Formerly La Rose Bistro on Shattuck Avenue in Berkeley, La Sen Bistro opened its doors in November. Split between reds and whites sourced from Californian and French vineyards, its wine list reflects the California-French cuisine emerging from the kitchen. Chefs coat duck breast in a honey-pepper sauce and craft a traditional French onion soup with garlic croutons and broiled ementale cheese. They also douse salmon in saffron sauce, pair garlic pommes frites with a ribeye steak, and adorn a vegetarian pizza in goat cheese and ratatouille, a tastier alternative to vegetarian pizzas topped with topiaries.
Little Red Bistro, an idyllic café splashed in vivid crimson accents, suffuses its intimate interior with eyelid-unfurling aromas wafting off three kinds of espresso. As the sun inches over the horizon and the boogeyman dives beneath the bed, the bistro’s chefs fold 17 kinds of crepes, ranging from sweet creations stuffed with peanut butter and jelly to savory pockets piled with green eggs and ham. Golden sear marks color seven piping-hot paninis that swaddle gourmet ingredients such as prosciutto, pesto, and roasted red peppers. Sips of frappes flavored with white chocolate and irish cream forge a fitting accompaniment to the café’s homemade desserts, which rotate daily.
At Mango Star, patrons can lounge on an outdoor patio while sipping sugary bubble teas, fruit-packed smoothies, and thin, flavorful crepes from a menu that overflows with coffee and café fare. Apply $6 per visit toward hot or cold blended tea ($2.75–$3.75), in flavors such as honeydew, jasmine green, and passion fruit, served with optional tapioca pearls freshly plucked from the mouths of seaside tapioca mollusks. Airborne forks can rip open savory crêpes with gusto, revealing chicken, tomato, pesto, and cheese ($5.95), or gourmet avocado, mushroom, onion, tomato, olives, and cheese ($5.25). Sweet crêpes arrive crowned with powdered sugar and whipped cream and boasting coats of strawberry nutella ($5.25), peach and ice cream ($5.95), and the sweet and tart trifecta of strawberry, blueberry, and raspberry ($6.50). Free WiFi and an outdoor patio let patrons browse favorite dog-fashion blogs while sipping espresso ($2.75+) and gourmet coffee ($1.50–$1.75).
Executive chef Vanessa Dang follows up her first blockbuster of French-inspired Vietnamese dishes with this intimate sequel promising elegant small-plate options and explosive flavors. The menu pokes sleepy taste buds with shareable small plates such as maple-leaf duck-confit lettuce wraps ($9) and tuna-and-salmon poke with ginger, avocado, mango, and cucumber-and-tomato salsa ($9). Full-sized entrees combine intercontinental palates with mouth-warping orders of cumin-marinated jumbo prawns and garlic noodles ($16) or a rack of lamb marinated with Dijon-mustard peppercorn in a Bing-cherry reduction ($25). Fill out abridged meals with a glass from the saga-worthy, 150-bottle wine list or a sweet-tooth-regaling Fuji-apple-and-coconut egg roll ($8).
The two chefs at Cypress rely on more than following great recipes when crafting their fine French foods. They meticulously prepare every batch of béarnaise sauce and pot of coq au vin using sustainable, organic California ingredients as often as they can. They also take pride in their artful, festive presentation, serving their dishes tableside style on gueridons whenever possible and Cirque du Soleil style when they remember to bring their leotards. Servers, meanwhile, toss salads, sizzle up new york steaks with brandy, and ignite strawberry flambés.
Zazou's simple but powerful selection of café fare includes savory eats and fresh sweets. Stumble out of an ear-buzzing alarm-clock stupor with an Italian dark-roast or an organic, fair-trade medium-roast coffee before diving into a classic Nutella, chocolate, and banana crêpe ($6) or a hearty vegetarian crêpe stuffed with roasted red pepper, tomato, pesto, and monterey jack ($6.95). The hot pressed sandwiches see that cuts of pastrami, ham, turkey, or grilled chicken are lovingly squished between ciabatta or baguette halves with grandmotherly intensity, after receiving a number of pinches on the cheek and savory fillings, such as roasted red pepper, pesto, and swiss cheese ($7.50¬–$7.75). The meal-worthy Lebanese salad woos ravenous leaf-loving appetites with organic mixed greens, fresh tomatoes, and kalamata olives topped with feta cheese and pomegranate dressing ($7.25). Zazou’s also features a fresh soup du jour, with past offerings that include North African lentil ($3.50 for cup, $5 for bowl).