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Strait's in Palo Alto

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What a sorry shadow of it's original self. I used to enjoy the Straits Cafe on Geary (but that was admittedly several years back). We went to the one in Palo Alto last night and found it to be a hackneyed take on what is normally one of my favorite cuisines.

To summarize, it was like someone was blindly following recipes with no care put into the flavors. I wondered if there was a chef there to supervise the flavors and quality.

For appetizers we had seared scallops. They were average quality. Quite fishy tasting instead of the sweetness I expect from a good scallop. It was served on a "tropical fruit relish" that was too sweet, maybe it would have worked better with fresh scallops. I can't imagine a chef tasting this combination and sending it out. Each scallop was impaled with an 8" break stick a little thinner than a pencil. It made for an impressive presentation, but these garnishes were stale and inedible. What was the point?

We also ordered the Murtabak, a prata bread stuffed with minced beef and served with curry sauce. These flavors were decent but the prata was too doughy and gummed up in your mouth.

For our entree we split the flat-iron steak. The steak was cooked nicely and had a good flavor. But the menu said it comes with "kaffir lime leaf sauce" but it was sitting on a pool of brown curry sauce that tasted exactly like the Murtabak yellow curry dipping sauce. I think they use the same curry and just change the color. The sides were sauteed greens and three thick slices of raw tomato. We barely ate the greens. They were very stemmy and the tomato was a typical, flavorless variety that reminded me of the kind you find in Safeway. All in all, decent steak, but the sides seemed disconnected from the meal.

Service was proficient, although the pacing of the meal was too fast. It seemed like they were slamming the food out as fast as possible.

I wouldn't be so harsh, but if they're going to charge $65 for two apps and one entree, I expect more care and quality. I put Straits on par with such places as the Chilis and the Cheescake Factory. Just go to one of those places and save a few bucks.

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  1. I ate at Strait's PA last about a year ago, and had the same impression. Won't be going back anytime soon - way too much better food around.

    2 Replies
    1. re: bbulkow

      I guess to put a positive spin on this, what other restaurants are good that serve singapore and malaysian food? I had a decent meal at Shiouk in Menlo Park. Where else?

      1. re: sgwood415

        Banana Leaf in Milpitas at the McCarthy Ranch shopping center. Amazing roti, good curries... It's been awhile since I went, but I remember all the dishes were well done.

    2. Sad news, indeed. I went to the Straits in SF on Geary, around May 2006, shortly before they announced the closing of the location. Food was great, the place was packed. Wonder why the now closed SF location was still wonderfu and PA location clearly isn't? Chris Yeo are you listening?

      3 Replies
      1. re: recycleit

        I think it's the same thing that happend to Left Bank. Whatever was working with the original location (quality, care, passion) gets lost when they try to turn it into a formula and open multiple locations. Sad.

        1. re: recycleit

          I didn't realize the Geary St. locale had closed, but I won't shed a tear. It was a great place in the early days but the authenticity went South and prices went North way back when the dot-commies discovered it, and Yeo apparently got stars in his eyes.

          1. re: recycleit

            isn't the PA location under a different owner from the rest of them?