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Jul 13, 2008 11:23 AM

Looking for South Bay upscale-ish options

I'm looking to send a couple newlywed friends out for a nice dinner in the San Jose / South Bay area - any solid recommendations / new additions to the area? Any sage advice would be much appreciated. Thanks.

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  1. Where will the happy couple live & what's the budget?

    Dio Deka
    Plumed Horse - completely remodeled, heard it is good but very expensive.

    Not so upscalish:
    Olio (very new)
    The Basin
    James Randall

    edit: Just thought about "upscale-ish". The Basin fits the bill. Located in quaint downtown Saratoga, restaurant has bar w/ TV off to the side, secluded back area, patio dining (I think). Haven't been to Olio in Campbell - menu looks good.

    6 Replies
    1. re: ceekskat

      Just went to the new Plumed Horse last night. While the tasting menu wasn't as adventurous as Manresa's, it has a lot to recommend it, and is a good value: $200 before t/t gets you 7 courses (relatively large portions compared to FL, Manresa, Chez TJ) plus wine pairings. We were also served a complimentary dessert and mignardises.

      Not all dishes and wines were successful, but several were spectaular and worth a return trip: foie gras w/ roasted tomato and duck jus; duck fat-fried potatoes w/ a "fondue" of cream, butter, garlic, and summer truffles that took them to another dimension - I could have licked the bowl!

      Service was great. When I didn't like one of the wines (a really wimpy white Burgundy) the sommelier substituted it with another, and then supplemented my Spaslese with a Sauterne on the next course.

      The main dining room is lit by 3 huge discs of lights, and the bar/lounge has a lovely, long fireplace, chic couches, and chairs. The women's bathroom is worth a visit to see the wash basins; my husband said the men's wasn't the same (based on my description). It's definitely a visual and culinary improvement over the old Plumed Horse.

      1. re: Claudette


        The Plumed Horse
        14555 Big Basin Way, Saratoga, CA 95070

        1. re: Claudette

          That's not much cheaper than Manresa's tasting menu, which is $220 with the cheaper wine pairing (which I found more interesting than the more expensive one).

          To me, if I spend that kind of money, every single thing should be great.

          1. re: Robert Lauriston

            None of the six of us liked our meals at Manresa. My lamb was full of gristle - inedible, and the maple syrup egg was the only thing that was memorably delicious. Perhaps it was an off night, but for the money we thought it was very over-rated. On top of that, our waiter was so condescending that I wanted to slap him.

            1. re: Claudette

              Huh, my experience was pretty much the opposite, close to perfect on every score. Seems like that's the rule there.

              Manresa Restaurant
              320 Village Lane, Los Gatos, CA 95030

              1. re: Robert Lauriston

                I know the original post is over a year old - just wanted to say that we visited Manresa a week before Xmas '09 and it was an incredible experience... from the food, to the service. No hint of condescension at all. We were treated with genuine warmth by everyone, maitre'd, waiter, sommelier, GM, and David Kinch came out at the end of the night. We were taken back to the kitchen we we got to peek at the inner sanctum :) In fact I think $95 for the four course menu was a good value. I can't imagine doing the tasting menu, because I was incredibly full w/ four courses. The culinary experience continued to the very end of the night... as we were walked out our waiter kept urging us to take more and more of the house-made caramels... and after I ate my first one, I understood why. Manresa is not to be missed.

      2. I would heavily recommend Manresa. Even if the couple does not splurge on the tasting menu, a three/four course dinner would still be great.

        Le Papillon is decent, however for their price range, Manresa is a surer and more interesting experience.

        There are lots of reviews of Manresa here and elsewhere if you want to Google it.

        1. Chez TJ in Mountain View gets excellent reviews and 2 Michelin stars...if that matters. Do a search here.

          1. They all have great food, and the differences IMHO are:
            Manresa has the most innovative food.
            Chez TJ has the most intimate atmosphere.
            Dio Deka has the most lively atmosphere.
            Le Papillion has the most traditional setting and styling (but in a very good way)
            Plumed Horse is the most chi-chi high-end
            (How old is your couple? CTJ's, LP's, and PH's clientele might be a bit on the mature side; Manresa and DD usually have a younger clientele. )

            1. If your newlywed friends are young, I would recommend Pampas (brazilian/grilled meats) in Palo Alto. Dio Deka is also a fun choice if they're a youngish couple. Both Manresa and Plumed Horse have a pretty sedate atmosphere which can be interpreted as stuffy for most young folks. Young people also love La Fondue in Saratoga so that can be another choice. Chez TJ is very romantic although I haven't eaten there since the chef's change so I'm not sure what it's like now. Manresa would be the best choice if your friends are true food lovers with sophisticated taste levels.