Die, die must try Sunnyvale - Milpitas area
Making one of my rare trips to the south bay Saturday. Here's my list of to-try places featuring cuisines we either don't have in the SF-Berkeley-Oakland area or that are reportedly superior to ours:
Real Ice Cream*
Tirupathi Bhimas (Milpitas branch)*
Anything crucial missing? What should my priority be?
re: Robert Lauriston
I'm afraid I can't help you all that much since I tend to stay at a place when I really love it, esp since like you I have to drive an hour to get there. what data I have on the other places is old. I haven't tried Swathi Tiffins because nobody ever told me it was a "must go". I will say that SB has terrible service, horrible crowds but great (and v. spicy) food. Their sambar is my fave. Rava dosa is crispy.
Also, if you haven't been to that HC Noodle house (in Cupertino off Wolfe exit, about 10 min from sunnyvale) I think the xiao long bao there are a lot better than the Shanghai Restaurant's version that everyone on this board seems to like.
--oh yeah, have you been to chaat paradise? in mountain view. can get very busy though.
re: Robert Lauriston
Both of those restaurants, as well as Komala Vilas, are recommended by my Indian-from-India coworkers, and the food tastes like food you would get *in India*. But I think SB is a head and shoulder above in flavor. More refined use of spices and softer, fresher breads. My husband makes any excuse to run errands in the South Bay just so he can turn that into a meal at Saravana Bhavan.
re: Robert Lauriston
I've been to Dashapraskash, Saravana Bhavan, Swathi Tiffins, and Tirupathi Bhimas. I've only been to Saravana Bhavan once and remember liking it but it didn't stand out as amazing either, though I'd definitely go back. The others I've been to multiple times. I was never particularly impressed by Dashaprakash (more expensive and nicer atmosphere but food not better) and Swathi Tiffins (total dive which would be fine if the food was great, but it's not - it's quite oily).
I'd rank them from best to worst:
Other options for South Indian include Udupi Palace (everywhere in the Bay Area of course - but definitely skip their buffet) and Dosa Place.
My favorite Indian options (best in each category is first):
Buffet - Turmeric, Bombay Garden, Passage to India
Off the Menu -Turmeric
Chaat - Amber Cafe, Real Ice Cream, Chaat Cafe
South Indian - Tirupathi Bhimas, Udupi Palace, Dosa Place
Pakistani Grilled Meats - Shalimar, Kabab N Curry's (sic)
I'd be interested in your opinion on Krung Thai (my fave Thai in the Bay Area so far) and on the Taiwanese places in the South Bay (esp ASJ, which I haven't been to yet). And if you're going to be down there on a weekend, do try the Northern Chinese breakfast dishes at China Stix.
Based on several visits to Saravan Bhavan, and one visit to Dasaprakash (early on,right after they opened), I preferred Saravana Bhavan.
I love Zeni. That should definitely be a priority.
Banana Leaf is ok, not amazing.
re: Robert Lauriston
Haven't been to either of these, but really promising reviews from tanspace and KK for:
I haven't been to Thai House Express yet... that's why I'm interested in your opinion on Krung Thai :)
I remember reading that you thought Soi 4 is almost as good as THE, and I know that my friend thinks Krung Thai is better than Soi 4, so I'm guessing Krung Thai may be close to if not as good as THE.
Hi Robert, that's my home turf. Your list didn't mention the following places, I wonder if they might be of interest. Have had (usually many) very good meals at each.
ABC Seafood, 768 Barber Lane (in Ufferts Center, frontage road off 880), Milpitas -- Quality dim sum with unusual menu items, couple other ABCs scattered around
Afghani House, Sunnyvale (408 248 5088) -- Maybe best of three related peninsula Afghan places with grilled skewered meats, lots of appetizers
Café Marcella, Los Gatos (408 354 8006) -- European brasserie, things like grilled pheasant and wine by the glass
Chelokababi, Sunnyvale, ECR at Wolfe (408 737 1222) -- Persian, long-time, has following
Chez T. J., downtown Mountain View (650 964 7466) -- High end, leisurely experience, in a house, one star Michelin
Fatima (recently moved) or other of the good Muslim-Chinese places
Le Petit Bistro, Mountain View near PA (El Camino/Shoreline) (650 964 3321) -- real French neighborhood bistro, moderate prices, French family
Tamarine, downtown Palo Alto -- elegant Vietnamese, eclectic wines, think I'd take it over Junnoon despite latter's publicity
Here's a link to my post on Fatima in Cupertino, what do you recommend?
