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Good to great places in the Peninsula ...

  • osho Feb 12, 2009 04:06 PM
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After several years of being in SF, we're moving to the Peninsula.

From what I remember - almost a decade ago, the peninsula has a lot of good to great destinations.

What I would like is some assistance from fellow 'hounds who are peninsula residents with locating those cherished gems and avoiding the misses.

To give you an idea of what some of my favourites in the city are ...

Japanese

Sebo
Sushi Koo
Kyo-Ya
Katana-Ya

Chinese

Zone 88
Z & Y Cafe
Henry's Hunan and Xiao Loong (in a pinch)

Italian

Perbacco
Aperto
Delfina

Pizza

Little Star
Delfina
Victor's

Seafood

Woodhouse
Hog Island

French Bistros

Jeanty
Absinthe
L'Ardoise

Indian

Lahore Karahi
Punjab Kabob House

Fine Dining

Dining Room at the Ritz
Vitrine

Essentially looking for reasonable equivalents of these places .... thanks in advance !

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  1. Regarding Indian food, I think you hit the nail on the head with your biriyani post :) I may be wrong but expect to pay more as the restaurants in the Peninsula tend to be full service vs. no frills, counter service (except of course Amber SF). I can only think of Hyderabad House in Palo Alto & couple of Pakistani places in Sunnyvale, namely Shan & Shalimar which are counter service. In case you're interested, the peninsula & the South Bay are home to some of the best S.Indian restaurants in the area, namely Annapoorna, San Mateo, Madras Cafe, Saravan Bhavan, & Komala Vilas, all in Sunnyvale to name a few.

    http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/564493
    http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/587931

    I'm sure hounds more knowledgable will chime in on your other requests although you just may have to make date nights in the City for seafood, pizza & Italian. Little gems that come to mind are Casablanca (great chicken tagine) & New Kapadokia (Turkish) in Redwood City.

    No taquerias?

    1 Reply
    1. re: ceekskat

      People will throw rocks at me for this, but after moving to SF from the Monterey area, we just lost our taste for Mexican food. El Huarache Loco and Los Pastores were the only places we liked in the city. I hope to discover some authentic Mexican as well in the Peninsula - any pointers ?

    2. Moved from the Peninsula to San Francisco a while back, I don't think there's much comparison other than Indian and maybe Mexican. John Bentley's in Redwood City (not the one in Woodside) is probably my favorite. For Mexican, Middlefield Road in unincorporated Redwood City is excellent, along with some places in Mt. View. You're not going to find oysters on the Peninsula like in the city. There's a few good Japanese places.

      Twenty years on the Peninsula and I probably ate dinner out in the city at least five times as much as on the Peninsula.

      1. For Japanese and Chinese, you have so much to choose from that is comparable and better on the Peninsula (San Mateo, Millbrae, Burlingame, Redwood City, Mountain View) than in the City, you're going to forget those.

        For pizza, Speederia in San Carlos has better slices than Victor's. I like the wood-fired pizza at La Strada in Palo Alto better than Delfina's with the caveat that I haven't been to the new location on Fillmore yet.

        Old Port Lobster Shack in Redwood City supplies lobsters to Woodhouse, so go to the source.

        This week I tried Divino in Belmont for the first time. It's owned by Vicenzo Cucco, who is the chef at Bacco in SF. I thought it was quite good, not as formal as Bacco, and can probably be compared to the quality at Aperto.

        P.S. I live in the City and am not a Peninsula resident so don't meet your informant criteria.

        11 Replies
        1. re: Melanie Wong

          I've been to pretty much every Japanese place on the Peninsula and never found anything that could compare to Koo or Maki. It's very generic and un-adventurous. There used to be a great place in Cupertino, but I think the chef is older now and may have retired. Chinese, it's usually more greasy and, other than a few places in Millbrae and one in Belmont, not much beyond standard. And Speederia, which I have eaten at many times, I can't understand how anyone could compare it to Delfina, or Beretta for that matter. Apathetically cooked by people who have never had good pizza.

