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Feb 12, 2009 04:06 PM

Good to great places in the Peninsula ...

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 ...


Sushi Koo


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




Little Star


Hog Island

French Bistros



Lahore Karahi
Punjab Kabob House

Fine Dining

Dining Room at the Ritz

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.

    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,

                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.
                    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, , 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!


                    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.

                  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...


                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


                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

                54 37th Ave, San Mateo, CA 94403

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

                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.