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).
Though Crepe Escape stays open from 7 a.m. until 10 p.m., the café never stops serving breakfast. Chefs blend gourmet ingredients to concoct unique takes on classic morning-time eats, such as the crab cake Florentine version of eggs benedict or stacks of waffles topped with fruit a dollop of whipped cream. Egg-based crepes sate sweet and savory teeth with a bevy of filling options from strawberries to curried chicken. For those who adhere to a strict breakfast regimen of one grapefruit and one boiled marshmallow, the café also dishes up light salads, sandwiches, and pastas. Crepe Escape's espresso bar and wine list provide drinks that pair pleasantly with any dish or time of day.
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.