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Palo Alto Hot Spots-What did I miss?

Greetings fellow chowhounders! Our daughter will be turning 23 and we are taking her to dinner. She is currently at school in Davis, and would like to eat at a PA "hot spot".
From the various reviews on the board these look to be the "hot spots": Tamerine Junoon Mantra Osteria Palo Alto Sol Three Seasons Evvia Y Tapas . Did I miss anything here? Are there other "hot spots?" Opinions please.

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  1. I suggest you take a look at the recent active thread on Palo Alto lunches, since what you have is a very varied list. For instance, Palo Alto Sol is the type of place you can just drop in with the kids, whereas Evvia is much more upscale. They vary in approach to food too, with some being more appealing to the less adventuresome, and some being nmore"hip". Not sure what you are looking for, but most have menus online which should give you some ideas.

    1. It kind of depends on what you mean by "hot spot". For good food, your list above is good although I don't think the tapas place has much of a following on this site & Sol is a decent Mexican restaurant, but there are lots better in Davis and Sacramento. 23 y/olds tend to hang at less foody but more lively places like Miyake, Old Pro, and Nolas downtown. A good compromise might be La Bodeguita del Medio on California Avenue ... good cuban food + a very lively atmosphere and a very cool cuban folksinger on most weekends.

      1 Reply
      1. re: doc

        even when i was younger i didn't like miyake.. TOO loud.. can't even hear... don't expect to talk.. it is a great lively crowd but with the music pumping SO loud, i would always get a headache after dinner... don't get me wrong i'm from the jj fad generation (we like the cars the cars that go boom) and i go to bars and clubs and even dinner shows, but there's something about miyake and it's loud atmospehre that i can't enjoy. the food is mediocre too... but maybe i can't enjoy it 'cause it's too freaking loud....

        nola is fun, even now, for me to go for drinks... although, i do not enjoy eating there. i had the crawfish etouffe (sp?) a while back and it was not flavorful for me. i had it with rice and it was too hard. my friend had the fried chicken and it was dry. i prefer colonel sander's original recipe... ;P

        haven't gone to the cuban restaurant, but doc's description sounds intriguing... =)

      2. Is this a quiet family dinner or more of a drunk debauchery type of festivity?

        If you are going to drink and have a good time there's no better then Miyake's - downside, food is borderline tolerable and they don't take rsvp's. it's first come first serve, it's also loud, and has a club like atmosphere - plus side : sake bombs. have you?

        Since you did not disclose a budget here are my suggestions: Zibbibo, Ewia, Marche, Tamarine, and Lavanda. There is also Mango Caribbean, Vero, and that restaurant by whole food's on emerson.

        4 Replies
        1. re: wchane

          I will disagree strongly about Miyake being the be-all-end-all of drink and debauch in PA, primarily because the food is so miserable. It's a particular kind of debauch, the kind where parents aren't invited. Nola cuts a much finer figure, with a better blend of good food (not great, but pretty-danged-tasty - more on the Zagats 23 side than 21 - Miyake being Zagats 7).

          iTapas got *one* bad review here, and my good one, and no other comments. I still eat there frequently, and have very good luck. I especially like the crispy smelts and the hamachi "ceveche" (more like a poki to me), and think they do good at the wine tasting flights.

          Back to the OP's problems - for a good combination of food, atmosphere, party you might try the new Sushi place on Lytton. Even though SushiMonster prefers Fuki, the new place has far hipper atmosphere and you're guaranteed a seat within 10 feet of the bar.

          What puzzles me is why daughter chooses PA - from Davis, you drive past Napa (arguably), the East Bay, and (arguably again) San Francisco. I can argue convincingly there's nothing in PA that is not bettered at ten places closer to Davis. So - what are you looking for again? If she wants a particular spot, tell her to speak up!

          1. re: bbulkow

            Wow, thanks for all the suggestions! She is not a "party type" of gal. She enjoys a good night out with friends for dinner and drinks. She is coming down to vist family and celebrate her birthday. She is then off to Hawaii. What is Lavanda and Vero? Will have to do a search Thanks again for all the help! It's just why I love this board.

