Zut! On Fourth (Berkeley)

Review by: Ken

1820 Fourth Street
(Near Hearst, half a block south of Peet’s)
Berkeley, CA 94710
(510) 644-0444

Zut! on Fourth, Rating

Zut Alors!

We’ve got a great new place to eat on 4th Street in Berkeley: Zut! When I saw the menu online—with plenty of veg options—I went online right away and booked us a Friday night res. through OpenTable.com. I’m really glad I did because the place was great—and it was packed.

Zut! is just south of Pete’s and around the corner from Sur La Table. It just opend at the end of August 2010.

They have created a terrific modern space with several different zones and a great atmosphere. Walk in and to the right there’s a very cool bar, with an interesting yellowish backlighting that shows people in silhouette. To the left there’s a lively cafe-scene mural covering a three walled room. Up the middle there’s a quieter section with a curved white ceiling and copper-colored mirrors at seated-eye-level that expand the small room. But enough about the ambiance, we came for the food.

Zut!’s webpage says “regional Mediterranean dishes prepared with fresh, locally sourced ingredients.” In my mind, that could mean almost anything in this town, but I wasn’t prepared for how creative and different our selections would be.

We started with two great appetizers. Huge, braised white beans were served with tiny roasted peppers, cooked-down spinach and a tangy goat cheese, with olive oil at the bottom of the plate. K called it a highlight. We also tried the Fry Bread, but don’t let the name fool you. It has nothing to do with the Native American specialty. The chef-selection bread of the night turned out to be thin pita slices, arranged under thin fennel strips, delicate greens, and tiny orange Early Girl tomato halves. The bread was crispy and bore a taste reminiscent of savory won tons.

The food went really well with a glass of biodynamic Cabernet Sauvignon from Mendocino, whose name I wish I could recall.

For our main courses we ordered a fresh mozzarella pizza with a light crust and a bright, tasty tomato sauce, and a Summer Vegetable Tangine which blew my socks off. I have to say, sometimes a dish with couscous and squash at a fancy restaurant can be an utterly bland culinary afterthought. (Note to restauranteurs trying to throw a vegan bone to your veg. guests: Thank you, but even if you throw in a few olives, it’s still bland.) This, however, was a dish of a different breed.

The slow-cooked tangine arrived at the table piping hot, in a wide, yellow ceramic bowl capped with a tall conical lid that the waiter removed at the table. The aroma told me I was in for a real treat. All of the couscous formed a moist starch underlayer for the vegetables—and fruits!—on top. There were squash, thin, light-green peppers, eggplant, and cooked-down tomatoes. But there were also several tasty apricots that came to life in this wonderful dish. I counted a few luscious figs, and several green olives. I’ve never had anything quite like it. Huge compliments to the chef for creating a bold and different vegetarian entree that really impressed me.

At a place so good, we had to try the dessert. We chose a chocolate torte: a rich, gooey chocolate cylinder with a dusting of powdered sugar, and a moat of concentrated, reduced ripe berries all around. Wow.

I’ll have to wait until my next trip to try the all-veg “sides”: french fries with aioli, roasted summer vegetables, and braised summer greens.

Let me highly recommend this welcome newcomer and give them huge props for offering up great vegetarian fare.

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