First impression: the meat has promise, everything else needs work.
Ceaser salad was passable, not great. Don't bother with adding the anchovies, they're nothing special. Lettuce was decent, but not particularly high in quality. Dressing was fine.
I like the spare ribs themselves, but I didn't like the sauce. Meat had a pleasing texture (not too moist, not too dry) and a nice, smokey flavor. The sauce was both too sweet and too acidic. It tasted almost like ketchup with a hint of canned tomatoes. But the ribs needed sauce, so the sauce needs work.
Beef brisket was the star of the evening. Tender, melt in your mouth meat with a lovely, fatty flavor. The sauce on the brisket wasn't as strong as the sauce on the ribs, and I thought it worked much better.
The sides, save the greens, were mediocre. Mac and Cheese was runny, not nearly thick enough, needed a spoon to eat it. Someone needs to teach the chef how to make a proper mornay sauce. Potato salad was dry and uninteresting, it went unfinished. Corn bread was dry and cold. Yes, $5 for a cold piece of corn bread. And it took us about 20 minutes to get a cold pad of butter to go with it. Corn bread also went unfinished. The greens were fine. Nice, smokey flavor. Easily the best side, but that's not saying much. Mrs. Mousse thought they were over seasoned.
Dessert was sweet potato pecan pie. Way to sweet. We couldn't taste either the pecan or the sweet potato, just lots and lots of sugar.
Lots of good beer on tap. The table next to us didn't like their cocktails.
Portions were large. Each entree comes with two sides. One plate is plenty of food for one person. We couldn't finish our plates, and we have large appetites, although that was partially because the sides were so boring.
Total cost for one salad, two entrees, one dessert, two drinks, including tip was $80. For 80 bucks, we could have done much better elsewhere.
The sleek, ultra modern interior was pretty to look at, but I didn't really like the feel. I was amused by the flat screen TV tuned to ESPN located directly above the urinal in the mens room. Hope it doesn't cause a line during playoffs.
There are a couple of glaring design flaws. Smoke travels to the upstairs floor and they don't have a proper ventilation system. Opening the balcony doors helped, but when it gets cold and rainy that wont be an option. Some of the tables are way too close together (who do they think they are, Bouchon?) and some of the tables are way too small to fit all of the food. The upstairs booths are so high that your knees touch the table and you have to bend over to eat. Considering how much they spent on design, I'd expect a bit more functionality.
Service was exactly what you'd expect on opening night; confused, slow, but ultimately friendly. They'll definitely need to work on that, and I think a staff dinner would be great as our server knew nothing about any of the dishes. I was amused by the party near us complaining about how they had to get to a show. Honestly, who goes to a restaurant on opening night expecting fast service?
What Mrs. Mousse said on our drive home really summed it up. The Lalimes family is all concept and no substance. They get these ideas, lets open up a bbq place, lets open up a seafood restaurant or a coffee house/diner. But there's no passionate head chef as a driving force behind it. They use "Berkeley friendly" ingredients, but there's no quality control. There is more love in one slice of pizza at Pizzaiolo, one potato puff at Gregoire, than in our entire meal at T-Rex.
I will return for the beef brisket sandwich with horseradish sauce. I liked the brisket, the sandwich is priced more reasonably (at $10), and it doesn't come with two mediocre sides (I'm hoping they'll let me sub the greens for the lackluster potato salad). I think the sandwiches (served all day) are a great way to check out this place without spending a lot. I will probably not return for the full plates, unless there's a drastic improvement in the quality of the sides and the bbq sauce.
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