Note: We revisited Lalimes for our anniversary in March 2002. We had made reservations for Gary Danko, but I had to be hospitalized with pre-eclampsia (my daughter Michaela was born a week later) and Lalime's was wonderful in preparing and packaging a meal my husband could bring me to the hospital. They even loaned us the china so we could eat! The food was very good, I particularly enjoyed the foie gras appetizer and the expresso creme brulee. We're planning on going back to Lalimes for our anniversary this year.
Lalime's has been on our list of places to try for quite some time, as it was celebrated as one of the best restaurants in the East Bay. Having tried most of the others, it was about time we visited it.
We made same-day reservations for a Monday evening in December 2000. We probably shouldn't have bothered, as it was a weeknight and there were plenty of free tables, but it's always better to be safe than sorry. We arrived on time and were promptly seated.
The restaurant is pretty nice; it feels clean and modern. It didn't feel particularly romantic, but then again, we were dining out with friends. Service was also quite good; the server explained dishes on the menu and was efficient.
The food, however, disappointed us a bit. It was generally good, but not particularly noteworthy. The menu, which is supposed to change every month or so, featured about 10 appetizers and 7 entries. Appetizers were in the $6 to $10 range, while main dishes were mostly in the higher teens, pretty reasonable for this type of restaurant. Appetizers were rather varied and I chose the "Pappardelle with roasted wild mushrooms, pancetta and shaved Reggiano." This dish proved to be a generous portion of savory, but boring, pasta. It wasn't bad, but I wouldn't have it again. Mike ordered the Fois Gras and he was very pleased with it. It was wonderfully seared, had a full flavor and a pleasant texture. Our dinner companions had salads that did not seem to merit much commentary.
I hesitated among many great-sounding entrees, but finally went for a dish of chicken and quail roasted in Oaxacan mole with fried plantains. I am not the greatest mole fan in the world, but have eaten plenty of moles I have found enjoyable. This was not one of them. I don't remember now what made it so unappetizing, but I know that Mike shared my opinion. The poultry itself was OK. The skin and those sections that had been seared were delicious, but most of it was rather bland. Again, not a dish I would order again. Mike had a grilled steak which was pretty good; he was happy. One of our friends had the vegetable cassoulet and was bored with it, and I don't remember what our other friend had - but his opinion was, again, that it was good but not great.
We accompanied the meal with a Montepulciano wine, which we enjoyed very much. Lalimes has a pretty nice wine list, though I think it could use more wines in the $20s. I should also note that Lalimes does not offer run-of-the-mill soft drinks. That meant no coke for me; instead I had to make do with a fufu orangina-like drink. For this reason alone, I think I would not go back to dine there.
Desserts were probably the highlight of the evening. Mike and one of our friends ordered the creme brulee with a gingerbread man cookie. It was very good - but then again, I love creme brulee. I, instead, felt adventurous and had the apple, pear and cassis sorbets with Danish cookies. I found the cassis sorbet to be a little too overwhelming, but enjoyed the other two sorbets quite a bit, especially the apple sorbet (I'd never had imagined that apple sorbet could be so good).
All in all, we were pleased with the meal but not excited by it. We think that the restaurant should be able to do better. Until it does, we'll probably not visit it again.
1329 Gilman Street
(510) 527 9838