San Jose and Monterey
Hello! I will be traveling to California for the Labor Day weekend. I am spending two nights in San Jose and three nights in Monterey and am looking for recommendations in both cities (or reasonably close by). I am open to all kinds of food, although I am espeically fond of Asian. Looking for one nice meal in Monterey area (thinking Passionfish), and probably more casual dining in San Jose. Thanks!
In San Jose I recommend Vung Tau on East Santa Clara St for great Vietnamese, great service, casual atmosphere. It is highly regarded on chowhound and elsewhere.
I think that Passionfish is wonderful, and if I had only one fine dining option in Pacific Grove that would be my choice.
If you are going to do authentic Vietnamese I've always liked Nha Toi better than Vung Tau, is it still open? I've been out of the area for a bit.
I still stand by my statement (that seems to have been deleted when this thread was split and moved) about Santana Row. It is a fun place with a great assortment of restaurants and is a solid choice if you're not quite sure where you want to eat. It has a few small chains and some good independent restaurants. It has casual and cheap and it has expensive. It is also a great place to hang out and have a drink.
Nha Toi is still open and I still go once in a while as a solo diner, but its strengths are the unusual & authentic dishes you don't normally find elsewhere, that are best shared with a group. My favorites are the braised mackerel, raw beef salad, luffa & malabar spinach soup, and anything that comes with the purple fermented shrimp paste dipping sauce. That said, last time I went, their beef pho was a cut above standard: rare beef cut from tenderloin (instead of the usual beef round), fresh wide (soft & slippery) noodles, and a light broth that relies on beef bones over spice (though I detected a bit of msg last time I was there).
Another up & coming Vietnamese place giving Vung Tau a run for its money is Lemon Grass, just outside Grand Century Mall (an all Asian mall). Actually, just wondering around in GCM will be a treat for you.
While in the San Jose area, you might want to experience non-Cantonese Chinese, though these are all in the outskirts of San Jose. My favorites, though I haven't been to some of these in a while, are Chinjin Eastern House for Islamic Chinese, South Legend in Milpitas for Sichuan, Hu Chiang Dumpling House in Cupertino for Xiao Long Bao (soup dumplings), A&J in Cupertino for Taiwanese beef noodle soup.
Lastly, there's ramen (search for Melanie's ramen rankings). My fave (when I'm in the mood for salty comfort) is Ramen Halu.
1720 N Milpitas Blvd, Milpitas, CA 95035
375 Saratoga Ave, San Jose, CA 95129
Nha Toi Restaurant
460 E William St, San Jose, CA 95112
Hu Chiang Dumpling House (moved)
10877 N Wolfe Rd, Cupertino, CA 95014
A & J Restaurant
10893 N Wolfe Rd, Cupertino, CA 95014
Chinjin Eastern House
1530 S De Anza Blvd, San Jose, CA
Lemon Grass (formerly Viet Express)
1143 Story Rd, San Jose, CA 95122