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Looking for upscale/refined Asian restaurant in South Bay

Can anyone recommend an Asian restaurant in the South Bay, that serves reasonably authentic or smartly fusion food, with an upscale atmosphere that is more refined ? It doesn't have to be quiet, but loud is out. Specific ethnicity irrelevant, price less than $50 per person. Thanks.

ETA: This is for a group of primarily Asian people. So places like Chef Chu are out.

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  1. Please be more specific and/or explain which past threads you've thoughtfully checked already, and what you did not see there. I know of many possibilities and most of them have been discussed on this board.

    ETA: By "Asian" are you most interested in, for instance,

    Indian
    Pakistani
    Anatolian
    Persian
    Afghani
    Chinese general
    Chinese regional
    Chinese Islamic cuisines
    Japanese general
    Japanese Kappo
    Japanese Kaiseki
    Japanese Izakaya
    Very expensive sushi place without prices or menus where it helps greatly to have an introduction
    Hip Japanese ramen joints where you wait in line 30 mins. before opening only to find they've run out of the famous specialty when they finally seat you
    Korean general
    Korean hotpots
    etc etc etc. Any guidance is useful.

    (Side note: I just spotted your Chef Xiu specialties query from earlier this year, DagingKuda. I do have Dongbei specialties to suggest there, and I know which menu you meant (I have copies its printed menus) and can respond there if you're still interested. Simce Mountain View gets _comparatively_ little attention on this board, I don't scan the board regularly for it, but do have lots of info for its restaurants.)

    18 Replies
    1. re: eatzalot

      The request for upscale atmosphere eliminates 99% of those places. It's not an easy thing to search for on this board.

      1. re: eatzalot

        "Asian" meant "east Asian" in this case, as opposed to "south Asian" or "middle eastern". As stated originally, specific ethnicity is irrelevant. So, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Indonesian, Thai, Malaysian etc. are all contenders, regardless of subcategory (general, regional, vegetarian, Islamic, Buddhist, kappo, kaiseki, izakaya, hotpot, shabu shabu etc.). In fact, I was hoping the lack of restriction would encourage people to throw in any suggestions that came to mind.

        You interpreted "upscale/refined" correctly in your suggestions below. It meant not mom&pop/homey, not hole-in-the-wall, not cafe, not dining hall, but with some measure of elegance in the surroundings, less crowding, no staff speaking loudly at each other across the room, no TV. This criterion rules out many ramen (homey/cafe) and Chinese (crowding) places. On top of that, the $50 pp cap rules out many kaiseki and nicer sushi places.

        Your list below also made me realize that there was an additional requirement: that it not be near downtown Mountain View, because they've been taken to many of those places already (Kappo Nami Nami, Xanh, Bushido, Shana).

        I did searches on both Chowhound and Yelp, and came up with Gochi, Rokko, Jin Sho and Jang Su Jang (maybe not as refined, and the warning about car break-ins doesn't help). I was hoping for others. I'd definitely like your rec's on the refined Korean places in Santa Clara.

        1. re: DagingKuda

          Thanks, DagingKuda, those are exactly the kind of clarifications helpful in a quest of this ilk.

          ' "Asian" meant "east Asian" in this case, as opposed to "south Asian" or "middle eastern". '

          There we both meet an idiomatic difficulty common today, especially online. Every single subregion I named is strictly part of Asia (e.g. Anatolia being the main and, by tradition, Asian part of Turkey) -- geographically of course, "Asia" is the largest portion of the planet's land mass -- yet people lately often have something more specific in mind when they use the term. ("Middle Eastern" would open another interesting can of worms; and of course geographically it overlaps "Asian.")

          Sadly my Santa Clara experience is dated, a side effect of spending so much time lately in MV, where you have already been and done, as you explained. Jang Su Jang does have awfully good current rep., including from the reliable bbulkow of this Chowhound board.

