Mountain View update
- bbulkow Mar 16, 2013 09:49 AM
Holy nuts, a lot of changes on the east/north end of castro street.
1. Hunan Chili, which I last had lunch at a decade ago, closed. Not sure what's coming in its place.
2. Asian Box came in on the other side of Xahn. It has a lot of the freshness of Xahn - same people? - and take out from there is in the weekly rotation at work now. Same problem with Xahn - low on "taste" - but the freshness and health factor is a plus.
3. KPop - slick korean. A whole page for KFC, not BBQ specialists but they have that on the menu too. Korean Tacos. Big screen for late night ktv? Haven't tasted yet.
4. The Workshop, the aweful burger joint with an outpost in PA, looks about to open.
5. The cafe/bakery right by the train station, Netto, which was always peculiar because they looked like a healthy bakery but had a greasy spoon short order grill, has changed to Olympus, focusing on greek. I suspect it's just a makeover with the same guy, and they're bringing out their regional specialties.
6. Mamaya - this looked from the sign like "Ma Maya", a mexican joint, but yelp says it's actually Mamaya, listed as japanese tea.
7. La Fontaine - I think this actually opened a few months ago, the rebrand of whatever the previous italian place is, and it's been mentioned here. 5 stars on yelp is suspicious.
8. Azteca - where King of Krung Siam was - mexican joint, slightly upscale just saw the sign
For a one-block slice, that's a lot of turnover. We were enjoying the late night dimsum specials at Fu Lam Mum, which was hopping at 9:30, and its usual self.
Bushido, Hangen, PastaQ, Shabuway, Amarin, the two HK places, are all hanging in there as per normal.
I thought that suddenly Mill Valley had got some interesting restaurants.
o - :
I've been to Asian Box a couple times, ordering either the vegetable slaw or brown rice, the chicken, wok tossed veggies, all the toppings except the jalepenos and picked vegetables, and the fish sauce dressing. It's in my top-5 for takeout in PA, with Oren's, Pluto's, Sprouts, and Le Bou. I wish Asian Box was closer to the office.
By Azteca do you mean Agave? The service is distracted, their shrimp platters are very tasty, and their margaritas are decent.
I also want to add Vaso Azzurro (Italian) is by no means new, but somehow I have missed it for years. The restaurant turns out flavorful renditions of Italian American food. Very satisfying, and I believe, may be the best Italian in the area (though very willing to look out for others if there are suggestions).
I walked through downtown a couple of nights ago and noticed that both Asian Box and KPop have ABC notices in their windows indicating upcoming change of ownership. I'm not sure what that says for the longevity. When I did try KPop, the TVs were blaring the eponymous KPop videos.
BB, I just caught this thread. I could give you experenced reports on each of these places (and a few others you may have missed) averaging several visits each. Sadly, unlike (apparently) some on this venerable board, I have other duties too.
Frank Klein's Asian Box restaurants relate to his Chron comments a couple months back (Inside Scoop?) re how to successfully run restaurants in Peninsula towns with huge rent increases that I cited in another thread recently.
Hunan Chili, capable of exceptional Sichuanese specialties (head cook was from there) and beloved in the local neighborhood for its great values, faced a 3:1 rent increase and couldn't meet it. Extensive local coverage including pictures in the (print-only) Palo Alto Daily Post. Saw a report (which I'll soon routinely check) that the Sichuanese chef moved over to Chef Zhao Bistro 3 blks away, the "other" capable Sichuanese restaurant in this neighborhood and subject of an existing CH thread you & I contributed to.
Workshop Burger Bar and Grill in MV has been open a good year or more and offers some worthwhile specialty burgers like wild salmon, turkey w/ fixins.
Olympus at the former Neto site is an expansion of the very successful and locally popular Ephesus (185 Castro) and is explicitly a Turkish bakery-cafe. Ephesus's managing owner runs it, his father is an old-country master baker, Turkish expats are mobbling the place for hard-to-find sweet and savory pastries. (Turkish lettering on the Castro St doors translates approximately as Welcome To Our Bakery.) Lots of fancy European cakes and desserts too.
