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Best Restaurant near San Carlos

My wife and I live in San Carlos, and we have a new 5 month old son. That of course is wonderful news. What isn't so wonderful is that we get one night a week to eat out, and we still can't find a restaurant worth its salt (sorry) down on the Peninsula. Can anyone suggest their favorite restaurant between Burlingame and Palo Alto??? Thanks for the help!

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  1. I'm willing to drive from San Francisco to San Carlos for dinner Kabul Afghan Cuisine.

    For two people, I'd order the mixed vegetable plate (e.g. spinach, pumpkin, and eggplant) and the kabob plate of salmon and/or lamb. They cook the vegetables artfully so each vegetable is king/queen of the vegetable kingdom. The salmon kabob is grilled so the flesh is moist, but firm, with a slightly charcoal crust. The lamb kabob is one of the few lamb dishes I've enjoyed in my entire life.

    Both dishes come with 1) a salad, with a yogurt like dressing topped with, I think, dried mint 2) rice, either challow or pallow. Challow is seasoned with cumin. Pallow is seasoned with cardamon, cinnamon, nutmeg, cumin seeds, & black pepper.

    For 2 people, we order these two dishes and have ample leftovers to enjoy the next day.

    Note, when I went with a group of 5 people and ordered family style the same dishes plus a few others, the portions seemed considerably smaller! Therefore, I'd never order family style again at Kabul.

    The cost for each of these entrees is about $14-16.

    Congratulations on your new son and enjoy Kabul in your back yard:
    135 El Camino Real
    San Carlos 94070
    650 594 2840
    Open M-F for lunch and nightly for dinner.

    1 Reply
    1. re: elise h

      I second the Kabul rec, and particularly the vegetable plate!

    2. lets see, i work in Belmont area so here are some of the places i like...

      Santa Ramen (san mateo on B street)... its been rated very very highly by fellow chows here. if you do a search i'm sure you'll find what you need. but they ONLY SERVE RAMEN. so you're not getting chicken teriyaki or sushi.

      El Metate Taqueria(right off of Harbor in Belmont)... more of a lunch type place, but if you know of a places that serves better mexican food in the area. i think its better than 'pancho villa' and a bunch of other places in the mission. Get just about anything there. Chicken Plate: large pieces of chicken cooked with tomatoes, onions, peppers, then topped off with cheese and put into the broiler.... ahhh...

      zen pennisula is a little pricey but good chinese food in millbrea. i actually went to a wedding banquet there a little while ago, and it was probably the best chinese wedding banquet food i've had. actually, it was the best. the food wasn't overly greasy or flavorless form sloppy prep or hasty cooking.

      although i haven't been, speederia or somthing like that for pizza in san carlos. chows have spoken highly of the place.

      1 Reply
      1. re: spork

        Note that at dinner time Santa serves a few appetizers (e.g., fried chicken, grilled squid, etc.).

      2. Thank you fellow chowhounds for the great advice!

        1. My family and I all love Santorini. It is very casual and small, but in the summer put tables outside down Laurel. There are always people there with babies in strollers etc. So you could even go with your new addition should you choose. I live all their wrap sandwiches (the falafel is just ok). I especially LOVE their homemade potato chips. They are thin sliced and fried there. Served with just a sprinkle of salt and lemon juice. YUM!

          There are a ton of casual Mexican/Salvadoran/Peruvian restaurants in Redwood City if you search the boards. My faves: La Casita Chilanga, El Grullense (any of them), Estampas Peruanas (I think that is the name, on El Camino across from Sequoia H.S.)

          I also agree with the Kabul recommendation.

          Happy chowing...JB

          1. Don't forget Shalizaar. By my account it's the best or second best Persian restaurant in the Bay Area, and it's in San Mateo.

            Kabul is good, but the menu and space inevitably outshine the actual food. I never found an entree I was in love with, though my friends did. Speederia is so good I ate there every weekend when I lived in Millbrae (I'd drive down just for their cheese pizza by the slice).

            A good to-go option is El Pollo Supremo in San Mateo for roasted chicken and sides. Burlingame has Alana's Cafe for a great breakfast of oatmeal pancakes, and Straits Cafe (also in Palo Alto) which always gets mixed reviews on this board.

