Soul Kitchen

Posted on in Healthy Living by Roy Strassman

Amy Murray’s Berkeley Revival


Walk the few steps from Downtown Berkeley BART to Revival Bar and Kitchen, and you are instantly transported into a softly lit foodie haven. An illustrious Berkeley-ite and eco-food pioneer, owner and executive chef Amy Murray (who also cofounded Venus further up on Shattuck) is a self-described “vitalitarian.”

Amy takes her culinary philosophy of food purity beyond the customary organic credo, going the extra mile by offering farm-to-table, “snout-to-tail” and “root-to-shoot” provenance. Very rare is the restaurant that butchers its own meats on the premises, implementing the “whole animal” premise, sourcing only grass-fed animals from local ranches.

Working closely with local farmers, ranchers, roasters, and winemakers, Amy buys only from those with whom she has developed a trusted relationship.

“Seasonal feminine food” is how she describes the menu. “Because we’re in the midst of culinary revival in Berkeley, when people eat here I want them to feel the soul of the current season and to know that we’ve exacted everything to provide the highest principles of sustainability. That’s my passion.” A “burner” and world traveler whose visits to over two dozen countries inform her cuisine, Amy is a sprite spirit who mixes international flair with the California green scene.

To get things rolling, we were favorably impressed by the menu of hand-crafted cocktails, conceived by “Best in the Bay” mixologist Nat Harry, who is known for making her own bitters and tinctures and for taking classic cocktail recipes and expanding them into new, creative dimensions. We chose the smooth Alpaca You a Punch (Payet Pisco, a clear Peruvian brandy; fresh citrus; apricot liqueur; and sparkling Torrontes), and the hot and spicy Inflatable Raft (Del Maguey Vida mescal, chipotle syrup, Amaro Montenegro, lime, housemade mole bitters, Cyprus black salt). Though most of these artisan spirits and ingredients were unfamiliar, they were clearly sublime and answered the call for something you always wanted but never knew how to ask for.

One of the highlights from the appetizer selection was the charcuterie, which on this night consisted of duck liver mousse, smoked head cheese, ciccioli, dry-cured coppa, and lamb sobrasada—all fastidiously prepared entirely in-house. These delicately seasoned selections offered a rich contrast of textures and flavors and were accompanied by housemade mustard, pickles, ferments, and crunchy crostini. We also loved the delightfully doughy duck confit bits served on a fresh, hot, out-ofthe-brick-oven flatbread.

In accompaniment, we sampled the crispyet-mellow wines, such as Russian River Stomping Girl Pinot Noir and the formidable Bonnet Melon de Bourgogne (Muscadet). Note that Revival offers a unique and impressive selection of brews—draft and bottled—and other distinctive libations.

We then loosened our belts for our main courses, notably the grilled McFarland Springs trout and Emigh Ranch lamb mixed grill. We enjoyed them with two of Revival’s signatures sides: the chopped curly kale salad (with cauliflower, radish, and pickled mushrooms tossed in a fine golden balsamic vinaigrette with a tickle-your-tongue cilantro-pumpkin seed pistou on the side) and an order of perfectly textured house-cut pommes frites with a sumptuous blue cheese aioli.

The trout was memorable. Served with caramelized endive, chanterelles, bitter greens, fresh tarragon, carrot-top puree, and saffron–pine nut beurre monte, it appeared almost salmon in color but with a more delicate and flaky texture. With each soft bite, our eyes rolled and mouths watered.

The mixed grill, consisting of a smoothtextured lamb-currant sausage and a leg steak, was ultra juicy and creatively seasoned with just a slight salinity to enhance the natural flavors. They were flanked by tender mustard greens, shelling beans, and a pickled turnip. The Quetzal Farm harissa gave just the right amount of pique.

Dessert. After savoring the final vestiges of entrees, well-conceived and well-prepared, we delved into a caloric splurge, sharing the brown butter ganache devil’s food cake moated by a huckleberry compote, the distinctive pumpkin doughnuts in a ginger anglaise and cider reduction. And to leave no stone unturned, we splurged on what turned out to be the piece de resistance—Amy’s special goat milk cheesecake on a dreamy crust, thinly concealed by a black walnut–honeycomb dust that covered poached quince. We enjoyed all these with a memorable “caff-in-half” drip of Oakland’s own killer Blue Bottle Coffee, followed by a distinctive Leopold Gourmel VSOP cognac. Voilà.

Our kudos to Amy Murray and her fine, hospitable staff. Make way, Alice Waters, there’s a train a comin’—with “Revival B&K” written all over it.

Roy Strassman is a senior practitioner of Hellerwork, a system of deep-tissue therapy. He is also a Bay Area freelance journalist and music critic who plays jazz and Latin congas and percussion. • [email protected]

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