It all starts with the decor and ambiance for Five. Scott Howard meets the expectations of the very fancy Miami/LA/New York feel that the high design creates.
White is everywhere, with black accents, some gorgeous chandeliers, and nicely appointed table settings, with green chillewich placemats, elegant glassware and cutlery. It is sexy, and you can't believe you're in downtown Berkeley.
Sure, there are glitches to work out, but I still am wowed by the feeling of the dining room and the excellence of the food. I felt like Tilda in her film Orlando. Everything was gorgeous, elegant and well appointed.
The maitre'd works the room. He greets everyone and runs a smooth floor. They seem to be a little short on labor budget at the moment, but we didn't feel slighted. He made us feel very welcome, brought out a welcome glass of bubbly, and charmed us throughout our meal.
It felt sophisticated and classy.
The bar is gorgeous. Limestone, I think. We went twice just for cocktails/apps, and to enjoy the room, take a pulse, and decide on the economic prudence of doing a full-on dinner. The bar could use a few more bartenders, I think. We did have to wait a bit, and the fellow looked stressed.
We tried a red cocktail that resembled a side car, the new Drakes beer, and some wine. Everything was delicious. Cocktail craft was spot on, although I'd add some options for that size bar. I imagine it could become a real hot spot for dates. This is a place that I'd allow extra time for getting dressed up. The room makes you want to look good.
The onion rings and fries were perfect. A butterscotch pudding with salty peanuts--divine.
Dinner was excellent. We went in 8:30, no reservations, and had to wait a bit as they were busy and short a person on the floor--it appeared. But we sat at the bar, enjoyed some bubbly, and a perfect ahi tartare with chorizo and vanilla bean. It was delicious. The chew of the chorizo leant salt and texture to the ahi.
The room was mostly older diners. We sat on the banquette and enjoyed the visuals. It feels so cosmopolitan. The bread arrived warm, with an excellent butter, in a gorgeous silver basket with linen. Dinner went like this:
*Fried squash blossoms with goat cheese--most excellent, perfectly fried, light, crispy and not a whisper of grease. Divine. Olives added the salt balance.
*Corn chowder--excellent and true flavor. Not big on the strong vinegar taste of the pickled chantrelle garnish, but we loved the soup, and presentation is a strong suit.
*Arugula Salad/blue cheese/nectarines--excellent. Peppery arugula, very light but pungent blue cheese dressing, some toasted almonds and perfect, potent nectarines.
*Orzo mac & cheese--not my thing, but hubby loved it.
*Peach and nectarine cobber--served in a deep ramekin with vanilla ice cream--excellent, good balance of sweet/salt.
We shared a pinot gris, a chardonnay, a riesling, and a dessert wine--all served in beautiful stemware and excellent. Glamour on the horizon for Berkeley.