            Shalizaar:

            A Riddle of Exquisite Persian Food Wrapped in an Enigma of San Mateo
            http://www.chowhound.com/california/b...

            8 Replies
            1. re: katya

              Links to old Chowhound reviews don't seem to be working, so I've cut and pasted it below:

              A Riddle of Exquisite Persian Food Wrapped in an Enigma of San Mateo

              http://www.chowhound.com/california/b...

              Secrets of Ordering off the Menu at Shalizaar – A Guide to Getting the Best Persian Food on the Peninsula (and Perhaps the Bay Area

              )

              It’s been awhile since I visited a restaurant that the boyfriend couldn’t stop himself from suggesting to go back... for practically every meal. That place is Shalizaar in San Mateo, and my torment began several months ago. Epicurious in Fremont raved about Shalizaar several months ago, so we decided to check it out.

              The décor is very “white tablecloth” with some nice wood library-like areas. The one thing out of place is that next to the host’s desk, they have the iconic portly Italian chef plastic statue. Also, (secret #1?) try to find the small fake bird in the tree branch in the waiting area... just because. Saturday nights I’ve found the place to be packed, with at most a five minute wait for two people.

              Each table gets a basket of lavash bread along with a basket of herbs (cilantro, mint, and basil), feta, and walnuts. I’m not exactly sure if this is what I’m supposed to do, but I roll up mini burritos of these ingredients with the bread. The menu refers these ingredients as, “herbs grown in Los Altos Hills,” which is sweet since I assume that’s the location of the owner’s home. It’s a nice beginning to the meal.

              BIG FIND #1
              The first big find was the tah dig appetizer ($6.95). I haven’t had a good rendition of this dish since my favorite Persian restaurant, Khayyam in Berkeley, closed. Tah dig consists of the crunchy bottom of the rice pot topped with a stew, and Shalizaar’s crunchy rice bottom has just the right crunchiness. We’ve tried all four stews in the course of our visits. Gheymeh was our overall favorite, which the menu states is composed of tender lean beef, yellow peas, tomato sauce, and potato sticks. Although I didn’t see the potato sticks, the stew was hearty and tasty, and not watery like other versions I’ve had. The Gheymeh Bademjan is practically the same as the Gheymeh but includes eggplant. Our third favorite stew is the Ghormeh Sabzi, and consists of stewed beef, kidney beans, sautéed herbs, and spinach. We also tried the Fesenjan which the menu says is composed of a roasted leg of chicken, ground walnuts, and pomegranate juice. Our version didn’t have the promised roasted leg of chicken, although that might only be in the meal-size portion. I like a good Fesenjan, but I know others who don’t. Their Fesenjan is a completely smooth blend with no textural contrast, and the taste is just too cloying and strong.

              I forgot to mention the second best part of the Tah Dig – the size. This platter was easily big enough to serve as an entrée. We generally order this and an entrée and have one of more days of leftovers. And the third best part is that you can order one or more stews (which isn’t obvious from the menu). My favorite is to get half Gheymeh, half Ghormeh Sabzi.

              On our first visit we tried the Barg entrée ($15.95), which is our standard Persian food order. The menu describes it as lightly marinated filet mignon, and while it was good it was nowhere near the meat tenderness and quality of Pomegranate in Berkeley. However, the accompanying rice dusted with saffron did in fact, rock. Our friends started with one of the salads (the Salad Shirazi I believe), but were not nearly as excited with their starter as we were with the Tah Dig.

              The other Persian entrée we always order is Zereshk Polo ($11.95), which consists here of barberry rice (we always call it rice mountain) with a roasted chicken leg. The chicken was buried *under* the rice mountain (a first!) and was moist but just okay. The rice was studded with tart barberries but lacked complexity. It needed the plethora of ingredients found in Pomegranate’s version (pistachios, orange peel, etc.).

