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San Mateo "date" places

Hey all,

Looking for some date places in and around San Mateo... all sorts of food welcome. Key is that is has to be nice enough for a date... doesnt have to be *overly* romantic, just good ambience/decor. (so no hole in the walls, much as I do love them personally) I'm a newbie to Peninsula dining, so appreciate all the help I can get.

The only place I've been to so far is Spiedo. (also been to Vigonier, Hotaru, and Nipa-Pon, but those were with friends...)

Any other recommendations? In particular, any ethnic places that are still nice enough for a date? (Chinese? Thai? Japanese?) Please list, thanks!

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  1. I'll list a few, but with the caveat that I haven't been to the first 2 in awhile. They should still be good:

    Cappellini's, on B Street/1st (Italian)
    Central Park Bistro, on 4th
    Astaria, on 3rd (Mediterranean)

    The ultimate date spot is probably the Bella Vista, on Skyline. I haven't been there since 1988, and won't go back (for personal reasons). I don't recall if the food was any good (it was that kind of night). Nice view, tho.

    1 Reply
    1. re: rednails

      I second Capellini's and also would suggest Viognier and 231 Ellsworth.

    2. Lure. I've only been once, but I keep meaning to get back there. Good food. Good date night vibe.

      1 Reply
      1. re: san carlos girl

        I second Lure. Great vibe, lovely food, it would be my first choice for an upscale, somewhat trendy date place in San Mateo.

      2. OP seemed particulary interested in chinese/thai/japanese.

        All with excellent food. Based on what it sounds like you are looking for, the first of the three would be best:

        Chinese: Chef Wai on 4th Ave., white tablecloth Cantonese

        Thai: Thai Satay on 4th Ave. is no hole in the wall, but nor is the decor anything special. All I could think of for Thai.

        Japanese: Himawari on 2nd Ave. has a modern, bright ambiance - nicer than most of the Japanese places in town. Note though, it's a Ramen shop. _Excellent_ ramen. Depends on your date, I guess, whether ramen is appropriate "date food". I'd certainly have considered marrying someone who took me for good ramen, in my single days.

        1. If you want a place quiet enough for a real conversation, try Liquid. food's good, decor is, um, interesting, and it's quiet. Japanese fusion.
          For great food, Sirayvah. it's pretty. it's organic. Thai. In San Carlos.
          I second 231 Ellsworth, but it's quite expensive.
          Bogie's often has a strolling violinist, but they once told us to go away (no reservation, and we were just two women....no, they didn't say that, but we think that's what it was.)

          2 Replies
          1. re: Kim Cooper

            Liquid Sushi on El Camino? If you're into sushi, DO NOT go there. If you want a sushi spot that is quiet enough to have a decent conversation while also having an authentic sushi experience, go to Yuzu on 37th Ave. near El Camino (a block south of Hillsdale Mall). It's better than a hole in the wall in terms of decor, but still stark and understated that is typical of good restos in Tokyo. Sushi/sashimi are stellar (they are the sister resto of Sakae in Burlingame, which is considered by many to be one of the top sushi restos in NorCal).

            Chef Wai is comparable to higher-quality Guangdong-style restos I've been to in HK & Shenzhen. Good food, but is generally busy, so a good place to take someone who wants a spot with "energy".

            If you need a cool and hip spot, then Lure is the equal of anything you'd find in San Francisco in terms of decor and ambience.

            1. re: Eugene Park

              When we've had sushi at Liquid, it's been fine. we usually go for other stuff however, and that's very tasty.

          2. thanks for the suggestions. will def try chef wai's and the others. keep them coming if there are more!

            1. I second most of the suggestions above, although I'd skip Cappellinis. I found the food to be strikingly dull -- not especially good pasta in overly thick sauces.

              I can emphasize with wanting a restaurant that looks good for a date, but I also think that the Mr. or Ms. Right of many a chowhound would probably be impressed more than anything else by the chow.

              So, I'd recommend a few places that are above hole-in-the-wall status, but without the trendy decor of places like Lure:

              Sushi Sam -- one of the the best sushi places in the Bay Area. Get the stuff on the white board. Not much ambience, but not awful, and I'd marry someone who promised me white king salmon and baby lobster whenever I wanted.

              Shanghai East -- OK, this one probably qualifies as a hole in the wall, or close to it, but OMG the food. I have wowed quite a few out of town hounds with the XLB and the Lions Head Meatballs and the crab with rice cakes.

              The Japanese place on the corner of Baldwin and Ellsworth, across from Trag's. Mudzo? Mutsu? Muzu? Something like that. The service is kind of slow, especially on Friday/Saturdays, but weeknights it's fairly empty and it's a cozy, pretty little place. The sushi is very good -- not like Sushi Sam or anything, but quite good.

              Joy Luck, especially for dim sum. Not as nice looking as Chef Wai's, but it's certainly not a dump. Big, somewhat old-fashioned looking standard Chinese decor. Fantastic dim sum.

              Zen Peninsula in Millbrae. Actually, quite a few restaurants in Millbrae, but I don't know if you want recommendations outside of San Mateo.

              1 Reply
              1. re: JoyM

                Our first date was at Cappellinis, and we got married..... (we just went for dessert that night though)

              2. i'll take millbrae suggestions as long as the place is dateworthy. i wanted to ease mrs. right into the chow thing... and wanted to start by going to nicer/more romantic places at first.

                1. Osho in millbrae. Nice atmosphere. Fun dates Ramen Club, California Ave, Burlingame. Haven't been there for a while, so don't know if the food is still good, we used to love it there since it was inexpensive, but you have to wait sometimes.

                  1. Divino in Belmont. Seems like an odd location, but is a sister restaurant of Bacco up in the City. Can be a bit loud, but the gnocchi is good (tho not life altering) and the pappardelle in tomato lamb sauce was also tasty.

                    Definitely make a reservation. They take walk-ins, but it fills up fast.


                    1. We stopped by San mateo last month and tried Thai Satay on 4th St. which was recommended to us by some local friends. I must say that it's the probably the best Thai food I've had. That night, we ordered (1) basil chicken, (2) beef mussaman (sp?) - tender beef cubes in curry - THE best by far! and (3) a tom kai yum (sp?) soup (chicken, vegetables in coconut broth). The portions are sufficient for 2 ppl to share. The restaurant is small and it was dimly lit by candles on the tables. The decor is average (nothing too fancy but it's not a hole in a wall type of place). I highly recommend this place if you're in the mood for Thai food. And service was good as well!

                      Also, you may want to check about reserving a table ahead of time - we went on a weeknight (thursday, I believe) and it was a full house.

                      Have fun on your date!

                      1. It isn't ethnic, but if I lived in San Mateo I think Central Park Bistro would be my standard "date" restaurant.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: whiner

                          We have had two recent, quite good meals at Kingfish in downtown San Mateo and I think it would qualify as a date place. Beautiful historical building and two nice bar areas...