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Recommendations: San Jose?

Exchefinma Jun 20, 2011 07:52 AM

Hello everyone,

I am going to be spending a week in San Jose in July for work. I was hoping that I'd be able to get some recommendations for things to do in the evenings after work as well as really great places to have dinner.

As far as restaurants, as my screen name says, I am an ex-chef, so I'd prefer to find places to go where the food will be amazing. I'd prefer to stay away from chains and other mundane stuff. If at all possible, I'd love to go to the places where the locals go to eat, not the touristy places.

I look forward to hearing some thoughts.


Ex-Chef in MA.

  1. berfahEATS Jul 29, 2011 05:25 PM

    Not sure if I'm too late here! But my SIL is a chef here in the Bay Area and there are a couple of places that she's a fan of as are we. Yes, we don't have the "shmancy" stuff like SF but we have the good authentic ethnic foods.

    Chinese Seafood : Joy Luck in Cupertino Village
    Korean Beef Soup: hours and hours of boiling marrow http://www.yelp.com/biz/kunjip-restaurant-santa-clara-2
    Mediteranean: DishDash in Sunnyvale
    Vietnamese: VungTau in downtown San Jose
    Best Ramen outside of Tokyo: Orenchi in Sunnyvale
    Japanese Tapas: Gochis http://www.yelp.com/biz/gochi-japanes...

    I second Alexander's for good steak. Have fun and looking forward to a full report back!

    1 Reply
    1. re: berfahEATS
      ankimo Jul 29, 2011 06:09 PM

      i'm local and this is where i go

    2. Robert Lauriston Jul 14, 2011 10:23 AM

      Don't miss the all-Vietnamese food court at the Grand Century shopping mall.


      Grand Century Shopping Mall
      1001 Story Rd, San Jose, CA

      1. scottca075 Jul 13, 2011 05:35 PM

        Everyone has their own definition of amazing, there are not going to be any molecular gastronomy places in San Jose. There are places like Manresa in Los Gatos and Baume in Palo Alto, but one place I never miss in San Jose is Original Joe's restaurant. it is an old school Italian steakhouse and one of the few places I'll order Liver, Onions and Bacon out.

        I also love getting a good mesquite broiled ribeye or Porterhouse with a side of ravioli.

        Manresa Restaurant
        320 Village Lane, Los Gatos, CA 95030

        Original Joe's Restaurant
        301 S 1st St, San Jose, CA 95113

        2 Replies
        1. re: scottca075
          calimn Jul 13, 2011 08:18 PM

          May be too late but a few items

          Manresa is good but will take a long time to eat if you do the tasting so expect that we were over 3 hours

          Sent Sovi is not down the road from Manresa it is 3 miles away in Saratoga, very good and friendly and if the chef is doing dinner at the communal table you can take with the chef and others and is quite good

          Plumed house is also in Saratoga and has a Michelin Star and very good

          In the direct area by the fairmont I have not stayed there for many years (since moving to the area) but probably best to just look at Yelp for recent recommendations

          I would recommend Vietnamese, Indian and I love the Japanese, and unlike post above I find the seafood good at most general restaurants especially if you know the questions toast Which I am sure you do

          If you already have been let us know what you tried and feedback

          Manresa Restaurant
          320 Village Lane, Los Gatos, CA 95030

          Sent Sovi Restaurant
          14583 Big Basin Way, Saratoga, CA 95070

          1. re: calimn
            andytseng Aug 29, 2011 02:53 PM

            surprised that I couldn't find a thread specifically covering Plumed Horse, but I just wanted to say that I visited them on Saturday and had a great time.

            Food I would recommend: Charcuterie Plate, Veal Sweetbreads. The amuse bouche and pre-dessert were amazing as well.

            Took a while to flag down our server to start the night, but after that, service was impeccable. Had an amazing time here, and wouldn't hesitate to come back here to celebrate a special occasion.

            While it looked like the sommelier was ready to leave for the night, he caught us on our way out and wanted to show us their gigantic wine cellar and took pictures for us in it. Nice little things like this made the night even more memorable.

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

        2. e
          Exchefinma Jun 21, 2011 05:02 AM

          Thank you all for the replies.