          If your group has not experienced it already, you might consider Chef Zhao Bistro, MV just outside the downtown, extremely accessible location by car. Not such an elegant layout, and only a year old; but chef was a cooking instructor in Chengdu, and it is among the most intense (meaning real) Sichuanese restaurants I've experienced in the Bay Area. A little too "ethnic" for some non-Chinese diners (English can be an issue there), but outstanding kitchen, and besieged by Chinese expats - don't even consider Fridays for lunch or dinner. Moreover, chef has indicated not just a willingness but an enthusiasm for preparing non-menu Sichuanese specialties of wide scope, by advance request.

          Hunan Home's (on ECR in Los Altos) is a venerable, authentic but slightly unusual Chinese option we were already using for business dining in silicon valley 20 years ago, which the Michelin Guide (the real one, not its feeble online echoes) has now recommended for a few years (see discussion in current "Bib Gourmand" thread, and since you're serious here, buy a copy of the current Guide for 10 bucks or so, and you'll be way ahead of the online chatter).

          I hate to suggest places without personal experience, but FWIW, the Gochi locations (Cup'tino and recently also MV at the former Sushi Tei location) have truly exceptional word-of-mouth, and here I mean compelling testimonials that reach me privately, not just online comments of Unknown Perspective And Reliability. Possibly KK, one of this board's longtime experts on Penin. and S.-Bay East-Asian restaurants, could comment: I have particular reason to believe he recently tried one or both Gochis.

          1. re: eatzalot

            I've been to both the new and the old Gochi and would highly recommend it. I recently sampled the new one for lunch (where they serve their full tapas menu, not lunch specials), and everything we tried from the stewed beef tongue to the crab croquettes were all on the mark.

            To buck the trend, I'm not quite so enamored with Jang Su Jang. The place is "upscale" for Korean, but I just can't fall in love with their food. I've been to both the original and the new location in Milpitas multiple times (including today!), and I find all the basics (BBQ, bibimbap, tofu soup, banchans) to be middle-of-the-road, lacking depth and execution compared to more "authentic" but hole in the wall-ish places like Tobang. However, despite all my comments, if you're bringing someone out of town, it is a rather safe choice just on the basis of being comfortable, accessible and still OK.

            I've been to Jin Sho twice but haven't really dug in to build an opinion of it - it's elegant and refined, but you won't escape satisfied for under $50 a person.

            If we start to think about Chinese, Joy Luck Palace in Cupertino (at dinner) does fit the bill for a business meal too and is rather quiet at dinner assuming it hasn't been booked for a wedding. Dynasty is right next door, and while it's more elegant, the food quality isn't up to par.

            1. re: Jon914

              Our posts crossed, but we seem to be pretty much aligned (once again!). How do you feel that either Gochi meets the noise level and crowding criteria?

              1. re: Melanie Wong

                My assessment is that Cupertino is a definite no-go.

                Mountain View isn't as crowded and is quieter (when I went), but the place is rather small - about 15 tables IIRC. On the flip side, a smaller place makes for a calmer atmosphere.

                1. re: Jon914

                  Note also that Gochi in MV is a very new restaurant, open six weeks (therefore still another six or more weeks away even from consideration for professional review by the local weeklies), so it may still exhibit some of the transient quirks of new restaurants.

                  Such as Big Bites (570 N. Shoreline, MV, Vietnamese, open 3 weeks) recently did, when a diner with bad nut allergy requested "no peanuts" and this printed correctly at the cash-register terminal, yet vanished from the chit printed at the repeater in the kitchen, so that multiple dishes arrived with peanuts and had to be fixed, albeit with grace and dispatch. But these things happen at new restaurants.

              1. re: Robert Lauriston

                Thanks, good point. I was referring of course to the common online mentions of Michelin that consider solely the BG and star lists, ignoring most of its critical content, as discussed recently here. http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/9205...

                Reminder of the online full-content Michelin raises the further issues

                -- When does it come out? I have searched in the past, with the book in hand, looking for an online version of specific content to point people to, and not found it.

                -- There is even less excuse for people to narrowly consider the Guide just through the lens of the advance-publicized BG and sater lists.

            2. re: DagingKuda

              If you're looking for "less crowding", Gochi in Cupertino would not be the place. While I've not been in recent years, I ate there perhaps three or four times in the first couple years when it opened eight years ago. I liked the food very much, especially it's interpretation of pizza. Maybe the room has changed, but at that time, the tables were quite close together such that you would be sitting back to back with the table behind you. You could hear their conversations if you tried, but mostly not since Gochi has a lively izakaya atmosphere. A counter was squeezed in along one wall with a row of seats that made for a cramped aisle. We joked that Gochi had to hire tiny Japanese waitresses to squeeze between the tables.

