My husband and I dined at the new local restaurant Gather for the first time, last Saturday night on the second day of 2010. It was packed! The DJ was playing serious beats and the food had some creative, fresh presentation. It felt like a less pricey, more chill Chez Panisse — updated for a younger generation. The design has clean modern lines with a warm, comfortable wooden furniture, an open kitchen, and warm lighting that was intimate, yet allowed one to see and appreciate the food and dining partner. It’s about time a new resto like this opened in Berkeley. We’ve been looking for an alternative to Herbivore and Gratitude.
The Gather website says “offerings are 50% omnivore, 50% vegetarian, and a strong vegan component.” Gather focuses on sustainability from its building materials to its food ingredients. At this restaurant, vegan food is not an afterthought. In fact, the vegetarian food was of high quality and presentation. The SF Chronicle reports that the offerings are from chefs Sean Baker and Amy Pearce from the stellar Millennium restaurant in SF, specializing in vegetable-based cuisine. We are Millennium fans and cook from its Artful Vegan gourmet cookbook for special occasions.
We ordered the house made bubbly water (complimentary), chai cola, special tuna appetizer, vegan “charcuterie,” tomato pizza, mixed lettuce salad, chocolate layer cake with cashew ice cream, and chocolate Pu-erh tea with soy milk. The vegan charcuterie was made up of intensely flavored, small piles of artfully presented vegetables. Everything was yummy, super fresh, and had a nice presentation. An extra bonus for us (since we avoid dairy) was that the pizza and chocolate dessert both had a rare combination of being vegan, but also light and flavorful! It was the first time we tasted Numi chocolate tea. It had a delicious deep flavor that had us hooked. (I plan to head over to the Numi tea garden, Oakland to buy some for home.) The vegetarian parts of the meal were the best. There were so many delicious-looking items on the menu. I definitely want to try their house made sodas, house made frites, and heirloom bean ragout on my next visit.
The service was relaxed, cordial and easygoing, but also professional. We were pleasantly surprised to find such a delicious new place close to home with a lively crowd of all ages and good DJ music. We will be back in mid January to try lunch when Gather opens their more affordable, more casual, cafe area.
It was a great first meal out for 2010. Happy New Year!
2200 Oxford St., Berkeley, CA