6 degrees

1403 Solano (in Albany). This is a new vaguely European small-plates restaurant near the Albany/Berkeley border. I went there with my research group after reading about it on Chowhound. The menu is still a little in flux and the wheels of the operation haven’t yet been oiled, but I’m pretty confident that they could work out the kinks by the end of February when they officially open. At the moment, however, the restaurant leaves a lot to be desired.

I ordered the Roman Manhattan, which was Maker’s and Cinzano and was a bit watery. This might have been due to the 10 minutes they spent making it — it had that left-in-the-shaker-to-melt taste to it. For a restaurant that was so empty, it was a little disappointing.

There were a lot of things missing from the menu — the venison was absent to lack of availability, and the Holland crepes were also out, which was surprising since as far as I could tell they are like Dutch quesadillas. The menu also had some pretty glaring typos; not something you expect in such a high-end place. It was especially bad if you knew French. It was hard to tell what was vegetarian and what was not. Lots of the things had ham or something hidden in them.

We ended up getting the pommes frites, saffron rice croquettes with pancetta, breaded olives stuffed with ricotta, ham, marjoram, “amalfi grilled vegetables,” crostini with various spreads, mussels cooked in white wine and garlic, and the vegetarian grill, which was an entree with lots of veggies and some vegetarian croquettes. The bread that came initially was clearly not that fresh, which was a real downer, especially since the Acme bakery is so close by. Of the dishes we ordered, the saffron rice was a clear winner — lightly fried and the saffron was clear but not overpowering. The wine from the mussels was overpowered by the intense brine flavor and the garlic was mostly absent. The vegetarian grill had some sauce on it that was a little sour but absolutely delicious. The olives kept losing their breading but the ricotta was surprisingly good as a stuffing. I didn’t really get to try the crostini so I can’t comment.

Dessert was cheese and fruit and a creme brulée. The latter didn’t have a crunchy enough top — certain movie characters would have been sorely disappointed. On a different day I would have chosen something more chocolate-oriented — there were some other tasty options on there that may have been more exciting.

All in all it seemed like the whole place was getting into the rhythm of things, and I think they have a lot going for them. I’ll definitely try it out again sometime.

Afterwards, we went bowling, and I managed to bowl a 151, which is shockingly good for me. I attribute the score to the white Russians.


edibles folded into main blog

My old edibles blog has been folded into the main blog — once I figure out how to get link bar working properly they should appear there. Maybe that will encourage me to write more food commentary.

Update: WordPress lets you make static pages external to the blog itself but using the same stylesheet. The Edibles section is now available from the top navbar as well as the sidebar.

Bissap Baobab

(Mission and 19th) This Senegalese restaurant is always busy, like it’s neighbors Cha Cha Cha and Charanga, so be prepared to wait. Senegalese cuisine is like that of other West African countries — starches, stews, and grilling things. There’s a DJ on weekends and some pretty tasty cocktails with ginger, hibiscus, and other “exotic ingredients.”

We started with fried plantains with a tamarind dipping sauce. Actually, according to our Senegalese companion, plantains are not native to Senegal, but to Cameroon and Cote d’Ivoire, so that dish was not particularly authentic. We managed to ignore that on the basis of its tastiness. For the main course I had the Yapou Khar, which is a lamb stew with tomatoes and onions over rice. The lamb was tender, but I found the stew a little too watery — I wish they had cooked it a little longer or reduced the liquid more. The centerpiece dish is Thiebou Djen (or Djolof rice for those who know Ghanaian food). This is a spicy fish stew over red rice, and is hearty and tasty.

Bissap has managed to get less and less spicy every time I’ve gone there, and the prices seem to have gone up, so it’s harder for me to recommend it against some of the other places in the area. However, if you have a hankering for these flavors it’s still your best bet.


(Church at Clipper) I’m not sure how they managed to get fattoush.com, but more power to them. This restaurant is a bit out of the way, so I wouldn’t recommend it as a pre-movie meal (unless you trust the J-Church MUNI line to come like clockwork), but it’s the only really good pseudo-Lebanese food I’ve had in the city. The ambiance is nice, although some ongoing renovations make the patio area unusable at the moment.

