Mediterranean feel, New American execution at Zut!

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Taking in the variety of cuisines on Berkeley’s Fourth Street requires one to have a certain curiosity. It also depends on the time of day — the mood and feel of every restaurant on the upscale shopping avenue shifts between lunch and dinner. Zut! is no exception to this trend.

Opened in 2010, the mood in Zut! shifts from breezy and relaxing to intimate and soft as the sun sets. Chef Jim Wimborough uses local ingredients to prepare Mediterranean dishes such as fried squash blossoms and mesquite-grilled whole fish, as well as desserts like Muscavado pot de creme and Santa Rosa plum crisp. With a menu that shifts daily, this restaurant satisfies curious diners and bring a unique perspective on the classics.

On a sunny weekend afternoon, Zut!, dotted with the conversations from tables of friends and families, conjures up a cozy feeling. People continue to stay after their meals to relax, catch up and laugh. The beige and yellow background combined with the covered and raised roof really helped to maintain the friendly and breezy environment.

Start off with a refreshing mint lemonade. Despite the plethora of fresh mint leaves at the bottom, the flavor is subtle and allows the freshly squeezed lemonade to shine through. My dining companion ordered a blossom soda, and when I stole a sip, my mouth filled with a refreshing rose aroma immediately.

My black forest ham panini came up next, and it looked very pleasing, although more than half the plate was filled with fries. I hoped that the panini would make up for this, but the taste was not particularly distinct from sandwiches I had tried elsewhere. The meat was a little salty with juicy sauces coming out. The level of saltiness and strength of taste was similar to that of a cheesesteak, and there was also a subtle peppery flavor in the panini. The fries were above average, though. It’s a crime when fries are too bland and thick, which makes the potato texture overly dominating. These fries were thin, with a sprinkle of parsley on top to add a bit of extra flavor, and not too oily or salty.

Dinner at Zut! is a completely different experience. When I have gone there for dinner, I often feel compelled to order the sausage and farm egg pizza. The best part of the pizza are the over-easy eggs in the middle. One bite, and the yolk oozes all over that slice. The egg tones down the spicy chili flakes and the sausage. The egg yolk is almost like a sauce that gives life to a typically flat dish — not to take away from the other excellent ingredients. The brick-oven-cooked thin crust was kneaded by hand and created that perfectly soft and fluffy bite. The tomato sauce was not overseasoned like that on typical American pizzas — there were tomato chunks in the sauce, and they tasted like actual tomatoes.

Zut! is a good choice for when you’re looking to spend a little more on a quality meal. The open, breezy atmosphere is great for lunch, and the dim, candle-lit environment is perfect for dinner. But in the end, Wimborough’s food will keep you coming back.

Contact Annie Chang at [email protected].