Friday, March 31, 2006
Thursday, March 30, 2006
- The cuisine will be upscale Italian.
- Lunch and dinner service will be offered.
- The restaurant is scheduled to open in mid-April.
The extensive menu allows for 312,120+ different burger combinations. In the cheese department, for example, you can choose something as simple as American or Swiss; or experiment a little with a herb goat cheese spread or horseradish cheddar. Toppings also run the gamut -- including onions, carrot strings, black olives, dried cranberries, grilled pineapples, sprouts, tomatoes and many more. You'll be able to wash down your burger creation with various fountain drinks (sodas, shakes, malts), tea, coffee, beer and wine.
Personally, I'm looking forward to the mini-cheeseburgers! And there's a dessert called "The Chocolate Burger" -- a donut filled with chocolate mousse, strawberries and bananas. Mmmm...
The Counter Burger
369 California Avenue
Palo Alto, CA
Wednesday, March 29, 2006
Since we already had plenty of penne in the pantry, we went with that instead of orecchiette. We also doubled the amount of garlic because, well, you can never have too much garlic. BTW, in her cookbook, she calls for spicy sausage; but the Food Network site's version of the recipe doesn't. I would definitely go with something spicy, as the dish really benefited from that extra flavor/heat.
The meal turned out really well. Easy to make, fantastic to eat. This one might have to go into our regular rotation.
Tuesday, March 28, 2006
(Note: The counter seats basically face a wall lined with pretty sake and shochu bottles. For most of the seating, which is on an elevated platform, you're required to take off your shoes. )
The one-page lunch menu offered a good selection, but I didn't notice any tapas-like dishes. Maybe that's more of a dinner thing? No matter -- since it was yet another cold and rainy spring day, I opted for a donburi and udon combination: una don and tanuki udon (about $11).
The presentation for my order was simple, yet lovely. Two bowls -- the donburi portion was larger than the udon -- were served on a small platter, along with a tiny bowl of garnishes. I started with the udon, which was delicious. While the broth had a nice flavor to it, I added some togarashi to spice things up a bit. The texture of the seaweed, crunchy tempura flakes, and slivers of green onion were a good contrast to the chewy wheat noodles. (I was reminded of one of the best, and cheapest, meals that I enjoyed when I was in Tokyo.)
The una don -- a good-sized bowl of rice topped with a generous serving of grilled eel -- was so very good! The barbecue sauce on the eel was just right, not too sweet or too thick.
My co-workers approved of their dishes as well. One ordered a chicken teriyaki and tonkatsu combination (the chicken portion was a bit skimpy); the other went with a salmon sashimi and tempura combination. But if you're more of an adventurous eater, go for the beef tongue cutlet.
The service was friendly and efficient, with hot tea poured throughout our meal. The only downside to our meal was that the food took a while to arrive. Since we were seated just after a couple of large groups, our server had warned us about the wait. Luckily, this problem can be solved by simply arriving earlier on future visits (i.e., 11:30am -- when the doors open).
"Gochi" is Japanese slang for "good food," and this restaurant definitely lives up to its name.
(Note: Credit cards are not accepted, so be sure to hit the ATM before dining here.)
Gochi Fusion Tapas
19980 Homestead Road
Monday, March 27, 2006
Since it was my first time at the Mexican eatery, it took me a little while to decide what to get for Jon and myself. While I was disappointed that there were no fish items on the menu (Jon loves his fish tacos), I was impressed with the overall selection -- which included burritos, tacos, enchiladas, tamales, salads, soups and even specials for kids. (Families appear to make up a big chunk of their clientele.)
I went with a regular-size burrito with grilled steak (about $8), which turned out to be a generous portion. The meat had a nice flavor to it, but was rather dry. And, although the salsa fresca was good, I prefer salsas with a bit more heat to them. (Note to self: Hit up the salsa bar next time.)
For Jon, I ordered a cheese and grilled chicken quesadilla, which he gave positive marks. I also got him a small chopped salad (lettuce, Napa cabbage, corn, chicken, tortilla strips). The freshness of the salad was obvious -- nothing out of a can -- and the cilantro dressing was quite tasty.