              Hunan Homes is no more "reasonably authentic" than Chef Chu. Chu is quite a good chef if you know what to order, I've been told. Joy Luck Palace in Cupertino is far better than HH. I've been there twice for dinner in the last three years and it has not been busy or crowded since its rep is mostly for lunch time dim sum.

              Jang Su Jang is said to be the local Samsung office's favored place for business meals, which tells us something. The one time I tried it, our party of two was shunted to a narrow dining corridor so I don't recall what the main room looks like. I would not order the prime rib eye steak again, as I could not get our server who handled the grilling at the table to stop flipping the pieces over and let the meat brown. It was more expensive than other items and a waste of a piece of meat. My photos from two years ago.
              http://www.flickr.com/search/?q=jang%...

              1. re: Melanie Wong

                Ah yes, the Gochi in Cupertino has a pretty funky table configuration with the majority of the room being allocated to enclosed tables (take shoes off) and some regular and large-group tables along the edges. Not the place I'd bring out of towners for comfort.

                The new location is all tables, and at lunch, it's a calmer environment. I haven't been there yet at dinner, but on our one attempt to walk in, it wasn't particularly loud like the original can sometimes get.

                If we're considering places like Gochi, there's also En in Santa Clara which has a semi-private room in the back that might work. En has a somewhat similar menu but more emphasis on skewers and a little less fusion/creativity.

                1. re: Jon914

                  I'm going to have to retract my recommendation of En. On a recent visit, the food quality has dropped off substantially.

                  http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/7289...

                2. re: Melanie Wong

                  Come now, Melanie: You actually compare Hunan Home's to Chu? The distinction I see is that many émigré-Chinese co-workers would request to go to HH, whereas Chu's, by design, has targeted (and been filled with) non-Chinese customers for forty years. Chu himself told Stett Holbrook in a 2009 published interview that he decided around 1970 to forsake menu range in favor of focusing on the 10 or so Chinese dishes most ordered by non-Chinese diners -- and it worked! My hat is raised to him as an entrepreneur. I could likely tell you which dishes are made well at Chu's, having certainly tried each of them five to twenty times.

                  1. re: eatzalot

                    Born and raised in Salinas, I grew up not judging the quality of Chinese restaurants by the ethnic make-up of its clientele and instead let the food speak for itself. I continue that today. Likewise, I'll not fault Larry Chu for understanding the 80:20 rule. To use another Salinas example, the Chinese restaurants in town frequently have the top 5 dishes ordered translated into Spanish, e.g., pollo frito con pollo, puerco dulce y agria, carne de res y broccoli, to make it easy for their regular customers to find their favorites. I don't order those dishes and I don't base my opinions of the cooking based on that section of the menu. But that doesn't mean that there aren't some rewarding dishes if one digs deep into the menu.

                    The menu at Hunan Home's certainly reads more "authentic". But the problem I find is that one orders a classic dish and then finds that certain critical elements have been omitted to dumb it down. Also too much sauce, which I feel is a bone thrown to Americanization. And despite the name, don't order any Hunan dishes here unless one wants to be disappointed.

                    I can't offer you a head-to-head comparison as there's only one dish that I've ordered at both HH and CC. Here's the vegetarian goose at CC, quite typical and comparable to versions served at Shanghainese specialists:
                    http://www.flickr.com/photos/melaniew...

                    At HH, the Vegetarian Tofu Sheet was so bad it had to be sent back. To his credit, the manager asked what I found fault with. I explained that it was too dry and musty tasting. He then said that if I were accustomed to eating it at dim sum restaurants where it might be sauced, this would seem drier. I then pointed out the paler streaks of freezer burn and where the tofu skin was so dry and brittle it had crumbled. I further commented that I understood that his clientele might not order this very often but this seemed as if it had been frozen and defrosted, then refrozen too many times. He was gracious to offer to remove it from the bill rather than making it over, presumably because there was no fresher product in the house.

