For a city busting at the seams with creative, palatable restaurants, it seems one area is strangely lacking: that of the supper club variety.
Freshly opened near the corner of Polk and Broadway, Berber Restaurant & Lounge seeks to satisfy then yen for dinner and a show with multi-course Moroccan feasts accompanied by performances from belly dancers, aerialists, and acrobats. In a space that's seen a fair bit of turnover and a variety of concepts through the years (if you remember Killer Shrimp or, before that, Taps Social Bar & Kitchen you'll know where we're talking about), cofounders Tony Garnicki and Borhen Hammami have brought the ambitious restaurant Berber to life.
To start, nibble on a za'atar snack of pine nuts, dried fava beans, puffed rice, and spices, alongside some crunchy pickled turnips.
An all-white belies the dark interior where an open dining hall awaits to envelop us into its mystical ambiance with glowing basket lanterns, stone-colored walls, and a seductive bar backed by a painting of a camel. Trendy African-Arabian lounge music drifts through the air, creating an otherworldly sense of cool in a neighborhood that's never seen anything else quite like it; at the back of the restaurant, you'll find a few cozy nooks with family style round-table booths surrounded by a cave-like wall. If you're here on a regular week night just seeking a few delicious shared plates, your journey ends here.
But, those in the know will have made reservations for the Saturday-night-only show, accompanied by a prix-fixe menu in the dining and performance hall beyond a short corridor. In this other cavernous room, a handful of two-top tables, flanked by an outer ring of tables for larger groups, surround a circular platform.
On our visit, the night began with sultry notes from an electric violinist, which set the mood as tables filled and orders for Moroccan-inspired cocktails and glasses of wine were placed. A mash-up of Mediterranean and North African–style courses dishes flowed—all from a menu devised by Duna's Nick Balla—in a well-orchestrated performance akin to a dance of its own.
Half the fun at Berber is the anticipation of what may come next, and don't expect too many spoilers here. Performers will continue to change to keep the show fresh and alluring; expect about four acts, and five food courses, each night.
// Berber, 1516 Broadway St. (Russian Hill), berbersf.com