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Anti-Scenester w/in 10 mins of Santana Row?

Juniper May 9, 2010 11:41 AM

Okay, maybe it's because I'm staying in the Santana Row area and am, for the short term, without a vehicle and so my choices for food have been limited. But is there such a thing as non-scenester places around here that don't charge an arm and a leg for subpar food and service?

My complaints aside, I would really really appreciate any help in finding places to eat within a 10-15 minute cab ride of Santana Row that won't trigger my gag reflex (due to price, food quality, snotty service, or any combination of these therein). So far I've tried:
- Falafel's Drive-Inn, which has great falafels but I really don't like the fillings and sauces they use in the sandwiches;
- Mizu Sushi, which has slick decor but rice in the sushi was not well-prepared and the fish itself wasn't as fresh as it could be, nor was the selection of fish available all that exciting;
- Siam Fine Thai Cuisine, which has become a bit of a go-to place for me since the food is okay and while service is a bit scattered, at least they are exceedingly polite about it.

On my list to try: Pizza Antica, Lien Pho, White Shallot, and Isabella's.

To be clear, I don't necessarily have a set budget nor do I have a problem with fancier places, but I just don't want to leave the restaurant feeling like I've been duped and/or gouged. I'm open to any and all types of food.

Thank you!

-----
Santana Row
355 Santana Row, San Jose, CA 95128

Siam Fine Thai Cuisine
2910 Stevens Creek Blvd, San Jose, CA 95128

White Shallot
3143 Stevens Creek Blvd, San Jose, CA 95117

  1. bbulkow May 9, 2010 12:51 PM

    I know exactly what you're talking about.

    1) falafel drive-inn has a korean place next door. Try it.

    2) Check if Murphey St Sunnyvale (right next to the train station) is within your radius. There's a number of decent eats there - I specifically recommend the indian place. DishDash is ok. A little pricey all around, but a step better than Santana Row.

    3) My favorite down-home Indian in mid-south-sunnyvale is Mayuri. You *really* won't feel like you're taken for a ride. It looks like a converted Dennys, priced like Denny's, and tastes like heaven. If you haven't had Chicken 65, this is a great place to try it. And the dosas, but watch out for the sambar / dipping sauce. That is *spicy*. I could eat there 4 nights a week and die happy.

    -----
    Santana Row
    355 Santana Row, San Jose, CA 95128

    Mayuri
    2230 El Camino Real, Santa Clara, CA 95050

    1 Reply
    1. re: bbulkow
      r
      reesie May 11, 2010 09:21 AM

      Yes, I second the recommendation for Mayuri! The food there is well-spiced and really tasty. It's sort of a weird banquet-hall/restaurant combination and there are often large celebrations happening in the banquet area. Oh, and sometimes it's pretty empty on a weeknight, but it gets full for the buffet lunch on the weekends.

      -----
      Mayuri
      2230 El Camino Real, Santa Clara, CA 95050

    2. openhelix May 9, 2010 02:02 PM

      I'd recommend Krung Thai if you like thai food. It's the best I've had and for a few thai native friends, it's the only place they'll eat. From SR, walked down Winchester away from the freeway. It'll be on your right a couple blocks down. Address is 580 North Winchester Boulevard, San Jose, CA‎

      Another place that would be a short cab ride (maybe 5 min) is Habana Cuba. Good prices and AMAZINGLY good cuban food! The lechon is out of this world. I've been going there over 15 years now.

      -----
      Krung Thai Restaurant
      640 S Winchester Blvd, San Jose, CA 95128

      Habana Cuba
      238 Race Street, San Jose, CA 95126

      1. Juniper May 9, 2010 03:20 PM

        Thanks for the recommendations -- some very promising options here. I'll definitely check them out!

        1. eatzalot May 9, 2010 04:25 PM

          Second Habana Cuba and Sunnyvale's Murphy St. block, an unpretentious and diverse little restaurant row. You're also not far from Willow Glen, a formerly separate small town absorbed some years ago, like several others, into San Jose (for analogous phenomena, see 1958 film _The Blob_). Willow Glen's main street (Lincoln Ave.) has long been another low-key diverse restaurant row, popular with locals.

