Occupation: Foundation Executive
Location: El Cerrito
Favorite Restaurant: Bistro Liaison
Reviewed Bistro Liaison: Thursday, January 2, 2014
If you are nostalgic for an authentic French bistro, Bistro Liaison in Downtown Berkeley is the place. The restaurant opened in 2001 and quickly became a destination for Francophiles because of the food (“French soul food”) and the passionate approach to French cooking by chef Todd Kniess. Chef Kniess trained at the Culinary Institute of America, Hyde Park, N.Y. and held various apprenticeships, working his way up to Chef de Cuisine before opening Bistro Liaison.
The food is authentic French, seasonal, and encompassing many regions of France. Because all dishes are prepared with great care, it is hard to designate any signature dishes. The overall result is a wonderful tasting experience. There were five of us dining and we had the opportunity to savor several dishes, such as Tarte Flambee, Salade de Chevre, Bouillabaisse, Truite Amandine, Porc a la Normande, Boeuf Bourguignon and Ile Flottante. It was a true symphony of flavors. The server skillfully described the specials, answered questions about the menu and made recommendations. The service was smooth and well timed.
This French Bistro is a great value for a French restaurant and I recommend it enthusiastically and plan to visit it often in the future as I have in the past.
Occupation: San Francisco Firefighter
Location: San Francisco
Favorite Restaurant: Capo’s
Reviewed Bistro Liaison: Monday, January 6, 2014
As someone who rarely (if ever) goes to Berkeley, I was pleasantly surprised at the ease of access to the restaurant as well as the ease of on-street parking with meters only monitored until 6pm.
The restaurant was clean, and the décor was excellent. While we arrived only a few minutes after the restaurant opened, the restaurant filled up quickly. The hostess was very pleasant as well as the waitress. Service was very good. Menu was easy to read. I brought my mother-in-law who has been to France and it reminded her of an authentic French restaurant. The appetizer was very good and something different. The main courses were also both very good. Portions were very generous; noise levels were not an issue even as it filled up. We both really enjoyed the overall dining experience and will return. The price and/or value were very reasonable for quality and service.
Occupation: Writer/Freelance Journalist
Location: San Francisco
Favorite Restaurant: La Mar
Reviewed Bistro Liaison: Saturday, January 4, 2014
At 6 p.m. on a Saturday night, this quaint, elegant French bistro on a Berkeley corner had a subdued vibe and an older crowd. As we quickly found out, it’s a popular pre-theater dining spot for people attending the Berkeley Rep, and soon diners filled every table and the place bustled with energy. Friendly wait staff provided attentive, but not pushy, service and while they kept diners moving along around us, they had no problem with our more leisurely pace as we completed a French dining pentathlon.
An intensely rich French Onion Soup proved a solid start to the meal with focused, deep flavor. Next up we tackled Mussels in a lovely light, flavorful broth of wine, garlic, butter, shallots and tarragon topped with an interesting, delicious twist in the form of sautéed spinach. Delicious. Even with a packed, chatty dining room and a semi-open kitchen, it was still possible to have a conversation across the table without shouting, which we definitely appreciated.
Moving onto the entrees we enjoyed a perfectly medium-rare New York Strip Steak in green peppercorn sauce with fries. Concurrently, we enjoyed a Bouillabaisse loaded with seafood including scallops, shrimp, mussels, clams and rock cod in a rich, complex broth–truly one of the best bouillabaisses anyone in our party has tried. Both the steak and bouillabaisse came in unexpectedly huge portions, a very nice surprise, indeed. We only made it through half of each entree and left room to sample the Molten Chocolate Cake with vanilla bean ice cream and raspberry sauce. We were glad we did as the sweet taste nicely topped off our pleasant evening.