                    Certainly you've been to both far more times that I and I can't speak from your level of experience. I feel that Chef Chu isn't discussed here much because of the mass gringoization. I'd love to hear more from you about some of the interesting authentic dishes that I haven't tried. How is the eight treasure stuffed squab? Do you prefer the yuan pao chicken or the duck version?
                    http://www.chefchu.com/ChefChu/menu.a...

                    What are your favorites from the white board specials written in Chinese?
                    http://www.flickr.com/photos/melaniew...

                    Earlier mentions of the quality of Chu's cooking,
                    http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/8779...
                    http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/8932...
                    http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/2882...

                    1. re: Melanie Wong

                      Sorry, I misunderstood you earlier to be referring only to dishes in Chu's avowed focus: the dishes he decided to emphasize, and became known for, among "the American public who made egg rolls, sweet and sour pork and General Tso’s chicken American standards that rank up there with apple pie and hot dogs."

                      That's so central and explicit to Chu's approach (are you already familiar with the 2009 interview I cited above? http://www.sanjose.com/chef-chus-a14521 ) as to occupy a special category, distinct from Hunan Homes or most of the other Chinese restaurants in the county.

                      Esentially all of which also serve Americanized repertoire, for practical 80/20 business reasons. (And get unjustly slammed for it online. Either by people who try just those dishes, thoroughly ignoring excellent regional specialties and enthusiasms that are those restaurants's avowed focus, in the same way Americanized repertoire is focal to Larry Chu; or, particularly on this board, slammed for only translating certain dishes to English, by irate non-Chinese diners who appreciate the less Americanized offerings, yet don't realize just how small a minority of the customer statistics they themselves constitute.) Realistically the numbers in this situation are nearer 99/1 than 80/20, and I even have some public data behind that.

                      But at Chu's unlike so many others, the Americanized menu is front, center, and proud. So I much appreciate the tips of hidden gems there. It seem to me Hunan Home's was closer to this OP's criteria, Chu's being explicitly precluded. I'd gladly recommend some local regional Chinese restaurants by preference (have recently done so in other threads), but they don't fit this particular query for other reasons the OP spelled out.

                      Any local who has not attended Chu's periodic cooking classes (offered at the restaurant or elsewhere) has missed a good bet. You don't have to be interested in cooking at all. The guy is a firecracker, sparking with quips and wit and gestures. Then, you eat the demonstration results. Almost dinner theater.

                      1. re: Melanie Wong

                        And thanks to your links I just noticed the 2012 "earliest authentic" thread, which I'd missed when it was timely. Surprising to see some notable 1960s suburban places, predating Chef Chu's, such as one on College Ave. in Berkeley starting in the late 1960s, missing from that discussion (the same topic has come up periodically on other Bay Area internet media and gotten well-informed commentary). But the thread's upshot does bring out the demographic shift, the new immigration from cuisine-rich provinces, that changed the face of US Chinese restaurants, changed what became considered typical American Chinese dishes, and changed US Chinese cookbooks, starting in the 1960s.

                  2. re: DagingKuda

                    Rough query.

                    If you're willing to stretch to India (you said you weren't), Arka in Sunnyvale has a lot of what you're looking for (except it's indian).

                    Sumika (yakitori in Los Altos) is fairly refined. I don't know if you can get out comfortably for $50 (variables: alcohol, tax/tip...).

                    Indo, which used to be Straits, has a refined interior. No reports on food quality here. I did not like this Straits (wanted to, given my love of the old SF Straits).

                    Fuki Sushi has a quiet japanese vibe, and is less expensive than the full sushi nazi places. I like the non-sushi dishes here - can't remember off the top of my head, but all seemed well executed.

                    Tai Pan in PA is very quiet and refined. Not at all fusion, very old school, food doesn't speak well to me but I haven't tried it more than a couple of times. Mandrin Gourmet is maybe a step down in formality and a step more interesting in food.

                    Gee, no one mentioned Ming's, since we're dragging Chef Chu into the light. I haven't eaten there.

                    I would not call Chef Zhao refined, I would call it clean and reasonable leaving focus on the food, but not more in terms of atmosphere.

