Meet the Team Behind Berkeley’s Les Arceaux, A Brand New Neighborhood Bistro and Wine Bar

|September 5, 2017

Here in the Bay Area, we are embarrassingly rich when it comes to good cuisine. It’s never a surprise to hear of a new restaurant opening and, though we often go through periods of mourning, we’re accustomed to closings as well. Earlier this year, we went through the mourning stages with the announcement that San Francisco’s Two Sisters Bar & Books would be shutting its doors. The cozy, library atmosphere and inventive cocktail list landed the bar on our round-up of the Bay Area’s best places to get a cocktail. And over the years, it has become a Hayes Valley staple.

However, as details were slowly revealed of the team’s new restaurant venture in the East Bay, we — along with the entire community of Bay Area foodies — quickly recovered.

“The decision to close Two Sisters and to open Les Arceaux did not happen simultaneously,” explained owner Mikha Diaz in our exclusive interview. “For several years, Alana O’Neal — the chef at Two Sisters and now Les Arceaux — and I had been looking for an opportunity to open a second space together that provided a broader outlet for Alana’s food and for my love of wine.”

Les Arceaux Opens in Berkeley's Gourmet Ghetto

Photos courtesy of Les Arceaux and Kelly Puleio

Mikha went on to say, “[Alana and I] both moved to the East Bay in 2014 so it was natural that we should look there. The original plan had been to leave my incredible bar manager, Kathryn Kulczyk and her partner, Branden Cardelli, in charge. They were both eager to move into ownership roles so the transition made sense on all fronts. But as Branden and Kathryn began to talk about where and how they wanted to position themselves in their personal lives, it became clear they did not intend to stay in San Francisco. One of our guiding principles is to create spaces that allow for work-life balance. This is not possible if one is running a food service operation in SF but commuting from elsewhere. So we determined that the best course of action was to close Two Sisters and to move the entire team to Berkeley.”

Now, as the opening of Les Arceaux in Berkeley’s Gourmet Ghetto looms nearer, Mikha and Alana are looking forward to working close to home in a neighborhood they’ve come to love and with a community of foodies who are always seeking adventure — yes, that means you.

“The Bay Area as a whole has an incredibly well-educated guest base,” Mikha said. “They know good food, they have well-developed palates, they are excited about local suppliers, and they are adventurous. They allow us creative flexibility and the opportunity to serve to the highest standards.”

Les Arceaux Opens in Berkeley's Gourmet Ghetto

Photo courtesy of Les Arceaux and Kelly Puleio

And when Mikha says “highest standards,” she means it. The menus at Les Arceaux include breakfast, lunch and dinner — all created and honed with Alana’s French inspiration in mind.

“Chef Alana has spent the better part of the last two months defining and refining our menu at Les Arceaux,” Mikha wrote in a newsletter. “Focusing on seasonal produce and heirloom grains, Alana is creating what Northern California cuisine would be after it has taken a vacation to Southern France.”

This is fitting seeing as Alana’s own inspiration comes directly from time spent in Southern France. When we asked Mikha why they chose to focus on this regional cuisine, she said, “Chef Alana spent time in Montpelier and many of her fondest recipes stem from her experiences. The way the food, land, community and intentionality fuse there resonates for both Alana and me.”

Les Arceaux Opens in Berkeley's Gourmet Ghetto

Photo courtesy of Les Arceaux and Kelly Puleio

She went on to say, “Chef Alana was inspired not just by the community markets in Montpelier but by the reality of food, a people, a way of eating and thinking and communing together which was historically embedded and not at all contrived.”

Here in the Bay Area, with the abundance of local ingredients and family farms, we are just on the cusp of having a similar sense of communion and closeness to our food. All it takes is a place where we can embrace that closeness and simplicity. Cue Les Arceaux.

“We are in the Bay Area and as a result, our sourcing is an embarrassment of riches,” Mikha said. “In addition to sourcing locally, seasonally and from producers who produce with conscientious intention, we also look forward to working with producers who inspire us with their passion.”

As this inspiration and passion come together in the restaurant’s first menus, we can look forward to dishes like Whole-grain Flapjacks with Poached Pears for breakfast and mussels poached in Gose beer with summer squash ribbons, frisée and purple basil, served with Acme baguette and salted butter for dinner. Sure, it feels like a mouthful here, but wait until you taste it!

“Everything I taste out of Chef Alana’s kitchen feels touched with elegance and intention. It is all tout comme il faut — just as it should be,” said Mikha. “It is too hard to narrow down a meal; When you are prepared and have the time to savor — that is the best time to enjoy Chef Alana’s cooking.”

Les Arceaux Opens in Berkeley's Gourmet Ghetto

Photo courtesy of Les Arceaux and Kelly Puleio

And while you eat your first meals at what will quickly become a neighborhood favorite, imagine yourself in Southern France, wandering the aisles of a local market under the picturesque arches the restaurant is named for.

“Les Arceaux directly translates to ‘the arches’ and in this case, it refers to the arches of a beautiful old stone aqueduct in Montpellier where they hold the regional organic farmer’s market every Saturday,” explained Mikha. “Chef Alana spent a lot of time there becoming interested in veggies and fruit and cheeses she had never seen before and the vendors were very patient with her millions of questions about what things were and what to do with them. They taught her some of the base recipes and ratios that she still uses and creates with now. That year was when she became serious about cooking, so the name has a lot of depth and meaning.”

Les Arceaux, located at 1849 Shattuck Avenue in Berkeley will be open Tuesday through Saturday from 7:30 a.m. – 10 p.m. The grand opening is slated for October 27, 2017. Follow along on the restaurant’s website and Instagram for updates on the opening, the menu, special events and more.

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