Chez Panisse downstairs

Went on impulse on Monday because the menu sounded so good. I don’t know what it is about their lighting but I could not get decent photos with or without flash. I guess I need to re-learn what I forgot about ƒ-stop, shutter speed, and ISO (since my new gadget has those settings).

Fried olives were nice. I like that they don’t pander by pitting them.

Salade au lardons was tasty but it left me wanting a big bowl of it. I’m not sure it’s something that should be served in an appetizer portion.

The chicken was great. Note to self, order black truffles.

Baba was very nice, not too sweet.

Before drinks, $75 a head ($98.55 with tax and service charge), very reasonable for the quality.


I’ve always wanted to go there. Do they still do one set meal each night? The chicken dish seems great. Is that a poached egg with the salad? I hear ya’ about lighting in certain restaurants.

It’s not dimly lit. I think it must be the type of bulb, maybe LEDs. Other places that seem just as bright I can get excellent photos. At CP, not only did photos in available light come out dim, but with flash they were completely washed out.

That’s a poached egg, standard ingredient of salade aux lardons. This is more like what I think a serving should be:

Downstairs has a different set menu every night. Price ranges from $75 on Monday to $125 on Friday and Saturday.

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[quote=“robert, post:3, topic:4988”]
That’s a poached egg, standard ingredient of salade aux lardons.
[/quote]That’s what I thought, but it looked so big in proportion to the salad. The NYT recipe looks more like it. Thanks!

The egg was definitely out of proportion. Good, though.

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Although it is a set menu, they will make a vegetarian option. I had that once when the main was something I didn’t care to eat, and the alternative was excellent…

Oh, I can imagine their vedge menu is great!

If you don’t want to do the prix-fixe, it makes more sense to me to eat upstairs. I believe substitutions often come from that menu.

Food sounds good and somehow Chez Panisse seems like an underrated gem if anything, because places in SF continue to rack up 1 Michelin star yet Chez Panisse lost it. I haven’t been to Chez Panisse in a while, but I’d be surprised if the food isn’t as good as Aster, Auberge du Soleil, Luce, Madera, Nico, Octavia, The Village Pub, etc.

One question for those who might know - since they switched to Resy…they only post menus for 1 week, yet reservations seem to be fully booked until two weeks out. Does everyone just reserve without knowing the menu? Given that each day is different…some days sound more to my liking than others.

If you reserve past the coming Saturday, you don’t know what the menu will be, except that Monday menus are announced at the beginning of the month.

I was there Wednesday and had the following:

Pan-seared Monterey Bay squid with chicories, chervil, and marjoram
Wild mushroom risotto cake with green garlic, Parmesan, and black truffle
Rancho Llano Seco pork loin roasted with fennel and rosemary;
with creamy polenta, sautéed greens,
and mustard blossom fritters
Meyer lemon and tangerine sorbetti meringata

They also sent out a little crab toast thingie with an aperitivo.
Dinner was lovely. The dessert may have been the best I’ve ever had there.

We had a white burgundy to start, and then a bandol rouge to finish. The bandol wasn’t the first attempt at a red. The first choice was nearly undrinkable for both of us. The waiter handled it marvelously, without even blinking, and replaced it with the bandol I was leaning toward in the first place.

Overall, food and service couldn’t be beat. But again, for those looking for that “wow bite of a lifetime,” this is not your restaurant. That costs $300+pp and then you can only hope one of the dozen courses is going to make you tingle in your special places.

I’ve had some wow bites at Chez Panisse, but more to the point, I’ve had many of my best meals there.

Of course, I don’t consider a dictatorial endurance tasting menu of canape-sized bites a meal.

I’ve had “wow bites” here but that isn’t where I go to look for them. That said, the first bite of dessert was pretty wow.

Went Thursday for a celebration.

apéritif: Prosecco with thyme syrup

potato chip with crème fraîche and pickled anchovy

Eggplant salad with mint, pickled chanterelles, tomato bruschetta, and prosciutto

Monterey Bay squid stuffed with scallop mousse with caper and nasturtium salsa

Grilled Cattail Creek Ranch lamb rack, loin, and leg with summer squash roasted with breadcrumbs, chard and Parmesan gratin, and niçoise olive tapenade

cheese course: Bohemian Creamery FlowerPower and Andante Dairy Impromptu

Crème caramel with summer berries and nectarines

tisane of spearmint and lemon verbena

mignardises: marionberry gelée and almond dragees

Great meal overall with no weak spots. Before wine, service charge, and tax, $100 a head plus $18 for the cheese plate. The standouts were the chard gratin, which was just chard, amaranth, cream, and Reggiano, and the nectarines on the dessert plate, which were so ripe and complex they made me think of cheese.