2110 El Camino Real, Santa Clara, CA 95050
Zeni Ethiopian Restaurant
1320 Saratoga Ave, San Jose, CA 95129
150 University Avenue, Palo Alto, CA 94301
10125 Bandley Dr, Cupertino, CA 95014
Hu Chiang Dumpling House (moved
)10877 N Wolfe Rd, Cupertino, CA 95014
Quang Da Restaurant
348 E Santa Clara St, San Jose, CA 95112
Krung Thai Restaurant
640 S Winchester Blvd, San Jose, CA 95128
Krung Thai Restaurant
580 N Winchester Blvd, San Jose, CA 95128
New Krung Thai Restaurant
559 N Winchester Blvd, Santa Clara, CA 95050
Krung Thai Restaurant
1699 W San Carlos St, San Jose, CA 95128
1177 W El Camino Real, Sunnyvale, CA 94087
448 University Ave, Palo Alto, CA 94301
Pho Kim Long
2082 N Capitol Ave, San Jose, CA 95132
Mantra Restaurant & Lounge
632 Emerson St, Palo Alto, CA 94301
330 N Santa Cruz Ave, Los Gatos, CA 95030
1505 Space Park Dr, Santa Clara, CA 95054
I'm surprised Banana Leaf is on there. It's fine for a "work near there lunch" or tried-&-true safe pick with group, but I wouldn't put on any "Rare trip to the other side of the Bay Area" list. Not saying it's bad (it was a regular when I worked near there), but spend your time elsewhere.
Since you've been to both Amber India & T. Bhimas, I would put something afgani at the top of priority over something southern indian, if you're ok going to Fremont out of your way. And also priority to Little Sheep (the correct one, not the fake one), and Hue dishes at Quang Da, though you really need a group to sample many things at either. That's me thinking what do you have to put at the top of priority given what you can't get in SF/EB and given you're coming down only 1 day. Oh and Nha Toi for northern style Viet, but I haven't been there lately and that's in SJ, not Sunnyvale or Milp.
re: Alice Patis
Can you clarify "not the fake one" re Little Sheep? I've only been to one -- I didn't realise there was a real and a fake one -- and I've always found it to be really good. It's right at the junction of Decoto and Alvarado-Niles. Is that the real one? :)
P.S. Try the Mongolian beef pancake. Yum!
Wow, I posted this so long ago I needed to search around to look up which one/where the fake one is. Good thing I found K K's old post talking about it:
The fake one is (was?) in Milpitas, it used to have "Little Sheep" in its name but has since changed its name. The one in Union City where you went is the real one.
Lunch? Dinner? Both?
Hyderabad House has fantastic Indian food in downtown Palo Alto, though it is self service and far less fancy than Mantra or Junoon. If you want the fancier Indian, I far prefer Mantra's Cal/Indian over Junoon's less distinctive (but still tasty) cuisine. Mantra would definitely be the most different from East Bay places like Ajanta, so that would probably be my top pick for dinner.
I don't know the East Bay Indian vegetarian scene very well. I far prefer Saravana Bhavan over Dasaprakash, and others seem to agree - Saravana Bhavan tends to be a lot more crowded with Indian families. Dasaprakash has nicer decor though. My favorite for dosas though is Madras Cafe, just a mile away in Sunnyale from Saravana Bhavan. That's a hole-in-the-wall in a strip mall, though, compared to the converted coffee shop setting of Saravana Bhavan. Chaat Paradise is also good but I don't know if I would drive from the East Bay for it.
I don't know the Ethiopian restaurants of East Bay, but Zeni is mighty tasty. However, it is less different from other Ethiopian places I have tried than Mantra is different from other restaurants; it's Cal/Indian take is very distinctive.
Avoid Swathi Tiffins. They had a branch in Sunnyvale that closed in just a few weeks. It was the worst Indian food that I have ever had in the Bay area, just as bad as Boston-area Indian food was back in the 20th century.
Quang Da is another tasty one, and if you really like Vietnamese food that's probably a good one to try as well. But there are a lot of people here who know Vietnamese food much better than I do. I haven't tried any of the other places on your list.
