Shop Talk: The ins and outs of Berkeley businesses

MELT IN YOUR MOUTH Its tag line is “Yup, It’s just cheese and bread,” but somehow we suspect the way MELT puts those two ingredients together is something special. How about fontina and provolone on garlic bread? Or pepper jack with jalapenos on sourdough? Those are only two of the options at MELT, the brainchild of  Jonathan Kaplan, who founded Flip Video (now sadly defunct). As tipped by Berkeleyside in May, the fifth branch of MELT opened Aug. 6 at 2400 Telegraph Ave., just a few steps away from Sproul Plaza. Customers can order via their smart phones, scan in the QR code when they get to the restaurant, and move to the front of the line for pick up.

Pasta. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

IF YOU BUILD IT, THEY WILL COME The introduction of the high-concept Comal on Shattuck Avenue seems to be having the effect Berkeley city planners and economic development types hoped for. Diablo Magazine reports that first-time restaurateur Paul Oprescu is planning to open Belli Osteria next door at 2016 Shattuck in October. He is taking over the space that once belonged to Green Papaya and morphed for a brief period in February to Thanu’s Kitchen. Belli will be an affordable osteria serving many different types of pasta and ravioli made on the premises. “Oprescu, a former Montessori teacher who has dabbled in cooking, including interning at the late Eccolo where he learned to make his own charcuterie, says he has more than 150 recipes for raviolis that he plans to rotate into the menu,” writes Diablo. “A couple of examples? How about black squid ink ravioli with seafood or another with seared prawns, gorgonzola, and caramelized shallots in a cream sauce.” Belli will also be open for lunch, serving affordable panini.

WANT SOME CHOW MEIN WITH THAT HOT DOG? Undoubtedly disappointing hoards of hungry high-school students, Peking Express has moved from its Center Street location to 2518C Durant Ave.. The budget Chinese restaurant now resides on the same block as popular student eateries Top Dog and King Pin Donuts. Peking also plays host to a backgammon tournament on the second Saturday of each month, so customers interested in a side of competition with their kung pao chicken can call Ted at (831) 261-4583 to reserve a spot.

Shop Talk is Berkeleyside’s regular column in which we post updates on Berkeley businesses — openings, closings, new directions, relaunches, relocations. If you’re a Berkeley business with news, or a Berkeleysider who has spotted a change in your neighborhood or on your travels, shoot us an email with the details. Read previous Shop Talk columns here.

Berkeleyside publishes many articles every day. To see all our stories in chronological order, and read ones you may have missed, check out All the News.

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  • Laura Novak

    I love Melt (in the City.) My husband designed the kitchens/concept with Jonathan Kaplan and Michael Mina whose other restaurant kitchens he designs. The concept is hip and the food great. We were just waiting for it to arrive over here!

  • Charles_Siegel

    “the fifth branch of MELT opened Aug. 6 at 2400 Telegraph Avenue, just a few steps away from Sproul Plaza”

    I just passed by there, and it is not open yet.  They are putting the finishing touches on the remodel.

    “Peking Express has moved from its Center Street location to 2518C Durant Avenue.”

    I think this also is not open yet.  I passed by there a couple of days ago.

  • Hungry Student

    $9 for grilled cheese and soup?  Guess they don’t want any students coming in.

  • guest

    I think many students will be happy to splurge if the food is delicious.

  • Chrisjuricich

    Like doctors specializing, chefs and restauranteurs seem to be focusing more and more on particular dishes as a theme–then running with ad Infinitum variants. I recall a Food Network show that looked at these concept restauranteurs hopefuls but the considered opinions of the experts was that the ‘grilled cheese’ concept was toast–excuse the pun.

    But if there’s room for the Home Room which specializes in Mac and cheese, then why not grilled cheese variants?

  • Chrisjuricich

    On another note, a general kvetch here: used to be that you would order a ‘steak and fries’, say, and a beer.or whatever. Now?

    Grass fed Uruguayan beef (ribeye)
    (“the steer’s name was Alonzo and he liked oats, grazing under the big oak tree, and is lifelong dream was to end up on the plate of a four-star restaurant”)

    Shattuck Grill Fries
    Yukon Gold potatoes from Local Farm, marinated in the organic dirt of its origin, salt, pepper, with a sliver of garlic, then grilled on our tensile iron plancha, the iron of which was dug out of the ground by Hispanic workers in a fair trade environment, all of whom have health benefits

    Homebrew Stout from Albert’s Garage
    Delicate notes of wheat and barley, cold-brewed from a solar-=powered refrigerator

    Tired, tired of too much information on a menu, folks.

    End mild daily tirade.

  • Anonymous

     https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l2LBICPEK6w

  • Charles_Siegel

    “How about black squid ink ravioli with seafood”

    I obviously am not sophisticated, but that sounds disgusting to me.  I am as likely to order it as I would be to order ravioli made with bats ears or with rats tails. 

