Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Secret Restaurant Menus

Apparently, In-n-Out isn't the only place that offers special items if you know the secret codes. Check out this SJ Mercury article about restaurants all over the Bay Area that have outside-the-menu options for those in the know.

Which now includes you.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Quattro, East Palo Alto

Jon and I have been meaning to try this place for some time, but the review by Michael Bauer last year scared us off a bit. Recently though, some co-workers dined here and had nothing but good things to say about the food. So off we went to East Palo Alto for a purpose other than Ikea knick-knacks.

Since it wasn't too cold on Friday night, and the dining room was a bit loud, we opted for an outdoor table. Walking through the restaurant, we couldn't help notice how very busy it was. On the patio, however, it was just us and a group of 20 or so women celebrating something (we're not sure what; they seemed like co-workers).

The restaurant and the patio are both gorgeous. The latter actually gets more attractive as it gets darker, when the shadows from the fountain grasses and the pebble fire feature become more prominent. There are plenty of heat lamps outside, so there's no need to worry about the dropping temperatures.

Our waitress promptly took our drink orders ... But then she disappeared, prompting Jon to ask me: "Did our waitress get fired?" Shortly after that, she finally returned to take our dinner requests. (In the end, the service was so-so. Every time they brought a dish to the table, they would accidentally leave Jon's in front of me. And then they brought us an extra dessert, which we rejected, but that didn't stop them from charging us for it.)

Jon started his meal with an artichoke salad that was delicious. I don't usually even like salads, but I would have eaten his if he had let me. My choice, the crudo, was good — nothing spectacular. It came with salmon, ahi, hamachi and one plump oyster. I didn't finish the tuna because ahi and pesto together? I don't think so.

Next up were our entrees, which included two pasta dishes: the shitake-stuffed chicken over spinach/potato gnocchi (the special for the evening) for Jon, and the fettucini with buffalo ragu for me. So let me state the positive first: The flavors were excellent. And now for the negative: Both of our pastas were overcooked. Jon's gnocchi was mushy and some of my noodles were dry and clumped together. Not a good look for pasta. (Note: I've been told by other patrons that the pasta isn't always this bad; maybe it was just an off night.)

You know that Vanessa Williams song, "Save the Best for Last"? Well, apparently, Quattro is familiar with it, too. Because that's exactly what they did. I would definitely return for their donut platter. A trio of cinnamon and sugar donuts is served alongside two sauces: chocolate and caramel with roasted bananas. SO GOOD. Seriously.

I don't even know what else was on that dessert menu. And frankly, I no longer care what's on their dinner menu. I wonder if I can get those donuts to go ...

2050 University Avenue
Four Seasons Hotel
East Palo Alto, CA 94303
(650) 566-1200

Monday, August 13, 2007

John Bentley's, Redwood City

john bentleyMy sister is a picky eater. There are very few restaurants that she really likes. And when she is fond of a place, you can bet that you'll find her there ALL THE TIME.

When she recently raved about the John Bentley's in Redwood City, I was a little surprised. Jon and I had dined at the Woodside location and, while the meal was fine, didn't find it to be all that impressive. After she tried out the Woodside John Bentley's, she agreed with our assessment of the restaurant. And maintained that the RWC one was much better, and that we HAD to try it.

So we did.

A few weeks ago, four of us made our way to El Camino — near the border of RWC and Atherton. I can't remember everything that was ordered at our table because there was so much food. But know this: Everything was good. Really good.

I started with a special that night: gorgonzola-stuffed figs. Delicious. For me, a dish like this can easily be overpowered by the smell and flavor of the gorgonzola. But not this time around.

Next up, I had the grilled and marinated quail on a bed of arugula. I'm almost drooling just thinking about this one — crispy on the outside, tender and juicy on the inside.

For my main course, I ordered the crispy nuggets of sweetbread served with shallots, smoked bacon and Yukon golds. By now, I was actually starting to get a bit full, but did the best I could with this tasty entree. The accompanying grain mustard sauce didn't do much for me, but really, bacon and sweetbreads is usually a good combination in my book. (Note: It's not quite as good as the sweetbread appetizer at Village Pub.)

The desserts — which, as you can see in the photo above, my sister ordered about eight of — were underwhelming for me. Nothing was very memorable. In fact, I can't even remember what I ordered. (Maybe the sticky toffee pudding cake?)

Overall, it was a fantastic meal, even though the desserts were disappointing. (To be fair, maybe I was just too stuffed to really enjoy the last course.) The service was excellent; the server had clearly done her homework and referred back to all of the dishes that my sister and her husband had ordered during their previous visit. It's little things like that — and those figs! and the quail! — that keep you coming back to a restaurant. Again. And again.

John Bentley's
2915 El Camino Real
Redwood City, CA
(650) 365-7777