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Zut! On Fourth (Berkeley)

Author: Ken | No Comments
Categories: Berkeley & Albany | Tags: Tags: , , , , , ,

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 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.

Udupi Palace (Berkeley)

Author: Ken | No Comments
Categories: Berkeley & Albany | Tags: Tags: , , , , ,

1901 University Avenue
(At the corner of University and Martin Luther King)
Berkeley, CA 94704
(510) 843-6600

Udupi Palace Rating

Udupi Palace is a great South Indian Vegetarian Restaurant at the busy intersection of University and Martin Luther King, in Berkeley, across from the Trader Joe’s construction site, and also the Chaat Cafe. Billing itself as "A place for dosas…" how could I resist?

You walk in and immediately notice that it smells wonderful. We went on a Friday night, a little on the early side, and there was a pretty good crowd—some couples and a large family.

I was very pleased that I chose to get the Samosa: a pair of yummy tetrahedrons; light and flaky (i.e. fried) on the outside, with curried potato and peas on the inside. It’s a rare fried delicacy for me.

Udupi Palace Samosas

A pair of crispy Samosas

The real hard decision was the dosa menu. Dosas are rice and lentil flour crêpes stuffed with something delicious and soft, and rolled into a tube shape that overflows the plate. There were a dozen or so different kinds of dosas, and nearly as many uthappam which are rice and lentil pancakes. Combinations included potato, onions, peas, vegetables, even cheese, and different seasonings. All come thali style with a small bowls of spicy sambar (a lentil soup) and a coconut chutney that I really enjoyed.

But what’s really remarkable—and I’ve been saving this comment for the end because I wasn’t sure you’d believe me—is that the masala dosa that I ordered was as long as my arm, if not longer!

Udupi Palace Masala Dosa

Masala Dosa longer than my arm

Seriously, this thin, light, lentil-flour crêpe was as delicious as it was wide. I tore through it pretty quickly and was rather proud of myself to boot. Kathryn was amazed to see it go. She got a spinach masala dosa which was a nice twist on the theme. The crêpe was green and maybe even more delicious than mine, with a slightly bitter spinach kick.

Near the edges, where there’s no stuffing, the dosa dough is dry but fluffy, yet it’s sort of hard to cut with the dull knife I had. I don’t have any idea whether or not it was radically uncouth, but I picked it up and ate the last tasty bits with my hands, burrito style.

Now here’s the crazy part. For a samosa appetizer and two huge dosas, the bill came to about $16.75 with tax, before tip. Check it out!

2/27/2010 Update—I went back to Udupi Palace with a big group of work colleagues, and I got to see a lot more of the dishes. Just about everyone got a dosa. The Spring Dosa looked fantastic. The Paper Dosa, be forewarned, is gigantic but is not stuffed. There’s nothing inside. The dosa wrapper is dipped into the sambar and coconut side dishes. I think that I would find it unsatisfying.

Nature’s Express (Berkeley)

Author: Ken | No Comments
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1823 Solano Avenue
(At Colusa, next to Peet’s Coffee)
Berkeley, CA 94707
(510) 527-5331

nature's express rating

Nature’s Express is a great new vegan restaurant that recently moved in next to Peet’s Coffee at the top of Solano Ave, in Berkeley.

With its modern, clean—almost sterile—interior, with splashes of vivid color, and a wide cashier’s counter in front of uniformed chefs at work, Nature’s Express is setup like a fast food restaurant. But that’s where the similarity ends. Well, that and the Air Baked Fries.

There’s a wide selection of appetizers, salads, wraps, breakfast burritos (served all day), soup, burgers, even dessert— amazingly, all vegan.

I couldn’t resist the Air-Baked Sweet Potato Fries, which are soft and delicious, almost chewy.

The first entree I tried was The Patrick-Goudreau, essentially a tofu scramble with veggies in a green tortilla wrap. It was really good, healthy tasting, not too large, and I’d certainly order it again. For $5.25, it’s a great deal! The burrito is named after local vegan chef, teacher, blogger, and cookbook author, Colleen Patrick-Goudreau [] Several of her cookbooks line the shelfs along the side of the store, giving you something to flip through while you wait for your food.

I asked, and found out that Ms. Patrick-Goudreau isn’t associated with the place. The burrito name is an homage, like The Alicia (Silverstone), The Moby, The Stella (McCartney, I guess), and The (Albert) Einstein. Ms. Silverstone’s book The Kind Diet is also available for sale.

Tonight I tried The Moby, a spicy, and fresh tasting burrito with potato, cilantro, black beans, guacamole, green chili, and salsa.

Nature’s Express is cheap, healthy, and fresh, and I’m happy to have it in my neighborhood. I hope they do really well!

