Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Dish To Go: Gregoire

Bringing restaurant entrees to your dinner table
4001 B Piedmont Ave., Oakland
Piedmont Avenue neighborhood
(original location at 2109 Cedar St. in Berkeley)
Open daily, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., lunch menu until 4:30 p.m.
PH: 510.547.3444

Gregoire Restaurant in Berkeley celebrated its 5th anniversary on Tuesday. Since I wasn’t on the invitation list (apparently the entire Berkeley neighborhood was invited to a block party), I ended up picking up some takeout from its Oakland counter, which remained open while their Berkeley counterpart celebrated.

The location at Piedmont Avenue is less than a year old, and just like the original Berkeley location, quite small for those wanting to eat in. Which is why I’ve always been confused about why it insists on calling itself “Gregoire Restaurant.” I mean, it’s even in the name of its Web site’s URL.

But after trying Gregoire a couple of times, I’ve come to realize that the word restaurant isn’t necessarily a description of location but the quality of food sold. They don’t want you to think they’re selling just your average takeout food. It’s restaurant dishes for your home. (BTW, it’s also restaurant prices. You just save on not having to tip anyone, unless you have to tip your partner who went to pick up the food.)
Gregoire’s Oakland location reminds me of a bustling deli. During busy times, there could be a line to the door as people order and wait for their food. The menu is French-Californian and changes every month. If you do decide to eat in, there are about 10 stools surrounding the stove top, so you get a front row seat of the chef preparing your dishes.

Since I was coming in for takeout, I scanned Gregoire’s dinner menu on its Web site and called in my order by phone. It takes me about 15 minutes to walk to Gregoire from my apartment, just about enough time for them to prepare their Sauteed Rosemary and Garlic Chicken Breast with Fresh Morel Cream Sauce ($15). Gregoire’s menu changes every month and is posted on its Web site for you to study and dream about.

The staff is friendly and sweet. Both times I went were early in the evening (around 6 p.m.) so it wasn’t extremely hectic. They provide your meals in this cute, very original, round cardboard containers that come with very classy biodegradable eating utensils.
When I got home with my order last night, I uncovered my chicken and I have to say I was completely disappointed. When I think of rosemary chicken and morel cream sauce, I imagine half a chicken lathered with a light brown cream sauce. Instead, I saw a dry-looking chicken breast and this liquidly brown sauce in a container.

At first I thought maybe they gave me the fried chicken special instead because the chicken skin looked so brown and fried. But I realized that it was the correct order when I noticed a few chopped bits of morel mushrooms at the bottom of the dark brown sauce (it was more of a reduction than a cream sauce).

A couple of rosemary twigs and a bit of grain (polenta maybe?) were stuffed into the chicken breast, giving it a strong fragrance. Along with the one piece of chicken breast, there were two pieces of sautéed zucchini. I was really disappointed that that was all I got for $15. The morel sauce was on the savory side.

I also ordered from its dessert menu the “apricot fold,” which was really a very long turnover. Because the chef is French, it’s not surprising to hear the puff pastry was very light and fluffy. However, it had an odd oil scent to it. It didn’t make it very appetizing. The filling was a thin layer of tart apricot jam. That was all I got for $4.
This recent take out experience was a surprising contrast to my first adventure to Gregoire back in May. Back then, I ordered the Dijon Mustard and Sauteed Mushroom Pork Stew over gemelli pasta. It was a huge plate of pasta when I opened it back home. The pork was slow-cooked to the right tenderness with a smokey flavor and it was dressed in a delicious cream sauce that contrasted nicely with the sugar snap peas added in for color and, I guess, snap. Gregoire charged only $14.75 for that. (Sorry I didn’t blog about it earlier because you can’t order it now, and there’s no real pasta dish in its June menu.)

Gregoire is a nice addition to the neighborhood and a fancy option when I’m tired of going to KFC. (Hey, I spend less than $5.50 for its two-piece chicken with two sides. BTW, I know I say I don’t eat fried food, but I remove the skin when I order occasionally from KFC.) But because of Gregoire’s high prices and inconsistent menu, I would only go back maybe once a month just to see if there’s something innovative that I don’t feel like cooking myself that night.

Single Guy rating: 3 stars (high-quality food if you make the right choices)

Explanation of the Single Guy Chef’s takeout rating system:
1 star = Might as well cook yourself
2 stars = Nice to know it’s an option
3 stars = Definitely will return again
4 stars = I have its number on speed-dial
5 stars = Can I live here?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

But the whole point of going to KFC is to eat the skin! (hanging head in shame) That's the best part!