Thursday, January 10, 2008

Berkeley Restaurant Review: 900 Grayson

I was telling someone about this blog over lunch, when they asked whether I posted restaurant reviews. I've never gotten into Yelp or other sites that take ownership of user-written reviews, so why not post some of my own here? Good idea.

Let's start with 900 Grayson, a breakfast and lunch place just inside the Berkeley border with Emeryville. We went there today while running some errands in the area. It's on 6th, a couple of blocks north of Ashby.

On an earlier visit, we were perturbed by how loud the place was; everyone was carrying on a full-volume conversation that never let up from the moment they sat down. Also the staff was inattentive, which was a common theme in the Yelp reviews. But the food was OK, and most breakfast/lunch/brunch places have some strike against them, so they stayed on the list for a followup visit.

Again, loud loud loud inside. This time the staff was very polite and attentive -- clearly management has read the reviews of the service. But today the food was markedly vegetarian-unfriendly. Four sandiches on the menu, including "panini of the day", and nothing meatless. A dish combined seitan and waffles -- clearly intended to be the single vegetarian entree -- but eggs feaured too prominently so I passed. I'm not a vegan, but dishes that are heavy on egg don't agree with me, and I notice when otherwise vegetarian-friendly places go overboard with cheese and eggs. Nice soup with a smoky pepper flavour. A nicely presented salad with pear, spinach, cashews and cranberries, but (a) not enough to be filling, and (b) hardly any pear or any noticeable flavour. The herb fries are always good, but when trying to make a meal out of the sides, I can't help but notice how pricey they are. The sandwiches all come with fries, but again, no vegetarian sandwiches today.

So, although I don't own any copyright on the whole "thumbs" deal, if I did, I would reluctantly have to point mine down. OK to pop in for fries and soup and maybe dessert if in the neighbourhood, but not for a substantial meal. I deduct points but still enjoy fancy dinner places like Lalimes that have a similar-themed menu -- natural beef this, prawn that -- yet 900 Grayson falls short for me on vegetarian/vegan-friendly dishes.

Coincidentally, the SF Chronicle just interviewed author Michael Pollan over lunch at this same restaurant.

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