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Weekend eats in Berkeley and Los Altos

Alexandra | May 24, 200402:22 PM

We had a satisfying lunch Saturday at the Phoenix Pastaficio on Shattuck (at Delaware) in Berkeley. Ali had Meyer lemon & black pepper fettucine with a tomato beef ragu and mushrooms (I'm not sure what kind) - it was a good dish, and he enjoyed it a lot. I thought it was heavy on the pepper. I had butternut squash ravioli tossed with braised pears and onions. Buttery and delicious. The ravioli were great - melted in my mouth. They offer free wine with lunch (they only serve lunch, Mon-Sat, I believe; no dinner), which I thought was interesting. I didn't try it, but Ali's red was to his liking. Delicious bread and butter, too. Our server was not greatly solicitous, but overall service was fine. We didn't have dessert, and the total came to about $28. I would recommend it highly, as their ingredients are mostly (if not all) organic, and it's a relaxed place to get a tasty, low-key meal.

After our lunch we stopped by the new Bakeshop on Shattuck at Hearst. The new owner/baker was there, and was very pleasant. I asked about my favorite from the old Bakeshop, the pumpkin muffins, and he said that and one other thing were the only recipes he kept from the previous owner's repertoire. They had some great looking scones - pear ginger looked particularly intriguing, and he said many people like the blueberry cornmeal scones (which looked chock full of blueberries). We had a chocolate chip cookie and a couple of chocolate rugulach, which were delicious. Both quite buttery, and the rugula very flaky. I'll be back! They also have some really nice sounding sandwiches and salads on the new lunch menu.

Saturday night after Shirin Ebadi's inspiring lecture at Stanford we went with a large group of friends to Hozkhouneh, an Iranian restaurant in a strip mall on El Camino in Los Altos (just south of San Antonio). When we got there at 9:00 there were only a few tables of mostly non-Iranians, but by about 10:30 the place was packed with Persians! The staff even had to bring in extra tables and cram them in to an empty spot, to accommodate the big groups coming in. (There was a wedding upstairs, so perhaps that accounts for the busy feeling of the downstairs.) Their chelo kabob was very good. Ali and I agreed that the barg (filet mignon) was much better than the koobideh (seasoned ground beef kabob). (In our minds barg is the harder one to make well, so that's an accomplishment.) If you go, get there early and you'll have good service, I'm sure. Because of the late-night crowd service was very slow for us, but the food did arrive promptly (thankfully!). Reasonable prices, warm ambiance with a singer/keyboard player (mostly Iranian pop songs and ballads) and a belly dancer, good food, a few vegetarian specialties... I'd be interested to hear what others think.

And last but not least, yesterday we once again stepped into the rarified environs of that elite bastion, the Kurry Klub (Berkeley - Shattuck at Virginia). We've gone two Sundays in a row now for their buffet, and each time there have been completely different dishes, which I like. They bring a fresh basket of naan to your table, and all the buffet choices seem very fresh, too. The standout yesterday was Punjabi Kadhi, spinach pakoras in a light yellow curry cream sauce. Okay, so the spinach pakoras may have been the previous day's leftovers, but this was a great dish! The fried-ness of the pakoras was mitigated by the delicious and subtle sauce. Channa masala was a little watery, but had good flavor and firm garbanzos. Aloo gobi, daal (made with small green lentils, I think, or maybe they were mung beans?), and tandoori chicken, plus the very disappointing dessert of a kind of noodle pudding (stale-tasting), were the only dishes in common between the two Sundays. Highly recommended. (Though beware the mango lassi - it's delicious, but they charge $3.20 for it! Oh, well - you can't blame them for trying to recoup their costs. The buffet is only 8 bucks, after all.)

The Phoenix Pastificio
(510) 883-0783
1786 Shattuck Ave
Berkeley, CA 94709

The Bakeshop
(510) 841-0773
1926 Shattuck Ave
Berkeley, CA 94704

(650) 962-9999
4926 El Camino Real
Los Altos, CA 94022

Kurry Klub
(510) 849-4983
1700 Shattuck Ave
Berkeley, CA 94709

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