          Habana Cuba is an example of the many unique independent ethnic restaurants with character, moderate prices, and local fans, which are the strength of South Bay restaurant dining. Unlike, say, Thai, Vietnamese, Indian, Persian, Afghan, various Chinese, Sushi, Ramen, or Dim-Sum houses, its particular cuisine has few competitors. (Haven't been there for a couple of years, which is too long.)

          -----
          Habana Cuba
          238 Race Street, San Jose, CA 95126

          1. m
            mdg May 9, 2010 06:54 PM

            Isabella's and Krung Thai seem to me to be the obvious choices that are particularly close to Santana Row, but without the higher prices of places in Santana Row itself. There are two brances of Krung Thai nearby; I've only been to the S. Winchester one, but have heard good things about both.

            Michael

            -----
            Krung Thai Restaurant
            640 S Winchester Blvd, San Jose, CA 95128

            Krung Thai Restaurant
            580 N Winchester Blvd, San Jose, CA 95128

            Isabella's Restaurant
            700 S Winchester Blvd, San Jose, CA 95128

            1. hhc May 9, 2010 10:56 PM

              Yuki Sushi
              1827 Pruneridge Ave
              Santa Clara, CA 95050
              (408) 248-9144

              Dia de Pesca
              55 N Bascom Ave
              San Jose, CA 95128
              (408) 287-3722
              www.pescasifood.com
              scallop tacos, shrimp cocktails, etc.

              I agree w/ Isabella's (I've reviewed before) and Krung Thai - good eats. Krung Thai get the Jun Pad Poo - noodles w/ crab meat.

              -----
              Krung Thai Restaurant
              640 S Winchester Blvd, San Jose, CA 95128

              Dia de Pesca
              55 N Bascom Avenue, San Jose, CA

              Yuki Sushi
              1827 Pruneridge Ave, Santa Clara, CA 95050

              1. Juniper May 10, 2010 01:21 PM

                Thanks again, everyone, for your help in my desperate chow situation!

                Just as an update, I happened to be craving Mexican and also coincidentally around El Camino Real/San Tomas area. We passed by a place called La Paloma, which seemed fairly popular as there were people lined up outside to get in. In my experience, places like this tend to be either really good or totally overrated.

                I'm sure you guys know this already, but I'm disappointed to report that it falls into the latter category. I had a tostada, which was totally bland and uninspired (literally a heap of iceberg lettuce and not much else), while my dining partner had the chili verde, which was marginally better (the pork was fairly tender, but dry). The standard sides of refried beans and rice all had a crispy-been-under-the-heat-lamp-a-little-too-long quality to them.

                I think the popularity of this place hinged on the fact that the portion-to-price ratio is quite high. Still not worth it, in my eyes, however. My risk didn't pay off this time. Oh well.

                I was doing a bit more research and was wondering if anyone has any experiences with Sliders (1645 W. San Carlos) or Han Sung Charcoal BBQ (2644 El Camino Real)? I didn't find much about either of these places on the board.

                5 Replies
                1. re: Juniper
                  Melanie Wong May 10, 2010 03:16 PM

                  I don't have a specific place to send you, but since you mentioned a Korean bbq place, you might do a search to find some other suggestions. Or maybe someone will reply here with more specifics. You're pretty close to Koreatown and some of our area's best Korean choices are nearby.

                  -----
                  Koreatown
                  Santa Clara, CA, Santa Clara, CA

                  1. re: Juniper
                    openhelix May 10, 2010 03:46 PM

                    If you're looking for good Korean BBQ, check out The Palace Korean BBQ. All you can eat and actually pretty good stuff. Gas grills at the table, not charcoal, but that's about the only misstep, IMO.

                    1. re: Juniper
                      c
                      Claudette May 10, 2010 06:49 PM

                      There are lots of restaurants like La Paloma that are crowded but have substandard chow - I don't know why. I second Krung Thai and Pizza Antica. If you go to Willow Glen or Campbell (Campbell is closer) go to Aqui - great specials & sangria swirls.

                      -----
                      aqui
                      Campbell, Campbell, CA

                      1. re: Juniper
                        r
                        reesie May 11, 2010 09:26 AM

                        I've been to Sliders and thoroughly like it. They have a good choice of meat for your burger and a fresh salad/toppings bar. My burger-eating friends seem to like it too. The frappes are also really good and thick.

