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.