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May 9, 2009 01:14 PM

Mountain View's Kitchen Table - neokosher

After a lengthy construction period, The Kitchen Table just opened on Castro the other day and we stopped in for lunch.

The decor is dominated by a palette of browns, on the walls, in various textures, and the tables. It has a certain elegance, not exactly casual, but not stiffly formal, either. The dishes and silverware are distinctively shaped. They've put some effort into creating a certain ambience here. We'll see how it plays out as things wear in. Not much of a crowd was there the other day. The menu has Jewish and Middle Eastern dishes along with some characteristic California things and influences. Or is it that it's a California place with Jewish and Middle Eastern influences? Just to be clear, this is not a Jewish deli, though one can find pastrami, corned beef (at lunch), matzo ball soup and knishes, along with all sorts of other things. At lunch, they've also got burgers, salads, yam fries, a variety of appetizers and sandwiches. One could pursue the Jewish side of things or completely ignore it and probably come away happy with the choices.

That said, we went the deli route, splitting a pastrami sandwich, getting a couple of bowls of matzo ball soup and a "curry brined" eggplant appetizer.

The eggplant came firm, but not resistant with hints of curry flavoring and a fermented style briny flavor. It had the texture and taste of herring to no small degree. I'm going to assume that this was an intentional play on tradition by the chef. Thumbs up. It worked.

Then came the soup. The bowl looks big. The shape of the rim is such that one side arcs to maybe five inches high, where the other side is maybe half that. So it's not really that much soup. $5. The broth was rich and dark, slightly peppery, delicious. I'm pretty sure that some of the color was from turmeric and there were other curry flavors, as well. The matzo balls were light and consistent.

The pastrami came with a choice of sides, slaw, fries or something else. We took the slaw. The modest amount of meat was sliced thinner than on any pastrami sandwich I can recall eating. It curled up like ribbon. The waiter told me that they cure the meat in house. I don't know the source of it, though. I found it kind of salty and that dominated my impressions other than the thinness. My wife was more comfortable with it, though. The slaw was fresh and simple, more milky than oily, though I assume that there wasn't actually milk in it, way too cold when it was served, so that the flavor wasn't really distinguishable. I let it sit for awhile and ate it later. The flavor was less lively than what else we ate.

We didn't eat dessert, but what we saw looked pretty lavish.

So it was hit and miss, not bad and not surprising for the first day.

It seems like they're interested in serving creative versions of standard dishes, Jewish and otherwise, using fresh ingredients in a California vein. This alone, sets them apart from most of the rest of what's on Castro, where efforts to take advantage of our region's bounty of fresh and high quality produce and other things don't tend to exist in any serious way. I'm curious to see where things go. I'll go back in a few weeks and try dinner or at least another lunch or two.

The Kitchen Table
142 Castro St
Mountain View, CA 94041
(650) 390-9388

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  1. Cal-Jewish ... sort of ... Cal-Mex-Jewish ... cool .

    .. and certified Kosher to boot.

    Nice report, especially about that eggplant. Did you get to try the homemade garlic dill pickle?

    Looking at the menu it seems like this could be really interesting

    Lamb blt
    Knish of the day
    Heirloom grain bowl with roasted veggies and topped with guacamol
    Half rotisserie chicken with pomegranate glaze & fresh mint, red lentil fritter, & broccolini

    The brunch looks interesting too ... housemade crumpets

    Toasted chocolate rye and sweet bell pepper tapenade with basil oil
    Applewood smoked duck breast salad with dried cherries and rose petal jam

    The Kitchen Table
    142 Castro Street, Mountain View, CA 94041

    1 Reply
    1. re: rworange

      The lamb blt caught my eye on the menu, too. I meant to order a knish, but the waiter forgot to go find out what was in it that day and I let it go.

      There was half a pickle that came with the pastrami. It was a good one. I should have asked if they used vinegar. I don't think they did, based on the nature of the fermentation's taste.

    2. What was the price for the other items besides soup? This is a bit of a drive for me but will have to check it out soon. While I don't keep kosher, i don't eat pork so I'm always on the lookout for good salami! But all their menu sounds delicious.

      17 Replies
      1. re: elliora

        The pastrami sandwich was $10. I can't remember what the eggplant dish cost. Maybe $4.

        Dinner entrees were in the $16-25 range, IIRC.

        1. re: maigre

          That's not too bad at all, considering it's kosher which always drives the prices up. Thanks for the report!

          1. re: elliora

            Here's the dinner and lunch menu with prices in pdf format

            Hot Drinks served with Mandelbrot

            1. re: rworange

              Thanks rworange, I couldn't get the pdf to work from the website. I'll say it again, even though maigre said some portions were small, for a sit down kosher restaurant it is really reasonable. it's also nice because there is nothing like this in the bay area that I know of.
              Last thing I am a big fan of reasonable kids menus and it looks like here it comes with a side and fruit for $6. I wish their were more adventuresome choice for the little one, but the fish sandwich at least is a little unique. (and mine behaves!)

              I need to find an excuse to go to Mountain View!

              1. re: elliora

                I didn't mean to suggest that the prices were unreasonable. They're fine. It's not a place to go for a bargain, but there's nothing I saw that jumped out at me as being overpriced.

                1. re: maigre

                  I also didn't mean to say the place was a bargain :) Just in the context of kosher food it was less then I would have thought. I believe holyland charges $7 for a sandwich without a side, although I could be wrong on that. So for me $8 for a kosher salami sandwich with fries at a place that is a lot more creative then all the other kosher places in this area is a deal. Again this all being said without actually seeing the food or the portions.