                        I know it's not BBQ, but some good Korean places are Cheon Joo Young-Yang Dolsot at Lawrence and El Camino, and Cho Sun Myun Oak at Calabazas and El Camino. The former has good dolsot dishes and the latter is a good all around place.

                        1. re: Juniper
                          chadeschman May 28, 2010 04:24 PM

                          Yeah, La Paloma is a disappointment.

                          However, I can recommend some Mexican in the same area:

                          •Las Flamas (El Camino and Los Padres): very homestyle, nothing fancy but very well done. I recommend the Al Pastor.
                          •Viva Taqueria (Winchester and Newhall): I had a veggie taco with grilled bell peppers that made me weep tears of joy. Run by great people.
                          •Amigo Burrito (Stevens Creek): Two words: chile verde.

                          Good luck!

                          -----
                          La Paloma
                          699 San Mateo Ave, San Bruno, CA 94066

                        2. m
                          maigre May 10, 2010 04:23 PM

                          Gulzaar on San Carlos a little towards downtown SJ from Bascom has tasty Halal food. They have simple home style cooking with a couple of kebab dishes, a chicken biryani, another chicken dish, some good lentils (served hot in a disposable plastic container, unfortunately), not much more. It's small, simple and clean. Well worth a try. It's been discussed here, before.

                          Zeni, a fine and popular Ethiopian place is in a strip mall at Saratoga and Payne. In the same mall is Tanto, a Japanese Izakaya restaurant. I've been to their Sunnyvale outlet and liked it.

                          Barefoot Coffee Roasters is one of the more highly regarded cafes and cups of coffee in these parts. Also in a strip mall, just before Lawrence on the right side of Stevens Creek if you're heading that way from Santana Row.

                          -----
                          Barefoot Coffee Roasters
                          5237 Stevens Creek Blvd, Santa Clara, CA 95051

                          Gulzaar
                          1880 W San Carlos St, San Jose, CA

                          1. c
                            ceekskat May 10, 2010 10:15 PM

                            We enjoy biriyani & tandoori items at Kabab 'n Curry in Santa Clara (service can be slow). Across the street, Zafran is also a board rec. Check this thread for Ramen Halu discussion...

                            http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/671008?tag=search_results;results_list
                            http://www.kababandcurrys.com/

                            -----
                            Ramen Halu
                            375 Saratoga Ave, San Jose, CA 95129

                            Zafran Restaurant
                            1855 El Camino Real, Santa Clara, CA

                            1. k
                              Karen_Schaffer May 12, 2010 10:42 PM

                              Ramen Halu is just up Steven's Creek on Saratoga. I love their regular ramen, with a coddled egg. Yum!

                              Mezcal in downtown SJ for Oaxacan (great moles)

                              Vung Tau, Nha Toi, or other Vietnamese places near downtown SJ
                              http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/5482...

                              Sam's Barbecue or Henry's Hi-Life for barbecue. (Some folks love them, some hate them. I like Sam's a little better, but YMMV.

                              )

                              -----
                              Ramen Halu
                              375 Saratoga Ave, San Jose, CA 95129

                              Nha Toi Restaurant
                              460 E William St, San Jose, CA 95112

                              Vung Tau Restaurant
                              535 E Santa Clara St, San Jose, CA 95112

                              Henry's Hi-Life
                              301 W Saint John St, San Jose, CA 95110

                              Mezcal Restaurant
                              25 W San Fernando, San Jose, CA 95113

                              1. Juniper May 13, 2010 01:23 PM

                                Wow. Thanks for the additional recs. I guess I have a lot of chowing to do while I'm here!

                                Just as an update, I sent my partner to Barefoot Coffee Roasters since he's a coffee afficionado and it's on his way into the office. He says it was just "meh". He was also disappointed with their (lack of) selection of foods, especially savoury items as he doesn't have much of a sweet tooth. To each their own, I suppose.

                                With a friend we went to Turmeric. We ordered the vegetarian kebab appetizer platter, saag paneer, murgh makhani, tandoori fish, and naan. I really like their paneer -- the texture is perfect. However, I didn't like that they added sauce to the tandoori fish as I thought that it ended up hiding the nice smokiness that the fish picked up from being in the tandoor. The rest was decent -- similar to the quality of north Indian food we get in Toronto.