          I haven't been to Divina, so I can't comment on that. Stick to John Bentley's and you can have some terrific food.

          1. re: realspear

            Could you tell us about your meals at Hamon Washoku, Wakuriya, Yuzu, Sakae, Kaygetsu, Himawari, or Juban?

            Are you forgetting Shanghai East, LIttle Shanghai, Crouching Tiger, Little Sichuan, Happy Cafe, Joy Luck Place, Little Sheep, Noodle Shop, Sunny Shanghai, Classic Sichuan, Fat Wong's, Everyday Beijing, Joy, or Fu Lam Mum to name just a few of the non-Millbrae top Chinese picks?

            I compared Speederia to Victor's, not Delfina, they both sell slices, so I'm assuming that's why the OP asked.

            1. re: Melanie Wong

              I forgot about Kaygetsu, I would say that is a standout on the Peninsula. I would give Juban as an example of what is wrong on the Peninsula, though. I used to eat there when it first opened and found the quality of the meat went down and the sides also.

              1. re: realspear

                Both Kaygetsu (Menlo Park) and Wakuriya (San Mateo) serve kaiseki and are generally considered superior to Kyo-ya though like any other "best of" list, that ebbs and flows over time.

                Thanks for the update on Juban. The last eating report for the Menlo Park location that I can find is from Sept 2006, http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/319112

                And for "osho" in the bistro category, I'd suggest Bistro Elan in Palo Alto, but again with the caveat that I haven't been there for a while. It's not strictly French. Always felt that it was priced a bit high for what you get, but what isn't these days. Would love to hear more recent experiences.

                1. re: Melanie Wong

                  I shall try Bistro Elan. Sounds like a decent Euro brunch destination ?

                  1. re: osho

                    No, sorry, no brunch at Bistro Elan, according to the website.
                    http://www.bistroelan.com/Bistro_Elan...
                    Drove by it tonight around 9:30pm and it was still packed.

                    If you're not already a member, you might want to sign up for the Silicon Valley Chowdown group, http://groups.yahoo.com/group/svchowd... , covering the Peninsula and the South Bay.

                  2. re: Melanie Wong

                    Bistro Basia, also on California Ave. in Palo Alto, is another great French bistro spot. It's been a while since I've been to either Basia or Elan; I need to fix that!

                    Michael

                    -----
                    Bistro Basia
                    201 South California Avenue, Palo Alto, CA

                    1. re: mdg

                      Alas, Bistro Basia is no more. I really enjoyed it while it was still alive.
                      Ed

                  3. re: realspear

                    Did you try the wagyu (Japanese beef) option at Juban? I agree that Juban isn't exactly cheap, but it is the only yakiniku place around. Of course one can always head to Santa Clara or Oakland for superior Korean BBQ instead. But where else can you get grilled beef tongue, or yakiniku using Japanese beef?

                    1. re: K K

                      I've been going to Juban on Broadway since they opened and have been loyal since day one and it is the only yakiniku place around as KK mentioned. The price does get you and they just recently stopped doing the happy hour prices which is a shame b/c on mondays and tuesdays the boneless short rib and rib eye were half off per order ( I think they just switched owners again). Every time they switch owners they seem to keep the quality of the meat and they just downsize the portions to cut cost.

                      My visit last week was disappointing since I think they finally decided to downgrade the quality of meat. The tongue was extra tough and the ribeye had no marbling to it. The only thing I enjoyed was the boneless shortrib that came with a promotion. Even the Juban salad tasted different.

                      I'll have to go back again to see if it was a one time thing...I sure hope it is.

              2. re: Melanie Wong

                Melanie, Thanks for the tips on Old Port and Pizza and you meet my informant criteria anyday ! :-)

                The Pac Hts location of Delfina is not better or worse than the one in the Mission.

              3. Hey Osho. Glad to have you down here.

                Some of my favorites...

                Japanese:

                Yuzu - Good sushi. They have an oyster dish that is reminiscent of spoonful of happiness...oysters with uni and ponzu sauce. I think they are kusshi oysters. They also have oyster happy hour which I have never been to but might give you your hog island fix.

