Santa Clara near the Marriott
Had dinner at Parcel 104 and found it quite good. They had just changed to a more fall-centric menu to insure locally sourced food. I had the game hen with herb sauce, that was very tasty and it was served with a mini cast iron skillet of some of the best chili I have had. The only down side was a small amount of 'cast iron' taste on the last couple of bites. I had the Pinot flight of wines with the dinner and there were good differences between the three chosen wines.
Thanks for all of your suggestions.
And thanks for reporting back. Now this board has some info in Parcel 104 that's both recent and specific.
"served with a mini cast iron skillet of some of the best chili I have had. The only down side was a small amount of 'cast iron' taste on the last couple of bites"
This is what comes of people insisting on cooking reactive, low-pH foods (presumably the chili included peppers and maybe tomato as usual) in cast iron. I and others have railed about this for 30 years online, and so do many cookbooks. Related problem surfaced in locally-made, A. G. Ferrari frozen Italian-style lasagnes: well made, but in surprisingly short interval the frozen tomato content etched pinholes in the light aluminum tray, and juices actually leaked out when baking in the oven! Will they ever learn?
Parcel 104 is perfectly good business meal location, and a great choice if you're staying at the hotel, but it is unexciting and in no way a destination restaurant. The Greek food at Athena Grill is still my favorite in the area, though of course there are loads of Indian and Korean options nearby.
Sorry if I did not make this clear, mdg, but I wrote above that 104 was a destination restaurant _in my experiences,_ and most people I dined with there would likely agree. That was when Bart Hosmer (chef) was supported by a wine dept. with Master Somm. Randall Bertao and Michael Ireland (pre-Meadowood) in overlapping tenures at the unusual and resourceful wine dept. there (itself a draw for us wine geeks, and well beyond what could be reasonably expected at a suburban business hotel). This was some years ago (starting around 2003 and lasting a few years), so I have no current reading of the place. I don't know if the timing of your experiences overlapped mine; if not, we are comparing not just different perspectives but of perhaps virtually different restaurants. I have not noticed 104 in the news lately, compared to several years back.
ETA: Indeed, checking the Michelins I see that the Guide was making a fuss over 104 (three forks) as of 2008, but later dropped it from mention. So maybe we caught it at a better time than today.
Replies so far, even LAMark's helpful one, haven't done justice to Parcel 104, right at your location.
Now I have not returned there in a few years, but Parcel 104 in my experiences wasn't only "pretty good," it was a destination restaurant, bringing knowledgeable diners from other towns, part of the Peninsula high-end circuit that competed with the likes of 231 Ellsworth, John Bentley's, The Village Pub, and Quattro at the Four Seasons, Palo Alto (another, newer, and edgier, high-end restaurant, in another large hotel on 101, some miles north, worth your attention too).
Somewhat obscure with its cryptic name and freeway location, Parcel 104 is a Bradley Ogden concept that had one of the Bay Area's few Master Sommeliers, and a very capable chef, when I was eating there.
The other well-known restaurant very near you is Birk's, more casual than 104 and originally built around a mesquite grill. Birk's aimed, in the 1990s, and with some success, to take over some of the stature that the venerable Lion & Compass then held as the fashionable dealmakers' business-meal venue for the original, i.e. pre-software, "silicon-valley" industries. I think Nolan Bushnell himself even had a piece of it, anyway I saw him at L&C occasionally.
One or two thousand "ethnic" restaurants are in the same county, within a few miles' drive -- this board seldom even hints at either their full number or diversity -- of several major, and far more niche, genres from Afghani to Macanese to Japanese noodles with secret broth recipes. But those tend not to be around highway-101 business sites like the Marriott, rather they concentrate in locations like El Camino Real or parts of Milpitas, SJ, Cupertino, etc. etc.
Parcel 104 is oft overlooked because of its hotel nature, at least by me, I'm biased against hotel restaurants --- unfairly so. I've had a few lunches and maybe a dinner there, and I got no WOW from the food, but I also wasn't focused on the food -- business eats.
It is very, very good and ... unless you really like Indian, Chinese, Japanese, you shouldn't feel "bad" about eating there.
If you have a car and don't mind a 10~15 minute drive (outside of the high traffic times), then you should declaim which styles of food & experience you enjoy.
There isn't a whole lot in the immediate vicinity, but if a short drive is OK, there are plenty of ethnic places around.
- Cooking Papa (Hong Kong Style) <-- this one's well-covered on Chowhound
- Sumiya (Yakitori)
- Kebab and Curry's (Indian)
- Tons of Korean along El Camino Real between Lawrence and San Tomas. Tobang, Kunjip and Cheon Joo Young-Yang Dolsot have all delivered well. Jang Su Jang is a safe choice for someone visiting out of town, but food-wise, I find it less authentic / toned-down.
- I'm not a huge fan of this place, but Saigon Seafood Harbor (a dim sum / HK-style restaurant) is rather close by too if you're looking for dim sum in the immediate area.
There are plenty more places along similar lines to these, but this should give you a starting point to work from.