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“Another superlative evening at Chez Panisse” 5 of 5 bubbles
Review of Chez Panisse

Chez Panisse
Ranked #2 of 692 Restaurants in Berkeley
Certificate of Excellence
Price range: $25 - $100
Cuisines: French, American
More restaurant details
Restaurant details
Good for: Romantic, Business meetings, Local cuisine, Special occasions
Dining options: Dinner, Lunch, Late Night, Full Bar, Reservations, Seating, Serves Alcohol, Waitstaff
Dining style: Fine Dining
Cross street: Cedar Street
Transit: Downtown Berkeley BART station 7 blocks from Chez Panisse. AC Transit bus connection or taxi at BART station AC Transit bus connection or taxi at BART station
Princeton, New Jersey
Level Contributor
16 reviews
10 restaurant reviews
common_n_restaurant_reviews_1bd8 5 helpful votes
“Another superlative evening at Chez Panisse”
5 of 5 bubbles Reviewed November 3, 2012

We have had a love affair with this fabulous Alice Waters restaurant ever since we lived in San Francisco in the 1970's so we were delighted that we were able to dine there again on Tuesday October 30th. We were a party of four in the downstairs seating area where everyone has the prix fixe menu du jour. I am not a lamb fan but cod and lamb were both on the menu that evening and both dishes were excellent. I may have to rethink my aversion to lamb! The service was first-class and we had a chance to sample the rose wine that is Alice Waters' favorite. Our kitchen in Princeton is decorated with Chez Panisse posters and a special memory of one meal at Chez Panisse is that one time our newborn daughter slept through the evening in a dumb-waiter while we enjoyed a going away meal in 1976. Don't know if the dumb-waiter still exists but the high quality cuisine sure does!

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1 Thank Judi3158
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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1,126 reviews from our community

Visitor rating
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Rating summary
    Food
    Service
    Value
    Atmosphere
Date | Rating
  • Dutch first
  • English first
  • French first
  • German first
  • Italian first
  • Japanese first
  • Korean first
  • Portuguese first
  • Spanish first
  • Any
English first
Los Angeles
Level Contributor
7 reviews
4 restaurant reviews
common_n_restaurant_reviews_1bd8 2 helpful votes
“Wonderful”
5 of 5 bubbles Reviewed November 1, 2012

I went to UC Berkeley and had only heard of the famous Chez Panisse as a poor student years ago. I finally made a visit a few months ago. Everything was excellent! I truly had no expectations, but you can taste and feel the care that is taken in the food and even the coffee and beverages that are brought to the table. The waiters were very attentive and I was just pleased overall. In my opinion, Chez Panisse is a standard-setter.

  • Visited June 2012
    • 4 of 5 bubbles
      Value
    • 3 of 5 bubbles
      Atmosphere
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Service
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Food
Helpful?
Thank RunnerTH
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Philomath, Oregon
Level Contributor
113 reviews
83 restaurant reviews
common_n_restaurant_reviews_1bd8 66 helpful votes
“Chez Panisse – How Do I Love Thee?”
5 of 5 bubbles Reviewed October 29, 2012

In short, Chez Panisse was everything I hoped for – and even more!

I must admit – I’ve turned into a bit of a foodie, so when my husband and I decided to travel to San Francisco to celebrate our 15th wedding anniversary, Chez Panisse seemed the most likely spot in which to commemorate that special day.

I called one month in advance. This is important! They have two general seatings and if you don’t call one month in advance, you may not get a table. You can also use Open Table, but since I’m rather detail-oriented (my husband sometimes calls me anal, but I don't like that word) and like leaving nothing to chance, I called precisely at 9:00 am when the reservations desk opened. No problem – got a table for two with an immediate email confirmation.

Needless to say, I was eager to find out what my dining pleasure would be for the night. I must admit that I was a little disappointed and slightly skeptical when I found out it would be bouillabaisse served with bouillabaisse. Yep – bouillabaisse served two ways! To come all that way and wait all that time and spend all that money – on a special day, no less – to be served SOUP!!! But then I decided to put my trust in the chef at Chez Panisse, and I’m glad I did.