          To answer some questions:

          1. I will have a car.
          2. I will be based at the fairmont hotel.

          All of the suggestions sound great and I will see what I am able to get to. The SE Asian places sound like it will be a blast.

          One thing that I should note is that I would like to find 1 seafood restaurant. Beyond that, I am liking the sound of some of the recommendations already.

          Again, thank you for your suggestions and I look forward to additional ones.

          Ex-Chef in MA.

          6 Replies
          1. re: Exchefinma
            mdg Jun 21, 2011 10:32 AM

            OK, you're right downtown then. I can vouch for Vung Tau. Mezcal is a good Oaxacan Mexican restaurant downtown.

            Manresa is definitely the fancy splurge place to get to - the essence of California high cuisine. Be sure to get the In the Vegetable Garden dish; it's their signature and absolutely amazing.

            Seafood restaurants are a weakness in this area, especially coming from Boston. The best choice in San Jose is perhaps Yankee Pier - despite the name and decor, there's quite a bit of local fish and shellfish here in addition to the flown-in New England items. There are good seafood choices at Manresa and other restaurants too. Look for our local sardines, anchovies, squid, petrale sole, and especially butterfish / black cod. We're supposed to have local salmon this year but I haven't seen it, and I think the season may be closed in July.

            Indian food is really good here just north of San Jose, so use that car to get to downtown Mountain View for Sakoon, or to Sunnyvale for much more informal places like Taste Buds, Madura (Tamil Nadu vegetarian), and Peacock.

            If you've had good Greek food in other cities like New York and Chicago, I'd skip Dio Deka - way overpriced with poor meat supplies. They do cook vegetables well. I much prefer Athena Grill for Greek - less fancy, way tastier.



            Manresa Restaurant
            320 Village Lane, Los Gatos, CA 95030

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

            Taste Buds
            673 Grape Ave, Sunnyvale, CA 94087

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

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

            357 Castro Street, Mountain View, CA 94041

            Madura Indian Cuisine
            1635 Hollenbeck Ave, Sunnyvale, CA 94087

            Yankee Pier - Santana Row
            378 Santana Row #1100, San Jose, CA 95128

            Peacock Indian Cuisine
            867 E El Camino Real, Mountain View, CA 94040

            1. re: mdg
              bbulkow Jun 21, 2011 07:24 PM

              I'll go further and say avoid all seafood restaurants in the bay area. Sure, that's wrong - I have a couple I like - but usually only a few fish are in season and tasty any given time of year, so going to a good all-around restaurant and getting a seafood special is a better way to enjoy our fish. Especially the sardines; I do love a good sardine. I always like the fish at Flea Street in Menlo Park, which is a bit of a hump from San Jose, but a great example of California style hyper ingrediant driven cooking. They aren't known for their cocktails, but do have some good ones. The owner (Jessie) always stops by tables, so it's possible to engage her in discussion, which might be fun for the OP.

              1. re: bbulkow
                mdg Jun 21, 2011 10:31 PM

                The general point about going to a good all-around restaurant and ordering fish or seafood is very sound. But I don't think that Flea Street has the quality or consistency to warrant the drive from San Jose (and I've never seen the owner there either). If you're going that far, drive a couple exits further down 280 to Station 1 and have a far more interesting and delicious meal!

                Possibilities that are closer to downtown San Jose include Scratch in downtown Mountain View and Mayfield Bakery and Cafe in Palo Alto. The current Mayfield menu has a couple of intriguing local fish entrees.


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

                Mayfield Bakery & Cafe
                855 El Camino Real, Palo Alto, CA 94301

                Station 1
                2991 Woodside Rd, Woodside, CA 94062

                401 Castro Street, Mountain View, CA 94041

                1. re: mdg
                  bbulkow Jul 14, 2011 04:01 AM

                  The fish at Scratch is excellent. They have been doing that fennel encrusted number for a while; I'm not sure if they've changed it up. Serious wow factor.

                  Mayfield has some very good fish, but I've never had an entree there.

                  My experience at Station 1 in the first few weeks they were open was traumatic and, I expect, an aberration, but it's scared me off a repeat. More structurally, I don't like the prix fixe thing they do; you don't have almost any control over the amount of food. It's a reasonable amount of food for me, but way too much for my GF.

