Tonight I met my best friend since preschool (!), Sara, for dinner in Berkeley. As you guys know, I am food obsessed, however she is pretty easygoing when it comes to dining options, so I kind of had free reign to decide where we were going to eat. I am extremely unfamiliar with the Berkeley area, even though I went there a few times growing up (and two of my lovely roommates are from right around there!), and I was so pleasantly surprised – and slightly overwhelmed – with all the dining options there. We parked on a random street off of Shattuck and decided to just wander and find somewhere close. This, by the way, is extremely unusual for me. Usually I Yelp restaurants obsessively before choosing one, so I was nervous about the lack of planning. Thankfully it turned out pretty okay (and the company, of course, was excellent!), but I look forward to returning to Berkeley and trying the large variety of dining options.
A prevalent theme that I noticed throughout all the restaurants in this area was the emphasis on local, organic ingredients, and Revival was no exception to that rule. They tout the fact they are a “root to shoot, farm to fork restaurant” which I decoded (after some speculation) basically means that they try to use every part of the animals and produce that comes into their kitchen (in order to minimize waste), while supporting local farms and suppliers. I think that this is a cool concept, but the real question was: is the food good?
The answer is yes, and no. The menu was very interesting, albeit slightly limited. Three different flatbreads, about five appetizers, five salads and five entrees – with such a small menu, I feel like every single dish should be a knockout, which wasn’t necessarily the case. It was also on the more expensive side ($16.50 for some pasta, $12 for salad), but you could definitely tell how fresh the ingredients were and I loved that the menu is always changing, reflecting the seasons. Our service was very good – our waitress was helpful in choosing a cocktail, and seemed genuinely concerned whether we liked our meals or not. I would return here, but not before stopping into all the other seemingly great restaurants Berkeley has to offer.
We started off the meal with some bread (complimentary) and both got the same cocktail (I can’t remember the name, and it isn’t online!).
The cocktail was GREAT. The waitress recommended it to me, and I’m so glad that I got it. It had some lemon tonic and peach bitters in it, with some kind of vodka. I would have gotten more but ummmm cocktails are kinda expensive! The bread was good too, just basic french bread, but the olive oil dipping sauce it came with had some chili flakes and some kind of spice in it (fennel seed, maybe?) that made it a little more interesting.
Sara and I opted to split to the stuffed squash blossom appetizer. I have been hearing about stuffed squash lately through my thorough lurking of the interwebs of food, and was pretty intrigued by it. These little blossoms came stuffed with goat cheese and chives, baked in cazuela (type of dish it came in, apparently) with a tomato ragout that included capers. This was VERY tasty, and probably my favorite dish of the dinner. The squash blossoms essentially taste like what you stuff them with – in this case that was the goat cheese which was probably the best goat cheese I’ve ever had. Not too heavy, as goat cheese can be, and the chives in it added a nice touch.
It won’t surprise you to hear I ordered the only pasta dish on the menu. This was the house made “picci” pasta with spring peas, pea tendrils, carrots, ricotta salata and mint pesto. To me, pasta can fall in two categories – comfort pasta, and “designer” pasta. This would definitely be the latter, as it was not a traditional dish at all. The pasta shape was very interesting – kinda like a thick spaghetti – and I didn’t like it at first, but it grew on me. The pesto was very good, and not too minty, and I loved the pea tendrils. The ricotta was also very good, but then again it was cheese so that’s not really a surprise.
Salad is the last thing I order at a restaurant, ever, so I’m glad Sara got one so I could show you a wider variety of the menu. This was the salad of Riverdog Farms little gem lettuce, tokyo turnips, avocado, roasted beets, spiced sunflower seeds, and yogurt cilantro dressing. I tried a beet (LOVE beets) and it was good. What she said about it (via text after we parted ways): “fresh lettuce, good dressing, unripe avocados – could have been better especially because they are in season.” So that’s that.
We were offered dessert, and there were some good options (strawberry shortcake, cheesecake, house made ice cream), but we decided to get some gelato up the street instead. I would definitely recommend Revival for cocktails, and probably for dinner as well, just go into it with an open mind.