Thai food is not a relative strength of the South Bay compared to the rest of the Bay Area - there are a lot of decent places but nothing better than your average San Francisco place.
I'd choose Zeni, absolutely. Best Ethiopian I've had anywhere, and I'd say one of the best places in the South Bay across the board. Vegetarian combo is excellent.
Dasaprakash: really good rice and cream of wheat dishes, love the Conjeevaram Iddly, but I MUCH prefer the dosas & sambar at Uddupi Palace. It also has nicer decor than any of the others - I bring people here that haven't tried South Indian food before...
Saravana Bhavan - food tastes great and tends to be spicier/hotter but really oily, terrible service, really crowded.
Tirupathi Bhimas : I love the mini-tiffen combo (small dosa, mini-sized iddly in sambar, veggie/curry, dessert). They do the standard dishes well but not outstanding.
Swathi Tiffins: I only went once - good prices, but the dosa was cold, greasy and soggy. I wasn't impressed and didn't go back.
Junnoon: "Modern" Indian. Appetizers & veggie side dishes are good, everything else was disappointing. Outdoor seating is a big plus. Expensive. Just went to Tabla in NY, Junnoon is not even close :-p
Mantra: Indian food for people who don't like Indian food. Can only recommend the daily happy hour (4:30pm - 6:30pm & after 9:30 pm). $3 Beers $5 Cocktails and 1/2 off the bar menu. Good cocktails, food is hit and (more likely) miss.
If you go to Mantra for Indian food you will certainly be disappointed. It's Cal/Indian, in that order. If I want non-vegetarian Indian food in Palo Alto, I go to Hyderabad House. But we do seem to agree on the other Indian places, though I haven't noticed any excessive oiliness at Saravana Bhavan. Thanks for the tips on better choices at Dasaprakash than what I ordered there.
Well, after writing about Zeni yesterday I had a huge craving so went there for dinner. Was a little disappointed in the food - it was missing that particular Zeni magic and was only good, as opposed to the usual fantastic...hopefully it was only a single slightly off night and they are not sliding downhill! Doro Wat was still wonderful, veggie combo was a little blander than usual. Service as confused as always.
re: david kaplan
Speaking of Sunnyvale, I have been going exploring the Santa Clara/Sunnyvale border for the past couple of weeks. I have to go down to that area at least once a week these days and am searching for that hidden gem. So far no luck. My path takes me from the Lawrence Expressway/101 to the El Camino. Here is a quick summary of the places that I have visited. Sorry if some of the names are off, they weren't that memorable.
Junmak- El Camino and Lawrence(in the same strip mall as a Walgreens and about 20 Korean places) This place was okay. They advertised Japanese Ramen for lunch and I thought for a brief moment that I had discovered a Chowhound worthy destination. Alas there Ramen was nothing to write home about. Pretty weak broth and Ramen noodles that were pretty limp.
Chez Something- Vietnamese place on Lawrence near Arques(next to Unamas). Standard Vietnamese fare- the bun was standard. I liked their imperial rolls.
Bombay Garden- Next to Orchard at Lawrence/El Camino. Giant Indian Buffet. A lot of stuff. Because it was crowded the items moved pretty fast for such a large buffet. They had a decent selection of meat dishes(Tandori Chicken, Lamb Curry, Etc), but the Chickpea Masala was the standout. They seemed a lot stronger on Southern Indian fare than Northern. It seemed to be strategy that worked as they had a good balance of Indian and non-Indian patrons. You can always get your office worker from Ohio to eat the Tandori Chicken... It was kind of place that I would go with a group, but not worth a repeat visit if it is just me.
It looks like their is a pretty healthy mix of Korean and Indian restaurants in that area. A big change from when I lived there in there in the late 80's and Chili's was the big draw! Does anyone have any recommendations specific to that area?
Try Yume-Ya for izakaya style japanese. Dish Dash for lebanese/middle eastern. The vietnamese place in downtown sunnyvale is not bad. I think it's called Phuong Thao. Kabul for afghani. Cam Hung for banh mi. Las Islitas for carnitas. Shanghai Flavor Shop for fried pork dumplings....
re: david kaplan
Second Kahoo Ramen. Try the shio ramen. It's superb.
