By: Revanche

Chez Panisse in Berkeley: yea, or nay?

September 12, 2007

My foodie friends, I have two questions:

1. Chez Panisse of Berkeley, excellent or just good?
2. Is it good value for the money? This basically means that the experience and the dining are on par with the money they’re charging. I’m not impressed by being fed inch size servings laced with pretty colors if the taste and eventual satiety isn’t there, in other words.

The sister-in-law proposed it as a dinner option, prefacing it with “I don’t know if it fits your budget” so I automatically selected it as a lunch option instead.

Does anyone have input/insight on this restaurant?

8 Responses to “Chez Panisse in Berkeley: yea, or nay?”

  1. Just reading the reviews:

    Chez Panisse is listed as the #20 restaurant in the world in Restaurant magazine’s 2006 list of the best restaurants in the world[3] and #40 on the 2007 list.[4] It was awarded a one-star rating by Michelin in its guide to San Francisco Bay Area dining

    The restaurant books up before the cafe. A reservation needs to be placed up to a month in advance given this restaurant’s renown and popularity, and a credit card must be provided to hold the reservation. There is one menu nightly, prix fixe, posted on their website the week before.


    The prix fixe menu might be worth trying out – fixed price, and you get to taste the food there without blowing the budget. But I didn’t see it..

    And oh.. you better go to the cafe instead of the restaurant. I eat out a lot, and my eyes just POPPED at the cost!!

    Cafe: $9.50 – $33 (reading the descripts, they don’t seem like a lot of food)

    Restaurant: $55-$85

    And on top of that: “Service charge: 17 percent Sales tax: 8 3/4 percent, Corkage: $25 per bottle. $45 per magnum.”

    I’m sure the service is fab, but you’re automatically paying a 17% tip.

    For me and husband, we’d say: Nay… we’d rather have cheaper, more fulfilling eats many times over than once for $33 – $85 per person.

  2. So I asked a chef friend who lives out there, and he says to DEFINITELY go because it’s the pinnacle of fine cuisine out there…. but you have to really be a true foodie to appreciate it. If you just want good food, and are just like “meh, tasty”, then don’t waste your cash.

  3. Harrison says:

    My wife and I went there last year with friends to celebrate a birthday. It was our first time there and will be the last time.

    The food was very good and the service was excellent. But, for us, it needed to be significantly better to justify the $300 per couple price tag.

    If you’re a foodie and can handle dropping that kind of cash without regret, go for it. Otherwise, choose another great place — of which there are many in the area.

  4. Harrison: That’s like me and my family going out to eat at Benihana’s. It was a nice ‘experience’, even though our chef was really lackluster, but there was NO WAY it was worth the bill we got slapped with at the end.

  5. ~Fab~ Thanks for all the information, and your friend’s characterization fits Bro/Sis-in-law but not Boyducky and me. At least, not yet. Our palates match our wallets, and so I’ll take good company and a steak and veggies meal any day.

    ~Harrison~ Holy cow, I think that’s the exact kind of summation I was looking for. $300/couple is definitely not in the stars. I can afford some nice things but definitely not THAT much!

    Thank you both for the insight, (Fab, I agree with you heartily about Benihana’s) Chez Panisse is out of the running this time. Maybe in about ten years we’ll be free to spend that kind of money on a foodie experience:)

  6. mapgirl says:

    I’ve only eaten at the cafe for lunch, but I found it to be excellent. I went because my co-worker was getting married and we wanted to celebrate and have a really good excuse for a long lunch.

    It was about 10 years ago, but extremely delicious. I had a grilled bay scallop with frisee salad for a starter. How many meals can you recall having 10 years later?

    I think dining there is a once in a lifetime thing because it’s so expensive, but if it’s a once in a lifetime kind of affair, I’d do it. However, there are lots of other alternatives. I used to eat at Stars Cafe when it was still open. (Jeremiah Tower used to work at Chez Panisse) I’d do your research on other chefs and perhaps you’ll find another prodigy from the kitchens of Chez Panisse with their own undiscovered place?

  7. I know quite a few people who dined at the cafe which is much cheaper. I think a 3 course meal at the cafe is like $35?

    My boss who dined there said it’s great because it’s all local and sustainable. But she questioned if one can really taste the difference of a chicken raised in the Bay Area vs another free-range chicken … something to think about!

  8. ~Mapgirl and SFMM~ A million years later … 🙂 It’s rare that the brothers get to spend a weekend together, just to be together, now, so I think we’re going to hit the cafe. Once the brother/sis-in-law start having kids, this experience is likely to be out of the question! And brother/sis-in-law ARE foodies, and it’s also his birthday we’re celebrating, so I think it’s fair. We’ll do Boyducky’s steak for a dinner I can pay for, and we’ll do Brother’s Chez Panisse for lunch. I can live with that.

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