Open for just under a year in Berkeley’s Brower Center, Gather Restaurant has become an East Bay dining destination, and not just for crunchy Berkeley types. Executive Chef and co-owner Sean Baker was named Esquire Magazine’s 2010 chef of the year, and his cooking gets more compelling with each new seasonal menu. The restaurant’s focus is local and sustainable ingredients, which Baker transforms into dishes that are as elegant as they are healthful—a haute green approach, if you will, in the tradition of Ubuntu (in downtown Napa).
A case in point: vegan “charcuterie,” a season-specific collection of four complex, intricate dishes that the casual cook would be hard-pressed to make at home. The most recent version is carrots cooked in hay, with sage cream, smoked parsnip “lardo” and currant vinaigrette; winter citrus carpaccio, shaved beets, olives and dill; braised endive, avocado, yuba, smoked aioli and toasted bread; and roasted mushrooms, root vegetables, Aleppo pepper and Beluga lentils. These constructions are simply presented on a wood plank, and are ample enough to share with several others.
Whoever thought veganism could be so sexy?
That said, the Prather Ranch burger is beyond perfect: Sierra Nevada cheddar, aioli and caramelized shallot-tomato sauce on a toasted bun that is just the right size, and not too firm.
The wine list, put together by Christie Dufault (of Gary Danko), is all American—and most remarkable about it is that every bottle is either organic, biodynamic or sustainable.
Gather, 2200 Oxford St., Berkeley, 510.809.0480, www.gatherrestaurant.com