I'd recommend Pho Kim Long for the best Vietnamese I've had in the South Bay (near Milpitas/San Jose border). It's one of those packed at all hours, sticky tables, cheap eats type places that define a chow find. Try some of the more unique noodles like #28-noodles with periwinkle and ground crab. #24/#25 which is panfried noodles with chicken or beef is also excellent. It comes with a side of soup that you can spoon over the noodles to your desired consistancy (couple usually does). Everything is a ridculous deal at $5.00-$7.95 for huge bowls, and I mean HUGE portions.
The drinks on the back of the menu are also great. Try the mixed drink with jelly, chickpea, coconut milk.
re: Melanie Wong
Hard to say for lunch, as I've mostly been for dinner (Saizo, Tanto SJ and Sunnyvale, Yume-ya, Gochi) and some of these places have a dramatically different menu at lunch time. Also one time I pulled up to Tanto in Sunnyvale at the late end of lunch, maybe 2pm or so, and they were closing and wouldn't seat me. I've had a speedy lunch set at Saizo that was a good deal.
Izakaya pro and cons, http://www.chowhound.com/topics/319998
Gochi Japanese Fusion Tapas
19980 Homestead Rd, Cupertino, CA 95014
592 E El Camino Real, Sunnyvale, CA 94087
150 W El Camino Real, Sunnyvale, CA 94087
Tanto Japanese Restaurant
1306 Saratoga Ave, San Jose, CA 95129
Tanto Japanese Restaurant
1063 E El Camino Real, Sunnyvale, CA 94087
re: Melanie Wong
According to its website, Sumika in Los Altos is open for lunch now.
Forgot to mention Rokko or Andoh, never been.
Edited: It appears that Andoh has closed. Should also mention Hatcho in Santa Clara though the food was not nearly as good as those in the post above, http://www.chowhound.com/topics/39328
236 Central Plz, Los Altos, CA 94022
Rokko Japanese Cuisine
55 S Market St, San Jose, CA 95113
Rokko Japanese Restaurant
190 S Frances St, Sunnyvale, CA 94086
Andoh Japanese Restaurant
161 S Sunnyvale Ave, Sunnyvale, CA 94086
re: Melanie Wong
Gochi and Saizo are open for lunch and have way more interesting and authentic dishes than Tanto's lunch menu.
Yume-ya I believe is open for dinner only.
There is a new lunch chef at Sumika, whose cooking differs from Maru-chan (executive chef) and a month ago seemed a bit heavy handed with salt. Sumika is still better for a dinner place.
For South Bay Japanese recs:
Kahoo ramen next to Mituswa Supermarket - No tonkotsu broth here but many regional Japanese representations. Shio and shoyu broths are great, as is the tantamen (Japanese style dan dan noodles, a current fave right now). They now have a spicy miso broth and a miso kotteri. Kahoo's younger ramen chef also worked for the former tenant Do Henkotsu
Sumika in Los Altos - go during night time. Upscale, but very nice. The only yakitori-ya to use organic free range chicken from Petaluma farms. Pricey but you get what you pay for. The chicken hot pots (mizutaki) are great, upgrade the broth to free range soup (baitan) instead of water.
Also best chicken karaage ever. Kahoo's version is not bad.
ASJ - beef noodle soup all the way. Haven't tried anything else
Ay Chung Noodle in MIlpitas Square - there are street food type dishes here that you won't find at Joy in Foster City, some you won't find anywhere else, and some that are so much more refined than Taiwan restaurant in Berkeley/SF Clement. They have stinky tofu here too. Still not quite like the streets of Taiwan (the country) but they are notches away versus other places that are miles.
In Sunnyvale, I would go to Shanghai Flavor Shop just for the Shen Jian Bao. Really really good stuff and that's their signature dish (to the point where it is part of the restaurant's Chinese name).
I'll chime in if I think of more.
re: K K
Here's a link to the thread about sheng jian bao and Shanghai Flavor Shop (which Ruth Lafler first spotted), including photos. I have to agree with a comment that tanspace made on his blog that it is a little odd that these are fried headfirst down instead of on the bottom of the bao. However, they are very good and something that we've not found as a decent version anywhere else around here. http://www.chowhound.com/topics/352029
And, thanks for the update on Sumika.
