Downtown Berkeley café, boba shop undergo changes this month

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Emilia Bulfone/Staff

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Two Berkeley restaurants are switching things up this month, with a boba shop transforming into a Burmese eatery and a downtown French café changing ownership.

Café Clem, a French-style café at 2020 Kittredge St., closed Aug. 31 and will reopen as a new French bistro, Maison Bleue. Last week, Bobo Drinks, located at 2037 Shattuck Ave., was converted into Tharaphu Burmese Street Food, featuring a menu that expands upon the previous establishment’s smaller selection of Burmese dishes.

Tharaphu Burmese Street Food owner Mindy Khoo said she and her co-owners — Nora Aung, Justin Oo and Kyaw Thet — started Bobo Drinks about two years ago with hopes of one day opening a Burmese establishment.

“What we learned through (Bobo Drinks) was that a lot of people had a taste for the Burmese side of the restaurant,” Khoo said.

Maung Oo, owner of Café Karla, a Burmese kitchen in Berkeley, noted Burmese cuisine’s popularity in the Bay Area and said that his business, which distributes to local markets, has expanded in the four years since it opened.

“Burmese food is quite similar to Thai, quite similar to Indian, quite similar to Chinese, but totally different too,” Oo said. “People like this different food.”

Khoo said she hopes to bring her home country’s culture of street food to Berkeley and emphasized offering a casual alternative to some of Berkeley’s more formal Burmese establishments.

Tharaphu Burmese Street Food will offer dishes such as Burmese fritters and Shan noodles, served in wooden baskets like those used by Burmese street vendors. It will also continue to offer tea and drink options, though the selection will be more limited than that of Bobo Drinks.

“Bobo was our first step for us to get into this industry,” Khoo said. “We got a great learning experience and then we thought, ‘Hey, we’re ready to take this to the next level’.”

Dorothée Mitrani, former owner of Café Clem, said she closed the café so she could dedicate more time to her other restaurant, La Note, which she has run for 18 years.

“(Café Clem) is like one of my children, I want it to have fair attention,” Mitrani said. “I tried to choose a new owner that would keep the same spirit alive.”

Like Mitrani, Maison Bleue’s owner Patrice Fayet specializes in French cuisine. Fayet said the new establishment will be similar to Café Clem but will offer more entrees to create a bistro environment.

Maison Bleue will serve crêpes and sandwiches as well as brunch on the weekends. Fayet said he also eventually hopes to offer happy hour.

The café is currently being renovated and is set to open in November.

Contact Lillian Holmes and Jessica Lynn at [email protected].