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).
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).
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.
The anticipation of finding out what executive chef Eric Lanvert chose to include on today's menu is part of the charm of dining at Rue Saint Jacques, where dishes are crafted from organic and sustainably farmed ingredients whenever possible. Lanvert draws inspiration from his childhood in southern France's Roussillon region and relies on ingredients from local producers, area farmers' markets, and gourmet food fights. The San Francisco Bay Guardian remarked in 2009 that despite their Californian origins, "the dishes rely on a timeless appeal and are very much the ones you'd find in countless neighborhood bistros in Paris."
The intimately sized dining room strikes a balance between refinement and rustic allure, featuring plaster-textured walls and exposed ceiling beams that tower over crisp white tablecloths.
Chef Laurent Guillaume, who has helped open hotels and restaurants in Paris, brings years of culinary expertise to Chouquet’s menu and adorns time-tested continental fare with surprising New World elements. Attentive servers emerge from the kitchen carrying escargot and niçoise salads, cruising past sleek stools at a bar accented by swirls of natural wood grain and designed by Dominique Maxime Genauzeau. On the patio, diners soak up the sun or choose least-favorite clouds for a sky writer to edit out. The dining room's sand-hued walls and burnt-orange accents resound with the sounds of glasses clinking together, bearing more than 70 wines from Europe, South America, and the Pacific Northwest and a rotating selection of draft beers from France and the United States.