              On our next visit we decided to try a different polo (mixed rice) entrée and chose the Shirin Polo ($12.95), which is listed as having the same chicken leg but with sweet pistachio, almond, and orange peel rice. The first bites of the rice were amazing, with nuggets loaded with flavor. However, several bites in, the rice became almost overwhelmingly sweet. It also doesn’t meld as well with the chicken. I wonder if both polos put together would make the ideal rice. Overall I still liked it a lot and slightly prefer this version to the Zereshk Polo.

              BIG FIND #2
              We noticed the menu mentioned that you could have any rice with any meat, so we requested chicken breast in place of the chicken leg. They ended up charging us an extra $5. It was a bargain for what my boyfriend declared was the best chicken he’d ever tasted. It was unbelievably moist and yellow and marinated and bursting with flavor. This was our second big find.

              The service was efficient and very helpful answering questions. I liked how accommodating the restaurant is in offering substitutions (they’re printed on the menu as well). I didn’t try the desserts, but they range in price from $2 to $4.50 and include Faloodeh, Zoolbia Bamieh (Persian pastries), and Bastani Nooni which sounded like a Persian ice cream sandwich. Awesome.

              I’m already inundated with requests from my boyfriend to visit Shalizaar again. As a testament to how much he likes it, we might just go there for his birthday in a few weeks. Maybe I’ll see if some of my candles will fit in a Persian ice cream sandwich.

              My Ranking of Bay Area Persian Restaurants

              1. Khayyam’s – Albany (the master – now closed - against which all Persian restaurants will forever be judged)
              2. (tie) SHALIZAAR
              2. (tie) Pomegranate – Berkeley, Walnut Creek, Concord (great barg and joojeh kabob with zereshk polo; pomegranate chicken is good but sweet taste can be cloying)
              4. Rose Market – Mountain View (rated so highly because of the value; need to re-evaluate because I only had a small sample of food)
              5. Yas – San Jose (really impressive selection of polos – but other food is just OK)
              6. Bijan – Fremont (food too oily, and stews either too sweet or too ketchup-y)
              ---
              Visited and have trouble remembering, but not near the top of the list:
              Kabob House – Pleasant Hill
              Papa’s - Berkeley

              Shalizaar
              120 W. 25th Ave.
              San Mateo, CA 94403
              (650) 341-2600
              http://www.shalizaar.com/
              (The website pictures make the food look sickly.
              )Tues. – Sun. 11 a.m. – 10 p.m.
              Closed Mon.

              http://www.chowhound.com/california/b...
              Pomegranate in Berkeley - Where the Hummus Is Yummus, the Pita Can’t Be Beat-a, and the Joojeh Kebab Is Foojeh Kebab. What?

              1. re: katya

                This is above and beyond! Thank you!

              2. re: katya

                Hi Katya, good to see you've found your way here! The new search engine is working pretty well and the transfer of the archives to the new software is close to miraculous. Here's the new link I found for your epic post on Shalizaar.

                http://chowhound.com/topics/show/46287

                1. re: Melanie Wong

                  Is Shalizzaar the restaurant that is between Shabuway and Walgreens?

                  If so I have sad news...I've been wanting to try it too, but a few days ago I passed by that strip of 3rd downtown and now the Persian restaurant is gone. In its place is Pho Saigon :-(

                  1. re: K K

                    I just let out a blood-curdling scream at this news but don't know how to draw the emoticon for that!!!

                    But, here's the address -

                    Shalizaar Restaurant [Peninsula]
                    120 W 25th Ave
                    San Mateo 94403
                    650-341-2600
                    Locater:
                    http://yp.yahoo.com/py/ypMap.py?&...

                    Nope, not on 3rd. Thank goodness for "edit" reply!

                    1. re: Melanie Wong

                      My bad, sorry for the false alarm and heart attack ;-)

                      The Persian restaurant, whatever it was, is definitely gone from downtown San Mateo that featured live music and belly dancing. Not to be confused with Shalizaar located much much further south of San Mateo and away from downtown.

                  2. re: Melanie Wong

                    Thanks for the link! How *did* you know that?

                    The Persian place on 3rd was called Caravan I think. I never tried it (but didn't hear anything great about it either). Have you been to Shalizaar, Melanie?

                    1. re: katya

                      I've been using the search engine a lot. I'm thrilled that the archive made it through the transition so well.