Nature's Express

Nature's Express on Solano Avenue

2/27/2010 Update—I went back this week and they had changed their menu. Despite my best attempts to edify the public with this blog, no one got the references in the breakfast burrito names. Now the Stella is the Stellar. The Moby has had a makeover, and now comes with Sriracha sauce, but it’s still delicious. The Patrick-Goudreau now has a new name, The Kick Start.

Berkeley Produce Center (Berkeley)

Author: Ken | No Comments
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1500 Shattuck Ave
(on the corner of Shattuck and Vine)
Berkeley, CA 94709
(510) 848-8100

The Berkeley Produce Center is a friendly and quick little market, right in the heart of the Gourmet Ghetto. Despite it’s relatively small space, they have just about everything I need, and their prices beat the big supermarket on the same block (you know who you are) every day of the week. The place is so convenient and reliable, that for those who live nearby, it’s really the anchor of the neighborhood.

They have great fresh veggies, with a respectable selection of organic fresh and bulk foods. Try the fresh-squeezed orange juice they make up in the back. And don’t miss the groovy mural on the North wall. I only wish that they wouldn’t run out of my favorite yoghurt so often.

The Berkeley Produce Center It’s a great place to pick up both the key ingredients and the inspiration for a great meal on your way home.

Cha Am (Berkeley)

Author: Ken | No Comments
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1543 Shattuck Avenue
(Between Cedar and Vine)
Berkeley, CA 94709
(510) 848-9664


Cha Am is by far my favorite Thai Restaurant. They’ve been on Shattuck since 1985, and they’re absolutely still going strong. They hit the mark with dish after dish, it seems you can’t go wrong. Their lunch specials are great, and I often go there with a group of people from work. Dinners are even better, especially when you can order with friends and try several different entrées.

There’s a wide selection of vegetarian items, with delicate spices and flavors that set the bar for me with other Thai restaurants. These days, I love the red and green curry dishes, Gaeng-Tofu and Gaeng-Pak, the most. For a long time, I was a Pad-Pak-J adherent, with every great vegetable and fried tofu. The Cha-Am Fresh Rolls are similar to other Thai restaurants I’ve tried, but the Vegetarian Po-Piah, their deep-fried cousins, sing with wonderful base notes, and a nice light crunch. It doesn’t say it on the menu, but you can order a vegetarian version of the Cha-Am Noodle which makes a superb alternative or complement to a rice dish.

My only gripe is that they recently stopped serving the lovely Thai tea that they had for years. I hope it’s just a temporary thing.

Let’s hope Cha Am will still be as great 25 years from now.

Cafe Fanny (Berkeley)

Author: Kathryn | No Comments
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1603 San Pablo Avenue
Berkeley, CA 94702
(510) 524-5447

Café Fanny Restaurant Rating

If you are curious what kind of breakfast you might have the day after a meal at Chez Panisse, you can go to Alice Waters’ Café Fanny.

Every time I eat there, I’m surprised by both the simplicity of their food, and how delicious it tastes. I generally order Two Poached Farm Eggs On Levain toast, and because the ingredients are fresh and organic, it is incredibly satisfying. If you don’t believe this matters, try it yourself! I entered a skeptic and left a believer. In addition to eggs and toast, the menu offers things like Café Fanny Organic Granola (also available in local grocery stores), which I haven’t tried, though it looks tasty. There are Buckwheat Crepes in the morning, Sandwiches and Salads for lunch, and desserts and pastries all the time. There’s even a small coffee counter inside.

The downsides to this place are the limited indoor seating and the pricing—it;s not cheap. Further, for the purposes of this blog, I’d rate their vegetarian options as limited, and vegan offerings downright scant—Waters’ conception of the good life definitely includes fine cheese and prosciutto. However, if you are looking for organic and delicious, and you’re feeling a bit indulgent, this is the place for you. It also has a real Berkeley feel, and just writing about it makes me hungry.

Fat Apple’s (Berkeley)

Author: Ken | 1 Comment
Categories: Berkeley & Albany | Tags: Tags: ,

1346 Martin Luther King Junior Way
(between Berryman St & Rose St)
Berkeley, CA 94709
Fat Apple’s on Yelp
(510) 526-2260


Although there are two Fat Apple’s Restaurants (Berkeley on MLK, and El Cerrito, just East of the El Cerrito Mall), architecturally, they could not be more different. The cozy Berkeley restaurant is painted to look like Jack London’s library, with (painted) books on the walls, and miscellaneous Jack London memorabilia.

People say they have excellent take-out, and baked goods, but I only go there for a hearty Breakfast/Brunch.

