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What's the BEST Restaurant in the Santa Clara/Mountain View area?

I'm new to the area, and I was wondering what are the best, must-try restaurants in the Santa Clara, Mountain View, & Palo Alto areas?

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  1. There are some nice taquerias, but to be frank, I'm not sure that there are any "must-try" restaurants in this area. If someone feels that I'm mistaken, by all means speak up!

    1. I agree, "must-try" is vague. If you mean high end and transcendant cuisine, Manresa.

      Also, Kaygetsu...awesome in every way. Kaiseki AND nigiri.


      Back-A-Yard. Possibly my favorite restaurant down here. Authentic jerked chicken. I like the chicken, my friends like the pork. The braised ox-tails are good. Haven't tried the ackee yet.


      Dittmer's for great sausages.


      Taqueria La Bamba for excellent burritos and soft tacos. The carne asada, al pastor, and lengua are solid.

      Uncle Frank's for home smoked BBQ pork ribs and killer (literally) fried chicken wings. I have not been since the alleged family feud though.

      Ryowa in MV for pretty good ramen. I make the trek to Santa in San Mateo though.

      Maruichi in MV for kuro ramen. A unique type of ramen that's pretty intersting. The noodles aren't bad either.

      4 Replies
      1. re: Porthos

        yeah, it's true there aren't many "sublime" restaurants in this section of the bay, but depending on the kind of cuisine you're interested in there are relatively good eats

        Porthos is spot-on on the ramen front -
        Ryowa is solid, but if you're willing to trek out to West San Jose Ramen Halu has more subtle flavors/interesting ramen texture. Santa and Himwari in San Mateo are both good bets

        for Sushi, Tomi in MV, Sushiya in Palo Alto and Akane in Los Altos are solid/decent. If you go to Akane try the shiro maguro or tombo tataki - the white tuna is excellent. if you want to go farther lots of people on the boards prefer Kitsho in Cupertino

        for French/bistro, Cafe Brioche on California(Palo Alto) is a good bet on most days. For a good french style patisserie try Fleur de Cocoa in Los Gatos

        for Persian, Chelokababi has good kebabs (off Wolfe and El Camino in Santa Clara/Sunnyvale?)

        for Italian, the small Italian restaurant next to Max's in the Stanford Shopping Center is surprisingly consistent/good in their grilled items. sorry can't remember the name

        for Cantonese/Chinese food, I had a fairly good experience at Taipan Palo Alto recently. haven't gone for repeat visits yet though so can't vouch for the consistency of the restaurant/

        I don't eat that much Indian food so if anyone else can elaborate on Amber India in MV or Santana Row(San Jose) that'd be great

        have fun exploring!

        1. re: Trill

          We love Amber India (MV) and return there for the lunch buffet whenever we are in the Bay Area. Our tastes in Indian food are not exactly sophisticated, but it's the best food we've had out of the 20-or-so Indian restaurants we've been to over the years.

          We especially like the Butter Chicken. I was told by an Indian fellow I was working with recently that butter chicken is the Indian equivalent of mac and cheese. No matter--we love it, and haven't found a version that matches up to Amber's. They also do a very nice, not-greasy naan and some tasty vegetable dishes.

          1. re: Trill

            The Italian restaurant is called Babbo's (no joke), and the pizzas are terrific there. The same family owns Bravo Fono around the corner. The panzanella is also quite good. Prices are a bit high, though IMHO, but it IS Stanford Shopping Center.

            1. re: foodiegrl

              I just wanted to add to the above posting about Babbo's. I am not familiar with the restaurant but Babbo in Tuscan (and only Tuscan) is an endearing term for "father." Almost like "pappa" or "dad," but with more love behind it. :) PS. love Chowhound and everything about it!!!

        2. There's a lot of Chinese food in the area, and it's kinda hard to sift through it all, but here are my 2 favorites:

          1) Chef Liu on Castro St. in Downtown Mountain View. $6 for a huge bowl of beef noodle soup or pretty much for any other good portion of their hand-pulled noodles. 236 Castro St, Mountain View, CA

          2) I also love Shanghai Taste Delight on El Camino, between Shoreline and Castro, also in MV. The food is surprisingly authentic Shanghainese and very reasonable. The place is hard to find, but it's basically in a small strip mall with a weird green-white sign. 855 W El Camino Real, Mountain View, CA

          In downtown PA, I'm a big fan of Tamarine for upscale Vietnamese and Evvia for upscale Mediterranean. Tamarine's a pretty charming restaurant, with really good takes on popular dishes like Shaking Beef, Papaya Salad, claypots, etc. I love their cod and sea bass especially although they're not always on the menu. Evvia's Mediterranean is as good as any I've tried in the Bay Area for comparable prices but can become overly crowded and noisy.

          Tamarine: http://www.tamarinerestaurant.com
          Evvia: http://www.evvia.net

          Regarding some of the Amber India posts, they've also got a quicker, cheaper, counter-service location near Downtown MV called Amber Cafe. I really enjoy the food there, pretty good quality ingredients for the price and not as heavy on the butter and cream.

          Amber Cafe: http://www.rohitsabharwal.com/cafe.swf

          1 Reply
          1. re: mikeop34

            I took a look at the online menu for Chef Liu. So they really have hand-pulled noodles? If so, that's awesome. Also, has anyone tried their "Tan-Tan" noodles? I assume they are the same thing as "Dan-Dan" noodles, but maybe I'm wrong...