                  100% of the times I've eaten at Flea Street the owner has stopped at the table. The best dishes at Flea Street are the local monterey smelts and anchovies, which they cook lovingly. I have a serious attachment for that kind of fish, so Flea Street rises on the fish front for me.

                  Evvia also does a crispy smelt.

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

                  Station 1
                  2991 Woodside Rd, Woodside, CA 94062

                  1. re: mdg
                    emily Jul 16, 2011 04:13 PM

                    I agree with skipping Flea Street (and I live in Menlo Park).

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

              2. re: Exchefinma
                Robert Lauriston Jul 14, 2011 11:21 AM

                For seafood, Cantonese, Vietnamese, or Japanese might be a better bet than American or European.

                Kappo Nami Nami in Mountain View has some great and unusual seafood dishes.

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

              3. e
                emi50 Jun 20, 2011 08:13 PM

                Vung Tau, highly regarded, Vietnamese. Downtown, on E. Santa Clara St.

                Cafe Rehoboth, mom and pop Ethiopian in Japantown

                Nazca, Peruvian, downtown on San Fernando St.

                These are NOT "high end" places, but the food is top-notch and interesting!

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

                1. t
                  Tumkers Jun 20, 2011 03:32 PM

                  Dine about town will be happening when you are here http://www.sjdowntown.com/dinedowntow...
                  Friends have enjoyed Habana Cuba

                  As a preview they have City Bites on June 22 where the chefs will have tastings all over the city.

                  Habana Cuba
                  238 Race Street, San Jose, CA 95126

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: Tumkers
                    bbulkow Jun 20, 2011 07:13 PM

                    Or even driving up to San Mateo for that truck thing.

                    1. re: Tumkers
                      drewskiSF Jul 12, 2011 05:15 PM

                      For SJ Cuban, I'd recommend Los Cubanos over Habana Cuba

                      Los Cubanos Restaurant
                      22 N Almaden Ave, San Jose, CA 95110

                    2. m
                      mdg Jun 20, 2011 01:53 PM

                      Where will you be located? Will you have a car? San Jose is a huge place with lots of great options, though downtown is indeed not the dining hotspot save for Vietnamese. Knowing where you're located will help to guide you - as will more specific questions based on what's already posted on Chowhound.


                      1. scarmoza Jun 20, 2011 01:36 PM

                        Some of the Best Ramen in the Bay Area: Ramen Halu, Santouka, Orenchi

                        Ramen Halu
                        375 Saratoga Ave, San Jose, CA 95129

                        Orenchi Ramen
                        3540 Homestead Rd, Santa Clara, CA 95051

                        675 Saratoga Ave, San Jose, CA 95129

                        1. h
                          hazel1 Jun 20, 2011 11:18 AM

                          Yeah, downtown San Jose options are, sadly, pretty limited in terms of fine dining. I think that Manresa and Sent Sovi are both good recommendations, and I'd add Alexander's Steakhouse, in Cupertino. Their menu is Asian-influenced, and more than just steak (they do have Wagyu beef, and it is to die for but $$$$$).

                          Manresa Restaurant
                          320 Village Lane, Los Gatos, CA 95030

                          Alexander's Steakhouse
                          10330 N. Wolfe Road, Cupertino, CA 95014

                          Sent Sovi Restaurant
                          14583 Big Basin Way, Saratoga, CA 95070

                          1. c
                            Claudette Jun 20, 2011 11:09 AM

                            I agree that San Jose doesn't support the high-end restos as much as the surrounding upscale areas do, so I'd recommend Dio Deka (upscale Greek) in Los Gatos, and Baume (molecular French) in Palo Alto. Also check the older San Jose threads for cheap good eats. Have fun!


                            Dio Deka
                            210 E. Main Street, Los Gatos, CA 95030

                            1. bbulkow Jun 20, 2011 09:20 AM

                              San Jose is not a hotbed of eating, but there are some spots. You should reserve a splurge night for Manresa. There's a reason it's a reliable michelin 2 star since michelin has been rating in the US. The dishes are very subtle and well constructed. If you have the ability to make a early reservation (6pm) and get the tasting, you are unlikely to be disappointed. If you go wine pairing, don't get suckered into the "premium" pairings. Manresa occasionally has quality ups and downs - on a good night they're up at TFL levels, on a bad night they're more on the michelin 1 star basis. (They just did renovations and I haven't been since their new cocktail bar area opened).