                                Look forward to trying some of the other places you recommended and I'll try to post updates to this thread as I get to these places.

                                -----
                                Barefoot Coffee Roasters
                                5237 Stevens Creek Blvd, Santa Clara, CA 95051

                                7 Replies
                                1. re: Juniper
                                  bbulkow May 13, 2010 04:00 PM

                                  Thanks for reporting back! I hope you'll try Mayuri - it's south indian, and - I think - a cut above Turmeric. Turmeric represents something close to the high-standard for north indian, and excels at the lunch buffet. Other north indian to try are Amber in Palo Alto (good clean tastes, fairly standard menu, maybe a half-cut above Turmeric), and Sakoon, a new hipper place that covers more of the diversity of india. Decent place, might be worth a drive (closer than Amber). Good to level set between toronto and here.

                                  But the sunnyvale shines in south indian. You really want to eat south indian. I've been slowly trying the many stripmall chaat houses, don't have a clear picture of the landscape yet.

                                  Regarding coffee, I'm not a huge fan of barefoot in-house. I know them as excellent roasters, on par with anyone if you like a moderately nutty, moderate body cup. I don't think it's as impressive as the SF/emeryville people like Blue Bottle. if your buddy is a true aficionado, Local 123 (berkeley) and Blue Bottle (oakland) are seriously worth a drive. That one cup of Local 123 is seared into my mind. Regarding food, I don't think anyone recommended Barefoot's food.

                                  I really wish I could recommend chinese places down in that neck of the woods. I just don't know any. Chinese is just terribly strong around here.

                                  -----
                                  Blue Bottle Cafe
                                  66 Mint St, San Francisco, CA 94103

                                  Mayuri
                                  2230 El Camino Real, Santa Clara, CA 95050

                                  Sakoon
                                  357 Castro Street, Mountain View, CA 94041

                                  Local 123
                                  2049 San Pablo Avenue, Berkeley, CA 94702

                                  1. re: bbulkow
                                    c
                                    Claudette May 13, 2010 05:42 PM

                                    I second the vote for lunch at Amber in Palo Alto - much better than Amber Santana Row.

                                    There's a lot of good Chinese food in Toronto, so you probably won't want to explore that here; besides, the closest one is 4 miles away (Cooking Papa in Santa Clara).

                                    -----
                                    Cooking Papa
                                    Santa Clara, Santa Clara, CA

                                    1. re: Claudette
                                      Juniper May 13, 2010 06:03 PM

                                      Claudette, you are correct. Toronto has some kick-ass Cantonese food and decent options from other regions of China. As a result, I don't generally bother eating Cantonese food outside of Toronto, Vancouver or Hong Kong. However, I am always looking for good representation of Hunan, Szechuan, and Xinjiang (Uyghur) cuisine since Toronto doesn't do those ones quite as well so if you (or anyone else) has recommendations for those cuisine styles, I'll take 'em!

                                      1. re: Juniper
                                        bbulkow May 13, 2010 06:24 PM

                                        You're in luck: the cantonese here is only average. Shanghai and Szechuan are well represented here.

                                        Trend in MV was pretty good (Szechuan) but has been only moderate recently.
                                        The places I love are in Redwood City and San Mateo.
                                        Crouching Tiger is in RC and has a couple of good xinjiang dishes. Got a bib gourmand michelan, cheap and very tidy little place, probably your speed. Short walk from the train station, otherwise out of your radius.

                                        There are long, long discussions on XLB. You'll have to widen your board search to 5 years - but the mentioned Cooking Papa is Shanghai. I can't remember what people say about Shanghai Dumpling, that's not far from you.

                                        Search for Melanie Wong's posts.

                                        There's a Hakka place with good reports all the way in SF.

                                        -----
                                        Crouching Tiger
                                        2644 Broadway St, Redwood City, CA 94063

                                        Cooking Papa
                                        2830 Homestead Rd, Santa Clara, CA 95051

                                    2. re: bbulkow
                                      Juniper May 13, 2010 05:59 PM

                                      Thanks, bbulkow. I realize no one recommended the food at Barefoot, but I thought I'd provide the full details of my partner's experience there. He has his coffee in the mornings (as most people do) and is thus always looking for a bite to eat when he picks up his coffee. Anyway, he felt the coffee at Barefoot was overly watery, like the water to grinds ratio wasn't ideal. I'll let him know about the places you mention in Berkeley and Oakland.