Agave ("A Fiesta del Mar Grill") is an extension of the Feliz family's unusual, often upscale local Mexican restaurants (Vive Sol, Palo Alto Sol; near Agave La Fiesta, Fiesta del Mar, Fiesta del Mar Too). Features some good regional, often indigenous Mexican dishes. Try the cochinita pibil on the dinner menu. Fancy tequila list and tequila-specific Margerita menu.
La Fontaine is the former longtime chef from Vaso Azzurro nearby -- went out on his own. Those five stars you cited were genuine, and earned (no doubt the usual whiners have diluted them by now). Vaso Azzurro has been a great upscale comfort-food destination locally and now has new chef w/ Italian credentials. La Fontaine combines country French and Italian traditions. This chef (Hasan) has a real way with basics and nuances in the dish, I and others have eaten superbly there but also we expected to, after several years experience at Vaso.
K-Pop is the former Barracuda Sushi, re-branded dropping any Japanese pretensions. Same Korean owner, remodeled, evolving Korean menu. Only been there 3-4 times so far trying some standards, was impressed, decent value. Yes, fad stuff like KFC, but also good versions of those Korean savory main-course pancakes with seafood, vegetables, etc. Lots and lots of little side dishes in our experiences.
There's also a new Japanese curry place (NAME, not web site, is curry.jp) directly behind Shabuway, near La Fontaine. And:
The huge 1-month-open Steins Beer Garden and Restaurant, 895 Villa at Bryant (fmr Golden Wok site) with 32 taps and a real master chef (Colby Reade), rapidly rotating menu with some real gems (if you catch them before they rotate off, as did the wine-braised shortrib sliders with aioli and bitter greens). Kitchen, which includes its own bakery, maintains a 64-or 80-qt stockpot with meat and veg scraps making stock for soups and sauces and chef Reade maintains an original, 1907-edition Escoffier "Guide Culinaire" on his shelf there.
A warning: Both Agave and Steins were caught by surprise when the newly remodeled places yielded very loud acoustics. Both sets of owners know all about this. Agave (open since last summer) may have done some mitigation but Steins definitely has not yet, so don't go at crowded times and expect to have quiet conversations (or, sit in the outdoor patio).
Steins (seating well over 400 among its big main room and bar, two PDRs, and patio -- about the capacity of Scratch and CasCal combined) is poised to become a major downtown MV hangout. The fanatic beer expertise is there among senior staff; the chef has a real spark and touch (I talk to him in detail about food); all Steins needs is to bring up the training level of the other staff (so they can do things like answer beer-geek questions like the senior people can) and mitigate the deafening main-hall acoustics.
Will note on Steins - enjoyed the food - competently prepared gastro pub type fare (distinctly more sit down/high end fare than Steak Out - though I have great affection for Steak Out). Good patio, more spacious less communal feel.
Interesting beers on tap and a nice airy space.
When we went, they actually had run out of a fair amount of the beers on the list (expected as they only opened in the last couple months). Also, the host/hostess forgot that we were waiting at the bar, couldn't contact us, and gave our table away. It was busy enough on a Sunday that the wait was about 30-40 minutes.
We have similar take on the SteakOut comparison (a restaurant I know very very well). Because I both live and often work nearby I have abundant opportunity to visit this compact neighborhood's restaurant cluster (offhand I recall the count as 105 restaurant spaces of which Steins was #100 actually open, when it started at the end of March) and have been to Steins MANY times already. Real talent there, they just have to fix some obvious initial issues as above.
One of the senior people told me that last-minute design changes to meet City inspector requests cut into the usual pre-opening new-staff training and the restaurant has been catching up "in real time."
Mid-Peninsula residents will have seen the publicity last Spring-Summer when a controversy developed: a small group of neighbors across Bryant, complaining of problems from a nearby late-night nightclub, resisted the opening of this new big place and got the ear of the city's zoning official. It went to city council which by then had heard from the original 6 complainants, plus 600 other people -- other nearby neighbors, merchants, and of course beer geeks -- supporting Steins, so they gave the blessing. Tempest in a teapot since Steins owners later reached out to the original complainers and I've since seen them dining there!