From the simple, understated confines behind Bistro M's bright French doors, Parisian-born pastry-punchers pound out traditional Gallic gastronomy. Night-shift noshers can cloak themselves in the warm light of the chandeliers while rhapsodizing on inviting entrees such as trout almondine ($16) and braised pork shoulder with butternut-squash gratin ($21). Otherwise, seek pearls and spark plugs amid the raw, barbecue, and Rockefeller shell-meat of the full oyster bar ($1.75 each). Bistro M also assuages mid-afternoon belly temblors with a storehouse of lunch and brunch provisions. Set upon a refined feast with the croque madame's seared ham and fresh fried-egg chapeau ($11), or unmask hunger and robot invaders masquerading as sandwiches with the honesty of the open-faced vegetable and brie tartine ($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.