                    1. re: bbulkow

                      "Gee, no one mentioned Ming's"

                      By design. Nor Sunnyvale's Tao Tao Cafe. OP stipulated "This is for a group of primarily Asian people. So places like Chef Chu are out."

                      I do know those places, visited them periodically for more than 30 years. All are roughly comparable as old-line silicon-valley Chinese restaurants serving a lot of "Chinese chicken salads" (invented in or near Los Angeles), indeed Larry Chu particularly highlighted that dish in his first cookbook in the 1980s. All have their merits even if not for this OP's quest. Ming's and TT have additional stature as watering holes. Ming's has popular dim sum service, weekends.

                      bb, as I recall, you know the significance of Walker's Wagon Wheel in local business history. Though less iconic, Ming's shares some of that role. It is as old as silicon valley per se (contemporary with the original semiconductor firm in Mountain View, 1956) and might also have been relevant to the past "earliest authentic" Chinese-restaurant thread cited earlier in this one, though my own experience with Ming's started only in the 1980s so can't speak to its pre-1970 cuisine. I know Ming's, in my time, as exemplar of what was the "new" style of US Chinese-restaurant cuisine by 1970, and is today called Americanized style: pot stickers, mu-shu, not to omit Chinese chicken salads.

                  1. re: Robert Lauriston

                    Thanks. I had the "Last 12 months" flag set, so I didn't see those. I was hoping for something more recent.

                  2. Eagerly awaiting OP's clarifying comments.

                    Meanwhile, just a few personal favorites. "Upscale" is ambiguous, but taking the $50 p/p ceiling as guide, and "refined" atmosphere. First five are in downtown MV:

                    Kappo Nami Nami (Japanese Kappo, elaborate, elegant)

                    Xanh (hip modern Vietnamese, best at dinner or "happy hour" -- lunch is just a buffet now and does not show this restaurant's abilities)

                    Sakoon (local upscale Indian, elaborate décor in four dining rooms)

                    Bushido (Japanese Izakaya, small plates, drinks)

                    Ephesus (Turkish)

                    Some decent Thai places are around silicon valley; current favorite among many people around MV is Shana, just outside the downtown on Moffett betw. Central and 101.

                    In downtown Palo Alto I think well of Tamarine (upscale Vietnamese, less hip or edgy than Xanh, above), and so do many other people. Haven't been back recently and there has been when I was going there a hint of an issue, maybe this is getting too detailed for the query, but summed up by one very experienced gastronome as the menu there "reading better than it eats").

                    On the other hand, for Korean restaurants favored by Korean businessmen, featuring grilled meats and soju, the principal cluster is around El Camino near the border of Sunnyvale and Santa Clara.

                    So much depends on what you like.

                    11 Replies
                    1. re: eatzalot

                      I actually think Xanh's lunch buffet is pretty darn amazing considering the price, but you do have to fight the lunch crowd. Stunningly beautiful place, and the dishes are a major step up from your standard greasy low-quality Chinese buffets.

                      1. re: vincentlo

                        Indeed vincent I didn't do Xanh much justice in that terse mention. In 2-3 tries I found the lunch buffet unusual, well-executed, and a good value. Back story is that before its move from original location on Castro to the current flashy customized digs and the buffet lunch format, Xanh at its former location did truly unusual a-la-carte lunches, though notably more expensive than today's buffet. My experienced food-obsessive peninsula lunch gang considered it one of the hottest options around, and have never been as enthused about the current buffet, despite its admitted merits. As mentioned also in a current Mountain View thread, the current Xanh's flashy metallic exterior and lounge are stylish, but the style isn't everyone's:

                        http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/9209...

                        Among competing upscalish lunch buffets on that street, an extremely popular Indian option, quite lavish and standing apart from most Indian competition in the county (including Shiva's nearby) and a dollar or two pricier as well, has been Sakoon, in 5-6 tries, last maybe a year ago. Vegetarian along one side, non-veg on the other.

                        But these are all lunch option details, a little afield of the OP's request here for dinner.

                        1. re: eatzalot

                          For some reason, the above reminds me of the myriad of comparisons between the old and the current Slanted Door!

