Californian Restaurant in Berkeley, United States: Chez Panisse

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Review
 
Chez Panisse HeartHeartHeart
Restaurants and bars
San Francisco
Location: 37.879608,-122.269048
Open: Dinner Mon - Sat
Price: Expensive
Score (/20): 17.5

Reviewed By

Sue Dyson and Roger McShane
Phone Number: +1 510 548 5525
Address: 1517 Shattuck Avenue
Berkeley, California, 94709
Country: United States
Food Style: Californian

We nearly didn't go to Chez Panisse on our most recent trip to San Francisco because the previous two meals we had had there were so perfect that we didn't want to spoil the memory. But after eating at a couple of the highly trumpeted new restaurants in the city, we felt the need to return.
Don't expect a flashy restaurant. This is more a 'homely' place. Even the pepper and salt shakers are the quaint 1970s wooden variety.
One of the things we always remark on here is how genuinely helpful the waiting staff are. There is a feeling of partnership with the diners as if they are an integral part of the dining experience (which they are). There is never any hint of overservicing but the staff are always alert and ready to assist.
Our only disappointment was a dish of fish cooked in parchment. The fish had been cooked for too long, but the vegetables were perfect and the flavour was lifted to great heights by a stunning green-tinged basil oil.
A warm salad of fresh Chino Ranch beans was accompanied by very sweet caramelised onions and rabbit rillettes on the side. Niman Ranch beef served with the pan juices was accompanied by stunning chanterelle mushrooms, sauteed potatoes and fried eggplant. A perfect dish.
The meal was rounded out by a perfect dessert of spiced pear served with biscotti and crème fraiche ice cream.
On our first visit many years ago we had a menu that you would expect to be very boring. We had chicken and sweet corn soup. (The corn had obviously been picked the same day - absolutely essential if it is to give that sweet, nutty fresh flavour.) Then we had pizza. (Once again, a perfectly thin slice of dough with lovely fresh lobster that had been just cooked through - simple and perfect.) Then we had roast chicken. (Great free-range chicken that had been roasted to perfection.) And we finished with vanilla ice-cream. This meal could have been a description from one of the fast food chains. But everything had been cooked perfectly and had been based on perfect ingredients.
This is why we keep going back!
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