Pompette takes Berkeley’s Cafe Rouge into new directions

Mussels escabeche is so popular that a version stays on the Pompette menu. (Photo courtesy of Pompette)

At the end of 2016, Marsha McBride closed her landmark Berkeley bistro and charcuterie, Cafe Rouge. But she turned it over to kindred spirits — a duo with deep roots in the Bay Area restaurant world.

They were regulars at Cafe Rouge to boot.

Chef David Visick and general manager/wife Caramia Visick have given the space a breezy redo, with white globes, light paint and reclaimed walnut tables replacing the dark red walls and chandeliers, and reopened it as Pompette. The name may be French (it’s a charming word for “tipsy”) but the influences are broader.

Mussels escabeche is so popular that a version stays on the Pompette menu. (Photo courtesy of Pompette)

“My love is French … and Italian … and British,” David said, noting that he likes to filter ingredients through one of those cuisines. A 38 North chicken, for example, might be braised in rose wine and served with green garlic mashed potatoes. Ham hocks are transformed into a French rillette. And a dish that so far hasn’t come off the opening menu, mussels escabeche, pulls in the Mediterranean.

As for the British influence, “I like potting things” — as in potted rabbit or shrimp. Soon, he’ll add British-style roasts (with popovers) to the Sunday afternoon menu.

His resume includes stints at Chez Panisse and Cafe Kati, and Caramia worked with McBride years ago at Zuni Cafe. For several years he cooked at private Bay Area events for bigwigs — from musicians to presidents — while they were rearing their son. The Cafe Rouge opportunity came up just as he was looking to get back into the day-to-day business.

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The Visicks wisely kept the restaurant’s signature zinc bar — “it’s a big part of the whole experience,” he said — and even hired designer Paco Prieto, who created the original, to construct a second bar, for diners, at the rear of the restaurant, where the Cafe Rouge charcuterie counter had been.

Pompette is open Monday through Saturday for lunch and dinner and Sundays from 10:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. for lunch. 1782 Fourth St., Berkeley. 510-356-4737; www.pompetteberkeley.com.

Source:: East Bay – Lifestyle

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