Although my dinner selection was not as good as Jon's, I'd make a return visit to Lulu's. Most likely, we'll eat there next time. The platillos looked great, and they offer two of my favorite desserts. If the flan and churros are any good, I may just skip dinner and go straight to dessert.
Lulu's on the Alameda
3539 Alameda de las Pulgas
Menlo Park, CA
Wednesday, March 22, 2006
As someone whose upbringing and education took place almost entirely in the Bay Area, I had no prior experience with lobster rolls, which are a New England tradition. It's basically lobster meat -- you can get it naked (just the lobster) or more like a lobster salad -- tucked into a special New England-style hot dog bun. (The owners of OPLS have the buns made at a local bakery using molds they brought from Maine.)
I ordered my sandwich naked, as I didn't want any other distractions from the lobster. I must admit, I wasn't quite sure how to eat one of these things. And although Jon had grown up on the East Coast, he doesn't eat shellfish* and was useless to me here. Since the lobster meat was overflowing, I decided to dip some into the drawn butter. Yummmm. Then, after a squeeze of lemon, I dove into the lobster roll itself. The cool, sweet chunks of lobster were a wonderful contrast to the warm, buttery roll. So simple, yet so awesome.
Further research yielded this checklist for what makes a real lobster roll:
- A good amount of meat - OPLS had that.
- A flat-bottomed, top-loading hot-dog bun, butter-griddled - They definitely had the right bun and it was definitely buttery, but I didn't see whether it was toasted or griddled.
- The right dressing, not just mayo - Don't know, since I went for the naked version.
- Pickles should be served on the side (for a little acidity) and potato chips are also a nice touch - Check and check.
- Eat it with your hands - Except for the meat I dipped in butter, I did use my hands (as opposed to a knife and fork), so I sort-of did that right!
Initially, I thought $16.75 was a little steep for a sandwich. But you know what? It was worth every penny. In addition to the lobster roll, you get a side of coleslaw (which I didn't eat, but Jon said was really good) and salt'n'pepper Kettle Chips (one of my favorites). Just writing this post makes me want to go back there today for another lobster roll.
* Yes, I make my husband go to lobster restaurants even though he dislikes shellfish. He had the fish platter last time (thumbs up) and this time, basically went with the sandwich version of it (thumbs up again). The menu is now up on their web site, so you can see that there are plenty of non-shellfish options.
Old Port Lobster Shack
851 Veterans Boulevard
Redwood City, CA
P.S. After our initial visit, I mentioned that OPLS is a bit tricky to find. During our drive over last night, Jon and I were discussing exactly where it is (the car's GPS was no help), and we realized that it's actually quite easy to locate: It is just to the left of the Baker's Square. Enter the parking lot adjacent to the BS one. Then prepare to enjoy a delicious lobster roll!
Indian flavors flourish in Palo Alto
Indian food may be rocketing to the top of the Bay Area palate if two stylish new restaurants are any indication.
Opening within a few days and a couple of blocks of each other in Palo Alto, Junnoon and Mantra both offer new takes on traditional Indian flavors. Both, too, are going after the high-style crowd, with sleek lounges offering snazzy cocktails from back-lit bars.
Junnoon. The name means passion and energy in Hindi, and it's reflected in a dramatic black and red color scheme. First-time restaurateur Sabena Puri, who grew up in a restaurant family in India, has tapped part of the team from Tabla in New York to create what she calls the food of modern India -- dishes such as semolina shells filled with spiced chickpeas and tamarind chutney, sprouted mung bean chaat salad with bakarkhani bread, tandoori halibut in coconut ginger sauce, and chicken tikka in a fenugreek sauce.
A wide variety of housemade accompaniments includes garlic chile chutney with dried mangoes, date and walnut raita, and naan stuffed with goat cheese and green chiles.
Mantra. Around the corner, the kitchen at Mantra uses Indian flavors to embellish a seasonal California menu. Dishes are served in a two-room space awash in original art, gauzy drapes and lots of stone and granite.
Starters include lamb-filled naan and onion-infused kulcha breads, tandoori roasted quail with pomegranate-huckleberry compote, and seared foie gras with stewed Pink Lady apples. Entrees range from cumin-roasted rack of lamb, to cilantro-roasted monkfish with red onion and fennel foam, to chile-seared organic tofu with honey crisp apple puree. For dessert, there's a trio of dried organic fruit, spiced nuts and cinnamon-poached fruit; and a lemon tart with satsuma orange and cranberry chutney.
