Tuesday, February 05, 2008

La Note

2377 Shattuck Ave.
(510) 843-1535

French (or Provençal) in West Berkeley

I've been here many a time in the last few years, and it's definitely one of those places that gets majorly hyped. I first heard about it back in 2003 from my co-RA in the dorms who had spent a year studying abroad in Paris. OK, I thought, this place must be pretty good since she's probably been to Provence. I remember being completely let down by the supposedly divine raspberry oatmeal pancakes, as well as the eh eggs.

I had also gone for dinner once with a friend, and I remember being a believer in monkfish after my meal. Buttery and rich, that dinner was one of the best I had in college. But then again, that was pre-SF and before I really began fine-tuning my palate. I went here for another brunch last year, and got the deliciously sounding open-faced omelette with potatoes and caramelized onions, which was disappointingly bland.

After my let-down brunch experiences here, I went here again this past weekend, only because Mike had never been before. This time it was actually quite good. I would usually average the stars in the review, but I'm feeling generous. I believe that this restaurant can be redeemed, given these crucial factors:

- Know what to order. Since I had already gone through disappointing menu choices, I knew what to avoid and we picked dishes that were actually good this time. Mike had lemon gingerbread pancakes which he raved about (they were ok for me. I'm not a fan of gingerbread, and that flavor was very strong). It was cutely plated with blueberries and poached pears. I had a normal ham & cheese omelette accompanied with roasted tomatoes which were yummy. Mike had a side of homefries which were roasted with rosemary and garlic = mmm. I remember having the homefries before and feeling pretty indifferent about them, probably because they're easily burnt... which leads me to the next factor....

- Beat the rush. Sure, there are practical reasons behind this (you don't have to wait, less crowded, blah blah blah), but the main reason, especially in this case, is that the busier the restaurant is, the worse the quality of the food will be. We went at 9am whereas typical brunch time is 10am, and we didn't have to wait at all, and we also got good food. I have no idea if the food would've been comparable at 10am, especially given my previous experiences there.

All in all, La Note was redeemed this weekend, but hopefully they're consistent from here on out. We'll see!

*** UPDATE ***

Went here for a late lunch and was relieved to see that their brunch/breakfast menu is still good until 2:30pm! I got french toast (more specifically cinnamon brioche pain perdu) that was supposed to be coated in an orange blossom batter then sprinkled with lavender honey (sugar?)... but the flavors were really really subtle since cinnamon is a very overpowering spice. Mike's lamb sausage was really juicy, especially with the thick red sauce. Mmmmm

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