The first course was the mere broth alone topped with a piece of grilled bread. Sounds so simple, but the simplicity was its delight. Smokey and rich – the broth had been cooked in the giant pizza-style oven – it was a perfect opener for the seafood to come. And the seafood! Served as a second course, the “stew” featured HUGE mussels, shrimp, baby octopus, fish, and much, much more. Surprisingly (at least for me), the grilled squid was the highlight – sweet and smoky from being grilled in that monster of an oven – just before it was doused in the sweet stock of the stew. The cheese/salad course was just that – a delightful peppery mix of greens served with sweet pear and local goat cheese. And, finally, dessert – a fig tart served with ice cream. I know, prior reviewers have complained that the portion sizes were too small, but I was stuffed even before dessert arrived. Of course, in the interest of writing a complete review, I HAD to try it and it was wonderful. Alas, I was unable to finish the course, but my husband (who has a real weakness for sweets) did his “husbandly” duty and finished what I had begun.

All in all, a wonderful meal!

Service was outstanding. Everyone – from the hostess to the busboy, from the sommelier to the server – was both friendly and professional. I could not ask for more!

Now some hints. Parking. In a word – AWFUL! We were there on a Thursday evening and the farmer’s market was up the street. Be prepared to hunt for a space, so arrive early. Husband let me out at the front door and found a space about five or six blocks away.

Traffic – If you go during the week, be prepared to spend time in traffic getting to Berkeley. I would suggest leaving in plenty of time – use an online site like sigalert dot com or google to estimate your travel time. You can always arrive early and wait in the bar.

Attire – Although I saw a few people in jeans and t-shirt, this is not that type of casual restaurant. You don’t need a suit or tie – at least during the week. I would suggest nice business attire. Also, because of the open oven, the room can get very warm. I was wearing a sweater with ¾ length sleeves and it was getting a little toasty. Wear layers, if possible.

Length of Dinner – Be prepared to spend at least 1 ½ hours on your meal – maybe longer if you are there on a weekend with more courses. You are served on their schedule, not yours. So just relax and enjoy yourself.

Finally, especially if you like to cook, ask for a table with a view of the kitchen. You can then enjoy the professionalism of the chefs. And take some time to admire the beauty of your surroundings. Enter with an open mind and heart, and I trust you will be as pleased as I. For our "special occasion", Chez Panisse conspired to make it truly special indeed.

  • Visited October 2012
    • 4 of 5 bubbles
      Value
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Atmosphere
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Service
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Food
Helpful?
Thank 3CatMom
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Charlotte, North Carolina
Level Contributor
203 reviews
142 restaurant reviews
common_n_restaurant_reviews_1bd8 107 helpful votes
“Surprised it lived up to my expectations”
5 of 5 bubbles Reviewed October 28, 2012

Just over a week ago my wife, daughter, her friend, and I dined here in the Cafe (upstairs) on a Friday night. Given the legend, one wonders what it will really be like today. Will they be mailing it in, for example? (No.) Will it be a parody of itself? (Unfair question.) In short, we ate evening meals in Berkeley and San Francisco 11 nights on our Bay Area vacation, almost all at highly thought of restaurants, and after all these years Chez Panisse - our first visit - stood out from the rest. I won't detail our dishes, chicken, fish, shell fish, salads and light desert, because they're not likely to be the same offerings next time, but all were excellent. Sure, the menu descriptions are a little bit of parody, but then only because everyone else has followed Waters' lead. The only issues I had, which were inconsequential in the end, were with the reservation process, which got confused in our case, and our server, who was a little more fawning than need be.

  • Visited October 2012
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Value
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Atmosphere
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Service
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Food
Helpful?
Thank Roycal
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Silver Spring, Maryland
Level Contributor
11 reviews
common_n_restaurant_reviews_1bd8 25 helpful votes
“Great food, lovely little restaurant”
5 of 5 bubbles Reviewed October 28, 2012

I had lunch at Chez Panisse on a Saturday without reservations. My father and I were in town for the afternoon, and I wanted to try the restaurant where the farm-to-table movement began. Even though we didn't have reservations, we were seated without having to wait very long by Alice Waters herself. The service was impeccable, although a bit serious, and the food was excellent as well. For the first course I ordered a rocket salad with figs and goat cheese, and my father got the tuna pizzetta with capers. Both dishes were lovely with slightly unusual but complementary flavor combinations. For the main course my father got halibut, which was amazing, and I had chicken, which was also great (but not as good as the fish). As one might expect of a famous restaurant, the meal was not inexpensive, but in addition to the wonderful food, the atmosphere in the dining room was very sweet and intimate so I did not feel like the experience was terribly overpriced. If you are a foodie and/or a fan of slow food I would recommend Chez Panisse without hesitation, and I would certainly love to return for dinner in the future! If, on the other hand, you are looking for a cheap and casual bite to eat I would advise you to go someplace else.

  • Visited October 2012
    • 3 of 5 bubbles
      Value
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Atmosphere
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Service
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Food
Helpful?
Thank claire22310
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

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