This is our second year (2002) in a row going to Le Bateau Ivre for Valentine's Day. Like last year, we had a very nice experience, good food at non-outrageous prices in a lovely, romantic room. A great choice for Valentine's Day.
Le Bateau Ivre has two main dining rooms - each one set with small tables and very soft lights. It was very romantic and intimate. This year we made reservations a long time in advance so we secured a table by one of the bay windows. It was a great location as it set us apart a little bit from the other diners and gave us added privacy. I'd highly recommend requesting a bay window table when making reservations.
Service again was pretty good. Our waiter was obviously very busy but he was quite efficient in bringing dishes, getting us water, etc. Warm bread was brought to the table soon after we got in, which of course meant that I got filled up with bread :). If I have a complaint, it's that, unlike last year, they didn't bring us a carnation with the check (but that's not a big deal).
The food, again, was pretty good. In addition to the regular menu, they once again had a Valentine's Day menu similarly priced (most entrees in the high teens). For an appetizer, Mike had something that looked like a salmon souffle in a puff pastry. He said he liked it. I had an herbed baked brie en croute. It was pretty good with the warm bread, but probably a dish that you should share. It was too much for one person.
For dinner, I had the filet mignon bordelais, the same thing that Mike had ordered last year. It was nicely cooked and very tender. Again, I found it needed salt as the flavor was not as intense as I would have liked, but the sauce was very nice. I thought that the steak was a little bit small for the price, though I had so filled myself with bread that I wasn't that hungry by then. Mike had the pork sirloin stuffed with a mixture of dates, raisins and other things of the sort. I wasn't too impressed, but then again I'm not a big pork aficionado.
I decided to skip dessert but Mike had the key lime pie. It was a small piece but it was very good, with intense lime flavor and thick whipped cream on top. He thoroughly enjoyed it.
I had a couple of cokes for dinner and Mike had a glass of that evening's "special" cabernet. He thought it was very good.
Dinner came to about $80 before the tip.
(Original Review, Feb. 2001)
Ever since I was in college, over a decade ago, I've wanted to go to Le Bateau Ivre. The little restaurant, with its elegant small tables by the windows, looked charming and completely out of place on grimey Telegraph Ave. Alas, during my college years, restaurants of that sort were way beyond my budget, and Le Bateau Ivre was relegated to my list of "I'd like to go there someday" places. And "I'd like to go there someday" is what I say every time I pass it by, alas, for one reason or the other, it'd never happened.
I was therefore pleasantly surprised when Mike told me he had made reservations at Le Bateau Ivre for Valentine's Day. It could not have been a better choice. It was wonderfully romantic, with soft lights, small white flowers and a candle at each table, and both the food and the wine were much better than expected.
I hadn't expected much from the food mostly because I'd never seen Le Bateau Ivre written up. That's a pity, because we found Le Bateau Ivre to offer a wonderful dinner experience, certainly at the same level, if not above, most of the more famous "destination" restaurants in the East Bay.
The menu offers limited selections of California-bistro type food. Steaks, seafood, chicken and salads. Most seemed safe, but not adventurous choices. However, they also offer daily specials and they had a nice additional menu for Valentine's day that included more international dishes. Prices were in the range for restaurants of this type, appetizers were in the $4-8 range, and entrees were in the mid-to-high teens. Desserts were especially affordable, starting at about $4 and reaching about $7.
To start, Mike chose to go with a baked cheese appetizer which proved rich and delicious. I had the chicken terrine from the Valentine's menu. The smooth pate was very good on bread (served warm), and had a very fresh, though slightly earthy, taste. The two large slices were too much for one person, so you may want to share.
Mike followed with the filet mignon bordelaise from the regular menu. It was perfectly cooked (medium rare), and was tender and delicious in the mild wine sauce. I thought it needed a little bit of salt, but Mike, who likes food less salty than I, found it perfect. He was a happy camper.
I had the lamb muligatawny, a soupy stew with baby carrots and apples served on rice, from the Valentine's menu. The steaming plate was pretty good and very hearty, though I didn't find the flavors as intense as I would have liked. Still, it was quite satisfying.
We were very full by dessert time, so Mike decided to forgo it. I went for the bread pudding with raspberry syrup. I liked it very much, especially because the bread pudding was not sweet at all and therefore did not fight the raspberry sauce. Mike, on the other hand, did not like it - but he doesn't like bread pudding to begin with.
Service was also very good, efficient, friendly and unintrusive. The meal was perfectly paced, and altogether pleasant.
If there is one criticism that I can make about Le Bateau Ivre is its very relatively small wine list. It only included two foreign reds, and three Cabs among 7 or 8 California reds. We finally settled with the most expensive California Cab ($42), after our first choice was not unavailable, and we enjoyed it very much. It had a very smooth, buttery taste and it went well both with the meal and dessert (that's one of the great things about bread pudding, it actually goes well with red wine!). We enjoyed it very much.
The bill came with a pink carnation, which I thought was a very nice touch. It came to $102, including the wine and taxes but not the tip, quite reasonable for such a lovely experience.
Le Bateau Ivre