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Neglected to take a photo of the little bite of melon,ricotta salata, and herbs that came with the aperitivo, which was a Saville orange vin d’orange.


Lobster, scallops, peak season tomatoes, rocket. I think they skipped the basil or else used it very sparingly. The Vouvray demi-sec was perfect with this.



Duck and ricotta agnolotti in a rich duck broth, perfect pairing with the Rossese.


Tasted like porchetta. So good. Those are crisp sage leaves on the pork. Out of curiosity I got a glass of the 2012 Brunello di Montalcino “Pertimali” that was in their wine pairing but it was pretty boring compared with the Rossese. The server said they’d wanted to pair the Rossese but didn’t have enough. So lucky us.


Complimentary mint and lemon verbena tisane was a nice palate cleanser after the fatty pork. Too full to do the cheese course.


This was fantastic. If those aren’t little crumbles of Lindsey Shere’s almond tart filling they’re pretty darn close.

We really lucked out last night. We always eat very well at Chez Panisse but this was a standout.


We ate at CP downstairs lat week (for at least the10th time). Of course it was mostly very good but very unexciting. The first course was a golden beet carpaccio, and it was the best course in my opinion. The second course was halibut brandade raviolini and while the brandade was excellent, but the pasta was tough and was the low point in the meal. The third course was duck breast (yawn) with roasted fig sauce… And finally a boring almond cake with a nice Santa Rosa Plum ice cream and blackberries. Maybe I have been too often but I felt they were on autopilot.

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If you’re yawning about duck breast and almond cake that’s kind of sad. Except for the raviolini (which I’d have sent back), it sounds like a classic Chez Panisse meal.

Seems like there’s a fad these days for pasta that’s cooked less than al dente.

Chez Panisse is about sourcing the best ingredients and cooking them simply. If you’re going to be bored by the food because it’s not creative or original, you’d be better off spending your money at, say, Commis, Henry’s, Hopscotch, Mago, or Shakewell.

apéritif was prosecco and pear

squash blossoms were as crisp as potato chips

This was a smart combination: the heavily seared scallops were so intense that it was nice to have a bite of the delicate risotto to refresh my palate.

The potatoes weren’t as perfectly fried as the squash blossoms. Otherwise great.

Why aren’t there more huckleberry things around? That ice cream was great.

I think Tuesday through Thursday are now the same number of courses as Friday and Saturday. Mondays seem to be vegetarian.


Reopening tomorrow. No reservations left. Price has gone up to $175 every night.


Jean-Pierre’s Belgian endive and frisée salad with lardons and walnut oil
Celery root and leek soups with black truffle butter
Grilled Sonoma County duck breast à l’orange; with spinach, roasted fennel, and crispy potatoes
Bittersweet chocolate soufflé with rhum crème anglaise

Local halibut carpaccio with ginger, fried capers, and radish sprouts
Winter squash risotto with grilled chicories, balsamico, and Parmesan
Becker Lane Farm pork loin spit-roasted with wild fennel and green garlic;
with spigariello, roasted new onions, and carrots
Meyer lemon tartlet with huckleberry

Puntarelle and chicories salad with anchovy vinaigrette and Parmesan
Local halibut brandade ravioli in bouillabaisse broth
Grilled Stemple Creek Ranch grass-fed beef rib-eye with red wine–marrow sauce,
roasted marble potatoes, fennel fritters, and chard
Crème caramel with Page mandarins and candied kumquats

Monterey Bay squid fritters with Ross’s chicories, Meyer lemon vinaigrette, and chervil
Potato gnocchi with black truffle and leeks
Wolfe Ranch quail grilled with cumin and green garlic;
with roasted butternut squash, chestnuts, and savoy cabbage
Tangerine zuppa di frutta with blood orange sherbet and noyau parfait

Pennyroyal Farm goat cheese pudding soufflé with trumpet mushrooms and watercress salad
Lingcod à la nage with black truffle butter and pea greens
Grilled rack and loin of Full Belly Farm lamb with sauce anchoiade, roasted Belgian endive, carrots, and mâche
Apple and candied tangerine galette with vanilla ice cream