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Apr 29, 2013 10:06 PM

What's great around Mountain View/Palo Alto -- Cascal, Joya, Tamarine; veggie-friendly?

Something closer than Manresa (Los Gatos) to the Mountain View/Palo Alto area. What other great, veggie-friendly, restaurants would you suggest within 20-25 minutes during rush hour? Any cuisine. Indian, etc.

I'm tired of Evivva. How's Cascal, Joya and Tamarine these days? Who has the most talented kitchen these days?

Thank you!!

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  1. Be wary of Cascal if you're hardcore about food. Yes it's popular and busy, and has had some great ad-hoc daily specials. Good for business lunches. Several marriages and lots else attributed to its bar, but those folks maybe didn't go there mainly for the food. I could say much more, but please talk to your locally very knowledgeable foodie friends if you want more lowdown. Joya much more the place if you want interesting true "tapas" IMO.

    Recent info on NEW downtown-MV restaurants in a current thread:

    I keep pretty close track of MV restaurants. Veggie-friendly? Sakoon was hot stuff, unusual upscale modern cosmopolitan Indian, Michelin recommended no less, until 2010 when its famous founding chef left (Sachin Chopra); might still be of interest. Scratch (of Rob Fischer's "Restaurants from Scratch" group which includes Reposado, Gravity, others) has offered classy wild-mushroom flatbread pizzas under chef Root, and HALF PRICE during Happy Hour (4-6 weeknights in bar area); but check to make sure that item is still on menu. Fresh and varied seafood too.

    Will post further if other reccs come to mind.

    1 Reply
    1. re: eatzalot

      Sakoon does a nice lunch buffet with plenty of a veggie-friendly choices. The selection of dishes is rather generous (more so than any other in the immediate area, including Amber), and they do a nice job refilling the stations in small batches throughout the service. The whole presentation is really quite elegant.

      Sachin Chopra left in 2010 to open up his own restaurant (All Spice) but still consults for some new(ish) restaurants like Arka in Sunnyvale.

    2. Here are some thoughts:

      I _really_ enjoyed Dio Deka last week. I know you said "closer than Manresa", but it was fully worth the drive. Yes, they're big on Grilled Meat, but put it on your radar. Every dish was note-perfect. A game I play with my father is "which dish wins" and he said all the dishes were at the same high level.

      Cascal - eatzalot has it about right.

      Joya - worth a poke. I've found their treatments inconsistent, but I did enjoy the last visit (about 6 months ago).

      Flea Street - if you like veg, and haven't been there, give it a try. Eventually you'll get tired of their shtick, but I like what they do.

      Mayfield Bakery - has its plus and minus, but I think it's in the realm of other restaurants you've mentioned. Reasonable for veg-friendly-ness.

      Reposado - I think these guys are punching way above their weight in the kitchen. Although (as eatzalot says) they're part of the group that's in the mid-range-pleasant, there's extra sparkle in the food in my last couple of visits. My imagination (watching the chefs through the glass) says these mexican/central american cooks are making dishes closer to home, and exerting more pride and local knowledge than when cooking cal-ital-modern at Gravity.

      Martin's West - RWC is a bit of a jump from PA, and I've been a little disappointed, but on a good day they serve interesting dishes. If you're bored, they should be on your list.

      Unfortunately, your original post didn't say 20-25 minutes "from where". RWC tends to be good northbound so I think fits, but not if you have to go through the 85 interchange. Anyway.

      4 Replies
      1. re: bbulkow

        In addition to bbulkow's recommendations, Vero in downtown Palo Alto is an excellent choice for Italian, and Amber India and Artisan - The Menu are both great choices for Indian food in Mountain View. All should be veggie friendly. I wouldn't send someone who is sick of Evvia to Dio Deka as the styles are quite similar though the details differ.


        1. re: mdg

          I can't eat at Evvia more than once every year because the menu is always the same - but Dio Deka was a treat, partially because the food was just simply so good.

          St Michael's Alley has always been ho-hum for me.

          On a new note:

          Just ate at Palo Alto Grill, the new place in the Miyaki space, I think they've only been open a week or so. (We were aiming for Campo but they're closed Tuesday). I asked the FOH guy who turned out to be the owner if they still are serving sake bombs, and he said they found the secret sake bomb recipe bricked up in a wall --- but have decided not to serve them out of respect. Also said the Mikyaki guys left the old disco balls, and he'd bring his daughters down and turn on the disco lights while they were remodeling.


          This is the Levande guy, and they said "we're turning our back on those Mediterranean shenanigans", even though you can see some peek through - a croatian wine buried in the menu, a roasted branzino at the tail end.

          They're trying to elevate the food a bit. We had a 5-spice quail that was mostly successful. The gamey tang was strong, but the sauce tasted more like a tart teriyaki than something 5 spice. Good try but more miss than hit.

          A whimsical small plate was the avocado corn dogs, which is a solid center of avocado with light corn dog outside, with a mustard garnish. GF said "reminds me of haggis on a stick", it had no taste similarities but we were at a bar with a deep fried strange object on a stick. Points for originality, but the creamy texture (and lack of taste) in the avo needed a little something, the same way you don't realize how much pepper and salt is in a hot dog.