                                      As to the Indian food options, I am looking forward to having south Indian while I'm here. Toronto has some very good south Indian restaurants as well, since we have a huge Indian diaspora there (something like 1/6 of the city's population is Indian, if I recall correctly), but I'm always anxious to know whether/how local tastes shape the offerings. So we'll definitely hit up Mayuri soon.

                                      Tonight, however, I'm trying to convince him to go to Habana Cuba (I can't seem to get through to him the fact that what he ate at a Cuban beach resort many moons ago was tourist food and really not reflective of true Cuban cuisine -- he's stubborn, what can I say?). If we go, I'll report back!

                                      -----
                                      Habana Cuba
                                      238 Race Street, San Jose, CA 95126

                                      Mayuri
                                      2230 El Camino Real, Santa Clara, CA 95050

                                    3. re: Juniper
                                      chadeschman May 28, 2010 04:28 PM

                                      Well...true that Barefoot has no food. But that's not why you go to Barefoot. Don't let him turn you off - they are incredible, and will talk with you to prescribe the drink you'll enjoy most.

                                      If you like sweet, do yourself a favor and get a Voodoo. If not, they pull the best selection of origin espresso in the South Bay. No question.

                                      1. re: chadeschman
                                        c
                                        Claudette May 28, 2010 04:53 PM

                                        My fave Barefoot drink is the bruleed cappucino with black pepper.

                                    4. t
                                      Trevallon May 13, 2010 07:45 PM

                                      Campbell Ave has some good options and may be a good antdote to Santana Row. I like La Pizzeria and Olio Cafe.

                                      -----
                                      Santana Row
                                      355 Santana Row, San Jose, CA 95128

                                      La Pizzeria
                                      373 E Campbell Ave, Campbell, CA 95008

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: Trevallon
                                        m
                                        mdg May 19, 2010 11:06 AM

                                        What do you like at La Pizzeria? My one and only visit indicated it was just the type of overpriced, mediocre food the OP wants to avoid. I heard it was excellent when it opened but has gone downhill - like Pizza Antica in Santana Row, in my opinion.

                                        I did like Olio on my one visit there, but it didn't seem to be quite what was requested.

                                        Michael

                                        -----
                                        Santana Row
                                        355 Santana Row, San Jose, CA 95128

                                        La Pizzeria
                                        373 E Campbell Ave, Campbell, CA 95008

                                      2. Juniper May 13, 2010 10:24 PM

                                        So we finally got around to trying Habana Cuba. The menu online looked exciting and in the end, it's an adequate option.

                                        First, myself and my dining partner shared everything since we find the portions in the US just far too large in general. We started with the Cuban Sampler Platter, which included yuca fries, plantain chips, croquettes, stuffed potato balls, and marinated and braised pork cubes. The pork was stellar. So tender and moist. Maybe a touch too much salt, but otherwise very enjoyable. The rest was fine, but nothing overly exciting. I do have to say that everything was served piping hot and it looks like they fried everything in very clean oil so that was good.

                                        We then shared the paella Valenciana as our main. The paella was not great. The rice was broken and the dish itself is too saucy. The quality of the chorizo, chicken, clams, etc. that were used in the paella were fine -- it was particularly nice that the clams didn't have sand in them. However, again, the overall texture of the dish kind of ruined it in my opinion.

                                        Anyway, Habana Cuba is an adequate option within a 10-15 mins ride from Santana Row. However, it's not really worth a special trip if you're traveling from a greater distance than that.

                                        -----
                                        Santana Row
                                        355 Santana Row, San Jose, CA 95128

                                        Habana Cuba
                                        238 Race Street, San Jose, CA 95126

                                        2 Replies
                                        1. re: Juniper
                                          m
                                          mdg May 19, 2010 11:10 AM

                                          Your impressions of Habana Cuba match mine - OK but nothing special. Other people like it better, but I haven't tasted the attraction yet. Maybe I'm just not a huge fan of Cuban food.