  • Anonymous

     Squid ink just tastes kind of briney and makes everything black. I don’t know that there’s any reason to use it other than it sounds exotic but, like you, I’m an unsophisticated cretin. A good example using squid ink (at least that’s what many people think it is) is Fred’s tri-tip marinade from Schaub’s butcher shop.  It ends up looking like a huge diseased lung from a 3-pack a day smoker but is delicious.

  • Elisha

    To each his own. That may sound disgusting to you, but for many of us squid ink in pasta or rice dishes are quite wonderful! You are missing out on an exceptional flavor that is used in many classic Italian and Spanish dishes:

    https://www.google.com/search?q=squid+ink+images+cooking+images&hl=en&client=firefox-a&hs=WGt&rls=org.mozilla:en-US:official&prmd=imvnse&tbm=isch&tbo=u&source=univ&sa=X&ei=W8kiUPOGMLDpiwK7y4CwDQ&ved=0CD4QsAQ&biw=1916&bih=1284#hl=en&client=firefox-a&hs=ZGt&rls=org.mozilla:en-US%3Aofficial&tbm=isch&sa=1&q=squid+ink+recipes&oq=squid+ink+rec&gs_l=img.3.0.0i24l2j0i5i24l4.32672.34156.0.36393.7.6.1.0.0.0.50.268.6.6.0…0.0…1c.AmQYZafSrrs&pbx=1&bav=on.2,or.r_gc.r_pw.r_qf.&fp=198da138a722441e&biw=1916&bih=1284

    Luckily we live in such a diverse place that offers a richness in dining options. If menu selections were limited to the agreement of the masses, we would live in a very boring world indeed!

  • TN

    Squid ink is used as an ingredient in many Mediterranean based cuisines.

    One of my favorite dishes is a Cuban squid and rice dish cooked with squid ink. I only had it once at a small Cuban restaurant in Washington DC years ago. I’ve not seen it on a menu anywhere since.

  • Charles_Siegel

    Squid ink must have some chemicals in it that are not in other food, to make it so black.  I doubt if its taste is an indication of how healthy those chemicals are for us.

    Our sense of taste evolved to protect our ancestors from dangerous foods that they normally encountered.  They did not normally encounter squid ink.  If it had some chemical in it that is unhealthy and that is not in other foods, they would not have evolved a taste to protect them from it. 

    Likewise, our ancestors did not normally encounter radioactivity, so they never evolved the ability to perceive radioactivity, even though it is very dangerous. 

  • Elisha

    Interestingly there is some research to indicate the health benefits of squid ink:

    http://www.angio.org/news/squid-ink-discovered-to-be-antiangiogenic.html

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9328864

  • Charles_Siegel

    “Dormice sprinkled with
    poppy-seed and honey were served on little bridges soldered fast to the
    platter, and hot sausages on a silver gridiron, underneath which were
    damson plums and pomegranate seeds”

    From the Satyricon of Petronius, describing Rome during the decadence. 

    But I think it might also catch on as a concept for a new gourmet restaurant in Berkeley.

  • Anonymous

    BRIAN
    [He approaches the PFJ with his tray of food.]
    Dog’s tongues. Otter’s noses. Ocelot spleens.

    REG
    You got any nuts?

    BRIAN
    Haven’t got any nuts, sorry. I’ve got wren’s livers, badger’s spleens.

    REG
    No, no, no.

    BRIAN
    Otter’s noses?

    REG
    I don’t want any of that Roman rubbish.

    JUDITH
    Why don’t you sell proper food?

    BRIAN
    Proper food?

    REG
    Yeah. Not those rich imperialist tidbits.

    BRIAN
    Well don’t blame me, I didn’t ask to sell this stuff!

    REG
    All right. Bag of otter’s noses then.

    FRANCIS
    Make it two.

  • Berkeley Resident

     Sorry, just could not resist.  This also from the Satyricon, but seems to apply to the most esteemed Berkeleyside comment section, from time to time, not necessarily today and not Charles. The ruin of Oratory by the rhetoricians seems timely right now so close to elections.  (Quote below)

    “Under such a training it is no more possible to acquire good taste than
    it is not to stink, if you live in a kitchen. Give me leave to tell you
    that you rhetoricians are chiefly to blame for the ruin of Oratory, for
    with your silly, idle phrases, meant only to tickle the ears of an
    audience, you have enervated and deboshed the very substance of true
    eloquence.”

  • Anonymous

    Squid ink delipidated in acetone, yum.

  • Berkeley Moderate

    While I get the joke, I’m thrilled when a restaurant tells me they care about their ingredients.  I think great ingredients make a difference in the world and on the table.  You can still order a plain old steak and fries and a beer if you’d like.  Personally I’d rather not eat feedlot beef and toxic Idaho potatoes.