Birthday Dinner Lesson Learned

Always trust West Coast Rebecca’s restaurant picks.  So May 11 was my birthday but J was really sick that night and I was tired from work so we just stayed in a vegged out.  But Friday was the more formal celebration with West Coast Rebecca.  I asked that my present from her be that she choose the restaurant.  Since Bellisima works in the food industry, WCR would have an awesome pick.  We initially chose Garabaldi’s in Rockridge but the chef where Bellisima works recommended Lalime in North Berkeley.  Lalime it was because this was inside information.

The food at Lalime’s is a Latin twist on California cuisine.  Fresh, local ingredients with things like jicima, poblanos and lime.  At 7:30, we all headed to Lalime, located on a cute and resident stretch of Berkeley.  I already had high hopes for Lalime looking at the menu and seeing the crowd.  This location wasn’t a busy street like Shattuck or College.  A successful restaurant in this part of Berkeley had to earn it’s customers.  As the night went on, Lalime delivered.  And delivered. And delivered.

It all started when we arrived and were seated.  There was a festive sprinkling of birthday glitter on the table.  WCR was stressed about choosing a wine but chose a winner with a nice Italian white that went perfectly with the food. We all decided to go with the tasting menu and get two orders of the Hawaiian tuna involtino.  Basically it’s like a sushi of raw tuna that surrounds jicama, cucumber, avocado, and arbol chile.  Perfect!  For some freshness, we chose their green goddess salad to go along with the rest of the menu.  While the salad was great, the involtino was spectacular.  The ingredients really shined and they were really bursting with flavor.  This was indicative of Lalime’s minimalist style.  They backed off and let the ingredients speak for themselves.

The tasting menu went as follows:

Salad of prawns, avocado and grapefruit

Grilled sardines, guindilla vinaigrette, olive toast

Baked poblano chile with summer squash, mushroom, chèvre

Selection of artisan cheeses: Brillat Savarin, Robiola and Bleu de Bocage

The standout on this was a tie between the poblano chile and the prawn, avocado and grapefruit salad.  The poblano chile had a lovely tomatillo sauce tempered with crème fraiche.  The dish was surprisingly subdued in a good way.  The chevre and the sweetness of the chile was really at the forefront as opposed to having spicy or acidic flavors.  The salad was just perfection. Everything was perfectly ripe and perfectly cooked.

J and WCR ended the evening splitting the warm chocolate fondant cake with Frangelico Anglaise, chocolate-hazelnut ice cream.  It’s like a molten chocolate cake but done right.  REALLLY right.

It was a great evening with thoughtful service, a nice atmosphere and excellent food.  Will definitely go back and try an entrée.

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