                                          Indian in all its varieties is especially strong here. I'd be very interested in hearing how it compares to Toronto! I haven't tried Mayuri, but Zafran in Santa Clara has some stunning Pakistani-ish biryani. Madura in Sunnyvale has amazing Tamil Nadu cuisine. Deedee's in Santa Clara is getting raves but I haven't been there yet.

                                          Another very anti-scenester place is Athena Grill in Santa Clara. Delicious Greek food in a Santa Clara industrial park! It's not open on weekends.

                                          Michael

                                          -----
                                          Athena Grill
                                          1505 Space Park Dr, Santa Clara, CA 95054

                                          Habana Cuba
                                          238 Race Street, San Jose, CA 95126

                                          Mayuri
                                          2230 El Camino Real, Santa Clara, CA 95050

                                          Zafran Restaurant
                                          1855 El Camino Real, Santa Clara, CA

                                          1. re: mdg
                                            k
                                            Karen_Schaffer May 19, 2010 01:15 PM

                                            Yeah, I agree. I have friends who love the place, but I can't see why. Other than those pork cubes (which are, as you say, stellar), nothing much stands out. Eh.

                                        2. Juniper May 18, 2010 12:21 PM

                                          Got around to trying The Fishhouse last night. It gets pretty busy in there, even for a Monday night. We had to wait a few minutes before being seated, which gave us a chance to check out the fish to see what looked fresh.

                                          We were seated in the back of the restaurant, which was freezing cold for some reason. The service manager promptly turned the heater on and the space was reasonably warm by the time our appetizers came out.

                                          To start, we ordered a half dozen oysters and the crab cakes. The oysters were plump but they weren't particularly sweet, nor did they have much of a distinctive flavour. I'm guessing it's because it's past the prime season to eat oysters? I'm a bit of a purist when it comes to my oysters so I was happy when they came served with just grated horseradish and lemon, and none of that seafood sauce stuff or other strange condiments.

                                          Strangely, the crab cakes also lacked the sweetness I'd expect, especially since I think Dungeoness crab is still in season at this time of the year? The cakes actually contained a fair bit of crab, but the texture of the flesh leaned towards stringy and not chunky like I'm accustomed to seeing. Also, the binding mixture they used didn't have anything in it to compete with the crab, but nor did it have anything in it to enhance the flavour of the crab cakes. So while the crab cakes were fresh they were not very remarkable.

                                          I ordered the mesquite grilled sablefish with parsley potatoes and steamed vegetables. Everything was super fresh (no frozen veggies and the fish was very delicate and creamy) and nothing was overcooked, nor was anything overseasoned (mind you, I ordered the most plain and simple options so there was practically no seasoning at all).

                                          My one concern was that the servers didn't really seem to know much about what they were serving. I asked questions about which fish were local and the catch methods they used, but I got confused looks and some vague answers. Essentially, I was told that anything labeled "Pacific" was local -- which is not the case as I don't consider BC, Alaska or Hawaii very local and yet they are all "Pacific" -- and the fish would have been caught using whatever "normal ways" are usually employed.

                                          I thought they operated their own fishery? If that's the case I would have expected that the servers would be more knowledgeable about how their fish is sourced. Mind you, I didn't get the sense that their other patrons really cared so maybe the restaurant doesn't see the need to train their staff.

                                          So all in all, I think The Fish Market is a good option for fresh seafood in these parts, if a little bland. I still prefer the blandness over places that overdo it with sauces and salt and such.

                                          4 Replies
                                          1. re: Juniper
                                            bbulkow May 18, 2010 01:54 PM

                                            Thanks for continuing to write about what you're trying!

                                            My impression of The Fish Market is about like yours. The oysters don't measure up to what I get elsewhere. The fish seems OK for a casual place but a bit pedestrian. I'd rather go Szechuan and get some fillet (probably frozen) with chili peppers, or some place that has only fish specials on the menu (Flea Street).

                                            Lots of bar/restaurant places (similar to Zuni and Salt House in SF) have good oyster programs, places like Martin's West have at least some oysters brought fresh every day. The best single oyster in the last 12 months was at Flea Street. The style of oyster around here tends to the tangy and briny instead of the sweet, but the taste should be clear and bright with some kind of subtle interplay. Oysters are very much in season now, and the season never really stops in Oregon and Washington. If you're getting substandard oysters now, it's not a seasonal issue.

