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Aug 27, 2013 08:28 PM

Last pesky request, I promise... Peninsula Birthday dinner re-evaluation

So I had thought I had it all planned out for the relatives arrival (Napoletano, Amber India, Agave, HK Saigon on weekend lunch) and was going with Asian for the birthday dinner but have since been informed that they want a fun drinking lively place for the dinner (never mind that the bday gal likes Asian...). SO I am looking for the perfect place- lively, good drinks, good food, not dead on a Sunday night...
anywhere in Palo Alto/Mtn View/Los Altos/Menlo Park areas.

I was thinking of la Bodegita del Medeo but not thrilled about the reviews and havent been in years. Joya? Scratch? (have not been to either) Coconuts? Something like Nola's but better food... (and they were there last time ) any cuisine that has cocktails- mojitos...

I welcome all suggestions and I promise this is the last time I bother y'all...

Thanks so much for all recommendations and advice

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  1. Reposado, though am not sure how lively on a Sunday night. Where did you take them last time & what did they like?

    ETA: actually, Tacolicious would work but I felt the food wasn't as good as Reposado.

    1. Is Tamarine open Sunday? - it's Asian and serves cocktails and a smaller space so it feels vibe-y

      Reposado works but it's such a huge space that it can feel very empty on non-peak nights.

      Joya would have the best atmosphere but food/drinks are pretty so-so.

      1. Xanh on Castro Street in Mountain View is lively, very good Vietnamese fusion food, inventive cocktails. Decor is very modern.

        If you're steering away from Asian now, consider Stein's (beer garden, Mountain View just off Castro, also has good inventive cocktails, food is new american/gastropub).

        Cascal (Spanish, tapas) also fits the bill, although I think neither the food nor drinks are as good. Always pretty lively, though.

        1. Oh dear not again.... sorry... but I'm replying.

          You left out the price constraint. Thus I will cover everything I think is possible without price consideration.

          I would normally recommend NOLA. I like their food (having been to new orleans & have some appreciation) but you're looking for LOVE not like. The bar is very solid (they have manhattans). It's always humming. BUT you've been there.

          Xahn has average at best food, and the tables are too close together. Plus: it's asian, isn't in the running
          Scratch is best experienced with two people at the bar, and the food is also B+. There's a big table you can reserve to the left, and that's a possibility, but not a top choice, will be somewhat quiet on a sunday.
          BdM, honestly i haven't been in a few years. I think the food is similar to other place: B+ and I have to order wisely at the bar to get good drinks.
          Coconuts can have good atmosphere, but it's an ugly-ass room. BYO atmosphere.

          Break for cocktail commentary. I hate mojitos. They're simply too watery. Those summer fizzy highballs just don't do it for me. I'd rather have a smaller drink of higher proof, then something that tastes like sugar water but packs a punch. I properly made caipirina is a different story, as it's white liquor, lime, sugar, and ice. If they want mojitos, I don't know if my commentary is worthwhile.

          Martin's West has great drinks, but all the atmosphere is in the front. If you can reserve (and fit at) one of the front two tables right in the window, it's possible. The tables in the back are not that happening. Food is closer to A- but not A. IMHO. Mr Lauriston begs to differ, and I trust his opinion. Lots of trendier food, like the Haggis on a Stick.

          Reposado. Would not be the worst choice. Buzzy, even on a sunday, and I think they're punching above their weight on the food side. The moles they have show some subtlety but aren't knockout amazing. I consider the food a small notch above NOLA but in the same general category, and the higher quality might be lost on someone who hasn't sampled mexican food.

          Quinto Sol. RWC. VERY nicely designed space. Stiff drinks (margeritas). They have an interesting space kind of like a horseshoe that might perfectly fit your group, it's right as you walk in (bar is to the left from there). I've only sampled QS once, and I was a little meh - I want my tastes a little bolder - but the sauces were nicely refined.

