“Diabolo Minthe”: sparkling water w/mint syrup
La Note is located on Shattuck Ave. in Berkeley, but you’d swear you stepped into some neighborhood cafe or bistro in Provence. Other than Stacks or 900 Grayson, it’s my favorite spot for brunch in the Bay Area. You can’t beat the ambience here. The walls are a brightly colored yellow with jars of French condiments and handmade bowls and cups lining the walls, all for sale. There are bright green wicker chairs and fleur de lys patterned tables throughout this cozy, sunny, and usually crowded cafe.
We were here this time for dinner, which can be just as enjoyable. They have some very memorable dishes on both their brunch/lunch and dinner menus.
I started with the Crostone au Jambon de Bayonne, which was country bread rubbed with olive oil and garlic, and then topped with prosciutto and cornichons. It was all served over a bed of lightly dressed mixed greens and roasted roma tomatoes with garlic and herbs. The combination was great and it was fresh and authentically rustic and French. The serving was also big enough to share, but my husband wanted to order his own…
He got the special salad of the day, which was slices of roasted duck over a bed of mixed lightly dressed greens. It was also served with the same roasted tomatoes I had on my plate and grilled country bread. The duck was flavorful and smokey, and together with those fabulous tomatoes and greens, it made for another great combo.
Then came the entrees. My husband got the Bouillabaisse Marseillaise, their classic fish stew that was “chock full of seafood,” as he says. The tomato based broth was swimming with clams, crab, mussels, sea bass, scallops, and shrimp and so flavorful it was overwhelming. We agreed the dish was phenominal, as always.
I ordered the Poulet a la Nicoise, which was a stewed chicken dish with tomatoes and white wine, olives, parsley, and saffron rice that was perfect to suck up the stewing liquid on the plate. This was a light yet hearty dish that was like comfort on a plate. It was homey, delicious, and felt like a dish that someone’s grandma would make.
The service is friendly, but largely absent. We got there about five minutes before the place opened and instead of letting us sit and wait inside, they “kindly” told us they were closed and made us wait the five minutes outside. And once they seat you, you’ll think they forgot all about you. That’ll be the case throughout your meal.
But the biggest drawback with this place is the L-O-N-G wait. You HAVE to get here either when they open or later in the afternoon/evening. They only take same day reservations for parties of four or more for dinner, and five or more for brunch on weekdays only. Brunch at this place is legendary, but dinner is no slouch. Either way, it’s still one of my all time favorite restaurants in the Bay Area, lackluster service or not.
La Note – 2377 Shattuck Ave., Berkeley – 510. 843.1525