                      No, I haven't been to Shalizaar, but it's been on my list to try for some 4 years now. I couldn't bear the idea that it might have disappeared before I had a go at it.

                2. And don't forget the Chinese food possibilities. These days I like Shanghai East, on 25th in San Mateo, best of all. We were there just the other day for lunch. There was this cold appetizer, greens and tofu with a sesame oil taste and something I couldn't identify? Incredible. But none of my Mandarin-speaking colleagues could tell me the English name:(. Fish with Wood Ear Braised in Wine was also good.

                  1. Can't believe you live on the Peninsula and haven't been to these places! Did you just move here from....Buffalo? Try these:

                    Don't forget Don Picos Restaurant, (650) 589-1163, 461 El Camino Real, San Bruno, CA 94066- it's right in your back yard. Fantastic Yucutan Mexican food.

                    There's also Little Sichuan Restaurant - 168 E 4th Ave, San Mateo, 94401 - (650) 345-9168 - great, hot and spicy grub.

                    Also, Crepevine - 1310 Burlingame Ave, Burlingame, 94010 - (650) 344-1310 - cash/debit, no plastic.

                    Narin Thai Cuisine - 231 Park Rd, Burlingame, 94010 - (650) 344-1900. Green curry with tofu - yummy and makes your nose run.

                    Coconut Bay Restaurant - 1300 Howard Ave, Burlingame, 94010 - (650) 558-8268 - really good value for your buck!

                    These are just some...so many more others - too many to list - you'll just have to find you way around and try to get out more. Good luck!

                    5 Replies
                    1. re: Shoefly

                      Not so crazy about Coconut Bay, despite its popularity among my friendds in the area.

                      1. re: Shoefly

                        Tried Don Pico's recently - I can't give it as sterling of a recommendation. The guacamole is excellent, as advertised, but my margarita (straight up, not a "flavored" one) tasted of bananas (so much so that I sent it back - something I hardly ever do).

                        Carnitas entree was very VERY dry - though most likely I'd have been better off ordering something else and been more happy with my experience. What have you liked there, specifically?

                        Also, be warned - it's one cavernous room and it gets deafiningly loud when busy (which it definitely is on the weekends).

                        Kathy/Kuisine (KathySK)

                        1. re: Kuisine

                          I'm glad you mentioned this, because I've thought about trying Don Pico as well, but I can't *stand* bananas,so I might steer clear of the margarita....I wonder what made it taste that way? Did they send you a flavored one by mistake?

                          I'd also be interested in knowing if there are better options than carnitas here.

                          1. re: susancinsf

                            I don't really know. My guess was that someone had some kind of mixed drink that involved banana liqeur that they stirred up in the same shaker or something, and it didn't get washed enough in between so the banana taste just leeched over. It was more of a "this shouldn't be with the rest of my drink" taste, than a "this is the wrong drink" taste. I didn't want to try again, so I think I switched to iced tea instead.

                            They didn't make a fuss about taking it back though, which was good.

                            Kathy/Kuisine (formerly KathySK)

                        2. re: Shoefly

                          little sichuan isn't nearly as good as it used to be...

                          the last time i went, everything was overly salted and a bit greasy. and i used to enjoy the food here. i remember it being pretty busy around dinner, but now its barely half full, so i guess i'm not the only one noticing the regression in the food.

                        3. Thought of another, if we're hitting San Bruno - there have been several recent favorable posts about a fairly new spot, Tribu.

                          Kathy/Kuisine (formerly KathySK)

                          1. Have you tried CreoLa on El Camino in San Carlos? I've only been once, but really enjoyed it.

                            1. For a good Thai restaurant, check out Thai Satay in Downtown San Mateo. Here's my recent report:

                              Thai Satay in San Mateo – Great Curries and Egg Rolls But Don’t Get Busted by the F.B.I.!
                              http://www.chowhound.com/topics/show/...

                              1. I tried Sirayvak Organic Thai Cuisine once for dinner and highly recommend it for Thai that goes beyond the usual pad thai or curry.

                                366 El Camino Real
                                San Carlos
                                http://www.bookofmenus.com/ca/sm/smre...