A few Tuesdays ago, I had a hankering for a "nice" East Bay dining experience. The choices for me were Chez Panisse Cafe, Rivoli, and Lalime's. After looking over all the menus, we decided on Rivoli - the menu looked the most interesting, and I'd kinda missed those raccoons feeding in the garden.
When we got there, the service was impeccable. The bartender allowed me tastings of several wines by the glass before I selected. I went with the sturdy, yet voluptuous Haven Syrah. Excellent. The bartender made a special non-alcoholic cocktail for J with Pinot Noir grape juice and sparkling water. nice touch.
We decided to share a couple of appetizers and an entree. The ricotta gnocchi appetizer was napped with a morel truffle sauce (morels were perfect, crispy with a bit of give) and cubes of lovely jerusalem artichoke. The gnocchi were pillowy and creamy tasting, the sauce earthy and substantial. We also *had* to order the fried portobellos. These were good, a little greasier than I remember, and the composition of the plate, while balanced and generous, had lost it's newness for me. However, I do recommend this dish to folks who haven't eated at Rivoli before. One point to note here- the up-to-date menu online turned out to be too up-to-date. I had been looking forward to a stuffed sand dab appetizer, but it turned out that the kitchen still needed to finish off items from the previous week, so no sand dabs for me. :-(
For our entree, we ordered the chicken cooked two ways, with cherries and broccoli rabe. We got a gorgeous plate with a half-breast and (I think) confit leg. Simple, incredible. I usually don't care for sweet elements in my entrees, but the cherries were a perfect foil for the dense, almost gamy leg meat.
We got an extra order of broccoli rabe (they're very nice about things like that), but were disappointed to find big florets of broccoli mixed in with the rabe (not just the rabe heads). I wonder if they did this to manage expectations...
For dessert, the warm chocolate budino. Nice, but nothing special. The bill, with two glasses of wine, came to about $80. A little pricier than I remember, but well worth it.
1539 SOLANO AVENUE, Berkeley (510)526-2542
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