Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Cesar in Berkeley

A friend was in town visiting for one night only. A 7:10 pm arrival at the Oakland airport meant a quick pick up (gotta love the Park and Call at OAK) and then off to find some dinner. I figured we'd head over to the Gourmet Ghetto in Berkeley for surely there would be some place that would entice us, and that could seat us without a reservation. The Gourmet Ghetto, around Cedar and Shattuck in the northern part of Berekley, is home to such restaurants as Chez Panisse, Cesar, Cafe de la Paz, two Thai restaurants (I prefer Dara Thai over Cha-Am), Gregoire and Barney's for gourmet hamburgers. After looking at a couple of menus, and politely being told at Chez Panisse Cafe that they couldn't seat us, we headed to Cesar right next door for Spanish Tapas and drinks.

I've gotten a little tired of small plate joints , having recently eaten from the small plate menus at Cha Cha Cha and Tallula in San Francisco, but Cesar was fresh and exciting. We sat at the bar, and got caught up, with a Bandol Rose in hand. We ordered 4 dishes, mostly on the recommendation of the bartender. The braised monkfish with fennel was excellent, and we soaked up the juice with fresh bread. We ordered the green and yellow bean salad with a mustard dressing, light and refreshing. The patatas bravas, chunks of potatoes piled high with tomato aioli were deliciously spiced, and the salt cod, a little too salty perhaps, rounded out the meal. With just a little room for something sweet we shared the Mel i Mato - fresh ricotta salada, Frog Hollow peaches and almonds, drizzled with honey.

Cesar definitely earns it's spot in the Gourmet Ghetto, and reminds me that small plates can leave you a satisfied, and satiated, foodie.

Monday, August 08, 2005

Oh Brother!

Yes, I'm still alive. Family and friends have been extremely vocal letting me know that I've let them down by not keeping up lately. It's not that I haven't had any culinary adventures as of late, rather the new job is keeping me busy. In a good way. The ability to blog at work is now non-existent and the desire to sit in front of a computer in the evening has diminished. Let's see if we can strike a good balance.....

A recent culinary adventure took me to Brothers Korean Restaurant, an authentic Korean BBQ restaurant on Geary Street. We arrived on a Wednesday night around 7:30pm, the doorway crowded with groups waiting for a table. The restaurant has 10 or 12 long tables with barbecue grills in the middle to cook up a meatfest right there at the table. There are 5 or so other tables
in the middle room sans barbecue grills that are often empty while the crowd waits for the do-it-yourself opportunity. We waited an hour for a barbecue table, all the while the sweet, smoky barbecue scents soaked into our hair, our clothes, and teased our stomachs.

We already knew what we wanted when we sat down having read the menu and spoken to the regulars waiting with us. We ordered the marinated beef and shrimp for the grill, and a noodle dish. It took no time at all for the beef and shrimp to come, and the server started our first round by putting some on our smoking grill. The meats come with 8 or 10 sides of different kimchees - pickled cabbage, fish cakes, cucumbers, other vegetables, seaweed, butter lettuce. The marinated beef and kimchees were outstanding, while the shrimp were a little dry and took a little longer to cook on the grill. Beer in hand, we finished off most of the beef, kimchees, and noodles with smiles on our faces and stomachs full. In calculating the cost of our dinner, I had to include the load of laundry that was needed to rid my clothes of the soaked in Korean bbq smells. If you go, go hungry but be prepared to wait and be sure it's close to laundry day.