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Restaurants & Bars 6

Saturday dinner at Chez Panisse

Robert Lauriston | Apr 20, 200809:59 AM

Had dinner downstairs at Chez Panisse last night (prix-fixe $85).

- amuse of brandade toasts & olives with an apéritif of sparkling wine and "cherry cognac" (?): brandade was perfect, drink wasn't my kind of thing (I prefer their vin d'orange and variations)

-2006 François Chidaine Montlouis Sur Loire Clos du Breuil ($44), fruity, aromatic, off-dry, went better with the brandade than the apéritif did

- seared tuna with Sichuan pepper and lime-ginger vinaigrette and spring onion tempura: fish was nice and meaty and the sauce was just right, tempura was the best I've ever had

- 2005 Domaine les Pallieres Gigondas ($66), lovely but took a while to open up, should have decanted when we got the white

- wild mushroom ravioli in a squab brodo with fresh favas: subtle, earthy, delicious, light

- grilled loin and leg of Watson Ranch lamb with green garlic sauce (variation on salsa verde), peeled green asparagus, and salad with lots of herbs: this was great, asparagus the best I've had so far thsi year; one minor criticism, the lamb was plated in such a way that it wasn't immediately obvious that the fanned-out slices started with loin on the bottom and finished with leg on the top, which was the reverse of the way I wanted to eat them (leg had more fat and thus more flavor)

- 2004 Durban Beaumes de Venise ($48 750ml), delicious as always (been drinking this at Chez Panisse for at least 25 years; it's the wine they substitute for Sauternes in dessert recipes)

- individual passion fruit soufflés: very light, mousse-like texture, very intense and direct passion fruit flavor with nice egginess

- mint tisane ($5.50) with mignardises of amaretti and pieces of bitter chocolate with chopped hazelnuts: best amaretti ever, nice chocolate

Overall, food and service were as good as ever.

They don't update their online wine very often: judging by the vintages, the current version is over a year old.

Chez Panisse
1517 Shattuck Avenue, Berkeley, CA 94709

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