We've been wanting to visit Gather in Berkeley for several months now after seeing the rave reviews on Check Please and then hearing that half their menu is always vegetarian! Here's an excerpt from their website - "A place where you can find seasonal food, carefully sourced and thoughtfully prepared to appeal equally to vegetarians and omnivores ... the feeling of a restaurant created from beautiful reclaimed wood and natural materials."
Over this past Labor Day weekend, we made the trip over the Bay Bridge for a brunch at this much talked about spot. The restaurant is bright and airy, given it's prime corner location across from the campus entrance. It's also beautifully decorated with reclaimed wood tables, banquettes made from old leather belts, and herb plants hanging from the ceiling.
The brunch menu has a combination of both savory and sweet items, including a number of vegan dishes. Sheila ordered the Acme walnut french toast with roasted plums and creme fraiche. I went for corn pancakes with maple braised strawberry compote and mascarpone. We also decided to share the yukon gold potatoes.
Sheila's french toast - They serve it either with one or two slices. Sheila decided on one ($8). Although the portion size was right, it was too sweet and there was nothing to really balance the flavors. Even though the walnuts added texture, it actually made the dish heavier. On it's own, the plum compote was delicious, but combined with the syrup and french toast it was overwhelmingly sweet. Sheila summed it up by saying it was: "good, but I've had better."
Adam's corn pancakes - The standard serving comes with two medium-size pancakes ($12). The corn batter was light and fluffy. Each pancake was perfectly cooked through and on it's own was really flavorful. The mascarpone gave it a good balance of savory and sweet. My biggest gripe was with the strawberry compote. Initially tart, each subsequent taste turned increasingly sweet, perhaps due to the maple braising. I would have preferred fresh strawberries or a strawberry infused mascarpone; rather than the heavy handedness of my compote. Good concept, not executed to my taste buds though.
The yukon potatoes - It was our only savory dish ($5). It was very well seasoned, slightly spicy flavors, and came to the table piping hot. Everything you would expected in a good side of potatoes. The serving portion was great to share; Sheila and I found ourselves reaching for the wedges quite often to counter our overly sweet main dishes. Instead of ketchup, the potatoes were served with a cold tomato chutney, which had a bit too much vinegar. We both understood the intent, but would have just preferred some Heinz.
All in all, the concept of Gather's dishes is good, but they were too sweet for our taste. I'd be curious to see how they handle the savory dinner dishes. Perhaps we'll give Gather another try for dinner in the future.