Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Restaurant Round-Up

Since I'm playing catch-up here, I thought I'd lump a bunch of restaurant assessments into one post.

But first, some background information: Tired of eating at the same ol' eateries in Cupertino EVERY DAY, the co-workers and I have been frequenting Santana Row for lunch. So all of the following are located at SR.

  • Sino. Since my first visit to this place — back in February 2006 — I've been back numerous times. BUT, I was boycotting for a while because the service was so incredibly bad. For example: One time, we filled out our dim-sum order and handed it to the waitress. I'm assuming that, at that point, her job was pretty straightforward. GET THE PIECE OF PAPER TO THE KITCHEN. After 20 minutes or so, we flagged her down to inquire about our order. Turns out, SHE LOST OUR ORDER SLIP. Huh? First of all, who does that? And secondly, why wouldn't you tell us this so we could fill out another form? Sadly, it actually went downhill from there.

    Anyway! Fast forward to last week, when my young, single male co-worker wanted to try Sino because the women who work there are hot. Much to my surprise though, the service this time around was awesome. I could not believe it. I still can't. And the food was good, too. But I never really had any issues with the food there.

    Sino, I will be back.

  • Pluto's. Yes, yes. I know, you already know about Pluto's. But did you know that for under $4, you can get a serving of mac'n'cheese, a side of garlicky fries, a small drink, and even a wedge of Rice Krispies treat? Indeed you can. It's called, ordering off of the kids' menu. And that is what I am all about. (If you don't like mac'n'cheese or fries, you can order other entrees and sides. But really, if you're reading this blog, you should like mac'n'cheese and fries.)

  • Pizza Antica. I don't even really like pizza much, but I like this place. It's not extraordinary — just, good solid fare. With good, solid service (which is not all that common at SR restaurants actually). I like the pizza with heirloom potato, caramelized onions and white truffle oil. Yeah, not your average pizza toppings. Maybe that's why I like Antica.

    But either get a reservation or get here early. This place gets packed.
Two places that I'm in no hurry to visit again: Maggiano's and Roux Louisiana Kitchen. The food at Maggiano's is decent, but what burns me is the slow service. Coming here for lunch, I don't have time to wait and wait and then have you get my order wrong and wait and wait again for the correct dish to come out.

I really wanted to like Roux, but it's just not the best lunch spot because the food can be a bit heavy. And greasy. And make you ill by the time you get back to your desk.


Okay, I just re-read my post from March. In which I joked that I would be back in August with another post.



Wouldn't you know it — after a six-month hiatus, I return to bring you a cupcake-related post. Just when you thought Palo Alto had missed out on the cupcake trend, two bakeries are opening next month: Sprinkles and Kara's Cupcakes. I've tasted the former (thumbs up), but not the latter.

Sprinkles' opening has been delayed and delayed. Now, according to a Craigslist job posting, it's supposed to be in business at the Stanford Shopping Center in September.

On September 1, Kara's Cupcakes will be opening at the Town & Country Village. (Which, by the way, is looking much better these days with all of the new shops opening up there.)

So finally! We get our cupcakeries in the Peninsula. In the past, I've had to order from Sibby's, which requires large quantities and doesn't have a storefront. At least PA got in on the whole yogurt craze in a timely manner!

(Note: I do not like the service at the Red Mango on University, so I continue to frequent Fraiche.)

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Still Alive ... And Eating Well

I am so ashamed. It's been FIVE months since I last posted here and I have no good excuses. I have not learned to cook nor am I starving myself. I've actually been eating out quite a bit. But I just haven't made the time to write about anything.

Off the top of my head, here are some local spots that I am currently loving (places I've written about before on this site, and places that are new to me):

  • Old Port Lobster Shack - I don't care if they've expanded to SF and Napa, and are a mini-chain now. This is actually where Jon and I dined on Valentine's Day. Because I *heart* this restaurant THAT much.
  • Fraiche - Lord, their yogurt is addictive. And better than Pinkberry in my book.
  • Village Pub - Jon loves the burgers here. I love just about everything else on the menu.
  • Woodside Bakery & Cafe - A good brunch destination on a sunny day, since about half the seating is outdoors.
  • JZCool Eatery - Really cute, but really loud when there's live music at night (because it's a small-ish dining space). I'm a fan of the arancini. Next time though, I'm gonna try the sliders.
Okay, so that's five suggestions. One for each month that I've been absent. See you in August.

Just kidding. I hope.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Eating Elsewhere: Napa

I forgot to share! Earlier this month, Jon and I spent a weekend in Napa — celebrating our three-year anniversary. Since we were staying at the Carneros Inn, we had dinner our first night at FARM and breakfast the next morning at the Boon Fly Cafe. I highly recommend them, even though I wasn't a big fan of our main waiter at FARM ... and Jon had some technical difficulties with the teapot at Boon Fly. The food at both was immensely enjoyable. And they are such charming spots.

We also had to go to Bistro Jeanty so I could order up the tomato soup in puff pastry. It is so good, I would make the drive to/from Napa just for that soup. The mushroom pasta special I had that day was also ridiculously good. Jon's Nicoise salad was bigger than his torso, and I think he ate almost all of it. (He started off his meal with some other salad that I don't recall. Can you tell that he's a much healthier eater than I am?)

