Roast Shop in Palo Alto [House-cured Pastrami, Kosher, Deli]
Opened in December in the space where Rangoon used to be in downtown Palo Alto, Roast Shop was mentioned on the Kosher board.
According to the articles linked below, the deli meats --- pastrami, brisket, corned beef --- are cured (and smoked) in-house. Let's hear more about what's good here.
565 Bryant St
Palo Alto, CA 94301
11 a.m. to 8 or 9 p.m. Sunday through Thursday;
11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Friday; closed Saturday
I'm always on the hunt for a good pastrami sandwich so when I heard they smoke and cure their own I knew I wanted to give this place a try.
I'll just go ahead and say I was pretty disappointed. They were out of rye if I remember correctly, I'm here for the pastrami anyway so didn't care too much. I thought the pastrami was overwhelmingly salty. The flavor and texture both reminded me of baloney. There wasn't enough fat content at either.
It's places like this that make me wonder why it's so hard to find good pastrami, especially at establishments that are obviously putting some effort into it. It's really not that hard. I tried the pastrami sandwich at Lefty O'Douls recently which is just a simple hofbrau and enjoyed it much more than I did at Roast Shop. It's really not that hard... start with a properly cured and smoked piece of meat and steam the hell out of it right??
Why is it so difficult to get a decent pastrami sandwich?
I went to him for lunch today. I got a pastrami with rye and was overall disappointed. The rye bread was in the shape of a small baguette roll and not well flavored (undersalted?). The pastrami on the other hand was way way too salty and somewhat dry. Too much mustard was used.
Unless I hear reports that it improves I won't go back.
I finally made it back when they had meats on hand. (I called ahead to confirm!) Tried both the pastrami and the corned beef. I agree, the rye just doesn't have much rye flavor. I keep wondering if they're giving me the white bread despite my request for the rye!
As for the pastrami, my son had a half of it and thought it was just juicy enough. I didn't find it dry, but it wasn't as juicy as that I enjoyed at Katz's (NYC). It didn't strike my as too salty -- I actually found it just right when combined with the mustard option. The corned beef, on the other hand, seemed bland. It was much moister than the pastrami and came apart when pulled, while the pastrami was stringier and pulled apart under protest. The corned beef does come with sauerkraut and Thousand Islands dressing, so it doesn't really suffer from a lack of flavor. Now, if only I could get it grilled, with swiss cheese, on real rye. :-)
Since we were a party of three, we also ordered the veggie roast sandwich again and that went over well with the Weight Watchers in the party.
My brother was there the same day. He had in mind ordering with extra meat, but asked for a taste of the pastrami first. Finding it extraordinarily salty, he didn't order extra but still got a sandwich because it was near closing time. He ate half of it and then called me. I asked about the spicing and smoke influence, and he said that it was so salty that it was not possible to taste anything else. He didn't find it dry and the connective tissue was adequately softened though still a bit chewy.
He saved the other half for me and suggested that I try cutting the pastrami by making hash or something. I tried the pastrami and it was one of the saltiest things I've put in my mouth, but I didn't have a problem with the texture. Chopping up the meat from half a sandwich with one diced potato, some chopped onion and two eggs for breakfast was still not enough to balance the salt level.
re: Melanie Wong
Interesting. And discouraging. (Peter Yee's mention of Thousand Island dressing was unpropitious too, unless it was a paraphrase. I take the distinction between Russian dressing and its legendarily insipid diluted offshoot "Thousand Island" - an artifact of the post-WW2 Kraft Foods era of US cookbooks - as a shibboleth.) A consistent local place with this style of food would be an asset.
CH I think carried some discussion of downtown MV's upscale Kosher Americana restaurant that lasted some 2 years, The Kitchen Table. It developed, I understand, when a group that wanted to set up a private Kosher dining room approached a well-known restaurant consultant (and sometime chef and CCA instructor) who suggested making it into a public restaurant. Its pastrami varied, but I typically found it well spiced and not too salty. (And no "Thousand Island" nonsense.)
Don't know why that place closed, but both MV and PA downtown comm'l rents have shot up the last couple years, some lessees have seen the price literally triple on renewal and this has shaken out some restaurants.
The menu does say "RoastShop Thousand Island dressing".
I can only hope that means it exceeds the usual Kraft Foods, but you'll have to decide if the name alone condemns it.
As for The Kitchen Table, I just found it a bit pricey for what I got. That's been the case for some other kosher restaurants I've sampled. It seemed busy the few times I went, so it may very well have been a rent problem. Castro Street seems to be getting packed with going concerns again, with store fronts that were closed for years getting renovations recently.
re: Peter Yee
Yes there's nothing like a tripling of rental rates to motivate owners to fix up and market idle property. The tripling factor was explicitly cited by one restaurant that recently closed there after its 10-year lease came up to renew. Another (one of the more venerable local restaurants) told me they escaped the same fate by sheer chance of timing. And such long-dormant properties as Food Street (a restaurant closed for several years over a sewer problem) now display sudden activity.
The guy who owns the Asian Box restaurants in PA and MV commented in detail to the Chron a few months back to the effect that downtown storefront properties in these newly busy neighborhoods are today more expensive than comparable SF sites, and that even though the crowds and demographics attract restaurateurs, the inexperienced ones can't crack the nut with such rents and will last only a couple of years. Certainly that fits the history of several I saw come and go in the recent past.
re: Melanie Wong
I'm amazed. The three of us who partook of the pastrami sandwich didn't find it alarmingly salty at all. I wonder if some batches were overbrined or covered in a really salty rub. In any case, that's really disappointing to hear. For the price, you wouldn't want to be rolling the dice about whether you're going over your sodium limit for the day. I think I'll stick with the veggie roast sandwich if I'm ever back there.
It's probably worth calling ahead to see what they have. I went there today and was told they were out of corned beef, brisket, and pastrami. Meaning that all they had were the meatballs, chicken, and veggies. They weren't expecting to get meat delivered from their supplier until Wednesday. I'm assuming they mean the raw meat supplier since they do, as you note, claim to prepare their meats in-house, but the way I told about the anomalous situation didn't make that clear.
That said, I opted for the veggie roast sandwich. I normally do not like eggplant, but this sandwich was delicious. It was served piping hot and comes (like all sandwiches) on your choice of rye or white roll. Quite filling, even 3 hours later. Oh, another thing they didn't have -- bottled waters. They list both flat and sparkling, but had neither. They do offer tap water from a self-service dispenser in the dining room, so it wasn't a problem.
I'll go back after I call them first and confirm that they their cured meats available.
re: Peter Yee
Darn. But that does raise an interesting question. How long will it be without those items if indeed the process is done in-house? It's three days to three weeks to cure corned beef depending on the process used.
My brother stopped by after 8pm on Thursday when the staff were closing up. The 9pm closing time won't start until summer. But he did get to chat a bit with the manager and pick up a menu. Here's what the menu looks like: