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Restaurants & Bars 4

La Rose Bistro (Berkeley) -- minor disappointment

Ruth Lafler | Dec 22, 200411:57 AM

(thanks for letting me steal your subject line, yimster)

My mother and I had a pre-theater dinner at La Rose Bistro on Shattuck (at Addison) in downtown Berkeley. I've heard both good and meh reports, and I'm sorry to say I have to come down on the "meh" side.

La Rose Bistro is Cal-Asian fusion, and the dinner I had last night demonstrates why fusion can be tricky.

We started off sharing an order of duck confit spring rolls with duck salad, one of the more Asian dishes on the menu. While the salad portion of the plate (a generous portion) held up well, even in comparison to the "authentic" duck salad I'd had the night before at Ozone, the spring rolls were badly in need of a dipping sauce to give them some sparkle and pull the dish together. Not a bad dish, but not as good as it could have been if it had stuck more closely to its Asian roots.

For the mains I had leg of lamb in a ginger something something basil marinade/sauce with sweet potato gratin and baby bok choi. Although the menu description was mouth watering, the execution fell short: some mouthfuls had an acrid taste as if some component of the sauce had been burned, to the point where I almost sent it back (probably would have, but my mother would have fretted the whole evening about how sorry she was my dinner was "ruined"). The bok choi was watery and didn't pick up any other flavors in the dish, while the meat was overpowered (hard to do with leg of lamb) by the acrid sauce. The sweet potato gratin was the best thing on the plate.

My mother had the jumbo scallops (two large scallops fried with panko) with some kind of noodles (looked a bit like pad see ew). She pronounced the noodles "weird," but perhaps because she was expecting them to taste like the egg noodles they looked like. Although she finished the dish I didn't hear any raves.

And speaking of dishes, what's with serving the food in wide bowls that are almost impossible to balance your silverware on?

We shared the ginger molasses creme brulee for dessert, which was another execution bust. The "creme" portion tasted fine (although the texture was a little off), but the top was insufficiently "bruleed" and wouldn't crack. Most of the top adhered to the spoon we'd tried to crack it with and peeled off. It might have helped if they'd used the right shape dish: a traditional shallow creme brulee dish instead of a taller, narrow crock. Sometimes there's a reason for tradition!

Service was a bit erratic -- our waiter asked if we wanted split plates on the duck salad, but then brought it on a single plate with no additional plates; my dinner fork was removed with my salad course and the salad fork left behind, and there were some timing lags.

And finally, Chilean Sea Bass? In BERKELEY? I'm surprised the place isn't being picketed.

I really wanted to like it, but at that price point ($65 before tax and tip for one app, two mains, one dessert, one glass of wine, one lemonade and one coffee) I'm less forgiving of its lapses.

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