What else ... Thomas Keller's Ad Hoc! Okay, so Jon and I are not really good with restaurants that have a single fixed menu. Even if they say it's because they're trying to create a family-style vibe. See, we don't always favor the same kinds of dishes. But we wanted to give Ad Hoc a try anyway. The food was fine (I liked it better than Jon), and the service was friendly but on the slow side. We probably wouldn't go back, but that's partly because there are so many great places to eat in the area. (Note: I loved that the servers at Ad Hoc get to wear Converse All-Stars!)

Monday, October 08, 2007

If You Find Yourself in Cupertino ...

You must check out the new Whole Foods. It is enormous! And there are so many food stations! I think I could eat lunch there for an entire month and not have the same meal twice. (Though some of their food is a bit bland for me, I like that the co-workers and I can go here and all get whatever cuisine it is we're craving. Makes the daily "Where are we going to lunch?" debate much easier to resolve.)

The new location is: 20955 Stevens Creek Boulevard — which is basically across the street from the old store.

For the Singaporean food fans out there: Have you tried Merlion (at 19628 Stevens Creek)? I've had mixed reaction to the service and food there. But the one thing I've consistently enjoyed is the garlic veggie noodles, which is satisfying and not too pricey.

In the same strip mall: In case you're wondering what the deal is with Ramen Rama, the last I heard (a month or so ago), the place is *hoping* to be open by Christmas! I guess they're having problems with the permits. Sucks. On rainy days (like we're expecting this week), I love me a big bowl of noodle soup.

And speaking of noodle soups! My current favorite is served at Fatima (10125 Bandley Drive). They have these thick homemade noodles in a spicy broth ... Mmmm ...

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

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Kaygetsu, Menlo Park

I have been wanting to try this restaurant for a while now, but every time Jon looks at their menu online, he gets scared off by the prices. (The Kaiseki dinner is about $100/person.) So when we're craving Japanese, we usually end up at one of our usual, lower-priced favorites. (Like Naomi.)

But earlier this month, for my birthday dinner, I finally got Jon to go with me to Kaygetsu. Since it's located in a strip mall, I wasn't expecting much ambiance. But this part of the mall must've been renovated not too long ago, because it was actually quite nice. The restaurant itself is on a corner, next to an optometrist, and has about a dozen tables as well as another half-dozen or so seats at the sushi bar.

Since the dinner was a few weeks ago — and turning a year older probably is affecting my memory — I can't recall every single dish we ordered. Since seven-course meals aren't Jon's favorite, we decided to order à la carte.

The highlight of my meal was the otoro. At $12 per piece, it's steep. But that fatty tuna, taken from the belly, was melt-in-your-mouth delicious. Well worth the cost. I also tried the chawan mushi (custard with shrimp, unagi and shitake) and the tako gohan (the octopus with rice dish is one of their current season specialties). Both were tasty, but I didn't want to fill up too much. Afterall, I still had the main attraction: a whole, deep-fried sole.

As a kid, my mom used to serve up deep-fried fish all the time — so it seemed appropriate, on my birthday, to go this route. If you've spent any time reading this blog, you know that deep-fried is almost always my favorite way to prepare anything. And I really enjoyed the platter at Kaygetsu. In one bite, you were treated to tender and flaky fish.

Jon went a healthier route, opting for the hamachi teriyaki. Usually, I stay clear of teriyaki at Japanese restaurants in the U.S. because they tend to overwhelm the meat or fish in sauce. If a restaurant is working with good, quality fish, I want to taste that — and not the sauce. Thankfully, Kaygetsu does it right. Their home-made sauce is neither too sweet nor too thick. Phew.

Service here was also spot-on. As each dish is delivered to the table, the server offers an explanation of what you're about to enjoy. Despite ordering what we thought was a good amount of food, we were still in/out of there in about an hour. (We don't waste much time when we're hungry.) And the bill wasn't too bad, even with that $12 otoro. Sure, you can easily ring up a high tab here, but I realized that we can also pop in for a quick bite that won't set us back much more than the other places we frequent. So the next time we decide on Japanese for dinner, we might have to make another trip to the strip mall.

325 Sharon Park Drive
Menlo Park, CA 94025
(650) 234-1084

Friday, June 08, 2007

Why, Hello Blog!

I know I haven't posted in a while. The past month or so has been busy on all fronts, and the only recent meal I can think of right now to recommend to you: Fondue at Crepes Cafe in Menlo Park. If you order the dinner (two-person minimum), you get to share an appetizer crepe served with grilled veggies, caramalized onions, creamy chicken and mushrooms; a side salad each; and, of course, a pot of bubbling cheese.

What more could you ask for? (Okay, maybe the fruit that the menu says comes with the dinner — but we saw no sign of.) During our visit, Jon and I opted for the Savoyard. With gruyere, emmental and comte, it's considered the classic cheese fondue.

Since I was in NYC last month, I can offer a few more suggestions if you're lucky enough to make it out there any time soon: The Modern, Yakitori Totto, Pastis, Per Se, Shake Shack and Nobu 57.