Restaurants & Bars

6 Degrees on Solano warms up - $6 lunch, $13.95 dinner, $3 Cosmo & venison

rworange | Feb 15, 200611:35 PM     2

This remains one of the best deals in town outside of Bendean’s $13 supper. No one else matches the lunch or drink deal.

So a friend whose idea of lunch is TGIF calls and says she MUST unload about her boss the beast. I take this opportunity to try a restaurant I really haven’t tried before. If it doesn’t work out, this particular friend won’t notice. It worked out very well. We both were impressed.

Albany Bistro, the previous tenant on this spot, closed on the last day of 2005. 6 Degrees continues their lunch and sunset dinner deals while moving towards a tapas menu … a reasonably priced tapas menu.

All the cocktails are $6, but Cosmos come two for $6. They are good. They have two non-alcoholic specialties

- ginger mint: Mint infused syrup, fresh lemon juice, muddled ginger and mint topped with a splash of soda ($3)

- Limeade: Fresh crushed limes, soda and a little sweetness ($3)

Lunch is a choice of the daily specials at $9.95 or the daily fixed lunch special at $6 which includes an entrée with two sides. Today’s entrees included:
- roasted chicken (1/4 lemon & rosemary chicken, white or dark meat)
- fettuccini Alfredo
- 6 degrees hamburger
- 6 degrees Caesar with roasted chicken

Some of the dishes from Albany Bistro, like the roasted chicken, remain. I never tried it before or the soup. We both ordered the chicken with sides.

The chicken was beautifully roasted and fall-off-the-bone tender with a light, flavorful gravy. I had the dark meat, friend had the white. We were both happy. I had soup and salad. Friend had salad and fries.

The pumpkin soup was lovely, made with maybe a chicken broth as the base; it was nicely spiced and very satisfying. Salad was just mixed greens with thinly sliced red onion on top and two cherry tomato halves. It was nicely dressed though. Friend’s fries were of the thin matchstick variety. Friend was happy, I tried one and thought it was good, but I’m not a fry expert.

So, despite knowing I’m on a diet, friend insists we split dessert. I begin to mentally side with beasty boss. I’m a little annoyed until dessert shows and, well, if you are going to blow the old diet briefly, it was worth it.

All desserts at lunch are $4.50. Friend selects what the menu describes as:

Sublime assortment of cookies & cream
Massimo’s secret cookie recipes served with ice cream and chocolate dipping sauce.

A plate beautifully dusted with cocoa and powdered sugar comes with 14 … yes FOURTEEN … small cookies, a dish with a scoop of vanilla gelato and a small crock of warm, bittersweet chocolate sauce.

All the cookies were good, but my favorite was the plain biscotti which is not the hard as rock version, but just firm enough with a nice crumble. Dipped in hot chocolate sauce … well, that really was something good. There were two biscotti and three of all the other cookies.

Next favorite was the excellent version of Mexican wedding cookies. The chocolate chip and nut cookies were good. The gingersnap had a nice chewy texture and a mild ginger bite, s respectable version. Then there was what I am guessing a crispy cappuccino cookie.

I almost forgot, lunch also came with an updated version of Albany Bistro’s excellent bread and a dish of lemon-infused olive oil. I was glad to see the bread, but I though I saw a mistake on the dish – a small piece of pasta. Then it looked like the pasta was in the bread dough. It turns out they’ve added garlic cloves to the bread mixture, a nice idea.

From 5:30 – 7 pm there is a three course sunset dinner for $13.95. It comes with a choice of soup or salad, an entrée and a choice of sorbet or ice cream.

The most delicious looking choice tonight was a grilled pork chop served with baked potato, sour cream sautéed greens and duxelles butter & port sauce. Other options included hector’s special of the night, 1/2 roasted chicken, seafood fettuccine, or vegetarian grill. That pork chop is a $17 entrée on the regular menu.

I forgot who made their gelato, but it is a little sweet for my taste. The sorbets are the better selection. My friend liked the vanilla though.

