Ristorante L'Acquolina - Los Altos
When going to Zitune a few nights ago, we saw that the building on Main at First that has housed a succession of unsatisfactory Chinese and Vietnamese restaurants is now going to become Ristorante L'Acquolina. Italian restaurants in Los Altos and Silicon Valley in general have been terribly far behind the offerings further north, but the web site (www.lacquolina.com) gives hope that this might change things.
It is supposed to open this fall. Here's hoping it lives up to potential. Having two top-notch restaurants in downtown Los Altos would be really something!
We went to L'Acqoulina this evening. Just got back. It was really quite good!
The bread was a rustic, crunchy-crusted country bread of some sort (I'm sorry, I can't quite put a name to the type) which went wonderfully with the lightly salty butter served along with it.
We had two appetizers between two of us, and each of us tried both.
The first appetizer we had was a roast artichoke served with oil and herbs on one side and with a tangy aoli on the other. The artichoke had more "meat" to it than usual, and came with the outer leaves all cut off and the stalk skinned such that none of it was too tough to eat, including a very good chunk of stalk. It was perfectly cooked, had a wonderful flavour and the texture was perfect.
The second was a butternut squash soup with some spicy oil drizzled on top, a flash-fried battered prawn in the center and some sour cream on top. It was a pity that the butternut squash seemed very subdued because the dish was otherwise very good. It just didn't quite zing. It has potential, though.
For main courses, I had a pretty inventive dish of carrot-gnocchi with rabbit ragout. The ragout seemed to be about 1/2 shredded rabbit meat and the rest a base of pureed vegetables (if I had to guess, I would say winter vegetables; perhaps a mixture of root and squash with maybe a bit of red pepper, but I could be way off base with that), topped with grated parmaggiano reggiano and chopped chives (the chives really added to the dish), and garnished with good, fresh parsley.
My wife had a thin, breaded veal cutlet (very tasty) with red onions, basil leaves and tomato, with two rather tasty small roast potatoes and a salad of small bias-sliced slivers of young asparagus. The asparagus was served quite al dente, and was very good. I was in the mood for less al dente, so it wasn't quite what I was looking for, but it was good. The dish overall was excellent.
To finish up, we had an affogato. It was made with a small scoop of vanilla bean gelato, a generous shot of excellent espresso, and a good-sized dollop of delectable sweetened whipped cream (Schlagsahne a German would be proud of). It was one of the best affogatos I have had the pleasure of enjoying. Outstanding!
The total for the whole thing including one coke (no wine, no further drinks other than iced water -- which was unfortunately rather chlorinated) came to a pretty reasonable $73. We had a $20 OpenTable dining cheque, so that made it an even more affordable meal, but even without it was good value. Plus, our reservation should be earning us 1000 OpenTable points. :)
I think this place is worth a try for anybody considering it.
Oh, by the way, the decor was very pleasant. It is a comfortably uncrowded space decorated in nice subtle warm earth tones. There was just the right amount of art-work and decoration so that it wasn't empty-feeling but wasn't cluttered. There is a wrought-iron theme, with small wrought iron sculptures in gaps, wrought iron sconces for the lights, and iron chandeliers, as well as a few other things like that. Other than that, there's a few pieces of art tastefully placed around the restaurant, which fit in very nicely with the rest of the decor, blending nicely (due to containing a lot of earth tones even though they are bold in places) while still being aesthetically pleasing in and of themselves.
Nice review! We had many similar dishes when we went a couple of weeks earlier, including the appetizers. The appetizers were excellent - maybe the squash was tastier a couple weeks ago - but we were underwhelmed by the entrees, one of which had a similar problem with undercooked vegetables. Another problem is that they were underseasoned, and in particular undersalted, but there was no salt available on the table.
It's promising, but we'll wait a while before going back to see how things settle out, and to give them a chance to use better spring produce than you can get in the winter. The carrot gnocchi dish already seems a little tweaked from when we were there. Maybe they will be able to afford salt on the tables soon :).
On the way from September to opening they moved the concept from Italian to more Mediterranean/European, including a bit of Spanish influence.
Well, that didn't take long - they are closed. Selling mediocre food at high prices is not an avenue to success even in good times. There was an article in the Town Crier where the owners seem to blame everyone but themselves and their deliciousness/price ratio for their problems. We never went back after our first visit - there are too many excellent places around demanding our attention instead.