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Ruth Lafler | Mar 22, 200303:02 AM     2

After a delicious dinner at Dona Tomas (see post below) we decided to head farther down Telegraph Ave. into Berkeley to have dessert at Zax Tavern.

This proved again to be an excellent choice. Although I was worried about getting a table at a popular restaurant at 8:15 on a Friday night (especially since we only wanted dessert), our timing was perfect: the early dinner crowd was finishing up and we were seated almost immediately.

Three different desserts were all fabulous: mocha pot de creme; strawberry sorbet with biscotti; and angelfood cake with chocolate hazelnut ice cream. All the ice creams and sorbets are made in house, and over two visits I've sampled four and they've all been outstanding. The chocolate ice cream was smooth, light but chocolatey, and generously blended with chopped hazelnuts -- in addition, there was a puddle of bittersweet chocolate sauce to be mopped up with the angelfood cake -- a wonderful interplay of flavors and textures that managed to be both rich and light.

The staff was warm and friendly, in a genuine way; our charming waitress made sure I had a candle on my cake (although she kept her promise not to sing). The camaraderie among the staff and between the staff and the customers captures the essence of a tavern, even though the food and the decor are much more sophisticated. We lingered over our desserts for over an hour and a half, were never rushed or made to feel we should have ordered more.

All in all, a perfect chow evening!

BTW, according to the host, the menu at Zax is going to be changing in a couple of weeks -- so if you have favorites, you might want to squeeze in a visit before some of them (like the fabulous lamb stew with polenta) go away.

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