                Sushi Sams - Good sushi. Check out their white board menu. Also good cooked japanese food IMO.

                Oidon - My go to place for izakaya fare...get some takoyaki

                Chinese:

                Happy Cafe - Shanghainese food. I like to get the pork chop rice, pig ears, spicy beef tendon.

                Broadway Bistro - chan cha tang

                Little Sheep Mongolian Hot Pot - Hot Pot

                There are a lot more in the Japanese and Chinese category...I'm sure others will fill you in.

                -----
                Broadway Bistro
                349 Broadway, Millbrae, CA 94030

                Happy Cafe Restaurant
                250 S B St, San Mateo, CA 94401

                Little Sheep Mongolian Hot Pot
                215 S Ellsworth Ave, San Mateo, CA 94401

                Yuzu
                54 37th Ave, San Mateo, CA 94403

                Sushi Sam's
                218 E 3rd Ave, San Mateo, CA 94401

                Oidon
                71 E 4th Avenue, San Mateo, CA

                1 Reply
                1. re: EnderWiggin

                  Thanks for the many tips - Ender. OT- fellow fan of Mr Card here.

                2. "Essentially looking for reasonable equivalents of these places." In my experience the most interesting restaurants anywhere are generally unique, but I took the request to mean equivalently worth while.

                  As Melanie demonstrated, a strength among the very numerous Peninsula and South Bay restaurants (contiguous regions) -- many of which opened in recent years -- are Asian, some with unusual specialties. There are also high-end destination restaurants in a contemporary European or "modern American" style (for special occasions, or dinners by food-wine groups, or wine shops showcasing new wines to the public). 231 Ellsworth (San Mateo) and Village Pub (Woodside) are squarely in this category. Marché (Menlo Park) maybe, though the chef who made it known, with his high-end comfort foods, left to make pizza. Chez TJ (Mountain View) certainly, though it has changed chefs often lately and each alters its style. More restaurants in this category are farther south or southwest. (A few years ago when the Bay Area's first Michelin came out, I mentioned it could have given stars to more of these restaurants than it did, including Village Pub and the reborn Plumed Horse in Saratoga; the guide has now done so.)

                  -----
                  Chez TJ
                  938 Villa Street, Mountain View, CA 94041

                  231 Ellsworth
                  231 South Ellsworth Ave., San Mateo, CA 94401

                  Village Pub
                  2967 Woodside Rd., Woodside, CA 94062

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

                  Marche Restaurant
                  898 Santa Cruz Avenue, Menlo Park, CA 94025

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: eatzalot

                    Hello eatzalot, I've eaten at 231 Ellsworth and both the wife and I were decidedly not impressed. Look forward to trying the other 3 mentioned here.

                    1. re: osho

                      Sorry to hear of your negative experience, osho. I hope you'll try 231 Ellsworth more. For what it's worth, I've experienced 231 several times (since the reorganization, in 2000 I think) with only positive experiences. Like various locals I know who have a bit of experience with these places. One thing that stood out about 231, which attracts special notice from people like wine-dinner organizers, is that 231 was able to deliver a level of experience roughly comparable to Village Pub or other higher-profile places but on a smaller budget.

                  2. For Taiwan style Chinese check out Joy in Foster City. Excellent handmade noodles and dumplings. Lion's Head and Hand Cut Noodles with Braised Beef were excellent. People give their Stinky Tofu high marks too but I haven't tried it yet.

                    Refuge in San Carlos doesn't fit neatly into one of your categories, but it's worth mentioning because the quality is top-notch. The best housemade pastrami in the bay area, great beer selection.

                    For fine dining, you could include Chez TJ in Mountain View. Maybe MV is part of the South Bay, but it's worth driving the extra 5 minutes if you want that kind of experience.

                    -----
                    Joy Restaurant
                    1489 Beach Park Blvd, Foster City, CA 94404

                    Chez TJ
                    938 Villa Street, Mountain View, CA 94041

                    The Refuge
                    963 Laurel St, San Carlos, CA 94070

                    1. Let's see....

                      You will not find a place like Sebo or Koo in the Peninsula. They are unique outliers that actually make a road trip to SF worth it.

