Surprise Me! at Origen
A Berkeley newcomer, farm-to-fork Origen on Telegraph Avenue, is a cross between a restaurant and a culinary circus. Every day, co-chefs Daniel Clayton and Trace Leighton and sous chef Cassandra Madison come up with so many incredibly creative uses for their locally sourced ingredients that it only makes sense to come here as often as possible to check on their next invention of the hour.
And when I say the hour, I mean it.
Take a signature Origen dish – paella of the hour. At 8 p.m. on the night we dined, paella ingredients included rainbow trout, green beans, and preserved lemon emulsion – and that was the freshest and most nuanced paella I’ve ever tried, my visits to Valencia and Andalucia notwithstanding.
Another great choice for the evening was a daily five-course chef’s tasting menu with wine pairings.
Duck confit starter was served with apple and honey cream haroset, and paired with Jerez.
Warm fennel salad was topped with cooked Peruvian lantern scallops, orange and avocado slices, and a sprig of mizuna, and paired with crisp and refreshing Picpoul de Pinet.
The most surprising and amazingly delicious dish on the chefs’ menu – chicories agnolotti with brown butter, yogurt, fig conserve, and pink pepper – was paired with Burgundy aligote, and seemed to me a shining star of all the vegetarian preparations known to man.
The freshest lightly cooked rainbow trout filet came on a bed of celery root puree, topped with cut green beans and cilantro, and sprinkled with citrus “caviar” from a little-known Australian fruit, finger lime, which happens to grow in Chef Daniel’s backyard.
The trout was paired with wonderful Anderson Valley pinot from Londer vineyards.
Suffice it to say that the wine list at Origen, hand-selected by Chef Daniel, nears 400 bottles from almost all of the wine-producing regions of the world.
Our cheese course included hard goat milk cheese from Andante Dairy, maple syrup shortbread, quince jam, and was paired with a five-year-old Madeira blend.
The sweet finale came with Chef Trace’s pear and raspberry pandowdy, generously complemented with stem ginger cream, and smelling of fresh baking and childhood memories. Late harvest char from Lolonis, Mendocino, was surely a match made in heaven.
Besides the most inspired food, the ambiance at this week-old restaurant deserves its own praise. The earthy color scheme seems very much in tune with the rustic cuisine and sustainable practices of the place, while comfortable booths, intimate sittings for two and a huge communal table made from a reclaimed Bay laurel tree, offer an aesthetic approach to visitors’ comfort.
Origen is located at 2826 Telegraph Avenue in Berkeley, California. For more information and reservations call (510) 848-9200 or visit their website.
Editor’s note: This venue is now closed.