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BERKELEY’s BEST Restaurants

Zut Tavern  1820 Fourth St./Hearst St.  Sporting a name that is a play on the French expression “Zut alors!,” which refers to a surprise, this well-located restaurant is the perfect after-shopping rest-and-refresh stop.  Regional Mediterranean dishes change regularly on the short menu and are prepared with fresh, locally sourced ingredients—perhaps crispy smelts or braised white beans with roasted peppers and goat cheese to start.  A surprisingly tasty seasonal salad of arugula, pluots, and fennel goes well with one of the pizzas.  A semi-exhibition kitchen with wood-fired grill and rotisserie produces entrees that might include a pasta, a generous portion of rotisserie chicken with warm fingerling potato salad, a hefty hamburger topped with an heirloom tomato slice and served with crispy frites, and a New York steak with chimichurri sauce.  Cocktails are unusual—the Maltese is an especially tasty mix of vodka, grapefruit, lemon, mint, and ouzo—and desserts are both familiar (a hot fudge sundae) and obscure (a divine muscovado pot de crème plus whole wheat-hazelnut sable cookies).  Some tables and the bar have a zinc surface, and seating is available outside as well as inside in front of windows that slide open to fresh air and a passing parade of envious pedestrians. 

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