Recent San Jose Report
In response to rworange’s suggestion, I am posting about the few other meals I had while in CA. I had a very few number of meals to choose as my own, but I had my heart set on going to Manresa, which I reported about in detail in a previous post. In the meantime, I went to Left Bank Brasserie on Santana Row one night, which was adequate; I had the duck duo, with seared breast and confit, and a peach and frisee salad. The breast was properly cooked to medium rare and was decently flavored but the confit was not very good, with a thin and soggy skin (I’ve had horrible luck with duck confit lately, no crispy skin! I’ll have to fall back on Peking duck for awhile until I am ready to try again) and meat that was neither rich nor salty enough. The peaches did go well with the duck though, and their frites were decent, if uninspired. I sampled another diner’s charcuterie plate, which came with a generous serving of prosciutto, a small ramekin of duck rillettes, some hard salami, and various pickled vegetables, mostly pearl onions and cornichons. The rillettes were seasoned nicely, though more chunky than I prefer, as opposed to a fine, unctuous paste. The prosciutto was good, though it did seem odd at a French restaurant, as did the salami; I would have loved some Rosette de Lyon. There were other restaurants that seemed interesting, but all in all, Santana Row didn’t look like the place for an authentic or compelling meal of any cuisine, though I am assuming that mostly from its shiny and stylized appearance, so please correct me if I am wrong.
One night, I was treated to dinner by the company I was visiting, at the Spinnaker in Sausalito. As a seafood restaurant, I was looking forward to some topnotch West Coast fare. I started with half a dozen oysters and clam chowder. The oysters were very disappointing, almost inedible; they were too dark and smelled old, though I did not know their provenance, so perhaps they were supposed to be dark. Regardless, they were chewy and tasted off. Also, what kind of seafood restaurant doesn’t display the sources of their oysters, if not all of their seafood? The clam chowder was decent, though some bites had grit, which was a step above scary oysters. I had the petite New York strip and half a lobster tail for my entrée, which were also meh. The steak, ordered medium rare, came extremely well done. I should have returned it, but dinner was dragging on interminably, so I made do; it was surprisingly tender enough, though the lobster, a chunk the size of a golf ball, was criminally tough. I had considered the paella, but I am glad I didn’t, because I can only imagine what their rendition would consist of. For dessert, I had the cream puffs with vanilla ice cream, chocolate sauce, and slivered almonds, which were tasty, though the pate a choux pastry was a little tough.
The night before Manresa, I went to Japantown for dinner, first to Gombei for some tonkatsu, and then Tsugaru for sushi. I had the Gombei dinner combination which paired tonkatsu with a curry potato croquette, and also included rice, salad with I think ranch dressing, a battered crab stick, and miso soup, with the inclusion of some potato and white onion. Overall, it was very homey and rib-sticking good. The tonkatsu was tender and almost delicately fried and the croquette had a nice flavor, though it did get slightly monotonous after awhile. Everything was on the same plate except the soup, of course, so the salad dressing kind of made the surrounding fried items soggy after time. It was pretty cheap for all the food they give you, but I was still a mite peckish, and I really wanted sushi, so I headed over to Tsugaru. I had some yellowtail, albacore, mackerel, and salmon. As of late, yellowtail has been my favorite sushi to order, and they did not disappoint. It was delicious, though a little too cold. The mackerel was also very good, slightly poached and finished with sea salt; there was a nice contrast between the lightly cooked exterior and the creamy cool interior. The albacore and salmon were also nice, if a little underwhelming. There was a ramen shop just up the street from Gombei that I really wanted to try, Kumako, but I just didn’t have the gastric capacity for a third meal. I’ll have to seek out ramen close to home I suppose, or head up to NY for Momofuku.
"... what kind of seafood restaurant doesn’t display the sources of their oysters, if not all of their seafood?"
An old-school tourist trap?
193 Jackson St, San Jose, CA 95112
100 Spinnaker Drive, Sausalito, CA 94965
Tsugaru Japanese Restaurant
224 Jackson St, San Jose, CA 95112
Left Bank Brasserie
377 Santana Row Ste 1100, San Jose, CA 95128
Finally catching up on my reading. Thanks so much for the reports. Yeah, you sort of nailed Santana Row. Mostly chains and meh restaurants. Left Bank is part of a local chain with some locations better than others.
Too many Sausalito restaurants, like Fisherman's Wharf in SF, rely on the view and a quick tourist buck. There are a few good places though.
Hopefully we can suggest some better places when you are out this way again.