I hadn't heard of Pomegranate, a Mediterranean restaurant on University Avenue in Berkeley, until our friend Regina suggested it for dinner on a Sunday evening in April 2004. We're always game for anything (well, almost anything) so of course we said yes - and we are happy we did. Our dinner at Pomegranate was one of the best meals we've had in a while, and we've been eating out a lot lately.
Pomegranate's space is quite attractive. There are two (or is it three?) small dining rooms on different levels. The architecture of the place is its main decor and it does a good job of looking both upscale and casual at the same time. Indeed, Pomegranate is the type of place where you could bring anyone for any occasion and have it work - the restaurant is nice enough and the food good enough for a date or celebration, but cheap enough for a more casual or budget-conscious gathering.
Pomegranate's menu draws mostly from the Central and Eastern part of the Mediterranean region. The Middle East and Greece are mostly represented in their appetizers ($4-10) and main dishes ($12-15), Italy in the pastas ($10-13) and pizzas ($9.50) and a mixture of the region plus American influences in their salads ($5-13) and desserts ($4-5). Chances are you'll find something here for every taste.
Dinner started with fresh, warm pita bread (quite good) and drinks. I had my usual soda but Regina ordered the Pomegranate Lemonade ($3.50) a house specialty, recommended by the waitress. It was too sour for me but everyone else found it quite pleasing.
As an appetizer, I got a walnut dip which contained feta cheese and other goodies. It was quite tasty and we ate every last bit of it; I'd recommend it as a nice accompaniment for the pita bread. Mike had the smoked salmon dish; small pieces of smoked salmon were served on top of a Middle Eastern salad. Both him and Boris (the other salmon eater in our party) also really enjoyed it. Boris himself ordered a Caesar Salad. He thought the dressing tasted very strongly of anchovies, which for him was a plus but might not be for everyone. Regina had the dolmah, which had been baked in sweet & sour sauce, and she also gave them the thumbs up. She even got Mike to eat one (he's been reluctant to eat them since I made dolmahs he didn't like about a decade ago) and agreed that they were quite good.
As our main dish, both Boris and I got the lamb shank. It was braised and served with mashed potatoes and a lemon-tomato sauce. The shank was, of course, extremely tender. The tomato sauce wasn't very complex in flavor but it had a definite homey taste to it; this dish is comfort food with a Mediterranean bent, if you will. Mike had the lamb kebabs which, again, were quite good. They were nothing out of this world, however; you've probably have similar kebabs at good Persian restaurants, but we all liked them and would order them again. The same can be said about Regina's chicken kebabs, she was quite pleased with them.
Everyone was stuffed by then, but I wanted to have dessert (and I used this review as an excuse). Mike said he didn't want any so I took the opportunity to order the mud pie which contained coffee ice cream. Regina and Boris, meanwhile, ordered the vanilla ice cream with hot fudge, which they didn't really get to enjoy as Mika kept saying "more please" in her irresistibly sweet two-year-old voice. The mud pie was pretty good and we all agreed that the chocolate sauce was great. It had at first reminded Boris (though not I) of Hershey's, and it was definitely thin, but it had a very strong chocolatey flavor with a hint of mocha. I would order either dish again.
In all we had a great meal at a very reasonable price (how is it that Berkeley restaurants are so much cheaper than restaurants in San Leandro?). I will definitely go there again.
Lunch: M-F 11:30 pm - 2:30 pm
Dinner: Daily 5:00 pm- 9:45 pm