Shanghai Flavor Shop
888 Old San Francisco Rd, Sunnyvale, CA 94086
4330 Moorpark Ave, San Jose, CA 95129
458 Barber Ln, Milpitas, CA 95035
1698 Hostetter Rd, San Jose, CA 95131
375 Saratoga Ave, San Jose, CA 95129
Nha Toi Restaurant
460 E William St, San Jose, CA 95112
20956 Homestead Rd, Cupertino, CA 95014
Lovely Sweets & Snacks
932 E El Camino Real, Sunnyvale, CA 94087
Lovely Sweets & Cuisine
30059 Industrial Pkwy SW, Hayward, CA 94544
Lovely Sweets & Snacks
41031 Fremont Blvd, Fremont, CA 94538
190 S Murphy Ave, Sunnyvale, CA 94086
Saravana Bhavan USA
1305 S Mary Ave, Sunnyvale, CA 94087
Dasaprakash Indian Restaurant
2636 Homestead Rd, Santa Clara, CA 95051
1020 E El Camino Real, Sunnyvale, CA 94087
re: Melanie Wong
I'd skip Mantra in favor of Junnoon. Consider Bodeguita del Medio in Palo Alto, rather than Habana-Cuba (which changed hands several years ago . . . the Calvos now own Cafe Cubano in SJ, I haven't been). Athena Grill in Santa Clara for down-home taverna style Greek food. Dio Deka in LG gets raves, but I haven't tried it. It's pricey, and it's reported to be noisy, which knocks it off my list, but some people don't mind. If you go, please let us know what you think.
Kokila's Kitchen in Cupertino for their weekend all vegetarian buffet - I think they are Gujarati. Unusual items like shrikand for dessert, and a lovely sambar that is slightly sweet, hot, and includes peanuts; buttermilk curry flavored with asafoteda and curry leaves; other unusual veg dishes.
Also Komala Vilas on El Camino, all veg meals. Full of Indian families who've just finished their weekly grocery shopping a the India Cash and Carry two doors down. Rice, rasam, sambar, and some additional veg curries, served on a huge stainless steel platter. Wait people come around with pots and ladles and provide second and third helpings. Majority of patrons scoop the rice and gravy with their fingers, in the southern Indian style.
I have a friend in Berkeley who drives down to Cupertino for meals at Kokila's. Since he agrees with me that Dana Bazar/Chat Patta Corner in Fremont makes better chaat than Vik's, I need to follow his lead to Kokila too some time soon.
Kokila's Kitchen thread, http://www.chowhound.com/topics/330389
Not the most helpful comment I'm sure, but frankly I wouldn't trust your sources. What makes this board great is also it's gimp leg. So many different palates and so many different opinions often clutter the thin line between 'out of this world' and just 'good'
I'd remove many of those restaurants from your current list, and you can't even bribe me into eating at Darda again but it's not a question about superiority but different. There are certain cuisines just done better up in the SF/Berk/Oak area due to ethnic population or chance. Same goes for the south bay. For instance I believe the Mandarin and Taiwanese cuisine is far better down here in the south bay, as opposed to Cantonese/Dim Sum being better up in the city.
Although you are able to obtain one type of cuisine up in the city that is not a valid reason to pass on a south bay restaurant. Chelokabbabi for example, I am sure you can find Persian Kababs in the city, however down here in the south bay we are limited to 4 maybe 5 decent to excellent restaurants, Chelokabbabi happens to be the best. It actually is the best I've sampled in norcal, so to pass that one up is a mistake in my books. I'd also re-examine eatzalot's and melanie's list, as my list would look similar to that.
There are many good suggestions on this thread, much better then your original list in my humble opinion. As for offering suggestions, I'd take one's advice and tell us what you're and your company is in the mood for. Everyone on here is full of excellent suggestions, but if we're going to just throw darts at a donkey's rear end it's going to be a chaotic mess.
I'd definitely hit up uncle frank's bbq, ramen halu, kahoo ramen, tanto, gochi, yiassoo, chelokababbi, il postale, yume-ya, and i can, and i'm sure everyone else as well, can ramble on for hours w/o criteria.
Actually, it was Melanie's rave on Sumika that put it at the top of my list. http://www.chowhound.com/topics/334319
My original list was just intended as a starting point.
The one Persian I've met who has tried both Chelokababi and Maykadeh prefers the latter even though it's a longer drive from his home.