Junnoon, 150 University Ave., (at High Street), Palo Alto; (650) 329-9644. Full bar. Reservations accepted. Lunch weekdays, dinner Monday-Saturday. Starters, $6-$12; entrees, $16-$22; desserts, $7-$8.
Mantra, 632 Emerson St., Palo Alto; (650) 322-3500. Full bar. Reservations accepted. Lunch Monday-Saturday, dinner nightly. Starters, $3-$22; entrees, $17-$36; desserts, $7-$11.
Tuesday, March 21, 2006
Well, I was flipping through Giada's Everyday Italian and came across her recipe for Mushroom Risotto with Peas. Of all the Food TV chefs, her dishes always seem the most within my culinary reach. So I decided to give it a go. And, although making it took twice as long as I expected, the risotto was delicious -- well worth the time and effort. I loved the slight crunch of the peas in the creamy rice and mushrooms.
No matter how well it turned out, I knew Jon and I couldn't eat six servings in one night. BUT, luckily, the cookbook also includes a couple of recipes for leftover risotto: Arancini di Riso and Risotto al Salto. Yummm.
Monday, March 20, 2006
- Marche in Menlo Park
- A Tavola in Redwood City (a fire forced the restaurant to move from its San Carlos location last year)
- JZ Cool Eatery in Menlo Park
Both Marche and A Tavolo are on my list of places to try -- although I'm less excited about the former now that Michael Bauer says it's not really worth the money.
As for JZ Cool, I recently went to a dinner party that was catered by the company and all of the food was delicious (the lemon bars were a stand-out). While Jesse Cool's Flea Street Cafe is also on my list, I have had the pleasure of eating at her Cool Cafe at the Cantor Center for the Arts on the Stanford campus. The cafe offers lots of healthy, organic options. I give the museum, which is free (so there's no reason not to go!), and the eatery a big thumbs up.
Although the web site says that Jess Dang is from Menlo Park, during the actual episode, it was stated that she hails from Palo Alto. (She also has a blog: The Petite Pig.) Sadly, she was eliminated last night after the cooking challenge.
The good news is, there's another Bay Area contestant to root for (Elizabeth from Sausalito). By the way, SIX of the eight finalists are from California. CRAZY.
Friday, March 17, 2006
As usual, the food itself was good, a solid B. We shared the spicy hamachi roll, ritsu roll and unagi nigiri. I also ordered the tempura lunch box -- not the greatest tempura, but I liked the selection of veggies and the fact that it included three pieces of shrimp.
The service was friendly and efficient, although my sister commented that she could do without a server with a bare midriff. The ambiance? Well... This place is really best appreciated in the evenings. The noise level, Japanese anime, dim lighting etc., are good for a Friday night outing (when you can enjoy their delicious cocktails, too), but not so much for a lunch in the middle of a workday.
Blowfish Sushi to Die For
335 Santana Row
San Jose, CA
Yes, BLT Pizza. Since yesterday was the start of March Madness, the office ordered pizza for lunch. And, normally I think that pizza is a perfectly fine food choice when watching the basketball games on the big-screen in the back. BUT the BLT Pizza was wrong in so many ways. First of all, when you look at it, it looks like dough with salad (tomatoes, lettuce) on top. And then once you actually bite into it, you find bacon (yesssss!) and... ranch sauce (noooooooo!). To no one's surprise, there was still a plethora of BLT Pizza left over at the end of the day.
I actually think that McHart's has very good pizza, but I would stay clear of the BLT one. You've been warned.
J.T. McHart's Pizza Restaurant
19732 Stevens Creek Boulevard
Monday, March 13, 2006
Just past the main intersection in Woodside (where you'll find Robert's and Buck's), lies this rustic spot marked by an old Model A Ford parked in front of it. The building -- a historic landmark -- has been around since 1902. Yes, it actually was a general store in a previous life; it was also a gas station in the 1960s.