            1. re: RenoRed

              then i would avoid miyake... not the place you will want to go...

              i don't even know if i would take her to nola.. i think i would check out those other fine dining places... nola is good though for drinks... and they have separate tables/rooms so you don't necessarily have to mingle with all the young professionals...

              but if you didn't want fine dining...you can take her to hukilau in palo alto for a pre-hawaii send off/birthday party... =)

              they have live music on weekends, but unfortunately they do not accept reservations especially if it's a popular band.... fried saimin not as good. but their assorted pupus are a good value and pretty tasty. i like their poke... oh and from a somewhat ex-kama'aina, hukilau does gravy fries if you just ask... YUM!!!

              make sure you steer her to the elsewhere in america board for hawaii recs =)

              hau'oli la hanau e your daughter! =) i would say keiki, but she's not young...

              1. re: kinipela

                Osteria is good traditional Italian, but not what I think of as an occasion restaurant. If someone were taking me out for birthday dinner and drinks, I would choose Evvia or Village Pub (in Woodside). Both have consistently good food and a pleasant atmosphere. The lamb at Evvia is extremely tasty. Zibbibo has a more exuberant atmosphere, but the dishes I've had haven't been as well executed. I've heard great things about Tamarine's cocktails, but know less about the food.

        2. The current "hot spots" in Palo Alto are Junnoon, Tamarine and La Bodeguita. Evvia and Village Pub are excellent but are very low key compared to the other 3. I would stay away from Miyake. It's a low quality inexpensive sushi place catering to rowdy starving students. Mango Carribean is fine for lunch but I wouldn't consider it to be a destination place.

          4 Replies
          1. re: KathyM

            Great, OP, I think we've got the picture.

            I think you'd have to add Mantra, after the Chron/Bauer review. Haven't been, myself, and the one person I talked to who had was there before the chef change.

            Interesting question about Levande - only one mention on CH, one person saying they haven't been there. I haven't either. What is it about that place, some hound-phobic coating?

            My personal go-to for excellent dining is Tamarine, but others say Junoon. For an occasion, you wouldn't go wrong with either. YSZ's recommendation of Village Pub seems reasonable, and I haven't tried Evvia.

            1. re: bbulkow

              Lavanda is the restaurant in Palo Alto. Levende is in SF and Oakland. Any search hits for Lavande are mispellings of one or the other.

              1. re: Robert Lauriston

                lavanda is hit or miss. has an amazing wine list, and i've had some great pasta dishes there. underseasoned fish dishes. very nice atmosphere (oldish) but extremely pricey.

                the "chic" spots are the classic tamarine, and i've heard that mantra is better, (but i heard that from a friend of the owner). i have rarely had a good meal at junoon, don't understand the fuss. maybe i'm missing the best dishes?

                but i have to agree, palo alto really doesn't have super destination dining.

              2. re: bbulkow

                Last month we ate at Evvia, Tamarine, Mantra, and Junnoon, and you can't go wrong with any of them. They all had good food, but Evvia had the liveliest atmosphere, and Junnoon was the most posh (velvet everything, it seemed).

            2. I would definitely avoid Three Season and iTapas. They are under the same ownership and I experienced similar problems at each restaurant. Sub-par service, mediocre food and overblown pricing. I've heard it's fantastic from other people, but if you are looking for a one-shot deal, I strongly recommend something with a consistent reputation for greatness, not a a track record for ups and downs.

              3 Replies
              1. re: juliunruly

                I agree: our meal at Three Seasons was marked by horribly overpriced, barely palatable food - almost as bad as our meal at PF Chang's. Our waitress was very nice, though.

                1. re: Claudette

                  Three Seasons compared to PF Chang's? You've got to be kidding me. PF Chang's has a half cup of sugar in each dish. Sugar in the garlic noodles? Insane!

                  Three Seasons has gone down hill in the past couple years, and is overpriced, but I wouldn't call it mediocre. PF Chang's I would call mediocre.

                  I Tapas was good food when we went there for the Monday Dine Downtown two Mondays ago but abysmal service. My husband and I would go there just for the food even though the service was inattentive.

                  1. re: Luthien

                    You weren't eating at our table - the food was definitely mediocre. We were all surprised at how bad it was, given how expensive it was!