Julia's @Berkeley City Club

I’m (as usual) a bit late in posting any info on this dinner, so mea culpa! Four of us went to Julia’s for dinner. To my surprise, chef Alan Grimaud has left after 2 yrs and the new chef is Wolfgang Weber, who seems to have a fairly short resume.

The menu at Julia’s is varied but not overlong, and the four of us probably covered 70% of it. I missed the Spanish-Mediterranean touches of Grimaud; Weber seems to lean more to the classic French side (not that this is a bad thing!). All of us enjoyed the meal, although we’d rank it a level below our favs: La Folie, Etoile (now closed), Walter Hansel Bistro, and Andre’s Bouchee.

There is an overall impression the cooking is slightly richer/fattier than Grimaud’s dishes. I’d put Weber’s cooking in-between Grimaud’s and the very classic Le Chapeau!/SF, on the richness scale. If you are a fan of Chez Panisse then Weber’s cooking may not be what you’re looking for.

Potato leek soup was very good. Beet salad had a lovely balance. Burrata with balsamic strawberries was exceptional due to properly grilled toasts; overgenerous in size as this starter would have easily divided up for 6 people. I’m a bug on good toast, because so few line cooks know how to make good toast on a grill, producing burned-edge, hard-as-rock croutes. Julia’s is one of the few places where the grill marks are clearly defined yet the bread is soft and tender inside, just as it should be.

Lamb loin was excellent but the kale side had an unexpected addition of creme fraiche. The others don’t like creme fraiche so I took it, switching my veggies (green & wax beans, very nice) with my friend. This to me is a menu error way too many restaurants make; my spouse loathes creme fraiche and when it’s used in a dish, the menu SHOULD mention this.

Salmon was also good; note should be made that the whole grain pilafs at Julia’s are exceptionally well done. In two visits we’ve had farro, barley, and quinoa pilafs as entree sides. All are properly cooked; e.g., well-done. The grains are soft and really absorb the flavorings as half-cooked whole grains never do.

Flatiron steak had mashed Peruvian potatoes. The pale lilac color was startling, but wow, what flavor! Surprised all of us.

Tried all four desserts. Chocolate ganache was very good, as was the fig cake. Peach cobbler a fail with goopy oversweetened juices ruining the good fresh peach slices. Winner was the bananas Foster bread pudding: lovely custardy texture, great flavor and not too sweet.

Coffee at Julia’s is Peet’s Major Dickinson brand, not our fav but adequate when freshly brewed. Service is usually good but did not like our waiter this time, whose abrupt manner was more suited to a McDonald’s take-out than the relaxed gracious atmosphere of the City Club.

Not the equal in Oakland/Berkeley gastronomic pleasure to Pican or The Barrel Room, but a fine place to choose when you want to have a quiet, casual-but-nice evening enjoying good food with friends…you know, when you really want to be able to talk and hear people, instead of screaming over Kool-aid cocktails and overpriced bar food, LOL.

Looks like chef Alaun Grimaud is back (on their blog, 20-January-2016):

Ooooh, interesting! Wolfgang Weber didn’t stay long, then. Grimaud is equally skilled with sauces but has a liking for some Spanish/Mediterranean influence in some of his dishes.

We were at Julia’s over Xmas UC break (so easy to park!) and the Alaskan black cod with dill cream sauce was swoonworthy…yum.

I love the building and the decor. The food finally matches its surroundings.

Looking forward to dinner at Julia’s this coming Saturday with an out-of-town couple who are staying in Berkeley… I’m thinking of taking them for a nightcap at the Claremont Hotel. Has anyone been to the bar and if so, what’s the scene?

I also made reservations at Tupper & Reed an hour before our seating time. I haven’t been yet and I’m looking forward to trying it. Here’s hoping the cocktails are on par with B&B! It looks to be a short 7 min. walk to the Berkeley Club so I’m guessing an hour at T&R is a safe window to order at least 2-3 pre-dinner drinks before our dinnder res?

Also, are guests permitted to roam freely through the Berkeley Club before or after dinner and is there much to see/do?

Went last night. Beautiful space and worth visiting for the setting but menu was boring and limited. Small but decent wine list by the glass. Menu was like something you’d find on a first class flight to Europe; uninspired chicken dish, beef dish, salmon, etc. It doesn’t appear to change much with the seasons. I started with a very good gnocchi and pork dish and moved on to a decent albeit tiny cut of short rib which was cooked right but came with a tasteless mushy pile of polenta on the side and nothing else. My wife ordered the chicken which was not very good and was served on a pile of white beans for some reason - protein on protein? No vegetables? Her meal was flat out bad. There are no sides offered. We skipped desert. We had a nice evening with friends and I’m glad we went but I wouldn’t return. Tupper & Reed was also just okay. Cocktails were definitely not on par with B&B or its sister bars in the city.

“Food is a pretty good prism through which to view humanity.”

― Jonathan Gold