Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Reviewed: Zut! in Berkeley

A year later, and Zut! on Berkeley's Fourth Street isn't as polished as the month-old Apple store a few doors down. While the locally sourced, organic, sustainable Mediterranean fare is admirable, the service and experience is uneven.

To begin, we were seated in one of the worst parts of the restaurant - the sparsely decorated, loud alleyway near the restrooms. Essentially, I think of it as the kid's section - or where the wait staff train. While the bar and parts of the restaurant visible from the street are beautiful, beware the tables near the restroom, as there is nothing remotely interesting to see - unless you count peering at fellow diners in the decorative mirrors. But they can easily catch you glancing at them - awkward. Not only can you see fellow diners, you can probably eavesdrop, but only when you're not distracted by the Amtrak train horn every half hour.

Once seated, we were given an awkward pitch for that night's "awesome" family night $30 3-course prix fixe. Being our first time at Zut!, we left the family meal for another time and ordered off the regular menu - hoping to try some Zut! staples. We started with the roasted beet and citrus salad that was nicely balanced and perfect for a warm evening. Then came the best dish of the night: fried brussel sprouts with bacon, parmesan and lemon. We could hear the table next to us dismissing the sprouts, and we snickered knowing what they were missing.

The entrees were let downs after the starters. The Pt. Reyes Blue pizza was disappointing - too doughy and blue cheesy. The rotisserie half chicken with potatos and green beans was ordinary - definitely not in my top 3. With the dim lighting, it was hard to tell if the chicken was slightly uncooked or if it was dark meat. I didn't want to guess, so I stopped eating.

Service was friendly and a bit green, something I didn't expect among the poshness of Fourth Street, which leaves me wondering what type of restaurant Zut! wants to be. On the one hand, I can see family-friendly, neighborhood, casual dining for families and older couples. But, the decor and ambience are trying to create a hip spot on Fourth Street, much like O Chame. Regardless, I'd go back for bar bites and to try the Tuesday night family-style dinner, which varies in price based on seasonality. You can expect a 3-course meal (salad, meat entree and dessert) shared family style for about $30 a person. For an extra $15, get wine pairings.

1820 4th St., Berkeley
(510) 644-0444

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