Goat is not a big culinary deal (yet) for most Americans who aren’t born into those cultures who can masterfully cook goat (e.g., Greek, Argentinian). So goat is a bit of a treat, albeit a daring one, when I find it. Cafe Rouge in Berkeley is an unassuming little bistro-style restaurant, but it offers an extensive list of house-made charcuterie items in a shop adjacent to the restaurant. And the restaurant’s approach to meat: spit-roasting in wood-fired oven. So I dared for the goat.
With mixed results. The waitress said the roasted goat plate would include goat leg or loin, but never came back to ask me which I wanted. Sadly, without being consulted, I was served up the leg: a tougher, stringier portion with less meat than the loin. The small accompanying goat bits on the plate (under the leg) were tender, medium-rare, and wonderful in the jus, and the roasted fennel beneath was terrific. So most of the plate could qualify as great.
But a scrawny goat leg as the dish’s leading man diminished the experience. Perhaps if both goat legs were on board, to justify the chew-through. The waitress did apologize, saying they only have 1 or 2 goats when they’re on the menu so they had to serve what they had available. But if only leg was available, that would have shifted my decision to another dish. Hopefully, a lesson learned.
Despite the faux pas, I really like the sweet atmosphere of Cafe Rouge and what executive chef/owner Marsha McBride is doing there. The service is very good; the wine list is diverse and reasonably priced; and their spit-roasted meats are really a shining moment that would keep me and many others coming back for more.
Now if only their butcher shop was open during dinner hours so I could take some charcuterie home….(hint)
The Grade: Very Good
The Damage: $18
The Inside Tip #1:
Reserve or request upstairs seating because downstairs gets extremely noisy and tables are also a bit close together. (It’s a bit warmer, but quieter.)
The Inside Tip #2:
When Cafe Rouge has softshell crab (seasonal), you MUST get it as your appetizer. They serve one of the best fried softshell crab dishes I’ve ever had…that includes Baltimore, Washington DC, and New York. Perfect julienned beets, Russian dressing, crispy crab…too bad the season is so short.
The Skinny: Cafe Rouge
1782 – 4th Street, Berkeley CA 94170
Phone: (510) 525-1440
Reserve your Cafe Rouge table directly now via Opentable.com.