                2. re: elliora

                  "nothing like this in the bay area..." hmmm. There was Raphael's in Berkeley, there's glatt (I believe) Kosher in Oakland (tho maybe not sit-down). A number of shops that sell kosher food, including homemade (or "housemade" as the lingo now goes) dishes, but you may be right about the glatt kosher sit-down. Of course, save the possible hybrid fruit, wouldn't all of the vegan places count (assuming they kashered the kitchen to begin with)?

                  Also, was this place formerly Cafe Neti (or some such name)? It was owned by Israelis and tried to be something of a Tel Aviv-style cafe, though my Israeli friends and I, much as we wanted to support it, found the pastry a bit kakha-kakha (so-so). In any case, we'll be sure to check out Kitchen Table. The chicken soup sounds great (and I sometimes put tumeric in mine), and back East, the pastrami was always "shaved" if served cold -- in fact, most cold cuts were. Personally, i don't care for the more thick-sliced cold cuts that seem standard in the Bay Area. That said, a really good sandwich purveyor loads up the meat, so I was disappointed to hear that maigre found the portion lacking. I guess even the kosher places need to economize these days....

                  Now, off to see if they'll make me a pastrami-corned beef-and-cole slaw sandwich like Grandma used to make.... and on a good rye? Bliss.

                  1. re: chowwow

                    I'm not quite sure the point that you were trying to make, but a sit down kosher restaurant is not the same thing as a shop or a vegan restaurant. For one it feels a need for all the people in the bay area who keep kosher or who visit here and would like a nice meal out. Even for those who don't keep exact kosher (see earlier posts if you need) it is still a nice treat to go to a restaurant where you can eat anything on the menu. Technically vegan counts but that's missing the whole point of the significance of this restaurant.

                    I know as soon as my semester is done I'll be making the trip out there, if the food holds up, I'll make it when I can to show my support (and hopefully eat good food!)

                    1. re: elliora

                      Do you know if the Israeli place in Cupertino is glatt kosher? I think it's called The Golden Bowl. It's nothing fancy, but is a sit-down, homey place.

                      And yes, it is nice to know that there is at least one more place to suggest to friends or family who need that kind of strict observance.

                      1. re: chowwow

                        Perhaps you mean Golden Falafel Balls? It's not glatt kosher, as it's open 7 days a week and is not inspected.

                        Golden Balls thread,

                    2. re: chowwow

                      Cafe Neto is across the street, and still open. NETO is the Hebrew equivalent of WYSIWYG, I believe?

                      1. re: jkg

                        FWIW, Neto isn't Israeli owned anymore and the menu has changed some, though not completely. I wasn't a big fan in its earlier time, but it seems improved and a better value now.

                        1. re: maigre

                          Anything standout on the new menu at Neto?

                          Neto Caffe
                          135 Castro St, Mountain View, CA

                          1. re: Melanie Wong

                            It's more that there are a few less savory items and more sweet things than an overhaul. At least that was my impression. I was in one day a few weeks ago with my wife. I can't remember what she got. I didn't eat anything.

                            Things felt a little different, so I asked the guy who brought out the food what was going on. He told me that there were different owners (from Turkey, FWIW) than before.

                            1. re: maigre

                              Thanks, one more turkish place for me to try.

                              1. re: Melanie Wong

                                No Turkish food at all at Neto, I don't think. There are a number of places on Castro with Turkish ownership, not all of which have Turkish food.

                                1. re: maigre

                                  Thanks, I just looked at the menu downloaded from the website. Maybe it hasn't been updated, but I didn't see anything uniquely turkish either othe rthan turkish coffee.

          2. Wow. this is quite a drive for us, but I can't wait to have a meat restaurant that is more than just schwarma. My husband will be thrilled.

            1. The pastrami sandwich is amazing and my friend really enjoyed his corned beef sandwich (who also found the place authentic enough that he doesn't have to resort to flying to Manhattan to eat at Katz's). Near perfect rye bread (firm and flavorful), thinly sliced hot pastrami, that while was slightly salty, was supple and smooth. It is nowhere near as salty as say, the pastrami at Togo's. Loved the dill pickle, german potato salad, and the mixed greens that came with it. The Russian dressing smeared on the inside of the rye was a light creamy sauce (looked Thousand Island ish but way way better). Mustard (on the side) enhanced the experience but was excellent even without it.

              At $12 the portions are not huge, but really high quality. Superb service to boot.

              Maybe I'm just giddyish because I've been let down too many times by Max's and the defunct Brothers Deli (Burlingame > Millbrae > bust), and not Kosher at all, and the big plus is that it's close enough to work AND a very welcome addition to Mountain View's Castro downtown eating scene.

              1 Reply
              1. re: K K

                I too recently had the pastrami sandwich. Mine was tasty but drenched in grease with oil dripping off the sandwich each bite I toke. The pastrami itself was good (not too salty like most places) but nothing really to write home about. Maybe I had it on a bad day. I too liked the firm rye bread. The dill pickle was one the sweet side but I enjoyed it. As for the German potato salad it was fresh tasting but definitely prefer the German potato salad at Ester's off San Antonio much better.

                The service at Kitchen Table was really good and the servers were well informed. Nice addition to Castro - can't wait to try the Lamb BLT.

              2. Keeping kosher I would have to say this is one the best kosher restaurants in the US - my experiences at The Kitchen Table have been nothing but excellent-

                2 Replies
                1. re: weinstein5

                  I know it is all good, but do you have any favorite dishes?

                  1. re: rworange

                    Looking at the currently posted menu - http://www.thekitchentablerestaurant....

                    For Apps - the Lamb BLT, the Italian Lamb Sausage and tha sampling of the house cured meats you will not go wrong with - I wish I had a trip to Palo Alto because I want to try the salami and eggs -

                    The rib eye steak, pasttramia/corned beef sandwich and the burgers are all great -