Chez Panisse has made the list of Top 50 Restaurants in the World for many years, and I put it on my "must go" list on my recent trip to SF. The restaurant is in Berkeley, we got a reservation for lunch at Chez Panisse cafe (upstairs). The restaurant (downstairs) only serves dinner with a pre-fix menu. I've read the the cafe serves equally good food, and you can order à la carte. The cafe opens for both lunch & dinner.
We ordered two appetizers to share -Ricotta with cucumbers & walnut and eggplant toast with salad. Both were simple, tasty and the ingredients were extremely fresh.
For entrées, HN & Clemont ordered the quail with pâté and they liked it. I took a bite and the quail was very moist.
Eugene ordered the pizza with wild nettles, sausage & garlic. Eugene mentioned that nettles was something that used to grow wild in the woods back in his home country and it wasn't considered edible. Some nettles in the wild sting when you touch them. I guess this is why they say "one man's trash is another man's treasure".
I ordered the sweet corn soufflé with chanterelle mushroom, sweet corns, & cucumbers. I LOVED LOVED LOVED it. The soufflé was soft & and the crusty part had a hint of burnt cheese taste to it. They weren't kidding when they said "sweet" corns, those were probably the sweetest corns I've ever tasted. I loved the subtle contrasts between all the flavors - sweet (corns) vs. earthy (mushrooms) vs. clean (cucumbers) vs. creamy (sauce). I had to remind myself to eat slowly so that I don't inhale my food.
I love Chez Panisse, and I'll definitely love to go back again. This is the first time I really experience what "California cousin" is, and I think what Alice Waters (co-foundeder of Chez Panisse) do is important, she doesn't only make delicious food, she also changes the way think of food - certainly makes me realize that sometimes the best ingredients doesn't have to come from some exotic places, instead they are fresh, local back-yard grown produce. In terms of comparison between Chez Panisse & Blue Hill in Pocantino Hills (upstate NY), which share very similar concept, I'd say Blue Hill is more refined, but I love how laid back and casual Chez Panisse is. Plus it's in California, and whenever I think of California, I think of sunny blue sky, gorgeous coastlines and my best friend HN (we are celebrating our 25th friendship anniversary next year) and my heart smiles.
6 months ago