                          1. re: vincentlo

                            Didn't the Slanted Door move several times? Also, IIRC its chief claim to fame, the reason all the buzz ever started in the first place, was that President Clinton talked it up -- a point soon forgotten.

                            1. re: eatzalot

                              When Frank Bruni first wrote about the Slanted Door in the NY Times in 1998, it was already so popular that he said to make reservations far in advance. By the time Clinton went there in 2000, Mick Jagger had already eaten there twice.

                              1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                Right. The reason President Clinton went there was that it was already well-known. And yes, it moved at least twice, from Valencia St. to SOMA before moving to the Ferry Building. I have a vague memory that it moved from the original site on Valencia to a space next door, too.

                                1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                  Good old CH! :-) :-)

                                  It's true, too, that Hubert Keller was familiar to serious SF eaters, and praised in the Chron, long before he moved to Fleur de Lys (and later was upstaged by some new "Keller" in the North Bay); and Paul Bertolli was widely respected in the Bay Area for many years prior to Oliveto and the fashionable chatter over "salumi," which has now died down a bit. All serious US wine enthusiasts knew of Château Pétrus before President Kennedy talked it up, eventually rendering it a nouveau-riche trophy wine at 10+ times its previous price (inflation-adjusted), much as the paint-by-numbers wine critics do today.

                                  However, most media mentions I saw of Slanted Door 10-12 years ago cited Clinton, so I guess not everyone reads the NYT.

                                  Xanh in Mountain View is still reasonably easy to get into. Go while you can!

                                  1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                    Charles Phan announced plans to expand the original Slanted Door into the space next door, but instead he moved it to 100 Brannan.

                        2. re: eatzalot

                          Please tell me what you (or others) like at Shana... it's just half a block from my house and I LOVE thai food but the one (and so far only) time I ate there I got pad kee mao that tasted like it was cooked in a dirty wok. Nasty. Inedible. When I mentioned it to the server she either did not understand me or could not have cared less. My life would be even fuller and happier if I could find something to love at this place.

                          Thanks in advance,
                          miss louella

                          1. re: miss louella

                            I have to guess your experience was a fluke, Miss L. I have a particular weakness for pad ke mao, and much enjoyed it the 3-4 times ordered there.

                            Other memorable dishes included green curry roti, albeit the pastry there has been rather rich, and the very intense beef "waterfall" salad. But overall, the menu range, the enthusiasm for fresh vegetables ...

                            Not to slight Thai restaurants in Los Angeles or anywhere, but among options within walking distance per your account, many people including me and KK of this board prefer Shana as the general Thai choice in the last 2-3 years. (That address turned over quite a bit in previous years but Shana has made a success of it.) I also like Amarin after several dozen visits in 10 years, partly because of little things tucked away on its menu that other Thai restaurants don't offer, and partly for solid reliable execution over and over again, even reasonably fast service when quite busy, as it often is. (I do not share the taste seen on other restaurant-comment web sites for knocking Amarin after trying almost none of its menu, and at the same time suggesting no local Thai alternatives.)

                            1. re: eatzalot

                              Thanks for the reassurance, eatzalot. I'll give Shana another try and report back.

                        3. Su Dam in Los Altos may have the nicest decor of any of the local Korean places. It's a pleasant location for having their organic tofu and no-MSG cuisine.

                          Tamarine is delicious upscale Vietnamese in Palo Alto but I don't know if it's in your price range.

                          Sumika in Los Altos indeed has fine food but I think it's more downscale / crowded than what you're looking for.

                          Too bad Indian isn't an option as that opens up more possibilities such as Amber India and Sakoon. Arka is extremely loud so that wouldn't work.

                          Michael

                          3 Replies
                          1. re: mdg

                            "Su Dam in Los Altos ... for ... organic tofu and no-MSG cuisine."

                            I think it's wretched if cooks substitute MSG for real flavor ingredients, and I'd like to know about any who do.

