I had a really good meal at Tamarine in Palo Alto a few weeks ago - was planning to write it up, then got distracted. I jotted down the names of the dishes though... we really liked the shrimp cupcakes (aka bahn khot - thick, concave rice flour pancakes with a shrimp in the middle - these were distinctly coconutty and seasoned to be eaten without any dipping sauce), the glass noodles with crab (noodles were slightly overcooked, but still good), quail stuffed with sticky rice, the clay pot cod, the rice-crusted halibut, the lemongrass basil, and the wild boar tenderloin (I didn't get to taste that one, but I heard it was good). Liked the coconut rice more than the pandan.
Less successful - the Ngo Om chicken (a peanutty satay-like sauce, kind of flat compared to the rest of the dishes) and the shaking beef (although, I have yet to taste a shaking beef a like, so I think it may be a personal prejudice against the flavor of tenderloin marinated in soy sauce. Ate a lot of it as a kid, don't care for it now).
The two meals I've had at Tamarine were significantly better than the two meals I've had at Slanted Door - I've pretty much written off Slanted Door, but Tamarine is one of the two upscale restaurants in Palo Alto that I really like (the other is La Strada - excellent salumi, and I love the sausage ravioli in brown butter and any pasta with long-cooked meat sauce.)
546 University Ave., Palo Alto, CA 94301
335 University Ave, Palo Alto, CA 94301
Los Altos is finally undergoing a bit of a restaurant boom, with several restaurants that could do just fine if they were in San Francisco. Downtown, Zitune is a wonderful Cal-Moroccan restaurant with a chef who used to work at Gary Danko. A couple blocks away, Sumika is a wonderful Japanese grill using imported Japanese hardwood. Akane is a nice sushi place downtown that does well in Sushi Monster's list, especially considering the value. Away from downtown, Estrellita has some of the best Mexican food in the Bay area, especially when you stick to the monthly specials and Chicken Oaxaca. Right now there are particularly good crab enchiladas and Christmas mole tamales available. All are moderately priced except for Zitune which is expensive but worth it.
Indian food is a particular strength in this area, especially relative to San Francisco, but the main choices are in Sunnyvale (Madras Cafe for dosas and vegetarian, Saravana Bhavan for more vegetarian offerings in a larger space, Taste Buds for meat as well as vegetarian dishes in a mostly take-out space) and Mountain View (Amber India for fancier food and more northern dishes). These are all close to Los Altos; all except Amber are inexpensive.
For the top end, Chez TJ in Mountain View is the best bet close to Los Altos.
"Peninsula" usually refers to places a bit farther north than Los Altos, like the ones in the previous replies (Burlingame, San Carlos, Redwood City). So it might be good to rename this topic to "Best Los Altos Dining" if that is possible.
Enjoy! You have a lot better options now than a couple years ago!
971 N San Antonio Rd, Los Altos, CA 94022
236 Central Plz, Los Altos, CA 94022
Saravana Bhavan USA
1305 S Mary Ave, Sunnyvale, CA 94087
1177 W El Camino Real, Sunnyvale, CA 94087
938 Villa Street, Mountain View, CA 94041
Amber India Restaurant
2290 El Camino Real Suite 9, Mountain View, CA 94040
325 Main St, Los Altos, CA 94022
673 Grape Ave, Sunnyvale, CA 94087
I've had a few very good meals at mid-peninsula restaurants that you could hit on the way home. Had an excellent experience tonight and previously at Yan's Garden on Laurel in San Carlos. It is very satisfying, if not authentic Chinese with average prices and very pleasant service. Not a hole-in-the wall place. Nice atmosphere.
We've been to La Tosca several times, and it has always been really delish for Italian. One of their especially yummy items is gnocchi with sage-tomato sauce. Very light yet substantial enough. . Also recently visited Casablanca in Redwood City on Broadway. It is middle eastern with nice atmosphere and service. Had a puff pastry stuffed with shrimp and other items, which was an appetizer but meal-sized for me. Quite tasty and filling. Very good bread as well.