                              Given that there is a lot of money in that part of the bay, where the locals go - like Steve Jobs - are places like Manresa. There's not much tourism in that part of the world.

                              Onward to local eats. The categories you want to look into are Tacos, South Indian, and Vietnamese, with a sprinkling of Chinese (the chinese you'll want is Shanghai and Sichuan, which have always seemed underrepresented to me in Boston). There are some good other SE asian places, like the hot pot places in Milpetas. You're probably best off doing some research and coming back - some depends on your personal taste, how much energy you'll have after work, which part of san jose you'll be in.

                              Another splurge you might consider, as a chef, is Plum in oakland. They're open late, so you'd consider a night when work runs late, the traffic dies down, and you can scoot up 880 at about 9pm to grab a late bite. As an ex-chef, I think Plum will be very interesting - it's the kind of place chefs always talk about putting together, a place with very high end food in a casual-ish environment that doesn't break the bank, where you can go in for just a plate or two or eat your way through half the menu - and the dishes are always changing.

                              Hopefully these keywords will get you started a bit... come back with some more detailed questions.

                              Manresa Restaurant
                              320 Village Lane, Los Gatos, CA 95030

                              5 Replies
                              1. re: bbulkow
                                openhelix Jun 20, 2011 09:27 AM

                                I would actually recommend against Manresa. By most accounts it's consistently gone downhill and seems very hit-or-miss lately. I'd argue Sent Sovi, down the street from Manresa, it consistently better... and cheaper.

                                For other spots, if you're a beef lover, check out Alexander's Steakhouse in Cupertino. Japanese-american style with flawless execution. I've been there more than 20 times and never been disappointed. However, it's another expensive meal.

                                For good mexican in the south bay, I recommend Rosita's in Alviso or Fiesta del Mar in Mountain View. Rosita's has zero atmosphere but it's classic "mexican grandmother cooking" as described by the actual mexican grandmother that's been cooking there for 15+ years. :) Fiesta del Mar has killer margaritas (rocks, not blended) and great food. And you can walk down the street to the Tied House for a microbrew afterward.

                                Others know the asian/indian scene a LOT better than I so I won't even try to offer suggestions.

                                Manresa Restaurant
                                320 Village Lane, Los Gatos, CA 95030

                                Alexander's Steakhouse
                                10330 N. Wolfe Road, Cupertino, CA 95014

                                Sent Sovi Restaurant
                                14583 Big Basin Way, Saratoga, CA 95070

                                1. re: openhelix
                                  Tumkers Jun 20, 2011 10:09 AM

                                  I think you mean Fiesta Del Mar Too (Two?) in downtown Mtn View rather than the original Fiesta Del Mar. They do have an unusual creamy based sauce ---their Grandmother's recipe that I've never seen in Boston Mexican offerings. Some people in San Jose think Mtn View is the other side of the world for some reason. I suppose it depends on what part of San Jose you will be in.

                                  If you are here on a First Friday, the area called SoMa has open galleries and some food trucks. http://www.southfirstfridays.com/ Last time we went there was the Treatbot ice cream truck where if you scored at 90% or higher on their Karaoke machine you got a free cone. Kara's cupcakes truck was there too and I was tempted to hijack it. This was part of the Subzero festival so I think it was more elaborate than usual.

                                  Also on Friday is the Farmer's Market downtown. It's not the largest Farmer's Market in the area but still the CA produce is just bounteous and beautiful. Go early for best pickings and late for discounted but somewhat ratty produce. Try a fresh apricot. You can't really get a flavorful one back East.

