Thank you, Kristen Sun, my dear friend who has shared many great meals with me in Berkeley and definitely many more in the future, for sharing a post here with us today
Halfway through our meal, Mai and I turned to each other and we agreed, “I’m not that full yet” and “I can still eat more.” This was after a small plate of charcuterie (which wasn’t that small) and two small plates, which again, were not that small. It solved, however, the main question that had been bugging us since we arrived at the restaurant: which entrees should we get? And if we get more than one entree, could we still do dessert? Turns out indecision works very well at this restaurant; sampling the diverse offerings of the menu is definitely the way to go! Eating with Mai is always a treat – for the mind and for the stomach! Thank you Mai for the great honor of being a guest blogger for Flavor Bouvelard!
Simply put, Revival Bar & Kitchen, located right in the middle of Downtown Berkeley, is gorgeous. The tall ceiling, the rustic decor, the feeling of open space, and best of all, a bookshelf tucked away in the corner, give Revival a unique feel. The tables were just the appropriate width apart when it comes to having good conversation with two women who bonded with Mai over their travels to Vietnam, and perhaps a tad bit too close when we overheard a man speaking unkindly about his (absent) girlfriend to another friend. But let’s speak of the food…
When we received our menus, right away our eyes landed on the charcuterie section, which consisted of fresh ham, duck liver mousse, coppa di testa (headcheese), and smoked duck breast ($8 for an individual plate, $18 for a small plate of all charcuterie, and $26 for a large plate of all charcuterie). The fresh ham and the smoked duck, while delicious, were not particularly unique in any way. The coppa di testa… now this is something interesting. It was my first taste of headcheese, so I went in without any expectations. It’s sour and leaves a slight fizzy aftertaste like a soda. It also is very fragile; it is not quite a cold cut but not quite a pate either… it had a very weird “saucy” consistency, which Mai found to be weird as well compared to the headcheese that she is accustomed to! The duck liver mousse was our favorite meat on the plate; the texture is rich and smooth and the taste just strong enough without being overpowering. This plate was definitely fun, as we could combine all the different meats with the sides (raspberry jelly, pickles, and mustard) in as many different combinations as we wished, each bite yielding a new combination of flavors. We both agreed that the real standout on the plate, however, was the raspberry marmalade. In fact, as we would soon discover, the one thing that Revival really excels
at are its fruit jellies.
Next on our list are the two small plates: tempura fried squash blossoms ($13) and bone marrow ($11). The tempura fried squash blossoms, stuffed with ricotta and goat cheese, were delicious and light and the pieces of fried zucchini that garnish the plate were also good. Mai, however, found that the squash blossoms had a stronger goat cheese flavor than she would have liked. The sauce, a cilantro mint coulis, paired well with the fried vegetables, but was forgettable.
For me, the standout dish of the night is the bone marrow. Rich and fatty, this first taste of bone marrow was just perfect. Best of all, we were allowed to season the meat ourselves, as the dish comes with a side of sea salt. The crunchy baguette, the flavorful meat, the salt, and best of all, the kumquat marmalade worked perfectly together. This dish, for me, was one of the perfect bites of the night. And once again, we were blown away by the fruit – the kumquat marmalade, which really is a standout on its own, tied the flavors of the dish together perfectly.
Despite all of this food, it was at this point that Mai and I decided to go for it and ordered both of the larger plates that we were looking at, which our waitress recommended as the two best as well. The risotto cakes ($21), however, were just okay. The cakes themselves were a bit dry and bland. The porcini mushrooms, while not having the typical “musty” mushroom taste as Mai explains, really did not add any unique flavor to the dish. However, I loved the porcini jus and could not stop dipping into the sauce. I love thick almost puree-like textures and this was no exception. Mai and I both agreed that the vegetables that came on the side were delicious and outshone the risotto cakes.
The pork chop ($25) was good and very well-cooked – juicy, full of flavor, and not dry in the slightest. Both Mai and I found the bourbon butter to be a bit too strong and overpowering of the meat; we ended up scraping most of the butter off. The potatoes and artichokes were well-cooked and flavorful, but not particularly unique.
Overall, the smaller plates succeeded more than the larger plates and the size of the small plates comes at a overall better bargain, as there is not much difference in portion sizes.
Of course, our meal cannot end without dessert. And were we ever glad because the desserts here are amazing! We settled on an apricot mousse ($8), but after asking what the ice cream du jour ($7) was, we had to order that as well. The flavor is apricot pit, which we of course, had to try. Our waiter informed us that it has an almond-like taste, which we agreed on; the flavor is much lighter, however. The nuttiness and creaminess of the ice cream, along with the crunchiness of the pecans, were a perfect combination!
The apricot mousse, likewise, was also delicious. While we couldn’t make out the flavor of the green tea cake at the bottom, the light fluffiness of the apricot mixed with the sourness of the blood orange reduction and the crunch of the bruléed bottom was quite pleasing texturally. As for that blood orange reduction…it had a marmalade texture but it was chilled so it was almost like a sorbet. A clear stand-out!
Overall, Revival made for a great dinner and we had lovely neighbors to chat with as well near the end of our meal. The real standouts here – the raspberry jelly, the kumquat marmalade, and the blood orange reduction – were unexpected but elevated what could have been ordinary or boring dishes into something special. When I think of a perfect dining experience, eating at Revival definitely ranks high: great friends, new acquaintances, and delicious food at a relaxed and leisurely pace.
2102 Shattuck Ave
Berkeley, CA 94704