          Tamerine. I love, and adore, tamerine on the late side (arrive approx 9pm) at the central shared tables where you can take them over and make your own party. The drinks are a little "mojito-ish" for my taste (see above, weak), but there are some great dishes ( I like the How Long Bay (arrrrg) soup and the tea leaf beef), and the space is very well designed. Widely considered the top food in the area you've mentioned (Evvia also), but I don't agree - it's good but it's a very particular style. Problem is, the right-hand dining room is stuffy, the back room means no buzz & party, and you can't reserve those communal tables. Dealbreaker.

          Flea Street. There's not a lot of love on this board for Flea Street, but let me make a case for it. Flea Street has a very California menu, and everyone really likes it the first couple times. They do an amuse. The owner drops by (jesse). It's very Sand Hill Rd. so not quite A PARTY but always a good flowing atmosphere. The bar is underrated, I had the best Sazerac of my life there (and I spent a few days in actual new orleans drinking a lot of sazeracs). For the first two visits, I think the food is better than anything else discussed here, and will be more "unusual" to your guests. It's also NOT CHEAP.

          One more idea: Madrone. Madrone is an honest michelin one star. It has a plausible bar. The back deck will be a little quiet on a sunday, but the view is GREAT up the hills. It's a Special Place. That having been said, once you get over the buzz of the atmosphere, there's nothing to recommend it. Service can be iffy (if you're not dressed exactly right), I would call the food B+, and prices are really high. Going there for a birthday drink before sunday is a really, really good idea. Then they'd be liquored up for round 2. ( When you check this place out, sit on the back deck only. It has a reputation for Cougars at the bar which can get ugly ).

          Which brings us to Joya.

          By process of elimination, I think you want Joya.

          The drinks are better at half a dozen places.

          I find the atmosphere a little too vegas, Martin's West and Quinto del Sol and JUST ABOUT EVERYWHERE ELSE is is more real. You get bachelorette parties, for crimini's sake.

          The food is B+ verging on A-. It's about half a step above NOLA, and, regrettably, it tries to be spanish. I ate there last maybe 2 months ago and was pleasantly surprised ( I thought it would be unpleasant and it was tasty, not GREAT ).

          But it's always happening. One a warm evening when they throw the big windows open, it's one big happy room and there's always a buzz. The buzz is a little older and moneyed (it's not a cheap joint).

          Now, if price wasn't an object, I would suggest the following.
          Rent a limo. Have the limo drop you off at the ferry building in SF. Have an oyster and champain at Hog Island. Catch the SF - OAK ferry, have a drink (bad) on the boat (consider a flask of armpit-temp Bullitt Rye 95) and watch the light. Limo picks you up again at the oak ferry. Pizzaolio, it's all you're asking for. Then Lush, just ice cream but among the best I've had (eat in the limo, & they serve it at Vesta in RWC). Then call an audible for Heinhold's (oldest continually operating bar on the west coast outside tables very small) vs Van Kleef (sweaty local institution, hard to explain) vs Mua ( great drinks but loud inside vs the hardscrabble outdoor patio) vs the Hotsy Totsy (a crap shoot and 20 minutes north, but when it's happening it's happening - and you get an honest taco truck). Limo home.

          1. Thanks for all replies. (bbulkow: my profuse apologies for making you endure this)

            keep in mind its a mixed group of 10 with ages ranging from 22 to 80 (only one 80- 4 under 30, 1 over 40, 4 over 50...:)

            Xanh- asian and last time I was there it wasnt impressive. Tamarine- too stuffy and not great for a large (hopefully animated) group. Reposado, never been but they will have had mexican on their first (informal) night- Agave. Cascal i would go to but afraid of the food, but perhaps its more about the drinks and nothing will matter from there... Joya, from your comments I am now afraid... Sunday night is the killer too. price wise I;m trying to stay moderate but will consider something exceptional.

            This is way too hard and taking too much brain activity especially as I have to put together a meal for all on top of it all... now that's another discussion :)

            1 Reply
            1. re: laterible

              Martin's West is closed sunday, my mistake.

              How about Lazlo up in the city - fun bar atmosphere, all the food from FC you can order.

              You're just not going to get exceptional down here.