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San Jose for first-timer need suggestions.

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I'll be in San Jose for just under a week at the start of December - never been there before I'm staying at the Marriott Milpitas - probably no car - so mostly taxis (and public transport if feasible). I understand there is a mall near my hotel - anything worth eating there - even just for breakfast?
Most of the time I will be alone - unless I make friends with my fellow students.
I'm especially interested in Malaysian,Indian and Middle Eastern food - but if there is anything unusual or 'must try', I'm up for it.

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  1. I can't make any recs for the kinds of food you're interested in - just little or no experience with them. If the Mall you're near is the Great Mall, then there are a number of places there - but mostly chains or otherwise not really standing out (though I could be missing something). The exception I'm aware of would Mayflower - an upscale Chinese place.

    The Great Mall is also right on the light rail line, which takes you straight into downtown San Jose, and there's plenty of stuff there. E&O Trading Company is an ecclectic asian place, for instance, that might apeal.

    1. heh...sorry but milpitas is only good for ethnic (and by that i mean chinese) dives. (ps, i work in milpitas)

      short list that i will recommend:
      mayflower as manual suggested.
      banana leaf

      um...

      if you travel out of milpitas there's rivermark plaza, and a little further santana row. if you head up 101, there's mountain view and palo alto.

      1. I looked up Marriott in Milpitas and found a Courtyard Marriot across the street from the Great Mall of Milpitas. If this is your hotel, here are my thoughts:

        Like Manuel said, mostly chains in the Great Mall.

        I agree Banana Leaf is decent to very good for indo-malay food. I used to regularly get their char kue teow (can get extra-spicy), it's a decent version but not as wok-charred as the real stuff. It may be less authentic or very authentic depending on how authentic you've had for this cuisine. It's in the McCarthy Ranch shopping center, a huge strip mall with tons of restaurants on both sides of the street (Ranch Drive). It's 6-7 very large blocks from the Light Rail station called 880/Milipitas, which is 2 stop north of the Montague light rail station close to your hotel.

        Yelp reviews of Banana Leaf Milpitas:
        http://www.yelp.com/biz/AOID716IwZk14...

        In the same strip mall as Banana Leaf, avoid Martin Yan's chain restaurant at all cost even if they have so-called "malaysian" food.

        I don't think there is any middle eastern or indian food in McCarthy Ranch.

        Closer than Banana Leaf is the all-Asian Milipitas Square, a big strip mall anchored by the 99 Ranch supermarket. It's one block east and one block north of the 880/Milpitas light rail station. A lot of good authentic Chinese restaurants in this mall, but no malay, indian or middle eastern. Here's the directory of restaurants in Milpitas Square:
        http://www.milpitasquare.com/director...

        I also found something called Coconut Grove Malaysian Restaurant on 129 Great Mall Dr., which on the map looks like it's steps away from your hotel. No idea how good it is. Here's their website:
        http://www.coconutgrovemilpitas.com/

        Also close to your hotel (4 large blocks), is Tirupathi Bhimas, a South-indian restaurant that has gotten raves on this board. Dang I can't find Melanie Wong's detailed report, but I found many brief mentions of this restaurant. Their website: http://www.tirupathibhimas.com

        I've enjoyed Sarovar's northern indian lunch buffet but it's been years since I was there. They're on 301 S. Abbot Ave. (at Calaveras Blvd), a 5-minute cab ride northwest of your hotel.

        Very near Sarovar is something called Falafel & Garlic Land, which I've never heard of before today, but it's something I found with a wide mid-eastern menu that is in your area. Their website:
        http://www.falafelland.homestead.com/...

        Sorry I don't have any personal persian or middle eastern recs for that area (or right along Light Rail).

        Lastly, here's a previous thread 2 years ago discussing chow along the exact section of light rail where you'll be:
        http://www.chowhound.com/topics/show/...

        3 Replies
        1. re: Alice Patis

          I'll second Tirupathi. I have been driving there from downtown San Jose for lunch almost every week for the past 2 months. And thats from a dedicated carnivore with a short attention span.

          You can find a lot of posts on Darda in Milpitas Square if you are curious about Muslim Chinese.

          1. re: Nathan P

            I hear you on Tirupathi Bhimas! The food was incredibly addicting. I was there about 15 times in the four months I was camped out in Fremont. That was over the Thanksgiving and Christmas pig-out season and trying to get through holiday shopping traffic to Milpitas. One of the problems is that when I love something as much as this, sometimes I can't find the words to post about it. So, Alice, I haven't done a real report. But here's a link to the photos -
            http://flickr.com/search/?q=bhimas&am...
            The two things that were clunkers here were the pav bhaji and the phulka with curry, both had a muddy garam masala spicing. Every thing else that hewed closer to South Indian was great. Also, I found lunch better than dinner time for dosas, don't know if that's still true.

            1. re: Melanie Wong

              Okay i'm here 3 days now - the first day was a bust - got in
              Sunday -jet-lagged and grabbed a pita from The Pita Pit downtown
              - at least it was fresh but I was in no mood to do anything but sleep.
              Monday it was too cold to venture far from my hotel so I went to
              Coconut Grove. Very quiet night in there although they seemed to
              be doing a heavy trade in outgoing orders. I had the Roti Pratha (also known as roti canai) - it was great - actually it occurs to me that this tastes the same no matter where you buy it - New York,
              Glasgow, Montreal and now San Jose - always exactly the same
              flavour sauce. Then I had a selection of appetizers under the
              heading Malaysian Lobak. This featured some very nice fried tofu, some less than spectacular crispy chicken roll sliced into 4
              pieces and an oddly sweet-tasting shrimp pancake. Garnished with preserved egg it was not bad but nothing to write home about. My main course was Malaysian Chow Fun which came out more as a soup than the usual glutonous stick-to-the-ribs fare i was looking for
              on this particularly cold evening - that being said it did taste
              really good. Lots of shrimp, conch and even a few scallops
              bobbing around in this giant bowl of comfort food. All in all it
              was a nice meal - the staff were great, friendly smiling. Recommended for unpretentious dining after a hard day at the
              mall.
              Tuesday - actually just a few hours ago I went to Tirupathi
              Bhimas.
              Spectacularly delicious food!
              I got there around 6:30 and it looked very deserted - about 3
              tables of customers, and was seated at window table.
              Sipping a really thicky tasty mango lassi while mulling over the menu I settled on a couple of appetizers - Manchurian Gobi - I had a cauliflower
              Jones, and Onion Spinach Pakora and as a main dish I had the Vegetable Biryani.
              Everything was out of this world. The cauliflower seemd to be
              a take on sweet and sour sauce - but much more subtle and spiced
              just right. I've never had this anywhere before - but I'll be
              looking for it from now on.
              The pakora were excellent - and I speak as a pakora-head for at least 30 years - a nice touch was the spinkled fried curry leaves
              and the dal based dipping sauce. Just fab.
              The biryani was also delicious - lots of vegetable taste with
              hints of spices - I'm sure I tasted licorice bark in there
              somewhere. The side sauce was delicious as was the yoghurt
              chutney on the side.
              As I closed the meal with a spiced chai - the correct kind just
              bursting with cardamom flavour - I noticed the place had filled
              up quite a bit. That would have been about 7:45.
              This has, by a long chalk, been the highlight of my trip to San
              Jose so far.
              Thanks to all above who made recommendations.

        2. I've been to Gourmet Express and it's good. here's my report:
          http://www.chowhound.com/topics/show/...

          1. I believe Sarovar is now closed. They have been closed for a while now.