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“A great special occasion California Cuisine restaurant”
Review of Chez Panisse

Chez Panisse
Ranked #2 of 726 Restaurants in Berkeley
Certificate of Excellence
Price range: $25 - $100
More restaurant details
Restaurant details
Good for: Local cuisine
Dining options: Lunch, Dinner, Breakfast, Late Night, Reservations
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
Reviewed August 14, 2014

(Note that this is a review of the restaurant; there is an upstairs cafe, with a different menu and lower prices.) Getting a reservation at this restaurant is daunting if you use Open Table; they open up slots a month in advance, and they seem to go quickly on the website, so that unless you are up in the early morning hours you may just have a couple of 9:30 openings to choose from. However, the easy way to get reservations is to call the restaurant between 9-9:30 am. If you get a busy signal, keep redialing, and you will get through, and after a time on hold will get a live reservationist, who has many, many more open days and times (all about a month ahead) to choose from than you will find online.

The restaurant is offers a one-size-fits-all fixed price menu that changes daily, based on whatever local ingredients the chef wants to feature. Unlike some other fixed price menus, there are no choices - whatever they feel like serving you that night is what you get. So if you tend to be a rather picky eater with a long list of hated foods, eating here may be a gamble, but if you are open minded and like French style California cuisine (which Alice Waters, the chef, more or less invented many years ago), you will probably enjoy it. Case in point: neither I nor my dining companion much like eggplant, anchovies, or lamb, all of which were on the menu the Tuesday night we visited, but the preparation of each was so good that we happily consumed it all. (OK, she didn’t eat the eggplant.) They offer a 3 course menu on Monday nights for the “low” price of $65, 4 course menus Tuesday-Friday for $85, and a 5 course menu on Saturday for $100. Wine pairing is $40. Wine and beer only, no bar.

The decor is gorgeous, like being in some sort of early 20th century arts and crafts architectural jewel, with copper trim and period light fixtures everywhere. Service was formal and attentive, but not stuffy. Portions are small, with an emphasis on beautiful presentation, fresh local ingredients, and refined flavors. At just a bit less than $170 a head after coffee, taxes and tip on top of the main menu and wine pairing, it’s definitely a special occasion type place to dine, but worth it.

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Thank ArtAndFood
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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617 - 621 of 1,226 reviews

Reviewed August 12, 2014

It's iconic - the food was fresh, beautiful, and perfectly prepared. But boring. I'm glad I went, but next time will try more recent additions to the food scene.

Thank Maya Z
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed August 12, 2014

My husband and I treated my parents to a dinner at Chez Panisse the week of our wedding. It was the perfect way to thank them for their generosity and make them feel extra special. They are from Arizona, so this was a very "Berkeley" experience for them, which they loved. My mom said that the Pinot Noir was the best wine she's ever had. We ordered a sampling of salads and entrees that we shared as a table, and the dessert was top-notch as usual.

Thank BobKat94703
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed August 9, 2014

Chez Panisse needs no introduction. You go here to eat a great meal at an iconic restaurant that pioneered the contemporary, locally sourced American food movement. We ate here with good friends and enjoyed ourselves tremendously -- choosing the multi course prix fixe meal in the downstairs restaurant. Everything was good and the aesthetics and flow of the meal a delight. Wonderful ricotta and roasted figs, salmon au nage, roasted pork and ice cream bombe for dessert. Service was impeccable -- polite, attentive and never snooty. We brought our own very wine and paid a corkage fee of $25. That, a pot of coffee, tax and service (added to the check) brought the bill for four to around $440 -- $110 per person. A visit to a restaurant like Chez Panisse is not something I do every day. Still, that said, it is a bargain.

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Thank Ann S
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed August 6, 2014

It's wonderful when a restaurant lives up to its reputation. This one does. You have to have a taste for each item on the menu, of course, and that's not always easy. But when you hit on a night with 5 courses that strike your fancy, you will find yourself delighted. An additional bonus is the outstanding service. They expect you to enjoy yourself, not worship at their feet (as some like Commis do). We were treated like old friends there - even though we're not!

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Thank janeyre
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

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