Village pub or chez tj?
My hubby and I will be in San Jose for a night & will be celebrating our anniversary. Which do you recommend between the village pub and chez tj? By the way, if it is a mistake to go to either, please let me know that as well. We want a special dinner, but are stuck with where we can get a reservation at the last minute. TIA
They are very different styles of places. I see you've never posted commenting on the kind of food experience you like.
Chez TJ is a trying-to-be-2-star-michelin place. In a funky older house. Feels more like french laundry than its own place. You'll get a well paced and interesting tasting menu. They're the ones who got big press last month by "giving away" fois gras after the ban (they claimed the had extra) "free" with the $114 tasting menu. There was a PETA protest that drew cops and news services on a Saturday night It's very good, but for some reason I haven't actually been there - keep going to Manresa for dinners like that.
Village Pub is a great place. It has no sign, it's around the corner by the police station, and when you walk in you realize it's a dark wood old-money american place where either you feel comfortable or uncomfortable, depending on how you feel about Privilege. Like Telluride in the bay area, and you need a secret password to find it, and if you're wearing the wrong kind of docksiders they might sniff you out as not part of the club and 86 you, except they're too polite. It's about atmosphere, money so thick you can cut it with a knife. I don't know anywhere else in the bay area like it - a secret enclave where Scott McNealy (who has a big spread in palo alto, where loud "thwacks" can often be heard, cover story is it's a hockey rink, not the world's largest S&M dungeon) can dine in peace. And, oh, the food's great. Last full meal I had there the best dish was the sweetbread app (which always seems to be on the menu and included an MG touch, truffle foam), and my sister's "pasta with mushrooms", which sounds boring but was one of the best pasta mushroom dishes she's ever had. The place is good at special requests and off-menu preparations. They are firmly in the running for best michelin-star hamburger, with the fois / truffle off menu add (fois no longer) - just like In-n-Out, but with truffle instead of animal style.
Re McNealy -- http://www.mercurynews.com/news/ci_11...
These are both special places that are celebratory and very good. If you have a choice, you should go with which experience sounds more fun. I would suggest you put Dio Deka on the list, I'd be surprised if you can't get a reservation there. Both Chez TJ and Village Pub win out for Special over Dio Deka, though. I had a poor experience with Station One in the first few weeks they were open, so I don't recommend it, but people I trust do recommend it. Another possibility is Baume, which doesn't live up to its michelin rating and can't be recommended, and Manresa, which does but can be inconsistent but, when "on" is easily michelin 3 star and on an off night will be 1.5. Another choice is Madera at the Rosewood Hotel, which I don't like because it's Prefab Luxe, just like any other high end New American place, but is - in fact - very good. The one redeeming quality of the rosewood is the deck (coffee / bar service, some light food) in the afternoon, overlooking the hills and open all afternoon, which can be gloriously relaxing. Champagne on the deck before Village Pub (which has no view) would be a perfect pairing.
I don't think either choice is a "stuck with".
The best description of the Village Pub ever! Great job! I once had a dinner reservation at the Village Pub on a busy night. they were running about 15-20 min late, and my partner and I were at the bar waiting for our table. The front manager informed us that we would be seated next when Mr Big Regular came in with a party of 4. Every staff person acknowledged him with smiles and waves and I told my partner, "there goes our table". Sure enough he was seated in our spot and we were seated 10 min later. Our drinks were comped and a lovely Charcuterie plate arrived with thanks for our patience. I appreciated they that they noted our wait without being asked. And I understood the loyalty to Mr Big Regular. He was throwing down more on his first bottle of wine than we were on our whole dinner, but they handled it with tact and grace.
I finally ate at Chez TJ, and have a couple of thoughts.
1) Service was far below what one would expect at that price range. I think they were breaking in some new staff or something. The initial gap before the meal started was a little awkward.
2) The place is _really quiet_, kind of like a funeral home. There was some music in the background when we arrived, but then it stopped, and I kept hearing the staff whispering behind my back. Very annoying.
3) Food had some interesting bits. The very rich duck reduction was used in three dishes, like a theme repeated, and some kind of a powder was used in two dishes, which might have been from the meringue in the last dish. The idea of eating powders instead of foams might be an interesting new trend.
4) No where near good enough, on a plate by plate dish by dish basis, to justify the price. A real lack of ingredient sourcing and creativity, compared to the other places in this general price range (like Manresa).
I don't think you can go wrong either place, though I haven't been to either in a while. They are quite different in cuisine but both are very good. Station 1 is at a similar level. The atmosphere and service at Village Pub seem more celebratory to me, and that's where we'll be going for our anniversary this year.