east bay eateries: va de vi and venus

8 Feb
Va de Vi

After 3.5 years in lovely Berkeley, I have an overwhelming desire to spread my wings and explore new restaurants beyond the good ol’ standbys of Smart Alec’s and House of Curries. That’s why, on a recent trek to Walnut Creek, I begged my friends to indulge me on a meal at Va de Vi, a wine bar and bistro located on the main drag of the super gentrified town. Although Walnut Creek’s chain stores are a little bit off-putting, I couldn’t help but appreciate the refined look to the people we passed by.
Va de Vi caught my eye on Yelp.com, and the reviews ended up being pretty dead on. Although the name of the restaurants means “It’s about the wine” in Catalan, the tapas themselves were not Spanish, but rather upscale American. We indulged on delectable crabcakes, cheeses from Wisconsin and the Netherlands, delicious meatballs oozing with flavor, and sausages from around the world. We ended the meal in the way only Alpha Chis know how — with copious amounts of dessert. Va de Vi may be about the wine, but they know how to make a mean chocolate souffle as well. Our waiter also hooked us up with some delicious garlic fries (a mistake from another table) and finished my friend Krisse’s joke from Wedding Crashers before any of us could — major props there!
I’d recommend Va de Vi if you ever find yourself in Walnut Creek. It’s truly a gem in a land filled with CPKs.
Venus

Keeping in tune with my desire to expand my knowledge of Berkeley eateries, I grabbed my good friend (and fellow foodie-wannabe) Amy to trek down to Downtown Berkeley’s restaurant mecca. After a failed attempt to try Brazil Cafe on Shattuck, we were ultimately decided on Venus, which caters to adventurous eaters, Vegans, organics, etc. I was pretty full from a day of Super Bowl noshing, but tried their gnocci appetizer and was definitely satisfied. Amy’s polenta dish was exquisite. Besides the thrill of finding a new, fun place to eat, I was taken with the fact that there did not appear to be a single Cal student in the restuarant, and from our Shattuck-facing table, it seemed like we were miles away from the UC campus.
Since it’s a Sunday, our nightcap was the coffee drink the waitress recommended, the aptly named “Cloud 9” which featured two shots of espresso and Scharffenberger chocolate grated on top. The ability to slowly sip a unique drink was an experience worth savoring.
My culinary knowledge may be lacking, but I am determined to expand (and educate) my palate, and Berkeley’s plethora of ethnic eateries will give me plenty of options to do that before I graduate.


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