                                            Crab, on the other hand, is really on the tail end right now. Combined with the fact that the crab season has been poor the last two years, I'm not ordering any for a while unless I stare at it with my own eyeballs. Further, I've been let down by crabcakes in the bay area over and over. As someone who grew up crabbing on the Chesapeake and all the great crabcakes, the bay area just doesn't get it. I greatly prefer dungeness unadulterated, or sprinkled over pasta, or in a soup, where the flavor is amplified. Dungeness is sweeter to my taste, but more subtle, so the crabcake prep (adding lots of adjuncts) isn't right. Small plate crab with a slight accent, like I had at Manresa in their Citrus dinner, was excellent (January peak of season). Mmmm.

                                            -----
                                            Salt House
                                            545 Mission St, San Francisco, CA 94105

                                            Zuni Cafe
                                            1658 Market Street, San Francisco, CA 94102

                                            Flea Street Cafe
                                            3607 Alameda de las Pulgas, Menlo Park, CA 94025

                                            1. re: bbulkow
                                              c
                                              Claudette May 18, 2010 05:34 PM

                                              I agree - no one does Dungeness crab cakes properly (Yankee Pier at Santana Row has excellent cracked crab in season, and very good fish, but it's very pricey). Really, to do Dungeness crab justice, you'd have to find a friend with a stove, and some live crabs, but now is not the time anyway, as bbulkow said.

                                              I'm not a Fish Market fan - it's stinky, the food's mediocre, and the staff turns over a lot. I love their landscaping, but that's another website...

                                              -----
                                              Santana Row
                                              355 Santana Row, San Jose, CA 95128

                                              1. re: Claudette
                                                Juniper May 19, 2010 01:56 PM

                                                They had landscaping? I saw lots of parking lot and that was about it!

                                                Anyway, yes, The Fish Market is indeed mediocre, but the strange thing is that I still prefer it over many other seafood options in North America. Outside of Asian and French restaurants, my success rate for finding a seafood restaurant in North America that doesn't totally offend me is about 1/10, even after using the Chowhound boards. I find most places batter and fry, use gunky cream sauces, or otherwise ruin the preparation of the seafood.

                                                I am literally paranoid of the preparation of fish in North American restaurants and I've often found that if the menu offers a minimalist preparation of seafood it then gets either overcooked or oversalted or something. Some restaurants don't even give you the option of a minimalist preparation and assume everyone must want gunky creamy sauces on their seafood (I'm looking at you, restaurants in Portland, ME!).

                                                Hence, it was a relief to me at The Fish Market to get truly minimalist preparation of the fish that wasn't overcooked or overseasoned, even if the price for it was blandness.

                                                1. re: Juniper
                                                  c
                                                  Claudette May 23, 2010 02:27 PM

                                                  I totally agree with you, Juniper, about generally badly-cooked fish, although Yankee Pier, several places in Half Moon Bay, and the high-end places like Mina's Aqua & Arcadia are excellent. Surprisingly, many mid-priced restaurants in land-locked Tucson (where I visit regularly) have excellent fish dishes, and chefs that do them justice. Go figure.

                                          2. Juniper May 19, 2010 08:51 PM

                                            Just got back from Mayuri. Was surprised to learn it was an AYCE buffet, but figured that it would be a good opportunity to try a little of everything. Therefore, my comments are done with acknowledgement that my experience may be different had I ordered a la carte.

                                            For a buffet experience, it really wasn't half bad -- not overly greasy and they seemed to put fresh stuff into the steam pans fairly frequently. I was actually expecting it would be more predominantly south Indian, but there seemed to be a relatively even representation. Must say, however, that the south Indian fare is far superior than the north Indian stuff.

                                            There were three things in the buffet that I really enjoyed and would be eager to try a la carte: the chickpeas (served on a giant heated drum at the back), the chicken kebabs, and the whole small eggplants. The spices in these dishes were vibrant with lots of fresh ginger, cilantro, chilis and the like. Very tasty.