                      But in terms of Japanese these are the Peninsula noteworthies (many have already been mentioned), aka the beyond sushi/tempura/teriyaki type places

                      Kaiseki / Hybrid-fusion Cali style kaiseki:
                      -Wakuriya (San Mateo)
                      -Kaygetsu (Menlo Park), note that Wakuriya is a bit cheaper

                      The newcomer
                      - Hamon Washoku (San Carlos). It's like a mini hybrid of kaiseki but also incorporating Kyoto style kappo cuisine. Never eaten here.

                      Ramen:
                      -Santa Ramen (San Mateo)
                      -Himawari (San Mateo), non ramen dishes also available like fried rice, gyoza etc

                      Sushi
                      - Sakae (Burlingame) arguably the best. Much bigger pieces than Koo and tip top quality fish
                      - Sushi Sam's (San Mateo). Neighborhood type place, high prices, 20 to 30 types of special fish on white board, but when they are busy don't expect your nigiri to look sexy. Sam's been doing a lot of fusion to his nigiri, kind of splurging various oddball toppings and sauces that complicates the natural flavors of the fish, do give them a try though as there are a few items that actually work with this quirky fusion style.
                      - Sushi Kei (Millbrae). Small nigiri pieces, nice neighborhood place but a very cold feel as the chef is the strong silent type (unless you are a fluent Japanese speaker). You order sushi through the waitress. Probably the last bastion of truly vinegared sushi rice (as opposed to sweet)

                      I do not recommend any other sushi bar otherwise.

                      Downtown San Mateo, Millbrae, Redwood City etc is otherwise flooded with Korean and Chinese run sushi restaurants if you want your fancy rolls fix. Avoid Sushi Bistro and only get cooked food at Ni-Mo. Hotaru is Japanese run, open 365 days a year, but does the generics ok with value (tempura, teriyaki, the usual suspects of nigiri, chawamushi, udon) but nothing to woo about.

                      Izakaya

                      -Oidon (next door upstairs to suruki) - probably the closest to a real izakaya, but I have not been in a while.
                      -Izakaya Mai (cheap saba nigiri, horrible ankimo, has a menu that looks like a Japanese Denny's, I hear the champon ramen is great)
                      -Lakuni (go with a Japanese speaker, and if you don't order alcohol, don't expect the wife to smile much). I remember the oyster nabe with milk or soymilk inside being quite delicious.
                      - Yuzu (San Mateo). Sister restaurant to Sakae, but much smaller environment. Was originally conceived to be an izakaya but a lot of people go there for sushi. I'll tell you off the bat that sushi is actually a bit of a weak link there. Focus on the cooked dishes menu, like grilled butter/pepper asparagus and mushroom, or white board special cooked food (stewed beef tendon, stewed sea bream head). If you must get sushi, try kurodai or white fish. Maybe yuzu tobiko.

                      For high end western type dining, Lure in San Mateo is pretty good. Some Japanese elements in the menu/cooking.

                      Chinese....

                      Grace Garden (Burlingame) - Korean Chinese
                      Cafe Selena or Broadway Bistro (Millbrae) - HK style cafe, although I prefer Selena
                      Little Sheep Mongolian Hot Pot (San Mateo) - excellent
                      Everyday Beijing (San Mateo) - dumplings, beef tendon appetizer, beef noodle soup, the pork multi layered cake (jing dong rou bing), or see older posts
                      Joy in Foster City
                      Joy Luck Place in San Mateo for dim sum
                      All those Shanghainese places Melanie has already mentioned
                      Formosa Bento House in Redwood City (home style Taiwanese quick eats, bento box combos are nice like the pork chops, and beef noodle soup, all natural no MSG)

                      9 Replies
                      1. re: K K

                        Part 2:

                        Should you go as far south to Mountain View, the top Japanese place there is Kappo Nami Nami. Don't go there for sushi (although they offer nigiri and sashimi). Focus on the cooked dishes (miso beef tongue, black sesame tofu). I've never been for dinner but many of my trusted friends with likeminded tastebuds swear by it. The trick is to call ahead for a reservation and request the seasonal omakase, which will run anywhere from $50 to $75 per.

