Le Grand Aioli Dinner at Sea Salt . The seafood was excellent, the family style format of the special evening was not well executed. The patio of the restaurant is beautiful and they need to work on getting the heat lamps working consistently. The food and the service was excellent. Definitely go back.
Radishes with Anchovy Butter and Olives with Acme Pan Levain***
Raw Bar with Oysters, Clams, Scallop Crudo, Marinated Mussels and Periwinkles***
Heirloom Tomatoes, Roasted Peppers, Eggplant, Arugula Salad***
Octopus and Squid Salad with Sea Urchin Vinaigrette****
Roasted Baby Potatoes
Gigante Beans with red onion, lemon and parsley
Grilled Whole Maryland Sea Bass with Herbs and Lemon, Topped with Cigala Olive Oil***
Prawns, Lobster, Grilled Oysters, Steamed Clams and Mussels with a Shellfish-Fennel Broth*
Peach Sorbet with Summer Fruits***
2005 Clos Ste. Magdeleine
Last night a group of friends and I attended the special Le Grand Aioli dinner at Sea Salt in Berkeley. It was a prix fixe family style meal served on their outdoor patio. About fifty people were there, we sat on long tables of about 12 people and indulged in plate after plate of fresh seafood. The menu:
Radishes with Anchovy Butter and Olives with Acme Bread
Raw Bar with Oysters, Clams, Scallop Crudo, Marinated Mussels and Periwinkles
Lobster and Hawaiian Blue Shrimp
Heirloom Tomatoes, Roasted Peppers, Eggplant, Arugula Salad
Roasted baby potatoes
Gigante Beans with lemon, onion and parsley
Octopus and Squid Salad with Sea Urchin Vinaigrette
Grilled Whole Maryland Sea Bass with Herbs and Lemon, Topped with Cigala Olive Oil
Prawns, Lobster, Grilled Oysters, Steamed Clams and Mussels with a Shellfish-Fennel Broth
Peach Sorbet with Summer Fruits
It was a relatively warm night and our table had about twelve people. We started with an appetizer of radishes, anchovy butter and olives. The Anchovy butter had a strong anchovy flavor without being salty and worked beautifully with the bread. The radishes were fresh and the warm olives a good accompaniment.
The Raw Bar was one of the highlights of the evening. A heaping plate of Lobster, Giant prawns, and Clams. The prawns were huge (about four inches long) and incredibly fresh. Lobster and clams were both good and plentiful. The second standout dish for me was the Scallop Crudo which was soft white pieces of raw scallop melting into a bright vinaigrette with a hint of spice. I could've eaten a whole bowl of this. Overall, I thought the crudo and cold items were excellent and possibly better than the similar plate at Bar Crudo.
Next came the Heirloom Tomatoes with shredded mozzarella - very nice, the shredded fresh mozzarella had a nice texture and a mouthfeel like bottarga. Arugula salad was a nice break from the decadent offerings. The Gigante beans were also a very good rendition of a traditional Italian dish.
The other standout for me was the Octopus salad with sea urchin vinaigrette. I'm not sure if the portion I received had any squid in it, but the octopus salad was cooked perfectly, nice bite to it and no rubberiness. The vinaigrette brought out the freshness of the octopus. I was sad to see that this is not on their regular menu.
The rest of the courses were good, though I felt the Shellfish-Fennel Broth only average.
The service was excellent, prompt, efficient and graceful. We spoke with them about their use of sustainable seafood and were impressed by their clear commitment to it. My only comment would be that the family style arrangement of sharing one giant plate of food on a table of twelve didn't work well. Having twelve people with their hands on (or spoons in) a single plate is just too much, particularly when you are sharing a dish of sorbet with strangers.
To the restaurant and staff's credit they quickly remedied the situation by bringing extra plates of food when it became apparent that our table mates had not left anything for us. In the end they probably ended up serving us much more than necessary. The restaurant was incredibly generous by adding extra items like lobster and prawns and oysters to the menu. At our table, each person had at least one lobster tail, and more than one serving of giant prawns, oysters, crawfish, and clams, during the cold course alone.
Overall, it was a wonderful dinner and I'll be back.