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One lunch and one dinner in San Jose area - suggestions?

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I'm going to be traveling up to San Jose from Los Angeles for one day only. I'll be staying in Mountain View, but I do have a car. What are some places that I should try that I can't really get in LA? It can also be something that is done better in San Jose than in LA. Ethnic food is preferred, but I'm open to anything.


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  1. Better than L.A.? Indian food. I just had another fabulous dinner at Kabab & Curry's last night. Very casual* Indo-pak restaurant with great tandoori chicken & lamb. Recently went to their buffet which is good but not nearly as good as a la carte dinner. They only have biriyanis on weekends but tue-thur, it appears they have different dinner specials & my goal now is try one of those next time. Another suggestion for IndoPak if you don't want to drive all the way to Santa Clara is Shan in Sunnyvale. Amber (Mtn. View) is a good upscale option for lunch buffet or dinner ($13 or $14 for buffet). Saravana Bhavan in Sunnyvale for S.Indian (veg.) food.

    *Waiter takes order at table, but we pay at counter.
    Shan - (408) 524-5301

    In case you feel like a burrito or taco (carnitas) for lunch, original Taqueria La Bamba on Old Middlefield Way. I haven't made it there yet, but it is a CH rec.

    Edit: Will you be in Mountain View at lunch time?

    1. It's been a while since I lived in LA, but I remembered so many great, diverse restos there. ceekskat listed some great suggestions, and I second Amber India in Mt. View for a tablecloth dinner and Kabab & Curry in Santa Clara for a formica-top dinner.

      An alternative tablecloth suggestion would be Dio Deka for very chic, nouveau upscale Greek (call early for reservations); be sure to order lots of lamb, avoid the moussaka, and save room for the yogurt dessert, which is huge, rich, and fantastic. Some CH's don't like the fact that it's not "authentic" but I've had enough bad authentic Greek to appreciate this place, and you won't find such food in LA.

      An alternative formica-top resto would be Aqui in Willow Glen or Campbell. It's cheap, delicious Cal-Mexi-Southwest food, and the specials are so good, innovative, and ever-changing that it took me years to finally order off the regular menu. Last night it was a huge burrito-like chimichanga filled with crab paella.

      Have fun!

      1. I can't get the links to work, so here are some paste-ins:
        Amber India Mt. View

        Kabab & Curry, Santa Clara: http://www.kababandcurrys.com/

        Aqui, Campbell: http://www.aquicalmex.com/location/ca...

        Dio Deka, Los Gatos: http://www.diodeka.com/

        1. Dio Deka in Los Gatos is my go-to place whenever I'm in the San Jose area. There is nothing in LA like it that I know of---New York maybe. It's upscale Greek/pan-Mediterranean. Think Anthos in New York. The Branzino is lovely, and be sure to get the Saganaki starter (fried cheese). So good!

          4 Replies
          1. re: mangefromage

            Thanks for the suggestions! I definitely try to hit up at least one those places. I will be in Mt. View for lunch on a saturday. Maybe Amber for lunch buffet and Dio Deka for dinner?

            1. re: ming

              Hmm, those would be two excellent meals; however, I'm not sure if you'll be able to do Dio Deka justice after an Indian AYCE. Perhaps if you restrain yourself at lunch:-)

              Also, I would recommend Evvia as an alternative to Dio Deka...it is not as spendy, is located in lively downtown Palo Alto & lastly, a little closer to Mtn. View. I recommend their mesquite grilled lamb chops (usually get a half order). I haven't had their roasted fish in a while but that has been good in the past too. Dio Deka was born from Evvia though not the same owners.

              fyi...Shan, one of my recs for Indian has a la carte menu at both lunch & dinner.

              1. re: ceekskat

                Evvia's roasted fish is still very good.

                1. re: ceekskat

                  I second Evvia over Dio Deka. Dio Deka is a pleasant place with excellent lamb chops but it's only marginally Greek. Their taramasalata is gross. It's almost a good thing that they only give you a tiny little scoop, although for the price you could get two jars of a pretty good version at the International Market, just a ways up the road. I'd also add my vote on Amber India, the one in Mtn View (the one in Santana Row doesn't do it for me).

            2. Falafel Drive- In in San Jose is great, if you are into cheap, picnic table atmosphere with great food. Fiesta Del Mar for Mexican in Mountain View, there is one on Shoreline blvd and one Villa st. Best Mole i've ever had. Sneha Indian buffet is great, lots of choices, and mango soft serve is out of this world

              2 Replies
              1. re: spineguy

                Didn't Sneha change its name to Grand Indian Buffet or something like that? By Lawrence Expy in Santa Clara? Or is this a new Sneha? There are so many good Indian buffets around here!

                1. re: spineguy

                  I'll heartily second Falafel Drive-In but would suggest missing Fiesta Del Mar. I believe Sneha is no longer.

                  Afghan House would be my other recommendation.

