Gather, Berkeley

In some ways, the bay area reminds me of London. The bay area has all these different cities that make it up, and it makes me think of the different London boroughs. The city is like being in Zone 1; it’s where housing is the most expensive and lays claim the best restaurants (whether that is true is always a different story). Berkeley and Oakland are a lot like Zone 2. They are just outside of the center of things, but still have a lot of interesting bars, restaurants and shops. Then you have further out that soon become the commuter zones. Sadly, I lived far out in London (Zone 5), so I am enjoying living in San Francisco. Sometimes though, things do bring you to the outer zones, and when my husband had a meeting in Berkeley, I graciously traveled out on BART during rush hour (and people on BART do not like to sardine up like they do on the Tube) to give Gather a try. It looked good online, and it boasts about being very friendly to those who are wine aficionados.

It’s a cute restaurant near the University. It’s got that whole wooden interior vibe going for it that a lot of the places that try to be fancy, yet casual like to do. We were shown our seats and looked over the menu. My husband liked the sound of a lot of the smaller plates, so we decided to go for four of them: The cheese plate, Brussels sprouts, mussels and roasted beets. We also thought the pickled vegetables sounded nice, so we ordered some of those as well. He also ordered us a bottle of Syrah, and then the server asked me what I wanted to drink. It was a bit awkward as we had ordered a bottle, and we think she thought he ordered a glass, but the bottle he ordered wasn’t available by the glass, so I don’t really know what he would have gotten in its place.

The pickles arrived quickly, and they were all really tasty. Several different kinds of pickled vegetables, pickled in different ways: Some sweet, some not. All were really good. Next to arrive was the cheese plate. It was a bit of a misnomer though, as we were expecting a few different types of cheeses with the name “cheese plate”, but it was only one goat’s cheese. My husband is also really not a fan of goat’s cheese, so he didn’t have much of it, but he did try the honey and the beet spread that was with it. Honestly though, the cheese was so the most tasteless cheese I’ve eaten in a long time. The honey was also quite boring (I’m really not sure how one goes about buying boring honey), and the beet spread had very little flavor. Everything really just needed a bit hit of seasoning. And for $17, I kind of expected different types of cheese. I don’t really know what I was paying for with this dish.

Next up was the beet salad. There were some nice hits of citrus and herbs on top every once in awhile, but the beets themselves really needed some salt to bring out the amazing earthy flavors I know they can have. The plate looked absolutely amazing, but it was definitely style over substance.

The last two things brought to the table were the mussels and the Brussels sprouts. The sprouts smelled amazingly bitter, as they do when they are roasted well. They also looked amazing, so we had hopes that they would be better. The sauce on the dish was definitely heading in the right direction, but frustratingly (and by now, unsurprisingly) the dish really needed salt. Sprouts and broccoli really need that hit of salt to counteract the bitterness of the vegetable, but by now we realized that this is one of those restaurants that eschews salt (and in doing so, lacks flavor). The mussels had a very tasty broth, but the mussels themselves were quite fishy and metallic tasting, making me wonder about the freshness of the produce available. The toast served with the mussels was also spread with some sort of mayonnaise which in my opinion was completely superfluous and unnecessary.

The wine we had was nice, but it did seem incredibly overpriced for what we ended up with. I do expect to pay more for wine in restaurants, but the wine list itself wasn’t as exciting as I was hoping for. That did seem like the theme of the evening though, things not being quite as good as they should be. I did take a look at the dessert menu, but it really didn’t seem that interesting, so we just got the bill and left.

Gather really had me sold on their concept of nose to tail and root to shoot dining that they touted on their website. Sadly, I didn’t really feel that either concept was really executed, as nothing I saw on the menu remotely comes close to using unusual cuts of meat (the whole concept of nose to tail). While the venue really seem like it had a lot of promise, as the dishes looked absolutely superb, the delivery of taste was really not there. It’s definitely not a place I have any interest in returning to. Gather seems like a restaurant that tries to hard when it should really just be working on creating dishes that are well seasoned and taste good. Berkeley definitely seems like it could be a culinary wonderland, but unfortunately not at Gather.

Food: ★★☆☆☆
Service: ★★★☆☆
Atmosphere: ★★★★☆
Value: ★★☆☆☆
Overall: ★★★☆☆

Gather
2200 Oxford Street
Berkeley, CA 94704

Gather Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

5 comments on “Gather, BerkeleyAdd yours →

  1. I’ve really enjoyed some past visits to Gather, so this is interesting. I note though that you didn’t get any of the dishes I have ever enjoyed, so perhaps I either ordered luckily, or you unluckily. 😉 But it also looks like they’ve made some changes to the menu, and possibly there is a different chef (although I do see a couple familiar items).

    There are enough truly exceptional restaurants in the Bay Area that I wouldn’t strongly recommend a revisit of Gather for its own sake. However I will say Berkeley doesn’t actually have that many of similar ilk – there obviously Chez Panisse, and a few others – but aside from that lofty ideal few in my experience are truly stand-out. So if you do have the need for some decent dining in Berkeley again, you might consider another try and this time ask the server for recommendations. Personally I can say they have some great pizzas, and the burger and chicken have always been great. Granted the entree section is a bit uninspired, and while tasty, both chicken and burger are on many people’s “boring, I can do it better at home/I don’t want to pay for something that uninteresting” lists. The chicken has set itself apart in past incarnations though, so don’t overlook it on principle, if the accompaniments or preparation sound at all interesting it might be worth a chance…

    For another option in Berkeley that’s wine friendly (I think), you might try Venus. And I see that their cheese plate is a mere $13. 😀

    1. Well I do say that sometimes it does come down to unlucky ordering. It’s just difficult when I usually love mussels, sprouts and beets, so when the dishes are all underwhelming, it’s a huge letdown. Especially when one of the biggest issues was just the lack of a little bit of salt. I suppose I can see why they avoid using too much, but a pinch really goes a long way to help develop things. I definitely fall victim to the “I can do it better at home” syndrome, which is completely my fault as I’m so into food and science that I really love playing around with things at home to try them out. I did keep looking at Saturn Cafe across the street too, as that’s definitely something I wouldn’t put the effort into doing at home, so at least it has that going for it. I know it’s not amazing, but it can be decent (although I’ve only been to the one in Santa Cruz).

      Chez Panisse was my first Michelin star restaurant, so it’s definitely got a special place in my heart. I was just hoping to find other places in Berkeley that might be nice as well as it’s such an interesting place. But thanks for letting me know about Venus. I may have to give that a go if we’re out there again. Honestly though, I don’t really mind spending money on a cheese plate, I just do expect a bit more than a hunk of goat’s cheese, five small pieces of bread, honey and beet spread.

      1. That cheese plate does sound pretty disappointing. I seldom order them myself, but a good cheese plate can certainly be a lovely thing.

        What are your go-to restaurants (in SF/Bay Area, of course) for mussels? I’ve never really fallen in love with them, too much work to eat for too little payoff (although it’s hard to argue with moules frites, hah). Maybe you can change my mind…

        1. I guess I’m still looking for a good place for mussels. I haven’t had a whole lot of luck in California to be honest. Which I find really frustrating. I would expect the seafood here to be better than most places, but I’m finding it not to be true. Perhaps it’s not as popular so it’s hard to make sure they are fresh?

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