Chez Panisse Café

Overall Rating: 6.450

Address: 1517 Shattuck Ave.
Cross Street(s): Btwn Cedar & Vine Sts.
City, State ZIP: Berkeley, CA 94709
Phone: 510.548.5049
Hours: M-Th 11:30am-10:30pm; F-Sa 11:30am-11:30pm
Type of Establishment: Restaurant
Cafe Rating: 6.50
Barista: 6
Savvy: 6
Ambiance: 6
Presentation: 8
Consistency: N/A
Espresso Machine: La Marzocco
Coffee Rating: 6.40
Aroma: 6
Body: 7
Brightness: 7
Crema: 6
Flavor: 7
Taster's Correction: -1.0
Size: M
Primary Taste: Pungent
Coffee Beans: Blue Bottle Coffee Co.
Cup Manufacturer: Nuova Point
Price: $3.75
Last Update: 08/19/2009
First Reviewed: 08/19/2009
Notes: None

This upstairs café (more of a Western restaurant) resides in the rather infamous birthplace of California Cuisine. At least when Alice Waters decided to take her local, farm-fresh cooking operation out of a house and into this formal spot decades ago. The more formal restaurant is downstairs, and the café is a (slightly) more casual affair. There are rich wood floors and paneling, reflective panels of zinc on the walls, and lots of Art Deco designs to the space - which is also decorated with old 1930s movie posters from the French screenplay scribe, Marcel Pagnol. Of course, any homage to the French is usually a bad sign for their coffee quality. They ease some of those fears by adopting a coffee service from Blue Bottle Coffee. They use a two-group La Marzocco Linea at the top of the stairs to enter the café; it's in a dedicated spot for their wine storage and book sales. Using the Chez Panisse House Blend, they produce espresso shots with a weak, bare layer of medium brown crema. The shot size is right (which is better than we can say for some of the doubles we saw passed around) - so it's not surprising that the cup has a decent heft to its body. There's some potency in the flavor, which runs more into pepper and spices. But by any measure, this is weak for Blue Bottle standards. The French influence unfortunately comes out in the quality of the cup here.