Good Eats, Shorts, and a Grandma in South Bay
Okay, I'm back down here with a friend who has business meetings all day. I'm also visiting family. But if anyone wants a lunch partner at a great place, I should be available most everyday......
But my real question is where I should go with my grandma for dinner. Here's the problem. I forgot to bring pants. In the PNW, we don't have to wear pants. I can go to any restaurant in Portland and wear shorts and not feel like a loser -- at least not in summer.
Last time I was down, my grandma and I had an excellent meal at Amber based on the recs here. I also went to several places recommended in this thread:
I'm going to go to one for lunch today in just a few minutes, too. (My friend is in Mountain View, so Indian is aplenty.)
I'd like a midscale place that my grandma can be comfortable -- not too noisy and not too divish, if possible. But somewhere with really good food in most any cuisine. Oh, and it'd help if I didn't have to go buy a pair of pants today.
She lives in Los Gatos so not too far from there would also be helpful.
btw, I'm lazy, but eventually I will post pics and reports on my last big food visit. I ate A LOT of good food because of Chowhound. (Last night I had a very good meal at Ruen Pair in Albany also from recs here.)
In Los Gatos, The Pasteria & Market might be a good choice. It sounds like something casual enough that shorts would be ok but I haven't been there. Very recent report:
Not far from Los Gatos, I've been meaning forever to try Chez Sovan, a longtime favorite. It's divey but I thought you might like it based on your last visit's post. It's in Campbell/South San Jose. Lots of mentions but here is the only report with details I could find:
(Edit: I can't remember if it's the Campbell location that's divey or the North San Jose location that's divey so I might be wrong that it's divey).
A unique and hard to find elsewhere place that you must visit (this one I've been to a few times) is Zeni for ethiopian food, in the west San Jose area. Not divish at all. Best report for Zeni is katya's long post:
Lastly, we've had numerous awesome Vietnamese in San Jose led by Carb Lover in the South Bay Vietnamese Lunch Series, the most recent one being at Nha Toi in downtown San Jose:
Of the places in the South Bay Viet Lunch Series, the non divey places were Vung Tau, Nha Toi and White Lotus.
And I'd love to have lunch with you while you're here. Contact me through email (my address is on my profile page).
re: Alice Patis
Alice, other lunch options might include the crispy pata at Tribu Grill in San Bruno or DeeDee's Indian Buffet in MV...too casual?
What should the Zuke (of Ken and Zuke's) not miss in the Bay Area?
-Wednesday is "Lengua in Salsa" day at La Perla
224 Lux Ave
South San Francisco, CA
Too casual for me? I'm alone on lunches right now. I hit Southern Spice yesterday. Didn't realize I could order off the menu and just stuck with buffet. Ranged from mediocre to decent, nothing bad. The best items I tried were the pepper chicken (which I assume is the same as their chili chicken on the menu), Navrattan Korma, and Bhindi Masala. Flavors were a bit flat, but it was buffet. I wish I would have ordered some dosa off the menu, though, when I saw one of the workers come out with a fresh piece. Dosa just doesn't work as a buffet item. It gets all soggy.
We ended up at James Randall's in Los Gatos. My uncle wanted to try it. It's a small little place, nice, but not overly schmancy, with maybe 8 tables. I wore shorts and my ... ehem ... sexy legs were on display in the big floor to ceiling window that we sat next to.
The menu is a bit boring, I would say. I got the double pork chop with polenta. My grandma got the beef tenderloin with blue cheese scallop potatoes. And my uncle got the rack of lamb with fingerling potatoes. We all got salads, too, and finished by splitting a flourless chocolate cake with berry compote.
However, even if the menu items were a bit unexciting, everything was prepared very well and the ingredients were excellent. My hearts of romaine salad, eg, had early girl tomatoes that were perfectly ripe and very fruity. My uncle's (essentially, but they don't call it that) caprese salad had heirloom tomatoes that looked as if they were picked from the farm that morning.
The lamb, despite being cooked medium (as asked for), was melt in the mouth tender. The tenderloin, which was asked to be medium, but was closer to medium rare, was also supremely tender. My pork, which I asked to be medium rare (I REAALLY hate pork that's overcooked and I'd rather take my chances with pink pork) was cooked closer to medium well (no pink at all) was still very juicy and adequately tender. Nice grill marks and crusts on everything. I would say that for me the items were a bit underseasoned. Also, the sauces that came with, mostly demi-glaces, it looked like, were perhaps a little subtle, but I tend towards intensity rather than subtlety. Everyone loved their sides.
The flourless chocolate cake was a little dry, but had a lot of chocolate flavor. Perhaps if it was a little less cold it would have been a bit bit creamier and less chalky. But it was in an acceptable range. The berries were fantastic.
I only took a few pictures, but when I post on my blog I'll put them up. Who knows when that will be, though, so I thought I'd give a little back.
Restaurant James Randall
303 N Santa Cruz Ave
Los Gatos, CA 95030
Oh, one more complaint about the place: the bread. They used that overly dense but squishy, crackly, but not crunchy, crusted sourdough that I really don't like that's all too typical the closer you get to SF. I don't think it was any better than the stuff you can get at the grocery store. And the butter was rock hard.
btw, still need to find a place for tonight. Are there any midscale Mexican places in the South Bay -- something similar to Dona Tomas in Oakland?
Consuelo's in Santana Row (the newest European style mall in San Jose) is a popular "gourmet mexican" restaurant, touted for their tequilas & cocktails, housemade tortillas, and chic-y atmosphere. I've never been though. It gets mixed reviews, some love it, some won't return.
Consuelo Mexican Bistro
377 Santana Row, #1125
San Jose, CA 95128
I've also seen recs for Estrellita's in Los Altos and Fiesta Del Mar (2 locations) in Mountain View.
I've been to Aqui's in Willow Glen and in San Jose and it tries to be gourmet mexican (or rather Cal-Mex, or mexican inspired) with organic, fresh ingredients but it's not something I'd recommend: flavors fell short, almost chain-like good but boring consistency.
Yeah, there was a rec for Estrellita's before and I looked at the menu because they allegedly have southern Mexican regional specialties and the owners are, I think, from Chiapas. But it seemed damned typical Tex and Cal Mex with fajitas, burritos, standard enchiladas, etc. Only one or two dishes that went outside that, from what I could see.
I'm not so concerned with it being "gourmet", but sometimes midscale places like Dona Tomas can make slightly more effort at true regionality and "authenticity". Plus, might be a little more comfortable for my grandma. I'm always surprised by how few midscale, regional Mexican restaurants there are in the Bay Area. I think we might have more in Portland. (We have six.)