                            Just as a technical note, there is no such thing as true no-MSG cuisine, in the sense that you get the same set of ions in your food intake (sodium, l-glutamate) from many other sources, some of which have even more sodium and naturally occurring glutamate than any cooks add in the form of commercial MSG powder. (That people don't claim particular "MSG sensitivity" upon eating peas or cheese or soy sauce, for example, may be related to the absence of any such sensitivity surfacing at all in clinical blind tests.)

                            But if some restaurants are known actually, like from witnessing or their own admission rather than just suspected, for adding MSG powder, I wish people would point it out on this board. There is enough of a stigma to MSG powder today that I understand it's used much less than in decades past.

                            1. re: eatzalot

                              How would you feel about all the condiments/sauces that are now part of a lot of Asian cooking that feature MSG additives?

                              1. re: goldangl95

                                Very good question, goldangl.

                                1. I'd feel it belonged in a CH "cooking" forum, where I could comment in more depth after 30 years avid Asian cooking and a refrigerator full of such products. I'd see you there and raise you: that situation isn't peculiarly Asian. Isolated flavor enhancers (glutamates, guanylates, inosine derivatives) have been the soul of the US convenience-food industry for 50 years.

                                2. Condiments raise the same popular confusion as restaurant cooking, for the same reason: Many of them don't "need" explicit MSG or related products added, because they make their own (as in miso, soysauce, fermented bean pastes, fish extracts; in Western cultures, yeast extracts, Vegemite, Worcestershire sauce). Commercial MSG itself comes from vegetable proteins by fermentation. Commercial flavor enhancers all also occur naturally in foods, and help them taste good. The body does not "know" if sodium and l-glutamate ions it got came from commercial MSG or Parmesan cheese.

                                I referred above instead to a scene common in US Chinese-restaurant kitchens 1970s-80s. Cook water-blanches vegetable and oil-blanches meat ingredients; throws into a wok to stir-fry with other ingredients; and grabs a pinch from the open box of MSG powder. For Pho restaurants even today, it can be more than a pinch. Problem isn't presence of MSG ions in result -- they occur anyway in a good meat broth --but absence of flavor.

                          2. So after filtering out places in MV, the candidate list consists of

                            Gochi
                            Rokko
                            Jin Sho
                            Jang Su Jang
                            Sumika
                            Indo
                            Fuki Sushi
                            Tai Pan
                            Mandarin Gourmet
                            Tamarine
                            Su Dam

                            I'm leaning towards Gochi (if we can get a private room), Sumika (may be too loud - will check it out first), Jang Su Jang (again, if we can get a private room) or Indo.

                            Thanks for the suggestions. Feel free to add more if anything else comes to mind.

                            3 Replies
                            1. re: DagingKuda

                              Recently at the new Gochi in MV, I saw a group much like your description, DagingKuda, at lunch, using the little private screened-off room to the rear. (Maybe your group?)

                              That restaurant, partially remodeled from its earlier longtime role as site of Sushi Tei (a more modest, but popular, Japanese restaurant), is doing good stuff, with exciting menu and very gracious attentive pro-active Japanese service. Probably setting a new standard for Japanese restaurants in that restaurant-rich neighborhood, competing there with Kappo Nami Nami and the established Izakaya place, Bushido (which I also like very much -- but I find it not quite as intense or elegant as Gochi; and Gochi's menu is very ambitious, and in my experience so far, well-executed.) That private room is a good option to know about.

                              1. re: eatzalot

                                Good to know about. Greetings from Tokyo, another great meal here.

                                According to Google, there are two Gochi, one in MV on Castro, one at Cupertino / Homestead. Any comparisons between the two, suggestions between "old" and "new" ?

                                1. re: bbulkow

                                  I cannot compare the "old" because only tried the "new." But it has had several references already on this board. KK for example could probably comment and compare.

                                  The new MV site has VERY extensive small-plates menu (not even hinted at on the web site when I checked) and quickly became popular/crowded. I see many references to it on other media and local blogs, from nearby residents some of whom say they've become regulars, tried many dishes, identified favorites. My impression in keeping an overall eye on downtown MV's restaurant cluster (which is about to get some new ones incl. yet another VPN-pizzaiolo pizza place "Doppio Zero" at a former "Pasta?" restaurant, as with Palo Alto's Figo) is that Gochi is the Hot Place in the 'hood just now.