Krystal, my sister-in-law, wanted to take us to lunch in Berkeley while we were in town. Both Vu and I have never been to Berkeley even though we have lived in the bay area for a long time. We all piled in the car and headed up north despite the pouring rain. Our first stop was Café Rouge, on 4th street. The restaurant was filled with people even at 11 A.M. Known for its fresh meats and house-made charcuterie, we ordered coq au vin (Central Coast Farms chicken), baby back ribs, and grilled hanger steak. I did not have the coq au vin but was told it was delicious and saw Krystal’s friend inhaled it. Vu tried the baby back ribs but was not impressed. No one can beat Phil’s BBQ baby back ribs! If you know of a place, please let me know! I had the hanger steak with French fries and aioli. The steak was juicy and tender, but not as memorable as Ruth’s Chris in La Jolla, Celadon in Napa Valley, or LB Steak at Santana Row. Overall, Café Rouge has a nice atmosphere for lunch if you are in the area, but definitely not worth an hour drive.
However, we did like the meat and pasta shop next door where you can find a variety of aged meats and international products for cooking and baking. We ended up trying the “jamon iberico,” a type of cured ham produced in Spain from the black Iberian pig. The first “jamones ibéricos” were released for sale in the US in 2007. For $185 per pound, it definitely tasted better than prosciutto, buttery and smooth. You need an acquired taste for dry-cured ham. Personally, I have not acquired that taste and did not appreciate the “jamon iberico” as much as Vu did. For the price, I was a bit disappointed. If you get a chance, try it once!