          Pork belly was pork belly. Can't go wrong.

          Mains are focused on steak, but we didn't go for one. We had a burger, and the fries were very solid. Triple cooked, the barman said, and I think the oil was peanut. Very solid effort. The burger was also good, but I could have used a little more topping. Very good meat taste, perfectly cooked, nice bun.

          The room itself was a little loud, given that there were very few people there. The low ceiling lends itself to the american grill idea, but I felt a little claustrophobic.

          They're clearly trying for something a little unusual. If they can rotate their menu frequently, maybe add a solid cocktail program, I could see stopping by on a regular basis. The hospitality was certainly there, although there was a problem with attention to detail that seemed to plague Levande also.

          Price was $75 with TT for 2 people (thus $42/pp). Would have happily paid that if the dishes were better.

          Let's hope the kitchen pulls it together over the coming weeks, this could be a pleasant addition to downtown PA.

          1. re: bbulkow

            My brother reports that the cevapcici at Palo Alto Grill are the same as we liked so much at Lavanda. Please order them so they keep them on the menu.

      2. St. Michael's Alley is a nice spot in Palo Alto, I think it's location, a couple of blocks off of University, keeps it off some people's radar. We have had some very nice dinners there and they do a great brunch.

        1. eatzalot, bbulkow, mdg, macdog,
          Thanks for the fab coverage! We went to Cascal (ugh! the event date got moved up last minute and they were the most convenient). As you warned very ho hum. I'd never go back. 7 years back they seemed much better. Only somewhat decent thing was a sizzling shrimp. we sampled 10 tapas.

          I stopped at Joya last Sat night to do a quick pre-test. The bay scallops was OK. too much bacon IMO. kale w grapes OK. dessert of pineapple cake. pretty good. Overall i wasn't wowed and they couldn't take our group mid week.

          Last night 4 of us went to Manresa, one was strict vegetarian, for the prix fixe $125. Every course was superb! Even better than my last visit 6 yrs ago. Fab service. Makes up for Cascal! one miss ... the pear ginger virgin drink at the start. Too lemony. odd. I should have sent it back.

          I'll be back soon with you list and eatzlot at hand. I'm off to Crenn in SF this Saturday and will report back. I went once b4 when they opened and did a la carte. They were packed and let me order to go. Best takeaway meal ever ;-)

          Eat well, appreciatively,

          2 Replies
          1. re: janet T

            "7 years back [Cascal] seemed much better."

            For the record, here's my experience with Cascal (named incidentally for the street intersection it's at), which has tracked the restaurant's whole history.

            After it opened 10 years ago (brainchild of a well-established silicon-valley restaurateur and former owner of Birk's in Santa Clara) I attended two dinners there set up by a good friend who was a local print restaurant critic, to explore and write about the new restaurant.

            We found menu interesting and service competent, but what really stood out when comparing notes (as usual) a few days after these deliberate meals was that none of the several people present remembered any dish particularly, or indeed much of a food impression at all. That's unusual. (We visited of course after Cascal had been open long enough to iron out any customary new-business glitches.)

            I've since returned periodically over the years. Only real negative impression was the bar's version of a happy-hour food menu, dominated each time (in 3-4 tries) by deep-fried doughy items and salted meats. (But as I mentioned, food isn't why Cascal's bar is locally famous.) OTOH, some rotating specials in the main dining area have been inspired and pleasant, so one could easily drop in randomly and have memorably good food. I just haven't seen any consistency there (in about 10 total meals so far). The menu has tried to style itself nominally as some sort of pan-Latin tapas, but without the focus and authenticity and freshness of a proper Spanish tapas selection. I believe these factors are why, though Cascal remains popular, it draws much less of an experienced foodie crowd than it might.

            Of course, it also helps Cascal to have 400 lawyers working upstairs, many of whom no doubt use it for business meals.

            1. re: janet T

              So I went to Crenn on Saturday night for the shorter menu. It's was good but I'll take Manresa any day.

              One interesting incident. The squab skin had quite a layer of fat on it. I could barely chew it, likewise for my friend. After taking a good 4 minutes to catch the eye of our waiter and any of the nearby wait folks (in a very small dining room) we requested to swap it for something else. The "something else" turned out to be some sort of meat dish that clearly wasn't anything special. It was undercooked and so chewy that again we could barely break it down. We sent that back, this time asking for a fish substitute.

              On both send backs the waiter never apologized and acted a bit put out. Crenn was out visiting some tables during the night but never ours. We enjoyed the beet dessert and ending sweets but have no desire to return. Service reminded me of cold robots. I agree w Bauer's review.


            2. If you can make it all the way to San Mateo - maybe All Spice.

              In Woodside maybe try Station 1 or the Village Pub.

              1 Reply
              1. re: goldangl95

                Thanks, goldangl95! All Spice chef bio looks great. I'll be back in couple weeks to check it out.

                I appreciated the Cascal history, thank you!