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Gregoire, Berkeley, Encore

Stanley Stephan | Feb 8, 200302:33 PM

I finally made it to this gourmet take-out restaurant around the corner from Chez Panise on 2109 Cedar. There have been nothing but good posts about the place and, IMO, it deserves a post every month to keep it in hound radar.

Mainly organic, take-out and it is in sync with the great Chez. What an inspired idea.

My only caveat this month, avoid the short ribs. More on that later.

I loved the concept and taste of the banana and chocolate roll for dessert ... that's in egg roll style. Filo dough is wrapped around chocolate and a whole banana and deep fried. A container of sweet sauce was provided for dipping.

I'm really put off by reviews that say the chef shows a sense of humor about a dish. That usually is a flag that says stay away. But the little banana roll really surprised me and made me smile at it's cleverness.

In terms of sweets, I think that bread pudding is the strong point. This month it is mango, golden and buttery with a lime sauce.

There is also a nice poached pear this month with an absolutely delicious, mousse-like chocolate sauce. I could have made a dessert out of that chocolate sauce, but there was just a tiny container.

On my first trip at lunch, I ordered what was perhaps the best quiche in my life - Zucchini and garlic. I have never had a quiche that light, delicate and flavorful before. The two generous rectangular slices of quiche had a subtle buttery, perfect crust. My only nit was that this was accompanied by a green salad. Since this is take-out, putting hot quiche in a box with dressed salad greens, causes the greens to wilt in a bad way. There was also a little container of some sort of grain with the quiche. Not being a grain expert, I couldn't identify it. It was very nice.

I brought a friend with me for dinner. The soup was a delicious emerald green potato spinach. It's a smooth pureed soup. Very good.

The vegetable of the day was thin asparagus. Four spears came with each dish. We liked the Poached fillet of sole with a sun dried tomato and basil sauce the best. The fish was perfectly poached and the sauce was outstanding.

The baked mushroom and Emmental filled zucchini, a vegetarian dish, was really a wonderful marriage of flavors. Thinly sliced zucchini was wrapped around the cheese and mushrooms.

The HUGE disappointment was the short ribs Provencal with balsamic vinegar reduction. I liked the sauce, but my friend hated it. It was thick like a barbeque sauce and sweet. I've never seen short ribs like that before. About 1/4 inch thick they reminded me of those really thin lamb chops you get sometime.

The potatoes seem to be the thing to order, but as my current diet requires me to limit those, I didn't try any. Most of the reviews I've read, rave about the potatoes. This month there are French fries, potato puffs, saffron potato gratin and potato Anna (All $4).

It isn't really all that cheap. The portions are more like the smaller upscale restaurant size. But, given the quality and skill of the chef, the prices are about right. Lunch is in the $5 - $7.50 range. Dinner is $14 - $17 dollars.

I personally like the portion sizes as even after trying all of the above, I still lost 7 pounds this week. Very Zone / Atkins friendly at dinner.

Limited seating. Only three stools at the counter and two outdoor picnic tables. If you sit at the picnic tables, the chef hands you your dish, hot off the grill through the open window. I think this place is dog friendly as there was a dish of water outside for the pooches.

The chef-proprietor Gregoire Jacquet, makes everything from scratch and tries to use as many natural, locally grown and organic products as he can. The menu changes monthly and uses the best of the season.

The owner is from Normandy, France where he apprenticed at a number of two and four star restaurants. In the US he worked at Amelio's and then for a number of Ritz Carleton's.

Only bottled soda, tea and water available. So if you must have coffee stop at Pete's or the French Cafe first. No alcohol on-site. It's take out mostly, so if you like wine, be sure you have some at home.

Other lunch items this month include:
- Egg salad and caviar on crostini ($5.50)
- Smoked salmon triple decker ($7.00)
- House made country pate with cornichons on a baguette ($6.50)
- Grilled chicken and pesto dressing on pantofolina (which looked really, really good, but I need to limit the bread) ($6.00)
- Seafood and fennel salad with olives on pantofolina ($7.00)
- Grilled Montana steak horseradish cream on a baguette ($6.50)
- Roasted leg of lamb and spicy onions in grilled pita bread ($7.50).
- Spring mix salad and roasted beets with a mustard vinaigrette ($5.00)

Hmmm, maybe the prices are pretty good. And it's takeout so you save on a tip.

Other dinner entrees this month are
- Baked sea of Cortez scallops on puff pastry, piperade ($15.00)
- Sautéed whole gulf shrimp, wasabi dip ($14.00) They looked really good.
- Roasted quails and fois gras stuffing with pear sauce ($14.00)
- Spicy chicken wings, Point Reyes blue cheese sauce ($12.00) Who said buffalo wings couldn't be upscale. There's that sense of humor again.
- Grilled medallions of Montana tenderloins, caramelized shallots ($17.00)
- Braised veal shank, lemon and olive sauce ($14.00)
- Grilled lamb chops parsley and truffle crust, lamb demi glace ($16.00)

There's a pretty good review here from digital Lantern:

Here's a link to the web site with the chef's background and philosophy. However, I do hate the web site and did a rant about it last year.

There's one chef, so be patient. Orders are made as placed. People phone and fax in and I didn't see a preference for on-site customers. If you are planning to eat there, I'd bring along a coffe while you wait.



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