Note: We went back to A Cote for dinner in 2004. Review
Late Saturday morning (Feb. 2002), Mike and I found ourselves in Berkeley looking for a place to eat. Given our location, we decided to drive up College and see what we found there. After parking and rejecting a creperie, a grill and a pasteria, we found A Cote. I had heard wonderful things about the restaurant and had been meaning to go there for a while - and yet I had no idea where it was located.
After a quick look at the menu (posted on the door), we went in. It was early enough (around 11:30AM) that we were able to get a table, a high one by the window. A good location, kind of set away from the rest of the restaurant. The restaurant itself is pretty small and people who came later had to either sit at the bar or at the "community table." So you are warned.
It's a very cute place, though. Very modern, with funky art decorating the walls, beautiful artsy lamps and lots of curves all over. Still, it very much has the atmosphere of a quiet European cafe (if there is such a thing), a place to sit down, relax and people watch (though there wasn't that much foot traffic on this part of College). Soft jazz music adds to the aura and blocks any traffic noise from the outside. All in all, a very pleasant place.
The lunch menu was pretty short, it probably had 10 different dishes or so mostly fu-fu sandwiches and salads. Mike decided on the croquette monsieur ($7) and I went for the prosciuto, cheese and pear sandwich ($9). We also ordered the pommes frites with aioli ($5) as a side dish.
I had heard that A Cote served "small dishes" and while that was true in the case of the sandwiches, which were on the small side (given their price) and came accompanied only by a few weird looking olive-thingies, the plate of fries was huge. There were way too many fries for two people; plan to share them with between at least four. They were very, very good. A tad greasy, I must admit, but very nicely herbed/spiced; the accompanying aioli had a subtle lemon flavor and was also delicious. I'd certainly recommend them.
Mike's croquette monsieur came next. It's made with French ham and gruyere cheese and it's positively out of this world - I've never had a better grilled ham & cheese sandwich. It was rich, had intense flavors and was positively delicious. On the minus side, I thought it was too greasy, especially after the fries.
My prosciuto sandwich was more disappointing. The peasant-style bread was too thick and did no let the flavors of the prosciuto, the pear or even the arugula come through. The only thing that had a chance was the cheese, and it was good, but also overwhelmed everything else in the sandwich. I would not order it again.
A Cote has a large list of wines (including wines by the glass) and also serves a variety of mixed drinks. Most seemed pretty expensive, in the $10 range (though Mike was intrigued by a $25 margarita). Their selection of non-alcoholic drinks is overpriced, small and fu-fu. They had pelegrino water and some specialty sodas, but no Coke. Mike had the Thomas Kemper root beer ($3.50!), and I just had plain water. The water carafe left at the table was a nice touch, but I wished it had come with some ice.
Service was pretty good, relaxed and efficient but you should bear in mind that dishes come at different intervals, as the food is supposed to be shared this doesn't really matter too much.
All in all we had a very nice experience and we're hoping to try it for dinner.
5478 College Ave