Five Reasons to Go To Five Restaurant

Bet you'll eat more than five onion strings at Five in Berkeley.

1) The gifted Scott Howard, formerly of Fork in San Anselmo and Scott Howard restaurant in San Francisco, is the chef.

2) The bold, artsy black-and-white interior is a modern-take on a Southern plantation.

3) If you’re out and about in the East Bay, it’s an airy, lively place to take a load off.

4) Fun drinks quench your thirst, such as “Hell or High Watermelon,” a wheat beer in which 400 pounds of watermelon are pressed in each batch. It’s dry, clean-tasting, and faintly fruity on the back note.

5) Vanilla bean butterscotch pudding with crumbles of peanut brittle and shavings of chocolate is sure to satisfy your sweet tooth.

The ornate dining room.

Five restaurant, which opened in July in downtown Berkeley inside the refurbished Hotel Shattuck Plaza, serves American classics with a twist. Think orzo “mac & cheese” ($12), short rib pot roast ($22), and steak tartare ($12).

Why the name? The press materials explain that it’s “a number that is familiar and appears frequently in our day-to-day lives: five senses, five elements, and five o’clock happy hour, to name a few.  Although familiar and frequent, the term FIVE is complex and dimensional, similar to the restaurant’s offerings and Howard’s culinary technique.”

So Berkeley, isn’t it?

The decor is, too. Flashes of red, including a massive flame-jeweled chandelier, make the space grand and eye-catching. Look closely when you enter, and you’ll notice a peace sign inlaid in the floor.

I was eager to try the new restaurant when I got an invitation to do so last month, because I have been a fan of Howard’s cooking since his days at his eponymous restaurant in San Francisco’s Jackson Square neighborhood.

His food at Five is more homey, less thrilling and not so cutting-edge as in San Francisco. But choose wisely, and you’ll be rewarded.

Service, at least a few weeks ago, still had a few kinks. Our waiter had to return to our table twice — once after taking our drink order, the next time after taking our entree orders — to make sure he got it all correctly. I felt like telling him it was perfectly OK if he wanted to actually write it down, because he didn’t either times. We forgave him the lapses, though, because he was so sincere and well-meaning.

Biscuit heaven.

Plus, we were in too good a mood after noshing on the buttery, tender, house-made chive biscuits that come with a little crock of pimento cheese. I could make a meal of these alone.

My hubby and I started with the “Deviled Surf & Turf Eggs” ($10), and the ahi tuna tartare ($14).

Deviled eggs done two ways.

The deviled eggs came six halves to an order — three of them filled with Dungeness crab salad, the other three stuffed with deviled egg yolk with slivers of crispy, salty ham.

Cute as they were, they were too one-note. Perhaps it’s a dish to better split with a larger party, because after you’ve had one of each, you’re fairly satiated.

An ahi tower.

The ahi tartare, which sat atop chopped avocado, was an interesting interpretation with puddles of vanilla bean syrup, and wonderful crunchy bits of chorizo. A little acid would have helped tie all the components together perfectly.

Halibut ($22) was cooked nicely with a crisp sear on top. The accompanying pickled caponata of eggplant, onions, red pepper, and caperberries was fabulous.

Beautifully cooked halibut with caponata.

My hubby’s skirt steak ($19) was tender and flavorful with a buttery bernaise sauce. A summer bean succotash was colorful and fresh. The accompanying onion strings were really sweet tasting, though, could have arrived a little hotter.

Skirt steak with a bounty of summer veggies.

Howard long made a name for his butterscotch pudding at his previous restaurants. The one at Five doesn’t disappoint. It’s creamy and dreamy. You’ll end up scraping up every last bit.

Indeed, five orders of that would leave me thoroughly happy at Five.

A perfect ending -- butterscotch pudding.

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Date: Tuesday, 8. September 2009 5:15
Trackback: Trackback-URL Category: Chefs, General, Restaurants

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12 comments

  1. 1

    Awesome decor and plating of food!

  2. 2

    Oh wow, the food looks delicious and the dining room, just a fun place to hang out and enjoy a great meal.

  3. 3

    Sounds like a fabulous meal! I would love to try the ahi tuna tartare with vanilla bean syrup, yum!

  4. 4

    Another great sounding place to put on my list.

  5. 5

    What a beautiful meal! I just made some deviled eggs for our Labor Day BBQ yesterday and still have some sitting in the fridge. You’re right though, you just can’t eat more than a couple of them in 1 sitting!

  6. 6

    i work in berkeley and have really enjoyed having five in the neighborhood! next time, you should check out the crispy squash blossoms or the orzo mac that everyone raves about – both are delicious!! i’m going to have to try a dessert, as i didn’t leave room last time!

  7. 7

    yes that surf n turf definitely would fill me up! your pictures make everything look delicious and it just sounds like a fun place to hang out. But it’s that butterscotch pudding that everyone’s talking about that has me feeling needy…

  8. 8

    Oh yes, I agree, those buttery biscuit starters are worth a visit!

  9. 9

    Kris: I will definitely try the orzo mac ‘n’ cheese next time. If I have that, plus the butterscotch pudding, hopefully I’ll still be able to waddle out the door afterward. ;)

  10. 10

    Looks great… A big fan of Scott’s when he was in San Anselmo. Look to get there sometime soon as well. I orchestrated Butterscotch pudding at numerous restaurants in the bay area so I am always looking for the topper. His looks outrageous…

  11. 11

    I have my eyes on the tartare…def worth a visit!

  12. 12

    i’ve been wanting to try it for awhile. Thanks for the post, everything looks great. I’ll try to make it over soon.

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