                        The "best" ramen shop in Mountain View is Maruichi (flagship store). In house machine made noodles, flour imported from Japan. 5 variants of broth (spicy red miso, tonkotsu, tonkostu with black sesame oil (aka Kuro), Miso (not bad), Shoyu (half decent, I taste more chicken bones in the broth), much much better value than Santa Ramen and lesser wait.

                        Then there's Jin Sho in Palo Alto, which I suppose is a variation in a similar way to Koo with Nobu NY influences (both chef owners are Nobu NY alumni). Again, do away with the menu, sit at the bar in front of the chefs, and engage them in conversation (like you would do with Kiyoshi-san). Then tell them what you'd like and you're willing to try new and different things. They will fix you up. Depending on the # of courses, $50 to $75+ omakase. Or you can request purely nigiri omakase. Don't miss the fresh anago (prepped from a live sea eel imported from Japan), and if they have it, try skewered grilled anago liver, or its liver in a clear soup (anago kimo suimono). If you request the liver soup the chef might know who alluded to this discovery..... ;-). I'd say this is your best bet for "fusion" that comes close to Koo but very different. Just avoid sitting at the tables and order the "omakase" from the menu, totally different animal. And if you get offered or upsold the gindara (black cod) misoyaki, pass on it, even though it's a signature dish of theirs.

                        And don't miss Sumika in Los Altos, for authentic albeit high end/$ yakitori. Definitely will be pricier than Halu on SF in Clement for something similar, but defintiely good quality.

                        1. re: K K

                          KK, Thanks so much for all this priceless input, I can already see myself having a wild time at the numerous Japanese establishments described in this thread at great length.

                          1. re: K K

                            I know this is an old thread, but I finally dropped into Kappo Nami Nami. Spur of the moment, for some reason nearly empty on a Thursday. The menu is excellent, with about 8 specials and several pages of "other". The standout dish was beef sausage rolled in cabbage: could have been a polish dish, somehow translated through osaka. The final page of the menu has a few items of "regional specalties that are no longer easy to find". I find traces of it here on chowhound, but between the high quality of the menu, and seriously unusual menu --- we'll be back.

                            -----
                            Kappo Nami Nami
                            240 Castro St, Mountain View, CA 94041

                          2. re: K K

                            K K, thanks for mentioning Kappo Nami Nami. It is Kappo-style, itself rare around here; it's one of the newer restaurants in downtown MV (a year or so), and one of the most elegant and interesting IMO. (Of COURSE they will go to Mountain View, to try some of the other 92 restaurants currently in that small downtown -- largest restaurant density on the peninsula, built up in the last 10 years. Current list at link below.)

                            K K, what do you think of the nearby Sushi Tomi, 635 W. Dana? It's a more conventional sushi restaurant, been there many years, but with a very experienced chef who does sophisticated omakases on request. (Seems also to've opened a second location not long ago.)

                            http://www.mountainviewca.net/downtow...

                            -----
                            Kappo Nami Nami
                            240 Castro St, Mountain View, CA 94041

                            Sushi Tomi
                            635 W Dana St, Mountain View, CA 94041

                            1. re: eatzalot

                              Well KNN was opened by Keisuke Suga who used to own Hanamaru sushi boat place in Sunnyvale, and he had the right entrepeneurial idea. Mr Suga also was former co-owner of Himawari, so sold his share to his partner, so he could finance KNN and it was the right move. There are way too many Chinese and Korean run generic Japanese restaurants, that one has to be specialized and unique to stay ahead of the competition, but there are also segments of the population that don't enjoy this different type of cuisine as much.

                              KNN opened up in....2007? Can't remember.

