Other Reviews


A Caveat

Summary: Solid food in an Hogwarts' dining room look-alike.


This weekend (February 2007), my parents came to visit my kids, and whisked them away to a lot of fun activities, giving Mike and I time to get to know each other again. There is no better way to do that than by sharing bread, so of course we made plans to go out to a couple of nice restaurants and rekindle the romance. Now, Adagia would probably not come at the top of any list of romantic restaurants, but if you are young (or not so young) and in love, even this grown-up cafeteria will do.

Not that Adagia is really a cafeteria, though its long shared table in the middle of the large, rectangular room, and the lack of tablecloths, might suggest so. It is a proper restaurant with waiting service and all. But its room looks like the dining room from an Ivy League college (not that I've ever been to one), or, as Mike suggested, a Harry Potter movie (think cafeteria at Hogwarts). It's lovely, don't get me wrong, with its tall ceilings, leaded windows and wood paneling, but it looks more like a place to get together with a don than with your sweetheart. It's very loud to boot - there is little in the room to absorb noise - though we found that we could have a nice conversation without elevating our voices.

The menu - significantly shorter than the sample menu found online - changes monthly and offers California cuisine at moderate prices (appetizers are $7.25 - $12.50, main dishes average $19-23 and desserts $7). They no longer seem to offer dishes for the table, which is too bad as the choices in the online menu seemed pretty nice. Instead starters consisted of a soup, two salads and a "gnudi" dish - none of which appealed to our palates. There were five entrees (one lamb, one beef, one poultry and two seafood) and here we had a little bit harder time deciding. Finally, I went for the duck two ways ($21) while Mike had the NY Strip ($23). They were both quite good.

My dish included a confit duck leg, on top a salad of grilled Asian pears (OK), Marcona Almonds (didn't really find these), Membrillo and Endive and a "House-Smoked Sonoma Duck Risotto" with "Errigny Mushrooms, Brussels sprouts and Pecorino Sardo". Both were quite good. The duck leg was very crispy on the outside and not overdone inside; the skin was delicious but even the meat was quite full of flavor. I ate every last bit of it. The risotto was also good, but in different ways. It had been cooked in wine and that was its predominant flavor; indeed, a better name for the dish would have been risotto a la bourguignon. The duck was present, but you couldn't really catch its flavor. The rice was nice and mushy, and the whole thing had a very homey essence. Both Mike and I liked it a lot, and I'm going to try to recreate it sans duck.

Mike's Meyer Ranch NY Strip Steak came with a "Winter Root Vegetable Au Gratin", Salsa Verde and Manchego Cheese. The steak itself was cooked rare (he'd asked for medium rare, but sometimes there are confusions as to what one means with what), well seasoned and delicious. Mike didn't really want to share with me. I'm not sure that the salsa verde did much to enhance it, but then again I'm one of those people who believes good meat can speak for itself. I didn't like the gratin, I thought it tasted too much like vegetables (which I don't like), though Mike felt it tasted just like potatoes. He thought it was fine.

The portions weren't particularly big, though as we were only moderately hungry they satisfied us. If you are particularly hungry, you may want to have an appetizer.

Mike had a glass of their 2003 Louis Martini Cabernet Sauvignon ($7.50), which was a light, easy drinking wine, with no tannins or oakiness whatsoever. Completely unmemorable. I had a coke ($2).

The dessert menu included six choices (all $6.75) including a panna cotta, an apple crisp and an olive oil cake. Mike was quite insistent that we order the "Scharffenberger Chocolate Pudding/ Chantilly Cream/Warm Caramel Sauce" and the "Caramelized Banana Mousse Napoloeon/Hazelnut Phyllo/Ginger Rum Chocolate Sauce". Both desserts were very good. The chocolate pudding was served on a crust, so it really resembled a round piece of pie. The pudding was very chocolaty and strong and Mike really liked it, so much so that he only gave me a couple of bites. I also really enjoyed the Napoleon, it was just a mess of banana mousse with cream and three hazelnut phyllo cookies coming out. It looked nicer than I describe it, though. The banana mousse itself was delicious, very sweet and strong, thick though somewhat reminiscent of jarred baby food (have you ever had those mashed bananas? they are great!), the cream around it brought down the sweetness to a manageable level. The tasty cookies provided a needed crunch to the whole thing. The only loser was the sauce, which tasted more like an apricot caramel sauce than a ginger chocolate sauce. There might have been ginger there, but I'm willing to bet there was no chocolate. Still, it wasn't hard to avoid.

There were a couple of low points to the evening, however. Our table - set in the back of the room, on a thoroughfare for the waiters - was extremely wobbly. It was also too close to other tables, when some people were seated near us, we had to move our whole table for them to fit. Service was also unimpressive. After we finished our basket of bread and olive oil (the brown bread wasn't particularly tasty, though the young olive oil was good but not as piquant as I would have liked), we were not offered any more - even though our dishes had not yet arrived. Similarly, we were never asked if we wanted another drink. There was little interaction with the waitress, and the waiting staff seemed to be hurrying between tables. Finally, the bathroom clearly needed to be cleaned.

In all, we had a very nice evening and I'm glad I tried Adagia. I wouldn't be rushing back in, though only because I much rather try new restaurants, but it's definitely a place worth trying once.

2700 Bancroft Way
Berkeley, Ca

Adagia for Dessert - 1/08