We went to Bendean on Solano Ave tonight after having tried to walk in last Saturday but being too hungry to wait. Let me tell you this place is GREAT. However, for gaining this knowledge please don't go and crowd the reseravation list! We arrived for our 7 PM reservation and had to wait for a few minutes but the hostess offered us drinks. This is a big deal IMO. if you're going to open a new restaurant and you want some goodwill, offer something new/interesting/free to your first customers. It makes a difference!
Our waitress was the peace and love type but had a great attitude. I've been to new restaurants where the staff was friendly but tired, confused, whatever. The staff at Bendean was ON. The waitress said she would get our water and be right back. She got our water and was right back to take our wine order. I ordered a bottle of the 2001 Aprile Super Oakville Blend, a sangiovese/cabernet blend. It was excellent which points to a small, reasonably priced well selected wine list. Perfect!
Our appetizer quickly arrived; the fried fish appetizer with calamari, shrimp and smelt. The aioli was a bit bland but otherwise the critters were perfectly crunchy. The smelt were a bit salty but tasted fine to me. The calamari was tender but not chewy.
I had the posole and my wife had the pot roast. We tried to share these but it was hard because they were both good but very different. First let's start with the posole. I lived in New Mexico for a year and I loved posole, but I had none better than the one at Bendean! The secret is in the sauce; deeply flavorful with a clear smokiness. It was served with the most perfectly lightly crunchy chips and some guacamole that nicely balanced the hot flavor, and of course the hominy and tender pork. Man, I would order this again and again. It didn't quite go well with the wine but oh well.
My wife's pot roast was not as flavorful. This is as it should be. Good beef flavor with a deeply flavorful gravy and some mashed potatoes, and it was VERY tender. It was good but hard to compete with the posole because of its spiciness. I would not normally order pot roast out but I would definately order this again. BTW, the portions are large.
Our waitress was on top of the water level and our plates were quickly whisked away when empty. The chef checked on us twice. He looked tired but enthusiastic.
For dessert we had the cookie selection. I don't know what they all were, but two could easily share the order. All were good.
The fries looked good and easily shared by at least 2 if not 3 people. The bavette steak looked good. The appple (?) dessert looked excellent. A lot of people seemed to be order the wine we ordered.
The noise level was high but with my (prematurely) bad hearing I could easily hear my wife talking. The chairs were comfortable. The staff friendly, the food good, and all withing a few minutes walk of our house. Gotta love Berkeley : )