                              Sushi Tomi has been around 10 or so years. It's actually the younger sister to the older sister restaurant Tomi Sushi in San Jose (apparently much older). If you're a casual nigiri sushi fan, it's a good neighborhood type place, and prices can creep up. I used to love that place 9 years ago, but they've not always been on top of their game. The only guy there that knows his craft cold is the owner Takao-san, and he's not always at the bar (almost never during lunch time). The head sushi chef at the bar (currently) there is improving but he's no Takao-san. It's night vs day between the way they make nigiri. Akane in Los Altos is way better value for your money (nigiri) even though they may not have the exotic stuff that Tomi does sometimes.

                              1. re: K K

                                Yes, Takao was the senior chef I referred to at Tomi. K K, have you experienced those omakase dinners that he does by request? I have not, but knowledgeable friends did, and said he pulled out all the stops, also using pure Wasabi (rather than the diluted and colored compound customary at Japanese restaurants hereabouts). Also the specific sister restaurant I cited may have a different name, I recall it as not in SJ and that the MV restaurant advertised specials celebrating its opening a couple of years back, but I may be mistaken.

                                1. re: eatzalot

                                  Yes I've eaten Takao-san's nigiri omakase many times. He's amazing.

                                  Takao-san, Taka-san (of Tomi Sushi) and a few other partners form some sort of conglomerate that own:

                                  - Hana in San Jose (Japanese style Chinese, gyoza, Sichuan noodle dishes, boiled dumplings etc), Takao-san's wife Miki runs the place.
                                  - Sushi Tomi (MV)
                                  - Tomi Sushi (San Jose)
                                  - Sumiya Yakitori (Santa Clara)
                                  - Sushi Maru (San Jose and Milpitas) kaitenzushi
                                  - Maruichi Ramen (Milpitas and Mountain View)

                            2. re: K K

                              what did you have at lure? i found it to be a deeply unsatisfying experience.

                              http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/5634...

                              1. re: artemis

                                From one visit in Dec 07

                                -----

                                House bread was warm small wheat sourdough delivered per piece to the table.

                                The seafood crudo platter ($24) was a trio of what our waiter introduced as "Italian style sashimi" of two very large pieces of hamachi with a little caviar and tangerine oil, artic char (orange flesh like salmon) with an interesting pesto like sauce with finely diced cubes of avocado, and 6 mini pieces of kanpachi that was a bit on the stringy side but elegantly topped with alternating caviar and what appeared to be a light flavored wasabi tobiko.

                                Pan roasted seabass with celery root pancakes with a raisin, lemon, and almond pesto that tasted like fruitcake. This was actually $28 vs $27 on the online menu. The seabass was a bit overcooked, a tad bit too salty and dry, but decent flavor.

                                Hokkaido scallops - with butternut squash puree and deep fried kale (done to the point that it was uber uber crispy and small, that's the best way to eat this uber nutritious but overall horrendous tasting veg). The scallops were a tad bit well done but the flavors were there. If you're a huge fan of Hokkaido Scallops and if it is uber fresh, then it is best eaten raw with no condiments or sauce (unlike Sushi Sam's around the corner who may or may not sear it, dunk some salty sauce and yuzu tobiko over it to mask potential fishy flavors). $27

                                Dessert:

                                French butter pear and Frangipane Tart with Green Cardamom Ice Cream - $8.The tart was a sizeable slice, but unfortunately way too strong in almond flavors (almost drowned). I like roasted almonds or slivers of them on the side but too much is a turnoff. The Cardamom ice cream was a nice touch, and tasted like ginger.

                                Darkest Chocolate Pudding Cake with Chantilly and Raspberries - $8 - nice

                                Cappuccino - $4.

                                Total damage, close to $120 with tip.

                                It's nowhere near as good as fine dining in SF, but for downtown San Mateo it is definitely better than Kingfish, 231 Ellesworth.

                            3. Can you say which city you'll be in? There are different neighborhood gems all over, and which ones you'll want to try first will likely be different if you're in Millbrae or Menlo Park.

                              The most notable cuisine where this area (counting both Peninsula and South Bay) still falls short of San Francisco is Italian. There are some decent places but nothing as awesome as numerous places in San Francisco.