                                  Fast lunches around downtown --- I like
                                  Freshly Baked Eatery 152 North 3rd Street, San Jose, 95112 for sourdough sandwiches Dakao 98 E. San Salvador St, San Jose, 95112 for Vietnamese sandwiches really cheap.
                                  MMMoon Empanadas 177 W. Santa Clara Street, San Jose, CA 95113

                                  In Japantown there is a fresh mochi place that is very good. Little old Japanese ladies make everything by hand. They also have shaved ice with yummy syrups. Be sure to try one with red beans and condensed milk. Shuei- do 217 Jackson St , San Jose, CA 95112 A few doors down you can find a fresh tofu shop.

                                  Here is a link to an events listing page for San Jose http://www.artsopolis.com/?gclid=CMXW...

                                  98 E San Salvador St, San Jose, CA 95112

                                  Fiesta Del Mar Too
                                  735 Villa St, Mountain View, CA 94041

                                  Freshly Baked Eatery
                                  152 N 3rd St, San Jose, CA 95112

                                  Fiesta Del Mar
                                  1005 N Shoreline Blvd, Mountain View, CA 94043

                                  1. re: Tumkers
                                    openhelix Jun 20, 2011 11:47 AM

                                    Absolutely correct on Fiesta del Mar too... I still miss the Shoreline location *sniff*

                                  2. re: openhelix
                                    lrealml Jun 20, 2011 01:26 PM

                                    I always found Fiesta del Mar's food really mediocre to bad (I worked across the street from the old shoreline location for years). Their margaritas were just ok as well... I prefer Viva Del Sol for Mexican in MTV; however, if the OP has had a lot of great Mexican food he/she should skip Mexican in Mountain View... I think there may be better Mexican further south.

                                    1. re: openhelix
                                      bbulkow Jun 20, 2011 07:11 PM

                                      I think we'll have to agree to disagree.

                                      The complexity of the best dishes at Manresa continues to be astonishing, and on a good night they outcook TFL, and I'll say that having eaten 4 times with them this year. They are too hit-or-miss for their price range, but if you think Sent Sovi is outcooking TFL, that would be a scoop. Do tell. Dio Deka is killer, making the simplest med prep into a work of art. Dio Deka is safer. One trick about Manresa - the best meal I had there was a wednesday, when the place wasn't fully booked.

                                      I would not send an ex-chef to somewhere for beef. Although I love a good steak now and again (who doesn't), and Alexander's is very good, the ability to eat in the bay area means trying to cover some of the great cooks and preps we have in abundance here. Waygu is Waygu here or there.

                                      If I was sending someone for Mexican who really liked food, I wouldn't send them to FDM. Although FDM is OK, that style of mexican cooking is unexciting. Even in mexico I stay away from that kind of cooking. There's no way it can really be made awe inspiring. FDM has pretty generic tortillas, one of the transcendent elements of that style (I would send someone to Los Gemelos in RWC for the tortillas). Some of the dishes are OK, I sometimes meet people for lunch there, but it's not a standout. Just a block away, La Bamba is making Al Pastor to die for, in true Mission Burrito style. La Bamba seems to use more pineapple in their roasting; gives it more zing. That Al Pastor is worth a 30 minute drive from anywhere, and you only need a few tacos to really get it.

                                      Tied House had OK beer but nothing special. If you want actual good beer, you'll have to go up to Rose and Crown in PA. For some reason, there aren't any decent beer bars in MV or Sunnyvale - I haven't heard of anything in San Jose. I had some rather pitiful pilz at Faultline, they're off my rec list until they redeem themselves. In general, the beers you want to watch for are Russian River, which gets fair national coverage, Speakeasy, Anderson Valley, Lagunitas. All those hoppy west coast styles taste better fresher to the source.

                                      Japanese food is pretty good in boston. There's a major non-sushi japanese push now. including skewer restaurants and ramen.

                                      For indian, be on the watch for Chicken 65, which is rare outside this area. There are some good Chaat houses, but I don't know what's in San Jose proper. I do most of my indian eating toward Sunnyvale. There's also good Korean there but I haven't got specific recs yet.

                                      Manresa Restaurant
                                      320 Village Lane, Los Gatos, CA 95030

                                      La Bamba
                                      12345 San Pablo Ave, Richmond, CA 94805

                                      Dio Deka
                                      210 E. Main Street, Los Gatos, CA 95030

                                      Sent Sovi Restaurant
                                      14583 Big Basin Way, Saratoga, CA 95070

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