Friday, October 27, 2006

900 Grayson in Berkeley

I had a nearly impossible task. Find a restaurant in Oakland or Berkeley with good design aesthetic, low noise level, seating for a party of 7 or 8, reservations taken, good food...that serves breakfast. And, I had about 90 minutes to find it. Somehow, I did.

900 Grayson is a new spot in an old space in the industrial section of West Berkeley. They are open only for breakfast and lunch currently, which is probably all they can handle. But given time, they should turn out okay.

Design: Clean lines, lots of light. Lemon-yellow painted walls, comfortable chairs. Some wierd paintings (being at a table of men all distracted by the naked lady on the wall was awkward). The little dishes for ketchup and jam don't work for a party of seven--especially with the big soup spoon. Keep working on the details guys.

Food: Good. Most of us ordered the gouda omlette $7, which was called a "souffle" but there was nothing souffled about it. The omlette itself was greasy and I was glad to have bright strips of fuji apple (can you call julliened apple tossed with an herb a "salad"?) to cleanse my palate.

The home fries are made to order and crispy at the edges, thick and dense in the center. I'm a crispy girl myself and thought the denseness was soggy. Everything was just slightly bland, as though the chef had held back on the salt during cooking.

The best item on the plate? One perfect bursting-with-flavor strawberry. 900 Grayson strives towards all-organic ingrediants, and if that strawberry wasn't organic, I'd be surprised. My recommendation--cut the butter when cooking.

Service: Hit and miss. When I called yesterday at 1:45 I was told they were very busy and they rushed the reservation. They open at 8am, but I was told our table would be ready at 8:15am because they open at 8 and wouldn't be ready for us. Sure enough, at 8:03 the door was locked and the sign said "SHUT." Happily, one of the nice staff opened it right away.

Speaking of the nice staff. It's staffed and maybe owned by some regular-looking 30-something guys in jeans and t-shirts. I got this feeling that they were on the edge of being frantic. It seemed hard for them to smile, relax, or put us at ease. Maybe it was fear of a big group. I don't know. However, they were attentive, and while our group dribbled in our waiter popped back each time to get the coffee order.

The plates didn't come at the same time, with cold fruit arriving after hot eggs, and one order taking about 10 minutes more than the rest. The waiter was apologetic and the guest was gracious and nice, so it wasn't a big deal. But they need to know that that's a no-no. Even if it's a large order. At least bring the guy some toast or fruit or something while he waits.

The menu has relatively few dishes, mostly egg-based. They have funky names, like "Time Life Cookbook" aka Gouda Omlette and "Make Up Kit" which is all the extras you can order. I love that basil is free (no dinero). I'd like to try the Korean Soju Marty 7.0, a cumin-laced virgin mary. The cute names do make it harder to figure out what each dish is. For lunch, would you like a Miss Piggy & the General for $9.50? (that's a pork sandwich. Don't know what the General part is...).

Overall, I think 900 Grayson fills a good void in the area. But if they want to not become a void themselves, they should think about ensuring they have enough staff to turn over the tables quickly. And bring some of that sense of humor to the staff. If you're stressed, we shouldn't know it!

1 comment:

Bon Vivant said...

Gilman Grill doesn't have the greatest design aestetic but it does have great breakfast. A place that is supposed to be good for breakfast but I haven't been there is the Mexican place right next door to the Pasta Shop on 4th Street. I think that it opens at 10 am though.