                2. As others have mentioned, Indian is definitely something that you can get better in the Mountain View area than just about anywhere else in the USA, including LA. Amber India is the best bet for a fancier place. The Mountain View / Sunnyvale border has a ton of great places, including Madras Cafe (the king of dosas) and Mirchi Cafe (great biryanis). Hyderabad House in downtown Palo Alto has the most amazing achari dishes I've ever had, plus great Indian wine by the glass. Shan is OK but nowhere near the quality level of these or several other restaurants in the area.

                  I've never tried Greek food in LA, but Evvia is definitely good for fancy Cal/Greek and is pretty close by in Palo Alto. I prefer it by far over Dio Deka. How's Moroccan food in your area? Zitune is a great Cal/Moroccan place in downtown Los Altos that's another excellent higher-end alternative.

                  You can get better Mexican in LA so I wouldn't try the Mexican places in the Mountain View area. Falafel Drive-In is fun but with the falafel you can get at Zankou Chicken (to name the only place I've tried it in the LA area) it is probably not such a need.

                  Of course, on the really high end is Manresa in Los Gatos - one of the finest restaurants in the country, and very individual in style.


                  Manresa Restaurant
                  320 Village Lane, Los Gatos, CA 95030

                  Madras Cafe
                  1177 W El Camino Real, Sunnyvale, CA 94087

                  Hyderabad House
                  448 University Ave, Palo Alto, CA 94301

                  Amber India Restaurant
                  2290 El Camino Real Suite 9, Mountain View, CA 94040

                  Restaurant Zitune
                  325 Main St, Los Altos, CA 94022

                  Evvia Estiatorio
                  420 Emerson Street, Palo Alto, CA 94301

                  Dynamo Donuts and Coffee
                  2760 24th St, San Francisco, CA 94110

                  12 Replies
                  1. re: mdg

                    Hello. I am in town for the week and am going to try some of these. Tonight off to Kabab and Curry. I am from an area where there are no taquerias and a miniscule mexican population so I would LOVE to find some taquerias around the Santa Clara area even if they don't compare to LA LA land.


                    1. re: sekelmaan

                      Did you make it to Kabab & Curry? How was it?

                      Check out the below thread that should be helpful in your pursuits. Lots of ideas, so let us know if you have specific follow ups.

                      I happened to be in downtown SJ tonight and wanted to finally try Dac Phuc for a steaming bowl of pho bo. Disappointed when we saw the place all dark, we drove down the street headed towards Quang Da for some central Viet food. Spotting Lan's Noodle House across from city hall, we made a quick u-turn. It was super clean inside and rather empty w/ one guy eating, but the warm welcome from the elderly Viet proprietress soothed any hesitation I had. When I inquired how long they've been open, the woman proudly replied 3 years. She said that she's from southern Vietnam.

                      We ordered cha gio (3 fried spring rolls for $3.25), one large bowl of pho bo dac biet ($6.50), and one large bowl of pho bo w/ rare beef (tai) and well-done flank steak ($6.50). Also got one soybean drink and one cafe sua da (iced coffee) for $2ea. We could hear the spring rolls being fried to order in the open kitchen by the female cook. Small and thin w/ lumpia-type wrappers, I liked their flavor and appreciated the nice fry job. Downside was there was no lettuce or herbage for wrapping and the dipping sauce was on the weak side, but it still hit the spot.

                      The large bowls of pho came out piping hot, and the sweet, beefy aroma put a smile on my face. Overall, I would say it was a solid bowl of pho w/ a light, naturally sweet broth. Not too salty or concentrated which was a good thing. The broth was a bit cloudy but it was clean-tasting and sufficiently lively. The thin fresh pho noodles were clumped at the bottom before being released w/ my stirring. The various beef cuts were plentiful and fresh-tasting. More generous than many other places. A weak point was their accessory plate; while the bean sprouts were fresh, there was only a little half-wilted Thai basil, a few jalapeno slivers, and some lime wedges. No mint or other herbs. Fortunately, their broth didn't need a lot of doctoring up. The cafe sua da was good.

                      I'd like to try Dac Phuc next time, but if I was in the area and craving a competent bowl of pho served up by some nice people, I'd definitely return to Lan's. We paid in cash, but I believe they accept CC. Other good places for pho downtown?

                      Pho Lan
                      225 E Santa Clara St, San Jose, CA 95113

                      1. re: Carb Lover

                        Unfortunately, Kabob and Curry is closed on Monday nights. I should have checked. So I went to another Indian/Paki place right across the street. It was a little run down, more of the traditional cafeteria style served on plastics. I had the Nihari, which was all right, but the meat was extremely chewy which led me to think that it wasn't the good ol' fashioned cook in the oven for 24 hours type, but the nice out of the package kind. Also, I tried the goat biryani, which was much better. (I haven't had a biryani in years so don't have anything to compare it to, but will try one at Kabob and Curry today or tomorrow.)

                        Living in the DC area we have tons and tons of Vietnamese restaurants (just last week had an amazing Bun Bo Hue at a new place). But what I would love to find is a taco truck or small, authentic taqueria in the area.

