I'm new to the Chowhound site and have now spent over an hour reading through all the great information here.
There are two restaurants I would like to recommend, one in Berkeley and the other just north on the Albany border.
Europa on Shattuck near University (short walk from the Berkeley BART station) serves wonderful Mediterranean food in a fairly small location. The menu is not extensive, but everything on it is prepared with care and attention to detail. My favorite entrees include the kebobs and the salmon. Whatever you try will be very good, but don't forget to save room for Turkish coffee and baklava.
Nizza La Bella, located on San Pablo just north of Solano (blue awning, across from BevMo), is a classic French bistro that offers good food at modest prices in a very convivial atmosphere. Owned by the author of "The Pizza Book," Evelyne Sloman, and Chef Eleanor Triboletti, Nizza's small menu includes Moules & Frites (mussels and fries) with just a dab of aioli, Salad Nicoise, Grandmere's mac & cheese, steak frites, and Chicken baked quickly in an 800 degree wood-fired oven, as well as daily specials of fresh fish and other interesting dishes. Full bar, good wine list, friendly people. Nizza is a neighborhood restaurant for special meals as well as regular drop in dinners.
I will admit that I'm reluctant to mention either of these places in the fear that they will become so popular that I will have to wait for a table when I eat there. But since I want both of them to succeed, it's worth the risk.
Ode E. O'Dough says "Check them out!"