Straits - Santana Row Review - Thumbs Down
This is a review of the food and atmosphere at Straits. The restaurant sounds very good on paper. The bar and the atmosphere is lively. However when it comes to service and food, this place ranks in the HORRIBLE category.
Our group of 6 reservation was at 8:30pm and we get seated at 9:45pm. This is not only unacceptable but the Manager in charge never once takes the initiative to tell us the reason why it is taking so long but tells the (dumb) staff to keep as at bay and say only 10 more minutes. Now onto the food. I have been to Singapore and Malyasia and in comparison this food tastes like it came from Panda Express but with added spices and MSG. Overall the service was below sub par and the food was not worth the cost. I would NEVER recommend this place to anyone unless they like to people watch, eat disgusting food, and stand around.
I went about 6 months ago and I'd agree with your opinion about the food. I arrived on a weekday lunch at about 11:30 so it was almost empty but the food took a while to arrive. When it did, it was obvious the cook had tried hard but many things were lacking. They seemed to have no access to some of the special ingredients from Singapore/Malaysia which could be obtained if you put forth the effort since the stuff is canned or jarred. Instead, it was a disappointing "fusion" of Singaporean recipes where difficult to obtain ingredients had been substituted with the cheapest, most common substance that could be found (probably the veggies on sale at the local Safeway). Celery just doesn't belong in a pad thai. About $20 for lunch and I ordered an entree & a drink.
If you want food that is equivalent to the Straits Cafe, then go to the Spice Islands in Mountain View. It's just as bad but the price is 50% lower. I had the char kway teow. It was obvious that the cook knew Singaporean cooking but no one had made any genuine effort to obtain the ingredients that define the style. They had just substituted somewhat mindlessly. Portions are smaller. Watch out for the carrots. For some reason carrots in any stir fry offends me. It's just wrong. About $10-12 for my noodle dish and a drink. Note, noodle dishes tend to be lower priced than average.
Shiok! in Palo Alto is much better. I've been there several times. The roti prata is served in a crumpled heap unlike any other presentation. It's also oiler than I expected but very good anyway. The rest of the food is not only good, but the price is reasonable and the style is consistent with the region. I've certainly had much worse when I was living in Singapore. Even better the kitchen and restrooms are spanking clean. You can't say that very often in Singapore. Pricing is a bit tough with this one. You order many small dishes and it's easy to go wild. I'd guess about $10-25. You will certainly have many leftovers if you spend $25 per person.
Baba Neo on Moffett and Central Ave in Mountain View is pretty good (despite the awful reviews in this site). I found the portions a bit strange. Never have I encountered such minute rice portions in an asian restaurant. Overall, the portions were alright, but that left the meat overly salty/spicy compared to my rice supply. I was afraid to order more rice. The price seemed to be about $1 per tablespoon. Yoiks! All the other prices were more normal. I suspect the entrees are not that impressive compared to the appetizers anyway. I recommend the otak-otak. It's the best I've ever had inside or outside of Singapore. I've been there 3 times in the last year or so and the dinner where I ordered all appetizers was clearly the winner. In my experience, asian restaurants often have a lousy wine list but Baba Neo's is quite good. If you order appetizers, entree and share wine with friends, it's about $40.
In my experience, the Straits Restaurant in Palo Alto on El Camino is clearly the winner in this category, but I've only had one meal there. I've read reviews from others who state that quality is inconsistent. My meal was delicious, carefully cooked and beautifully presented. It wasn't particularly busy that night, perhaps that helped? At any rate, once I got the bill, I can see why any flaw with the experience would get people fired up. You could go to Shiok! three times for that price and still have some change leftover. $$$? the sky's the limit but I spent about $90. Then again, you don't have to order appetizer, entree, wine, dessert and coffee.