“The Way Back’s Beef Heart” sounds more like an abstract line from a poem than a food recommendation, but there you have it. The new Berkeley restaurant opened with its cocktail program two months ago, rolling out a menu from chefs Samuel Charles and Marcus Eng a week later. That menu, earmarked with the ever-present pledge to recognize seasonality, is playful with its vegetable ingredients and packed heavy with protein. The eyebrow-raiser, though, is the beef heart—a dish prepared on a bed of sweet potato and topped with roasted ramps, fennel and a sunny side-up quail egg.
To be honest, the only other time I’ve had beef heart was at a yakitori restaurant in Tokyo’s Roppongi district; there, the grill’s char and marinade both, perhaps, overpowered the richness of the meat in its own right. The Way Back’s beef heart meanwhile leaves that faintly gamey bite up front (though, it nevertheless meshes well with the pungent ramps and sweet potatoes).
At least for me, beef heart is not necessarily a get-it-every-time-I-go-there type dish. Yet it has sold well at The Way Back and, as a concept which borrows from both past and present traditions, the dish fits well within these bounds, another bright indication of the “polite” nose-to-tail philosophy.