Sidling up to the bar isn't always an option at Va de Vi, because it's pretty near packed from open to close, but if you're willing to wait a few minutes you can usually squeeze your way in. Just make sure you have time and counter space. It'll take a good fifteen minutes to read through sommelier Brendan Eliason's by-the-glass wine list, whose descriptions range from limericks to snark -- the New Yorker
should publish something so funny. And you'll definitely have to carve out enough room at the bar for your glasses. You can go all dim sum with three-ounce pours, or nurse a six-ounce pour, but most folks take a flight. Eliason has divided his list into sixteen three-glass tastings, and they're smart, adventurous, and tasty. Double up with your date and you'll be arguing over a half-dozen wines until it's time to order another six. Oh, yeah: If you want some chow to soak up the booze, it's kind of top-notch.
1515 Shattuck Ave., Berkeley, 510-883-0222