                                            The fried okra was okay, if a bit dry. I tried the sambar, and I was a bit disappointed in that it was overly salty (but I guess that's often what happens with soup that has been in a steam pan for a while and the water in it is slowly evaporated away) and the spices weren't quite as vibrant and bright as I would have liked.

                                            I was also not so enamoured with the ras malai. The milk was fine, not overly sweet and a nice touch of saffron, but the malai weren't the right texture -- too powdery? No squeakiness and no chewiness. Disappointing.

                                            The halwa, however, was good. Buttery and light, not overly sweet. Pleasant surprise. I was totally expecting the opposite: heavy and overly sweet.

                                            The rest of the south Indian in the buffet were fine but not remarkable in either a good or bad way. Again, not sure if my experience may be different had I ordered off the menu, but even still I think it's a good place to keep in mind for future. I would try this place again, but would order off the menu to get a better sense of what's good.

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                                            Mayuri
                                            2230 El Camino Real, Santa Clara, CA 95050

                                            1 Reply
                                            1. re: Juniper
                                              bbulkow May 23, 2010 09:26 AM

                                              Ah, you went on the wednesday night buffet. Mixed bag, it sounds like, and missed a bunch of my favorites there - they're very solid with the dosas, and chicken 65. Sounds like it wasn't a waste though - you must get good indian up in toronto.

                                            2. Juniper May 22, 2010 09:58 PM

                                              Just got back from dinner at Pizza Antica. The whole process of getting seated is messy. We called ahead and thought we got our names on their waiting list and at that point they said there would be a 1-1.5 hour wait. Fine. We leisurely made our way over 45 minutes later and asked about our call-ahead situation and they didn't have our names on the list so it was at least another hour before they could seat us from then. We agreed since we were lazy and didn't want to have to think about where else to go for dinner. So we roamed the shops for a bit to kill time.

                                              Eventually we were bored of window shopping and stepped into the restaurant to wait out the remaining time, thinking our names would be called when a table was ready. After standing there for about 5 minutes our eyes happened to meet with one of the hosts and he immediately waved us over to take a seat at a table towards the front of the restaurant. He didn't look at the list of names they were supposedly maintaining and didn't ask our names either to cross it off their list.

                                              If we knew it would be this easy, we would have tried it earlier to avoid the waiting!

                                              Anyway, onto the food. We each ordered the soup which was a cream of portobello mushroom, garnished with some creme fraiche and chives. It was decent, although I almost tasted something a touch vinegary about it. It wasn't overly strong nor was it necessarily bad, just unexpected.

                                              We ordered and shared a large pizza with artichokes, green garlic and prosciutto. The quality of the ingredients was quite good -- the proscuitto was tender and the garlic was fragrant. However, we didn't detect much artichoke. I think there may have been just a couple of pieces of artichoke on the entire pizza so that was a bit disappointing since I love artichokes. The crust was thin and crisp. It was good, though I think I actually prefer a crust that has a bit of chewiness to it.

                                              Overall, the meal was decent and fairly priced for what it was. Definitely a good option for the area.

                                              1. e
                                                emi50 May 28, 2010 06:54 PM

                                                Discerning friends have recommended The White Shallot, in the BevMo shopping strip on the corner of Winchester and Stevens Creek. I asked about it here a while ago and there were a few responses. I see now that there are lots of favorable reviews online. Sure is close to you, and worth a try. I notice they are doing a frog legs appetizer this weekend.

                                                http://www.whiteshallot.com/
                                                http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/658693

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                                                White Shallot
                                                3143 Stevens Creek Blvd, San Jose, CA 95117

                                                1 Reply
                                                1. re: emi50
                                                  e
                                                  emi50 May 28, 2010 07:05 PM

                                                  Geez, I reread your original post and see that it was on your list. Did I also miss your posting about it, or have you not yet eaten there (White Shallot)? Sorry...

                                                2. m
                                                  mocro May 31, 2010 07:48 PM

                                                  I'm an LA Chowie with a freshman daughter at SCU in the fall. You can imagine how over-the-moon I am to find this priceless thread. I'll be staying on Santana Row but thanks to you all, eating elsewhere!

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                                                  Santana Row
                                                  355 Santana Row, San Jose, CA 95128

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