B&B Kitchen & Wine Bar Makes Downtown Berkeley Fishier

A seafood-y sibling to Bourbon & Beef in Rockridge caters to pescaterians in downtown.


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Jumbo prawns with linguine are on the B&B Kitchen menu.

Photo by Lori Eanes

If you visit B&B Kitchen & Wine Bar in downtown Berkeley and recognize its co-owner, Abraham Masarweh, from his other place—Bourbon & Beef in Oakland’s Rockridge district—you might not realize that his restaurant history goes back much farther than that.

At age 17, straight out of high school, Masarweh teamed up with his older brother to buy and run Café Retta, also in downtown Berkeley. His next restaurant was Poker’s Gourmet Burgers, which flourished for 20 years in San Francisco. He also launched and was general manager at Café M in Berkeley’s Fourth Street district. Popular steakhouse Bourbon & Beef had been scoring rave reviews for two years when Masarweh, with partner Julia Joslyn, decided it needed a seafood-y “sibling.”

“Berkeley has a lot of pescaterians,” Masarweh said. “When I first walked through this space”—the former home of Lee’s Deli, Alohana Hawaiian Grill and Burritos, Inc.—“I thought: This feels like seafood. Damien thought so, too.”

Executive chef Damien Jones, formerly of Bourbon & Beef, now helms the kitchen at B&B, whose quirkily seductive black-on-black décor includes a granite bar, exhibition kitchen, plush booths, metal-studded leather (inspired by elegant chairs at the Claremont Hotel & Spa) and ornately framed fork-and-spoon artworks created by Masarweh and his daughter.

Menu spotlights include chorizo-crusted ling cod, coffee-braised short ribs, tuna-tartare tacos, truffle mac ’n’ cheese, and oyster-lobster-prawn-crab “seafood towers.” True to the restaurant’s name, an extensive wine list favors California.

“We like wild seafood, not farmed,” Masarweh explained, “but not necessarily local,” given that Berkeley’s closest body of water is a mercury-infused bay. Jones serves Prince Edward Island mussels, Penn Cove mussels, and Kumamoto oysters. His avid sea-to-table and farm-to-table sensibility ensures strong relationships with sustainable suppliers such as Schmitz Ranch, Sonoma County Poultry, and Marin Sun Farms.

“The restaurant business is a labor of love,” beamed Masarweh, whose favorite meal at B&B is weekend brunch. “It can be the biggest headache in the world, but I want to go as far with it as I can possibly imagine.”

B&B Kitchen & Wine Bar, 2116 Shattuck Ave., Berkeley, 510-647-9329, www.BandB-Berkeley.com.

Published online on Sept. 9, 2016 at 8 a.m.

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