          2. I ate at the Plumed Horse in Saratoga...wonderful wild mushroom and pasta dish. The place was packed!

            1. Maybe it's just me, but I'd consider Korea House in Santa Clara a must try. That place is heaven for me, a huge, delicious Korean meal at a great price. (I'm talking dinner, the lunch buffet is OK).

              8 Replies
              1. re: Hoss

                If you go a litte farther north, The Village Pub in Woodside is worth a visit. They have an excellent dinner menu or check the charcuterie plate with a glass of wine in the bar. Also, Marche in Menlo Park is just lovely. Great food and warm service. Both are nice enough for special occasions.

                1. re: Hoss

                  Thanks for the tip. I was driving on that stretch of El Camino Real and wondering which Korean places were worth stopping at. What specific dinner dishes do you recommend? Any other places worth mentioning along that stretch between Sunnyvale and Santa Clara?

                  Korea House
                  2340 El Camino Real
                  Santa Clara
                  (408) 249-0808

                  1. re: Carb Lover

                    I'm not a Korea House fan, so I'm biased, but avoid the bibimbap at all costs. An awful rendition.

                    1. re: Carb Lover

                      My favorite korean restaurant on that stretch of El Camino is Hansung BBQ, where they use real wood coal embers (versus gas). It was originally recommended to me by one of my Korean friends. For me, the marinated meats are better than at Brothers in the city. I also enjoy their Soondubu (tofu soup), dukboki (rice cakes/tubes sauteed in spicy sauce) and oyster panjang (omelette).

                      Han Sung BBQ
                      2644 El Camino Real
                      Santa Clara, CA
                      (in same strip mall as Hometown Buffett)

                      1. re: Carb Lover

                        Of course, everyone has their favorite Korean place along El Camino here. My father in law, who came from Korea when he was a teen, turned me on to Korea House. If you haven't done much Korean, I'd start out for dinner with bulgogi (marinate beef sliced thin), and one of the jigae (soups, in a steaming iron pot). You will get rice and tons of complimentary appetizers that make the meal. With your bulgogi, make sure they give you the lettuce and sauce to make little wraps. mmmmmmmmmmmm..........

                        1. re: Carb Lover

                          Tofu Cabin off Halford and El Camino(in the same plaza as the Burger King) - it's the next intersection after to Lawrence/El Camino

                          I usually get the seafood soondubu(soft, silky tofu in red broth) as spicy as possible. Imho the bibimbap is better and crunchier than the one at Korea House, although the dishes at Korea House are in general too bland for me so I might be biased :)

                          1. re: Trill

                            Thanks to everyone for your suggestions! Now I'll know where to stop next time I'm in that area.

                            IIRC, there was an Afghani or Pakistani sit-down place near SCU whose name escapes me. Anyone know what I'm talking about?

                            1. re: Carb Lover

                              There's an excellent Pakistani place near SCU- Kabab and Curry's at 1498 Isabella St. There also seems to be a bunch of places on that stretch of El Camino, but the only one I've tried is Kabab Korner (more of an Indian place), which had a pretty awful lunch buffet.

                      2. We lived in the area a few years back so I'm not sure if these restaurants still exist:

                        El Sol (or something like that) on California in PA. They make amazing tortilla soup.

                        What ever happened to Late for the Train in Menlo Park? Still there? They used to have nice breakfasts.

                        Little India in Redwood City was always decent...

                        1. I used to live in downtown Palo Alto and these were some of my dependable places (haven't been to any of them in well over a year though):

                          Three Seasons - upscale Vietnamese (Tamarine is more upscale, but personally I like the food at Three Seasons better); other location is in San Francisco http://www.threeseasonsrestaurant.com/

                          La Strada - Italian http://www.lastradapaloalto.com/

                          Janta - Indian (in a house on Lytton


                          Sushiya - Japanese (tiny place on University Ave; I used to eat here almost every week)

                          Osteria - Italian (food is heavier than La Strada)

                          Zibibbo - This is the sister restaurant of LuLu in SF, which seems to be getting some mixed reviews on the board at the moment. I agree the food can be uneven, but I had many more good experiences than not-so-good and they have a nice list of wines by the glass. I also like the setting... nice patio and house. http://www.restaurantlulu.com/restaur...

                          I wouldn't classify any of these as over-the-top, destination-dining places though... if that is what you are looking for.

                          1. I highly recommend Gochi (Fusion Japanse Izakaya) in Cupertino on Homestead. It's a great place for dinner with some drinks. You can get a great variety of traditional and fusion japanese plates to share and finish off with "pizza" and Tai-meshi (roasted whole red snapper on rice).

                            BTW, lunch menu is totally different - consisted of mostly interesting donburis and the daily special.

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: wendy

                              I went to Gochi tonight. It was an awesome experience. Thanks for the recommendation.

                              1. re: makalive45

                                I was at Gochi for my birthday last night, too. Some things were outstanding (Saba oshi sushi, hamachi sashimi, braised gindara), others were just ok (kukuni pork, duck tataki, beef salad).

                            2. I always enjoy myself at Los Charros, on Castro St. in MV. The staff are very friendly, the tacos are excellent, and the horchata and fresh juices are good.

                              1. Would 2nd Kaygetsu - absolutely phenomenal.

                                And assumign that the Amber India is as good (or better) as the SF one, would recomend it too

                                Kaygetsu Restaurant
                                325 Sharon Park Dr Ste A2, Menlo Park, CA 94025

                                Amber India
                                Mission and Fourth, San Francisco, CA