See Kathryn’s review of Fat Apple’s in El Cerrito

The Juicebar Collective (Berkeley)

Author: Kathryn | No Comments
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2114 Vine Street
(Between Shattuck and Walnut)
Berkeley, CA 94709
(510) 548-8473


Located in the heart of the Gourmet Ghetto, The Juice Bar Collective is hardly large enough to fit a car inside—unless you had an electric Smart Car. There’s a sales counter, and exactly one table inside, with extra seating on the sidewalk.

From this modest spot comes a mighty selection of sandwiches, soups, salads, baked goods—and JUICE! Almost all of the food is organic, and predominantly vegetarian.

My favorite dish is the black bean polenta casserole, which is offered either with cheese, or in a vegan version, with red salsa. For $5.25 I can’t think of a heartier lunch. They also have fantastic vegan cookies, including a vegan molasses cookie that will knock your (rainbow) socks off.

As indicated in the name, The Juice Bar is a collective, so there’s a good vibe amongst the people working there. They also have a selection of pizzas, lasagnas, soups, salads, sandwiches and wraps, including a hummus/veggie wrap which is the perfect item to scoop up for a picnic.

When the seating is all taken, I often sit on benches right across the street—it’s sunnier over there anyway. I highly recommend this restaurant to anyone, vegetarian or otherwise.

Café Gratitude (Berkeley)

Author: Kathryn | No Comments
Categories: Berkeley & Albany | Tags: Tags: , , , , ,

1730 Shattuck Avenue
Berkeley, CA 94709
(415) 824-4652


When I first heard about this place opening in San Francisco in about 2003, I laughed at the concept: a healthfood restaurant that compels you to utter affirmations? No thanks.

Now, by 2010, I eat at the Berkeley Café Gratitude on a regular basis, and I love it. Café Gratitude exclusively serves food that is raw, vegan, and organic. The entrees are in fact listed as positive declarations: for example, I AM ELATED is a vegan quesadilla (the cheese is made from ground nuts) and I AM GIVING is an Asian kale salad.

My favorite dishes are the grain bowls, in particular I AM WHOLE and I AM ACCEPTING. The first involves sea veggies, carrots, roast almonds and kale over a choice of red Bhutanese rice or quinoa. The second also comes with an offering red rice or quinoa, topped with avocado, seaweed, and nuts. I get either of these with both grains, half-and-half. They are both delicious and nourishing.

Café Gratitude’s atmosphere is crunchy in the extreme: the waitpeople are kind and often dreadlocked, and the low grind of the juicer at work forms the background noise. Its red-brick walls make it cozy and warm. There are sofas, a bar in front, and outdoor seating on the sidewalk.

The food here is not cheap, so rather than raise prices infinitely, they started offering half portions, which is what I go for (it’s plenty of food).

I recommend this place to anyone—it’s great for vegetarians, not to mention a quintessential Bay Area experience.

Warning to people with nut allergies: for you, every entree may be I AM IN ANAPHALACTIC SHOCK. So be careful, lots of dishes involve nuts.

Soop (Berkeley)

Author: Ken | No Comments
Categories: Berkeley & Albany | Tags: Tags: , , , ,

1511 Shattuck Ave
(between Cedar St & Vine St)
Berkeley, CA 94709
Soop in Epicurious Garden
(510) 548-7667


Soop is a great, unique, little takeout stall in the upscale Epicurious Garden. Obviously, they make soup, with a few vegetarian selections every day. I think they also make some sauces. You can buy either pint or quart sizes.

With a hearty piece of whole wheat sourdough, or fresh cornbread thrown in, Soop’s soups make for great, simple meals. I like the Thai Red Lentil with Coconut, but I keep coming back to the Green Soup, which is a puree of green split peas, zucchini, spinach, basil, parsley and celery.

It’s not like I’m a purist about food choices, or even someone who thinks it’s necessary to follow all the unwritten rules, but I have to admit to being a little shocked to see people mix, match, and combine different soups. I admit that when I was a kid I probably mixed Coke and 7-up from the soda fountain more than a few times, but truly that was more scientific experimentation than a well thought out culinary construct. You only have to mix coke with Fanta Orange once to realize just how wrong you can be. Still, I’m told, and I’ve witnessed, people adding the green soup to other soups, and swearing by it. Really! Well, okay, if you want to knock your socks off, get the Green Soup, and then walk across the street to the Cheeseboard bakery when the Zampano have just come out of the oven. With red-pepper flakes, a little bit of melted Parmesan cheese on top, cornmeal sprinkled all over, and just enough olive oil to make your fingers shiny when you pull it apart, Zampanos are the perfect bread to dip into Soop.

About the Authors

Ken and Kathryn are the authors of VegJapan, a vegetarian TravelBlog in Japan.


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