle of sauce. 2 plates had NO sauce at all.

Portion of sweetbreads was large, but frankly the handling was clumsy in comparison to the nicely sauteed sweetbreads we had over Memorial Day here on our first visit.

Waits between our courses were extremely long, even for a weekend dinner. We had been advised in advance they were trying to turn the table (we had no objection to this); but I knew if I returned a dish it would probably take at least 10-15 min to receive a replacement.

I would normally have called the waiter over and returned the dish to the kitchen. But this was a matter of special circumstances: I was very unwilling to embarrass our guests (one of them was treating me for my birthday dinner, while I was picking up the table for everyone else), so I preferred to let it slide. In view of how good the offal was in May, I was willing to give the kitchen the benefit of the doubt and assume this was an off-night.

Desserts were good although it was the Ile Flottante, Floating Island that won the most praise.

We would still return to Reve to give them another chance. But AT THIS POINT, based on ONLY two visits, we cannot rate them as highly as JoLe/Calistoga or Bouchee/Carmel, both of which are now closed (Bouchee we visited more than 10x over 8 yrs). Our gold standard for sweetbreads remains Hubert Keller’s Fleur de Lys, also closed.

For consistency, the EBay standard remains Casa Orinda:
20 Bryant Way
Orinda, CA 94563
(Across from the Orinda Theater)

Casa Orinda has a couple of - well, not negatives, but “quirks”:

  • they only make sweetbreads one way, and in 5 yrs of visiting, they have changed the sauce…once. Good as it is, it gets a little boring.
  • parking can be very, very tight on weekends
  • service is good, friendly, but brisk. HOWEVER, if they get the chance to close early, they will. We have twice noticed them not-so-subtly clearing the DR and pretty much encouraging us not to linger over our meals.

The last time this happened I noted the time we left - 9:20p, quite a bit earlier than their stated 10p closing time. And it had been obvious for at least 10 min earlier that they wanted us (the next-to-last last diners) to leave so they could close down.


FYI: Reve/Lafayette will be closed for its annual vacation: July 31 - August 13. Reopening Tuesday August 14.
Also: 50% off bottles of wine every Tuesday & Wednesday at Reve.