Now, when you step inside the Little Store, you'll find about ten tables topped with red-and-white checkered oilcloth (kid-friendly!). The bar area has a half dozen or so stools, and you can easily watch the TV from there. (The night we went, the cooks were fixated on a soccer match.) The restaurant's vibe is warm, cozy and laid-back. Our waitress -- the only waitress -- was super-friendly, and greeted everyone who walked in like an old friend.
The menu at the Little Store includes all-American classics (burgers, fried chicken, hot dogs, pastas, salads), as well as a few Mexican dishes (burritos, quesadillas). For our first visit here, I opted for the Southern fried chicken and Jon went with a Rodeo Burger (bacon, cheddar, beer-battered onion rings, barbecue sauce). Both of our entrees came with a side of crispy fries. My plate also included a pile of lima beans, corn and peas -- just buttery enough to make me consume all of my vegetables (not a common occurrence for me).
We gave our entire meal a thumbs-up. In addition to the good food and service, the prices were quite reasonable. Our bill was about $40, including drinks (an Oreo shake for Jon, hot apple cider for me) and a yummy slice of Key Lime Pie. The dessert menu features a few pies, but is mostly comprised of ice-cream treats. There's also a good beer and wine selection. And, this being Woodside, why not order an Angus hot dog with a glass of Moet?
Little Store Restaurant
3340 Woodside Road
Friday, March 10, 2006
Here's Open Table's description of the restaurant:
Mantra offers elegant California cuisine with subtle Indian influences. Chef Robert Ciborowski from famed French Laundry and three different Ritz Carlton properties uniquely combines the traditional French cooking techniques with fresh California ingredients with hints of subtle Indian flavors. Robert also uses the traditional Indian Tandoori Clay Oven in an untraditional way when he uses it to broil his eclectic dishes like Honey Glazed Breast of Duck. To preserve and enhance the subtle flavors infused by Cognac Glazed Puree, Parsnip and Chestnut puree, Ginger and Ham broth. Mantra decor has blended the old Victorian charm of the historic Bijou Theatre of Palo Alto. The bold modern architecture elements to create a truely warm, colorful and alive ambiance. Mantra is introducing a brand new modern and grand amber-lit Daru Lounge. Other architectural elements include beautiful contemporary lithograph paintings from Indian masters like MF Hussian and SH Raza.Hopefully, the restaurant's web site will offer more information next week...
I first had one of these years ago, at the Peanut Butter & Co. in New York City. (Apparently, it is their most popular sandwich.) While the bacon is optional, um, I don't know why you would NOT opt for it. So here's what it is: A sandwich comprised of peanut butter (chunky or creamy will work), bananas, honey and bacon. Grill it up and enjoy!
Wednesday, March 08, 2006
And Home -- another comfort food/affordably-priced SF eatery -- may eventually open up in Palo Alto.
My fingers are crossed for both to happen!
Tuesday, March 07, 2006
150 University Avenue
Palo Alto, CA 9430`
Anyway! I was craving flan the other night and, upon pulling up this recipe, realized that it: 1) requires very little culinary skill, 2) requires tools that I do indeed own, and 3) requires pantry items so basic that they could actually be found in my kitchen.
So I made me some flan (yes, just for me -- Jon is not a fan of the flan). It turned out so awesome. I quartered the recipe and ended up with three custard cups full of goodness.
I devoured them all that very night. All by myself.
Monday, March 06, 2006
This Greek restaurant has long been on our list of local places to try. Having read a plethora of positive reviews and having dined at its sister restaurant in San Francisco (Kokkari), we were confident that a great meal was in store for us. Evvia has a warm and rustic feel to it -- with a large fireplace in the middle of the main dining space, lots of wooden beamwork and handmade pottery lining the walls.
To start, I ordered the Fava Kroketes, a trio of yellow peas and ladotiri cheese fritters. They were fantastic. Jon and his parents each ordered the Horiatiki, a classic Greek salad with tomatoes, cucumbers, green pepper, red onion, olives and feta. Not a bite was left in any of their bowls.
