When I assembled last week's list of the best things I'd eaten in 2005, there was a lot of pain involved. One kind was the torturous elimination of many, many dishes that made the first cut but not the second, creating a Salon des Refusés rife with pleasures that deserve mention. I praised Cinderella Bakery and Café's (436 Balboa, 751-9690) spinach soup and pelmeni, but lost the equally beguiling rassolnik, a soup full of fat barley grains, earthy with bits of kidney and sharpened with pickle juice, and also its puffy blini served with smoked salmon, sour cream, and snipped fresh dill. Sea Salt (2512 San Pablo, Berkeley, 510-883-1720) was represented only by smoky grilled squid, when I was also haunted by memories of creamy clam chowder with bacon and chopped parsley and a lobster roll containing nothing but lobster and melted butter. I lost Café Bella Vista's (2598 Harrison, 641-6195) sopa de guisantes con jamón, a fabulous thick pea soup studded with ham and made with both dried and fresh peas; Capannina's (1809 Union, 409-8001) lovely corn soup swirled with basil purée and studded with corn kernels and plump clams; Oola's (860 Folsom, 995-2061) foie gras à la torchon, accompanied by persimmon and brandied cherries, and its decadent, luxurious little ravioli stuffed with a smooth paste of chicken and foie gras, in truffle sauce; Chenery Park's (683 Chenery, 337-8537) beautiful pâté plate containing creamy pork rillettes, a faintly peppery rabbit terrine, and lush foie gras pâté; and Shanghai Dumpling Shop's (3319 Balboa, 387-2088) boiled chive dumplings stuffed with minced pork... More >>>
Free Range: GFC's attractive and spacious
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