                        1. re: sekelmaan

                          Thanks for reporting back. For taquerias, check the link that I provided in my previous post. I believe that there are a couple downtown taquerias that are mentioned. Further down on Santa Clara St. towards Alum Rock is a taqueria I believe called La Costa specializing in seafood. I have it on my to-try list. There's also a Mi Pueblo market w/ groceries, snacks, and some prepared foods somewhere downtown...I think on Julian? There's also a Salvadorean place around William and 9th St.

                          How is Japanese food in DC? If you have a car, then you could take a short drive (or maybe the lightrail goes there?) to Japantown around Jackson and 5th/6th St. Gombei is pretty popular for homey cooked foods, and you can check out the Nijiya market. I'm not sure if there's an excellent sushi place in J-town. There are some good izakayas in the area, but probably not as fun for solo diners.

                          Happy hunting and let us know what you discover!

                          193 Jackson St, San Jose, CA 95112

                          La Costa
                          1805 Alum Rock Ave, San Jose, CA 95116

                          1. re: sekelmaan

                            I like K&C's lamb biryani the best, but it's only offered on Wed/Fri/Sun. Do NOT miss their naan and their tandoori chicken and lamb ribs - absolutely the best of their class (voted such by my entire family after eating at a couple of dozen Indian restos).

                            If you have time, order a Paper Dosa Masala at Dosa Place, just north on El Camino from K&C: crackling paper-thin dosa over spicy potatoes, and only about $6.

                            1. re: Claudette

                              I wanted to give a final report. I finally made it to K&C one night. I had the lamb kofta and the lamb biryani. The biryani I hate to say was sad sad sad compared to Zafran's goat biryani which is just across the street. The KC biryani was simple, rice, onions, a little lamb, very little spice compared to the intensely complex and heavily spiced and flavoured biryani at Zafran. There were things in the Zafran biryani that I couldn't even identify they were so bizarre.

                              The second dish was the kofta (they were out of nehari). It was excellent, rich and spicy and I lapped it down with a couple nice hot naan's as you suggested.

                              Also, just a note. I read somewhere on these boards about a taqueria in a gas station in Pescadera. I got out of the office a little early on thursday and made my way out there. I tell you what. It was a total of three hours of driving (the sunset on hwy 1 rules, if you didn't know) for a 7 dollar meal of the best tacos I have had in the two years I lived in DC.

                              Thanks everyone for the input and the great suggestions! Look forward to my nect trip out there!!!


                              1. re: sekelmaan

                                Thank you so much for reporting back. I have been meaning to go to Zafran but never got rec/mention from friends. Thanks to you, it is now at the top of my must try list. Can you please give a little more info about Zafran regarding interior, type of service, etc? According to website, it appears biriyani is available only on weekends. Is this correct? Thanks.


                                1. re: ceekskat

                                  Thanks for the report back! I've been recommending Zafran since August, so I'm glad to see it's catching on at last here:


                                  The biryani is available daily, not just on weekends. I'm not sure why the web site led you to believe otherwise. Interior and service are nothing special (for better or worse) than the average Indian restaurant in this area. It's another converted-from-chain location like Shalimar Sunnyvale and Saravana Bhavan, but a bit nicer than most of that type.


                                  Zafran Restaurant
                                  1855 El Camino Real, Santa Clara, CA

                                2. re: sekelmaan

                                  What place is this taqueria in a gas station? I was in Pescadero several weekends ago but don't remember seeing this place.

                                  1. re: katya

                                    There's only one gas station as far as I know. It's on the corner, across the street from the parking lot that's next to Duarte's.

                                    Taqueria y Mercado Los Amigos
                                    1999 Pescadero Creek Rd, Pescadero, CA

                            2. re: Carb Lover

                              I tried the hu tieu nam vang at Lan's a few weeks ago and thought it was quite good. The room has a modern contemporary feel but the food tastes quite traditional. I'd go back again.

                              Pho Lan
                              225 E Santa Clara St, San Jose, CA 95113

                              1. re: Melanie Wong

                                Thanks for another data point, Melanie. Glad to hear Lan's hu tieu nam vang is worth trying too. I was so fixated on getting pho that I didn't notice hu tieu on the menu. I agree that the food tastes pretty traditional.

                                I sent the photos to my mom, and she exclaimed that the spring rolls looked exactly like hers since she also uses the lumpia-style wrappers. The flavor inside was different though given that Lan's has a little pork skin in it.

                                I should note that my photos of the pho don't do it justice; the broth is not so dark or murky as in my photos. I also liked that the broth was restrained on anise and clove spicing, making for a balanced broth. My mom even thought the pho looked pretty good, and that's high praise coming from her!

                                I could understand everything Lan was saying in the kitchen to the cook, and she complemented her on the beauty of her fry job on the rolls. There was a sense of pride in her voice that I appreciated.

                        2. Zeni should be on any must-eat list. I've never had better Ethiopian food anywhere. When my friends come to visit from different parts of the country they always insist on a meal at Zeni.

                          Ethiopian in San Jose - Zeni: Come Come for the Gored Gored, Stay Stay for the Firfir