The pastrami. Reading review after review, I was continually confronted with raving fans of Saul’s house-smoked, spice rubbed pastrami. So off we set on a 30 minute stroll into Berkeley’s ‘Gourmet Ghetto‘, an area of Northern Berkeley in which the ‘pursuit of quality is absolutely uncompromising’. Alice Waters’ (the president of the Slow Food US chapter) was largely responsible for this foodie revolution with the installation of her restaurant Chez Panisse in the area in the early 1970′s. But nowadays, you can find some of California’s most well known and celebrated food revolutionaries and a stack of remarkable quality dining options.
At Saul’s Restaurant & Delicatessen I ordered the toasted celery seed vodka, simple syrup and lemon cocktail. At US$8, I was tempted to keep ordering them… still used to Melbourne cocktail prices of around AU$18. The bloody mary was made with house pickle juice, but was definitely a meal in itself.
I had to try the pastrami, and what better way than in a reuben? Piled high with smoky, fatty and rich pastrami, the sauerkraut cut nicely through the melty Swiss and creamy Russian dressing. The local rye was crispy and buttery, with a caraway seed tang every few bites.
The brisket was served on a doughy roll with horseradish cream, mustard, arugula, and roasted onion. A little on the small side, while delicious it was hard to stand up to the standards the reuben had set.
A little surprisingly, the kale salad was supremely delicious. With chopped, firm brussel sprouts, greenleaf lettuce, prunes, walnuts and a creamy tahini dressing, it was fresh and an excellent accompaniment to the meaty, rich sandwiches. The Chicken Matzo Ball soup was fresh and crisp, the clear broth healthful and warm. The matzo was perfectly soft, soaking up the chicken stock flavours, the dusting of fresh parsley providing a herby tang.
House pickles were exceptional – never soggy, heavily flavoured, adequate crunch, and in three varieties.
Finishing up on a Black & White cookie that was more like a mini sponge cake, of course I ended the night swearing off food. ‘Never again’ I seem to be saying every night – not that I can stick to that for more than an hour or two.