Berkeley’s ZINO is Tunnel-Trip WorthyNov 19, 2018 09:36AM ● By Fran Miller
BY FRAN ENDICOTT MILLER
Hotel Shattuck Plaza’s ground floor has been home to several restaurants through the years, and its most current – ZINO – is perhaps its best yet. A favorite of theater-goers and CAL intelligentsia, the large, historic space has always been a chic and convivial gathering spot. But the newest revamp by San Francisco-based Anthony Laurino Design moves the style-dial up a notch; floor-to-ceiling sheers add drama, and a refined color palette reflects the hues of its Mediterranean muse. A long chef’s table provides communal seating, and the impressive bar and lounge area feature casbah-style tables. Even before a first taste of the new menu items, or a sip of the creatively crafted cocktails, the impression is favorable.
Executive Chef Brandon Hicks is now at the kitchen helm, and his Mediterranean focused, seasonally-rotating dinner menu features vibrantly delicious dishes meant to be shared. Start with a selection of dips such as muhammara with roasted peppers, walnuts and pomegranate; tzatziki with Greek yogurt, cucumber and mint; and hummus with chickpea, tahini and lemon, served with fresh pita. Hot and cold mezze dishes include fluke crudo with pomegranate, mint and ras al hanoutand grilled octopus with Spanish chorizo and potatoes. Larger dishes include Persian braised lamb shank with apricots, piquillo peppers, and pearl onions, a beautiful loup de mer with heirloom tomatoes, Moroccan olives and Meyer lemon sauce verge, ricotta agnolotti with summer corn, Aleppo tomatoes and cilantro, and vegetable and chicken tangines, served in a Mediterranean-style vessel.
Hicks ventured west to ZINO after stints in Boston and New York, where he honed his Mediterranean cooking skills as chef de cuisine at NYC’s ilili, considered one of the finest Mediterranean restaurants in the country. Hicks’ skills are complimented by ZINO’s bar program, created by Caleb Kimbley who pays homage to the classics while integrating a wide array of Mediterranean flavors like Za’atar and Sumac, Bergamot citrus from Italy and sherries from Spain. The craft cocktail menu includes creative offerings such as Mouthful of Gold (hine cognac, olorosso sherry, Gifford apricot, saffron, lemon), The Mission Revival (Espolon Reposado, tamarind, poblano chile liqueur, lime, palo cortado sherry), Phoenix Landing (Christian Drouin Calvados, Lebanese 7 spice gomme, black lemon bitters), and The City of Witches (Strega, Manzanilla, aloe, cucumber, lemon, pink peppercorn). And like Hicks’ food menu, Kimbley's cocktail offerings change with the seasons.
ZINO also serves brunch Saturday and Sunday from 7 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Highlights include freshly-baked pastries such as an orange and labne scone and a cardamom coffee cake; mezzo selections include shankleeh with heirloom tomatoes, feta, onion and sumac and cured salmon with koulouri bagel, labne, cucumber and sesame, and mains including a za’atar omelette with feta, baby argula, onions, potatoes, and toast andshakshuka with eggs, spiced tomato sauce, peppers, and onions.
ZINO is conveniently located across the street from the downtown Berkeley BART station, and street parking is plentiful.
ZINO, 2086 Allston Way, Berkeley
Photos by Aubrey Pick