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Monday, November 8, 2010

Falafel at Zut!

Posted By on Mon, Nov 8, 2010 at 6:59 AM

click to enlarge Falafel with spicy cucumbers, yogurt, and grilled pita, $11, on Zut!'s lunch and brunch menus. - JOHN BIRDSALL
  • John Birdsall
  • Falafel with spicy cucumbers, yogurt, and grilled pita, $11, on Zut!'s lunch and brunch menus.

Monday, November 8, 2010

A restaurant with an exclamation point in its name is asking for trouble. Take Zut!, Berkeley's 10-week-old Fourth Street brasserie (in the former Eccolo space). The name comes with a baked-in suggestion that, just get in here!, our restaurant with an exuberance so potent it spills out into typography. Like the actors in a 60-second spot for Chili's you'll have a blast! It's off the hook!

But Jim Wimborough's cooking is less giddy than Zut! gives him credit for. He cooked at Home, the Castro diner, and at Evvia Estiatorio, Palo Alto's mod Greek bistro, which is more telling because Wimborough's falafel ($11) is fantastic. The four quenelle-shaped pieces have a wonderfully pebbly texture (the kitchen soaks chickpeas and sends them, raw, through a meat grinder), a lovely maize-y gold color, and cumin warmth. They show up on top of house-baked pita (pocketless flatbread, actually), grilled and sanded with za'atar, next to a lump of labni (yogurt cheese) and a silken version of the hot sauce skhug, though here it's merely hottish, mind you, nothing incendiary enough to make you shout "zut!" or anything. Still, this is a dish with exuberance to spare.

Zut!: 1820 Fourth St. (at Hearst), Berkeley, 510-849-1027.

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