Fans Bid Michel Bistro Adieu
The French-inspired restaurant is transforming into midcentury lounge Bardo.
Fans of Lakeshore's popular Michel Bistro turned out in their loyal legions Saturday night to bid the French restaurant adieu ... and start counting down the months until Oakland-resident owners Seth and Jenni Bregman reopen the redecorated, renamed space this summer as Bardo: a house-partyish, supper-clubby, midcentury dining room and lounge.
Honoring the Buddhism that Seth Bregman adopted in Berkeley at age eighteen, Bardo is a triple pun. It's the name of the Tibetan Book of the Dead. It sounds like the surname of film star Brigitte Bardot, of whom "we might put up a poster just to confuse people," Bregman said. And, in the Japanese language, the suffix "do" indicates a realm in which the noun preceding it occurs — e.g. zendo, or zen center. In Japanglish, a "bardo" is a realm where bar-stuff occurs.
As regards the Buddhist part, "we're trying to create an in-between world here," Bregman explained. "When you come in, you're in one state of mind. When you leave, you're in another."
As regards the bar-stuff part, mixing drinks while growing up for guests at his parents' parties "was what first sparked my interest in cocktail culture, with its sense of dignity and upliftedness" and the social connectedness it kindles.
"People used to go to parties at each other's houses. When you go to someone's house, you're not on your phone. Well, I hope you're not," Bregman laughed as a sold-out crowd savored crepes, sliders, salads, bison tartare (as depicted above), asparagus, and more — prepared by Michel Bistro chefs Anthony Salguero and Brian Starkey, who will also helm Bardo's kitchen.
Since its 2014 opening, Michel Bistro earned three Michelin Bib Gourmand awards.
As part of their research, the Bregmans studied midcentury home-entertaining manuals and visited the world-famous bar and cocktail museum at London's Savoy Hotel.
"We also have a pretty compelling vintage glassware collection which we plan to deploy. For years, I've been constantly searching for the kind of barware that I loved growing up — glasses, shakers, swizzle sticks, shakers.
"We're all so isolated these days. We want our guests to socialize," said Bregman. He and Jenni hope to facilitate this by serving bar bites on passable platters and installing group-oriented seating arrangements "where people are facing each other.
"We want Bardo to be a place where conversations and connections can happen. It's less about how great the cocktails can be — although of course ours will be great — and more about creating an environment, an experience, which you can share with others around you.
"We want to know every guest's name, and we want them to know each other's names. You might not want to talk to the person next to you," Bregman said, "but at least you'll know their name."