For dinner there are a dozen small plates that range in price from $2.50 (cured olives or roasted garlic) to $8.95 (mussels & clams). I had the mussels and clams on a previous visit and they were one of the things I liked the best.

I asked Massimo, the chef, what some of the most popular dishes were and he said the calamari friti (panko batter & lemon zest $6.50) and the mussel/clams. For entrees he said the venison and the pistachio-crusted lamb. Those last two dishes are hold-overs of Albany Bistro’s best.

Interesting-sounding salads were:
- Tuscan fennel salad with blood oranges and red onion ($5)
- Greens with horseradish encrusted steak ($10)

At dinner the price of desserts is $6. A cheese trio is offered with fruit. I tried the semifreddi tartufo on a previous visit and thought it was quite good. It is cappuccino gelato with espresso center covered with coffee-flavored meringue sprinkles.

Entrees run from $13 (vegetarian grill) to $26 (beef Wellington). The Wellington was a chef’s special, so might not always be on the menu. Other specials were meat tortellini ($15) and sautéed sea bass with morel mushrooms, wild rice and blue lake beans topped with lobster sauce ($24). I assume that’s sauce that starts with lobster and not the Chinese version.

The first two nights that 6 Degrees was open, they served free appetizer and dessert plates. Some items were good (clams/mussels) and some only fair. Massimo then asked customers for their opinion. They are still fine-tuning the menu and really the only place I’ve ever seen that really take suggestions to heart. They are out to please their customers.

On my first visit they served something called a Holland Crepe. It wasn’t that great, but the hot items on the free appetizer plate were lukewarm. Actually the crepe was what I went for today.

Massimo said it just was not selling and people didn’t like it so they took it off the menu. One of my comments on my free appetizers was that the salads were overdressed. No longer a problem. Another comment of mine was not to use out of season produce, especially in the Berkeley area. The tasteless out of season tomato slices were replaced with some sweet cherry tomatoes. The bland melon is replaced by seasonal blood oranges.

So my point is that this place really does listen to its customers in terms of fine tuning the menu. I am sorry to see the Holland crepes go though. I would have liked to try a hot crepe.

I’ve never been to Albany Bistro where there wasn’t some sort of celebration taking place … birthday, office party, etc. That tradition continues at 6 Degrees where a party was celebrating a birthday. It really can’t be beat for that type of event since it offers tasty food in a lovely restaurant at prices that are a steal.

They were planning a formal opening celebration at the end of the month. They have put that off a few weeks so they can continue to refine the menu. Massimo was doing some wine tasting when we left. They are working on the wine list.

Lots of the old staff is still there, including the cook. There are a few new people, so the service is not quite polished yet. Be patient if someone new is there.

I’d place 6 Degrees at this point somewhere between Lalime’s and Britt-Marie.

Like Britt-Marie it is a comfortable neighborhood restaurant with good prices. However, the food is much better than Britt-Marie and the room is nicer. It will probably never be a Lalime’s but it is a place you can take people for a nice dinner, even a celebration and not be disappointed. The prices make it an attractive choice.

If I was going for a prix-fix dinner by myself, I’d choose the $13 Bendean supper. However, if I wasn’t interested in what Bendean was offering that night, 6 Degrees would be a happy second choice. I’d probably select 6 Degrees if dining with others who might not get and appreciate Bendean (like my friend du jour) or if the group wanted a selection of entrees.

IMO, it will please people who are not into upscale dining offering lots of meat and potatoes type of dishes. At the same time the food is good enough to please a Chowhound type.

I wish they had left the signs up about the lunch and menu specials, or at least posted the menu in the window. I noticed what were probably two previous regulars read the description of the restaurant outside and then turn around and walk away assuming things had changed for the more expensive.

On my first visit one of the owners, Bebe, said she wanted 6 Degrees to be a comfortable, affordable neighborhood gathering place. It looks like that may just happen.

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