Pub date January 30, 2008
SectionFood & Drink

BREAKFAST OF BLANDNESS Brunch is a vulnerable meal: you’ve probably just woken up, and you might be unshowered or hungover. Regardless of your daring at dinner, brunch requires only consistency.

My friend gets that from Venus in Berkeley. I can see why: the coziness of the brick walls, lined with local artists’ work; the long wait and bustling interior that allude to the establishment’s popularity. She swears by the chicken sausage scramble with the morning glory muffin. The scramble is decent, a good balance of sweet and salty, while the morning glory is an ostentatiously named bran muffin that, while moist, lacks, well, flavor.

Which is fairly representative of the problem with Venus. I really want to like it, but I always leave vaguely dissatisfied — full, but not satiated. The Harajuku scramble, with tofu, shiitake mushrooms, and other veggies, is as uninspired in execution as it is imaginative in concept (Gwen Stefani would not hollaback). The Indian brunch — curried carrot-zucchini-parsnip pancakes with akoori scrambled eggs — is lackluster. How, I ask, can curry be bland?

The cocktails are overpriced. The coffee is good — smoky and rich — but refills are few and far between. And then there was the Sunday I went. I ordered a Diet Coke; the server brought me organic diet cane cola. Now, I understand her forgetting to ask "Is Pepsi OK?" — but to bring me that flat, syrupy concoction (with a faint tinge of rum) was the last in a series of letdowns.

A weekend morning demands a dependably satisfying meal; Venus is reliable only in that it will disappoint me. (Ailene Sankur)

VENUS Mon.–Fri., 8 a.m.–2:30 p.m. (also Tues.–Fri., 5–9:30 p.m.); Sat.–Sun., 8 a.m.–2:15 p.m. (also Sat., 5–9:30 p.m.; Sun., 5–9 p.m.). 2327 Shattuck, Berk. (510) 540-5950,