So a little over a year after moving to the Bay Area, I still haven't eaten at Chez Panisse--and not because I've ever questioned that it would be great. Yes, I've read the half a dozen threads that have popped up debating its merits, but for me, the restaurant has remained in my mind a sort of Mecca of all that is good and pure in the Bay Area culinary scene--the best local ingredients made to shine through simple, honest preparations. Besides, I've eaten at, and enjoyed, the restaurants of various Chez Panisse alum: Oliveto, Zuni, etc. And my wife and I celebrated our most recent anniversary at Stone Barn at Blue Hill (in NY). So Chez Panisse is right up my alley, and more than that, since it's arguably the place that started this all.
With a birthday coming up and my budget increasingly tight, I thought doing one of the Monday night downstairs dinners would be the perfect way to celebrate. And I still kind of do.
But recently I've been following that monster thread on Commis and read a few other glowing reviews. And while I may have a slight preference for simple, rustic food, I enjoy being wowed by creative preparations and artful presentations as much as the next foodie.
So now I'm a bit enamored with the idea of having my birthday dinner at Commis--especially if I can sit at the kitchen counter and watch the chef at work.
Price point is more or less a wash, since the Monday dinner at Chez Panisse and the standard prix-fixe at Commis essentially cost the same. But it is worth noting, I think, that my wife and I have really been tightening the purse strings lately, cutting back from eating out five or six meals a week to just one or two. It's safe to say that this will be our biggest splurge for the next several months.
We'd probably be having the meal in mid to late November, so once CP posts its Monday dinners for next month, that might sway things in one direction or the other too.
In any case, I figured that since I've never actually eaten at either of these restaurants, where else would I turn for advice but to this board? Where do you think I'd have the more stellar meal? The more special and memorable one, as befitting the occasion?
1517 Shattuck Avenue, Berkeley, CA 94709
3859 Piedmont Avenue, Oakland, CA 94611