We split an order of hummus to begin with. It was tangy and flavorful, a moister version than you sometimes get at restaurants, but not at all runny. For the entree, I split the Mansaf and M’sakhan with Liz, both of which were covered with a yogurt sauce. The Mansaf was lamb chunks and rice with a slightly sour/tart (“aged”) yogurt, topped with almonds. A whole plate might have been too much for me, since I found the sauce a bit too aggressive for the lamb, which could have been spiced more heavily. The M’sakhan’s yogurt sauce had saffron and was quite a bit sweeter — a nice complement to the Mansaf. They take chicken and caramelized onions and wrap it in a lavash, grill it, and cover it with the sauce. The spicing in this dish came through much better, in my view.

The dishes are large and dense here, so come hungry! Going “family style” might be a better option for those who get full quickly.

Gioia Pizza

(on Hopkins and Monterrey) This is a walk-up Brooklyn-style pizzeria with a Bay Area twist. Fresh organic produce and sesonal vegetable make for a mouth-wateringly good slice of pie. The options rotate depending on what’s in season, but my favorites so far have been the broccoli ricotta, meatball, mushroom, and clam pizzas. The last one will make you happy as its namesake that you schlepped out to Hopkins St. Be sure to try a sesonal lemonade — the blood orange was to die for.

Le Petit Robert

(2300 Polk St. at Green St.) This is a cute little French bistro in Russian Hill. I went with my friend Sarah and we were pretty much stuffed. Craving eggs, she got the scrambled eggs with muhroom ragout (mushroomy goodness) and I got the Oeuf en cocotte, which is a sort of mini casserole with eggs, potatoes, and pancetta (bacony goodness). If you are in Russian Hill and want brunch, it’s definitely a place to check out. The service is friendly, and the decor is cute. Watch out for children of wealthy families underfoot before a day of shopping with the parents.

Bangkok 16

(3214 16th St. between Guererro and Dolores) Pretty standard Thai food. The staff is very friendly, but the curries are only so-so. My friends found it a little “greasy.” I think that might have been a function of getting curry rather than noodles. Vegetarian options are surprisingly limited, since the oyster sauce is non-veg. There are better places, but if you are right there and want Thai, it’s not a bad place to go.


(Shattuck between Cedar and Vine) Cesar is one of those fancy-pants restaurants in Berkeley in the so-called Gourmet Ghetto. I’ve been there twice now and was impressed both times. The food is California-ized Spanish tapas, and the menu rotates every little while (I’m not sure of the frequency). Highlights of my dining experiences have been the Venetian Martini, made with antica formula sweet vermouth, a dish with monkfish and mushrooms, and the croque senor (like a croque monsieur, only with spanish ham and cheese). If you’re looking to treat yourself or someone else out and want a somewhat noisy but delicious dining experience, try this place. They also have a large central table for small groups to share (and in theory meet each other, but I’ve never managed to sit there).


Guerrero and 18th. This little French-styled bakery and coffeehouse is awesome. I have heard their pastries are delicious but I had the croque monsieur with shiitake mushrooms and it was super tasty. I will probably go here again and again, although not if I’m in a rush, since the line is so long.

If you are looking for something more substantial, try Delphina next door.


Valencia and 22nd. I’ve been here twice now, and both times it’s been pretty good. The tapas menu is pretty standard and on the cheaper side of tapas ($5-6 an entree), and I found the food better than Timo’s and about on par with Cha Cha Cha. The service is a bit slow.

We had the patatas bravas, which were the spiciest I’ve ever had (but tasty!), some fried artichokes which were kind of gross and flavorless, some uninspired fried calamari, very tasty pollo ajillo, and these little ham open-faces sandwiches with roasted red pepper, which were TASTY. The sangria was kind of dull, to tell the truth.

To sum up, I would go here again if I wasn’t too hungry and didn’t want to spend too much. But there are certainly better places for tapas, I’m sure.