Zut! on Fourth

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The bar area (photo from Zut!).

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The chanterelle and Fontina pizza.

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Fish stew (with mussels, clams, and sea bream).

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Gorg glass chandelier.

Like Chapeau! and Garçon! in the city, here’s another French restaurant with an exclamation point in its name, ~ZUT! ON FOURTH~, although this one is located in Berkeley, in the former Eccolo space. As for the name, it’s part of an expression Americans tend to know, zut alors!, which is basically a version of oh shoot! Or, in these modern times, maybe what the eff.

But before you start making conclusions about what does this portend for the restaurant, and wondering “Oh dear, is it going to be weird?”, chef Jim Wimborough’s menu of Californian and Mediterranean dishes doesn’t say “What the eff!” to me. The whole experience is much more approachable and straightforward than that (his background includes Home, Evvia Estiatorio, and Kokkari).

After plunking into your seat, you can carb up on some herbaceous housemade focaccia served with a bright, peppery oil. Mediterranean starters include a mixed plate of meze ($10), or creamy gigande beans ($8) that came in a soupy mix of roasted red peppers, a few spinach leaves, and goat cheese (I would have preferred a briny feta to perk the dish up more). Lamb meatballs ($9) were served with the delicious grilled, housemade pita, but the meatballs needed more fat (perhaps the purpose of the odd accompaniment of the “smashed” avocado), and the tomato sauce was far too acidic and unadulterated—it needed some loving.

The space has a wood-burning oven, and our pizza had an unexpectedly light and airy texture. The golden crust was crisp and thin, with a satisfying cornicione (lip) that was just bready enough—really delicious flavor. We tried the chanterelle ($14) with Fontina, roasted garlic, Parmesan, and the inspired pinch of fig vinegar. Based on the slightly smaller size, I think I’d love this particular pizza a little more if it was $12 or even $13—but all the pies feature appetizing combinations.

Mains top out around $24 and rotate often, ranging from a flat-iron steak ($22) to a fish stew ($22) one evening that was so spot-on. It was a spin on a bouillabaisse, with fresh clams, mussels, and sea bream cooked just right, kickin’ it in a savory and well-seasoned tomato broth, flourished with a dollop of aioli. I was happy about the wallet-friendly price for the rotisserie chicken ($16), and it was a generous portion, but unfortunately suffered from an overload of oil in the olive vinaigrette and a sodden potato pancake—but it looks like this one is no longer on the menu. Exit stage left, oily chicken.

While I was dining here in the evening, I was told the big skylight opens up on sunny days, creating a sunroom out of the main dining room. It would make for an attractive place for lunch or brunch, and is reportedly rather popular with Fourth Street shoppers on the weekends. I’d come back for lunch or brunch if I was in the area—especially to sit on the patio on a sunny day. The room has a comfortable and handsome atmosphere, and I liked the artistic touches, like the warm tones of the mural that stretches around the dining room, and the unique glass chandeliers that felt like crystal cherry blossom tree branches.

Here’s one thing I particularly enjoyed seeing: the beautiful bar has a fantastic, curated selection of amaros, anisettes, and other digestifs. Excellent place to geek out amidst the glimmering bottles while parked at the zinc bar. And the staff is passionate about their booze, so ask, taste, and drink up. Salud! (Yes, with an exclamation point.)

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Stars Sighted

1820 4th St. Berkeley
(at Hearst St.)
510-644-0444
zutonfourth.com
$$$
Jim Wimborough, chef

Cuisine

  • American (Contemporary)
  • Californian
  • Mediterranean

Features

  • Bar Dining
  • Brunch (Weekend)
  • Good for Groups
  • Kid Friendly
  • Lunch
  • Outdoor Dining
  • Bar