                              Michael

                              2 Replies
                              1. re: mdg

                                We're going to be in Redwood Shores.

                                Has anyone been to the Dining Room at the Pacific Athletic Club ?

                                1. re: osho

                                  Not since I was 7...but get a berry frosty (smoothie) next door

                              2. "peninsula informant" here. Most of the recs are spot on. The dining scene on the peninsula is just different, and you'll have to find your own way to some extent. From redwood shores, you'll find the mission really is only about 25 minutes away, so you don't have to give up Delfina.

                                Take, for example, Sushi Sam's, which one a friday has a whiteboard as good as anything I've ever seen. I still don't know what beltfish is, but I ate a lot of it one night. The place is a slammin' loud formica place with the best fish anywhere - I don't know a parallel.

                                Among those not mentioned - if you like informal indian, do yourself a favor and try Tabla Taste in Foster City. Under appreciated excellence.

                                Italian is poor, and the closest fine dining is SF (Manressa's farther), although there's gems here and there.

                                Melanie's list of chinese is all the hot spots. None of the places you mention are like the chinese we have down here - that part, you're going to enjoy.

                                4 Replies
                                1. re: bbulkow

                                  We tried this newish (7 month old) Caribbean place yesterday in Palo Alto on Ramona Ave.

                                  It's called Coconuts Caribbean Cafe - specializing in Jamaican food.

                                  We ordered the following :

                                  Chef's Sampler Platter : Codfish Fritters, Jerk Wings, Beef Patties, Crab Cake

                                  Codfish Fritters were more dough than fish, Jerk Wings were really dry, the beef patties were quite good, and my wife said the crab cake was passable.

                                  Unfortunately this was a sign of things to come.

                                  We were really hungry so we ordered a second starter - Coconut Breaded Shrimp, this consisted half a dozen breaded fried Shrimp with Tamarind Ginger Sauce.

                                  I liked the sauce, the shrimp was good quality, but they were made ahead of time and reheated.

                                  And for mains, we ordered the Jamaican classic Jerk Chicken. The rub was tasty and chicken was well seasoned but only on the outside and it was very very dry. I had to drown the chicken in tomatillo salsa and their house habanero sauce to eat it, which is not my preference.

                                  On the way back, we realized that everything was probably reheated. Nothing was freshly prepared.

                                  Damages - $52 with tax, tip and one Red Stripe.

                                  Has anyone had better experiences with the other Caribbean place in Menlo Park ? Back-a-yard ?

                                  -----
                                  Coconuts
                                  642 Ramona Street, Palo Alto, CA 94301

                                  1. re: osho

                                    I think you hit Coconuts on a very bad night. Hopefully they're not all like that now - I've been worried about that place for a while. The space is somewhat cursed.

                                    Coconuts and Back-a-yard are owned by the same people, but couldn't be more different in style - there was a long thread about both of them when Coconuts first opened. Back-a-yard only seats until about 7:30 and closes at 8. It's on the east-palo-alto side of the freeway. It's tiny - maybe 8 tables - all crammed together. My favorite dish is the jerk pork, which they don't have at coconuts.

                                    Back-a-yard will likely soldier through this depression of ours - it has a great price point, it's in a low-competition neighborhood, likely they haven't overpaid for their space, and the food's tasty.

                                    I prefer Back-a-yard, and it's in rotation as a lunch spot, where coconuts isn't at all. I like the food better at Back-a-yard, and the price is better. The only point of coconuts is it's open when I eat dinner. Back-a-yard is also about 10 minutes closer to redwood shores.

                                    They do tend to overcook their meat a bit, but never so much that I minded, as I was always thinking about the delicious sauce.

                                    1. re: bbulkow

                                      Coconuts seems to have two links; I'm posting to the one where most of the past reviews are.