Next up, I ordered a delicious and tender Kokinisto me Manestra, a braised lamb shank served on top of orzo. Jon's mom had been hoping the menu would include Moussaka -- a casserole with eggplant, lamb ragout, potatoes and a yogurt bechamel -- and sure enough, it did. The baked dish lived up to her expectations. Jon and his dad both went with the Souvlaki, a skewer or beef filet, mushroom and onion; it was accompanied by a wonderful wild rice pilaf.
I made sure not to devour all of my yummy lamb so that I could handle a dessert course. Baklava! It was crunchy (the pistachios), it was flaky (the layers of phyllo), it was sweet (honey syrup) -- it was awesome and totally worth saving room for. Jon's mom tried the Rizogalo, which is a rice pudding with poached dried fruits on top of a crispy kataifi. The three different layers all worked beautifully together: there was the sweetness from the fruit (cherries, apricots); the creaminess of the pudding; and then the crunchiness of the kataifi (which resembles shredded wheat cereal).
The service matched the ambiance -- friendly and inviting. We all agreed that Evvia was a great choice for dinner, and that repeat visits may be in order.
420 Emerson Street
Palo Alto, CA
Although it may not be THE Alice's that Arlo Guthrie sang about (that one is in Massachusetts), this Woodside establishment has been packing them in for over half a century. The restaurant's wooden structure -- located at the top of Skyline Boulevard -- is actually about 100 years old. But it started out as a general store, and was later turned into a restaurant in the 1950s. In the '60s, Alice Taylor purchased it and renamed the spot. It has since changed ownership a couple more times, yet maintains its homey and rustic feel.
The diners here run the gamet, from families to young college students to bikers. Jon and I recently took the in-laws here.
I ordered the Joe's Special -- scrambled eggs with ground beef, spinach, onions, mushrooms and cheese served with a biscuit and hash browns. Although it was good, after seeing everyone else's reaction to their sandwiches, I think I should have picked something from the lunch menu instead. Jon's dad had the tuna melt; his mom opted for a turkey sandwich; and Jon couldn't resist the BLT. They each raved about their food.
We also ordered some garlic fries and beer-battered onion rings. Delicious! Often, garlic fries are heavy on the garlic, but the actual texture of the fries is overlooked. Alice's, however, were nice and crispy.
The next time we make the trip here, I think I'll try the BMW burger -- bacon, sauteed mushrooms, Worcestershire sauce and jack cheese. Mmmm... Quite a few menu items make reference to motorcycles, a nod to many of Alice's loyal patrons. The curvy road leading you to the restaurant is a big draw for riders.
17288 Skyline Boulevard
Friday, March 03, 2006
Okay, with all of the eating we did, I of course have a couple of recommendations -- should you find yourself in Los Cabos any time soon. We enjoyed so many good meals at the resort, but I'll share with you the highlight of our excursions "into town":
- San Jose del Cabo - Although still a tourist hot spot, SJ has more of an authentic vibe than CSL. There aren't people on the streets trying to aggressively hustle you into their store and you won't find TOO many American chains on the main street, Boulevard Antonio Mijares. The heat may tempt you into the Baskins-Robbins there, but don't do it. Instead, head to this little ice cream/popsicle store that I should have written down the name of but didn't. However, I can direct you there: It's on Coronado (I think), about two blocks from Mijares. The popsicles were not just simply frozen fruit juice. Mine had bite-size chunks of mango imbedded throughout. It was both beautiful to look at (sort of mosaic-like) and wonderful to eat. Especially since it was about 90 degrees out.
- Cabo San Lucas - Yes, downtown is home to a Hard Rock Cafe, Houlihan's and Ruth's Chris Steak House. But if you venture off Boulevard Marina and onto Ignacio Zaragoza, you'll be rewarded with amazing and affordable food. We were instructed to visit Los Claros, which was emphasized as a "Mexican restaurant" -- meaning, there is limited English spoken there and not a lot of tourists. Worked for us. The fish tacos were so frickin' awesome. I can't even put it into words. The fish is fried right there, in front of you, in a little trolley. Then you take your plate to the condiment area, where all sorts of garnishes and salsas await you. I also tried the oyster tacos -- equally delicious! And each taco cost us roughly $1. I would have gone back again and again if only the cab ride to CSL wasn't $28 each way.
With all of the churros I've eaten this week (poolside! so decadent!), I think I need to sign up for a gym membership ...