Shop Talk: 520 Chef's Table now more affordable

This week's retail news

Chef Clive Berkman of the Garden Court Hotel has decided to offer his monthly, gourmet, multi-course meal for half the previous price.

PRICES SLASHED AT COMMUNAL DINNER ... With an attentive nod to the tastes of the local dining community, Garden Court Hotel, 520 Cowper St., Palo Alto, has revamped its once-a-month, 10-course, gourmet meal. The 520 Chef's Table dinners, which start at 6:30 p.m. and last about three hours, take place on the third Thursday of each month. Until recently, the cost of the dinner was not cheap. "It came to about $300 a couple," said hotel Chef Clive Berkman. "We realized we were cutting some people out at that price. So now we have a lower price at $65 a person." While that represents a more than 50 percent price reduction, the meal still includes a specialty cocktail and featured wines. The number of courses has been decreased, Berkman explained. "We now serve a five-course meal instead of 10 courses. It was just too much food for too high a price." Another change is the introduction of themes for each month's event.

The first newly revised dinner was vegan. "It's not easy preparing a great dinner without using butter or meat or seafood, but we experimented a lot in the kitchen and came up with some creative dishes," Berkman said. Themes for the next few months include "Tomatoes, Tomatoes, Tomatoes," in which every dish will have tomato as an ingredient, "All Seafood," highlighting local fish from the Bay, and perhaps most intriguingly, "Head to Hoof," where different body parts of the animal will be included in each course of the dinner, including dessert.

At last week's vegan dinner, 18 diners were seated around a long wooden table in a private room at Garden Court. The setting for the fixed price meal is intentionally kept cozy. "We still want the dinners to remain intimate," said Berkman, who interacted enthusiastically with guests. He came out before each course was served to describe the ingredients, why he chose the specific combination of items, how the dish was prepared and why it would go well with the featured wine. "It's all very exciting. I bring the kitchen to you," he said, emphasizing what he calls a palate memory, in which he attempts to create each course with taste components of sweet, sour, salty and bitter. The wait staff were equally solicitous: Wine glasses were kept full, new silverware was delivered before each course and water glasses were never empty.

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11 people like this
Posted by Kate
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 28, 2015 at 10:55 am

There may be a lot less couples of all ages including seniors going out for dinner anywhere once the new utility rates hit the fan. They are not going out now. How many downtown restaurants have 'folded' . Not everyone is a high-techie - and/or single with six digit salaries and a Tesla. Many residents have lived here for years. Seniors are pinching pennies - big time. Other residents and employees are medical personnel, teachers, retirees, many have children (or grandchildren) in college or enroute. Debt is rising to high levels - many commute from someplace else. There's no SPARE CHANGE to go out for dinner. Probably most of the people who set these utility rates live in other cities and areas - like the East and South Bay and commute into Palo Alto - and need parking. If they lived here, they could bike to work as they want everyone else to do, but the insane real estate prices are destroying everything in the path. Many moving into Palo Alto could care less about utility rates. They don't live in the houses they bought nor do they care about the community. They don't even talk to the neighbors. Children don't play outside. There were a lot of 'promises' in the last election. I'm waiting......... Maybe another new Ass't. City Manager at $250K can be appointed to figure out all of this. Heaven knows the rest of them can't.

27 people like this
Posted by Duh
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 28, 2015 at 11:06 am

This should have been a no-brainer. Most Palo Altans, unless billionaires, will not pay $300/couple, even for a special occasion.

And another no-brainer: ten courses is just too much, unless each course equals one or two spoonfuls of food. No one wants to feel stuffed to the gills.

Cutting the number of courses in half to cut the price in half is the biggest no-brainer.

The single, six-figure income techies live and play in SF. They only work here.

14 people like this
Posted by to kate
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jun 28, 2015 at 12:06 pm

There are plenty of affluent couples in Palo Alto, Menlo Park, Atherton, etc for whom $65/person for a special dinner seems quite reasonable. And the solution to all that ails Palo Alto is not to build more stack-and-pack condos.

22 people like this
Posted by Don
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Jun 29, 2015 at 11:00 am

$65 for a thoughtful 5-course dinner, including cocktail and wine. Sounds like a bargain to me.

7 people like this
Posted by Hmmm
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Jun 29, 2015 at 9:19 pm

I know many people who spend $300/couple on meals for special occasions or because they were able to get a reservation at a special restaurant. The affluence in this area ensures that there will be people who will spend that. The lower price makes it more affordable for many who can afford it. But what about those who drink little or not at all?

Also, the focus shouldn't be just on price. This is a creative endeavor that fosters community via the love of food and food experimentation. We certainly can't lay the frustrations from living in this area at the feet of this chef and these dinners!

1 person likes this
Posted by the Dining Dime
a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 30, 2015 at 1:49 pm

About dinner price: remember, there's an awful lot of people on this peninsula who never eat with their own money. Chat a little about a deal, and bam! it's on the client's tab or the tax write-off.
(reference: see Madera or Viliage Pub almost any time of day.)

Separately, I think Chef's idea is novel and should be supported. Kudos to him and GCH for lowering the price to reach a wider audience.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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