                                      Michael

                                      -----
                                      Coconuts
                                      642 Ramona Street, Palo Alto, CA 94301

                                    2. re: osho

                                      Coconuts is one of our favorite places in Palo Alto. Everything we've had has been good to great on our three visits, and mostly great. We haven't had the Jerk Chicken entree, but the Jerk Pork special was very tasty, and we liked everything on our chef sampler platter. My favorite entrees have been the curried goat and braised oxtails, but the jerk salmon, curried shrimp, and ribs have all be great too. The corn festivals are awesome and the sweet potato pudding dessert is wondrous. Coconuts' dishes really lock into the taste of fine Caribbean food that I remember from past vacations. We've always gone on Friday and Saturday nights though, not on Sundays.

                                      Sorry that you had a bad experience, but please consider that you seem to have ordered all dry dishes and none of the saucy dishes. If you give it another chance in the future, a more varied mix of dishes might make for a more enjoyable meal.

                                      Michael

                                  2. This has been a wonderful thread -- lots of recommendations worth reading. I think that the Peninsula has a long list of restaurants with particular dishes worth having. That's not unusual, since every chef and every diner realizes that there's a sweet spot somewhere, even when the rest isn't good. Here are some restaurants I go back to often for particular items (every one of them has good food as a whole):

                                    Saravana Bhavan, Sunnyvale: especially consider the 12-piece mini idli. I don't know why their mini idli are so delicate, but they are.

                                    Himawari, San Mateo: you want the shio (salt) broth, and you might consider any corn / butter combination.

                                    Kappo Nami Nami, Mountain View: I have had wonderful black cod preparations, but consistently comforting is the tai cha (ochazuke), which is a ball of rice in smoky tea broth, with small pieces of snapper (tai) on top, cooked only by the heat of the broth.

                                    Happy Café, San Mateo: try pork kidneys with ginger. Remember: only open at lunch

                                    Dosa Place, Sta Clara: paper dosa (yay!)

                                    Trend, Mountain View: fish filet with Sichuan pepper and chillies

                                    Joy, Foster City: almost any of the dumplings, especially pot-stickers

                                    Backayard, Menlo Park: chicken curry (even for someone who rarely likes chicken); escaveitch (order it whole, rather than in filets).

                                    La Casita Chilanga, Redwood City: the torta called La Milan, which is a milanesa torta

                                    And I wish I had special places for the following:

                                    - ama ebi
                                    - salt fish fried rice
                                    - meatball grinders
                                    - ragù bolognese
                                    - sweetbreads
                                    - root vegetable soup
                                    - fried chicken gizzards
                                    - red lentils (Zeni in San Jose comes close)
                                    - butter-fried sage leaves
                                    - biscuits and gravy

                                    5 Replies
                                    1. re: David Sloo

                                      The salt fish fried rice at Joy Palace is pretty good. Nice bits of salty goodness. Silver House has it too. I've had sweetbreads at John Bently's in woodside. I'd love not just fried chicken gizzards, but fried chicken livers like SPQR has.

                                      1. re: peppatty

                                        Haven't had it in a while but second the sweetbreads at John Bentley's (RWC).

                                      2. re: David Sloo

                                        If you're willing to travel to San Jose, A Slice of New York has totally amazing meatball subs with house made meatballs and bread. The meatballs have to be some sort of multi-meat blend, maybe with veal; they are so complex but with some nice lightness.

                                        Michael

                                        -----
                                        A Slice of New York
                                        3443 Stevens Creek Blvd, San Jose, CA 95117

                                        1. re: David Sloo

                                          Happy Cafe is open for dinner Wednesdays, and I think Friday-Sunday now.

                                          1. re: David Sloo

                                            What I was realizing the other day about peninsula food is I might not have the high points, but I"m hitting a larger range of restaurants than I did in the east bay and san francisco. Simply because parking's easier, driving's easier, and the restaurant density might be higher on a time-radius basis.

                                            There's more restaurants on University Ave in PA than on Solano in berkeley (Univ. has side streets --- but either way). Castro Street is 10 minutes from my house, where reparking anywhere in SF was a 10 minute task.

                                            It's hard to get across in a forum, though, because it's not like you'll make a list of the 300 restaurants I enjoy within 10 minutes of my house. You talk about the detinations, the high points, of which SF has more.