36 hours in San Jose
- PeterCC Oct 19, 2013 05:02 PM
Hello from an L.A. 'hound. My wife and I will be attending a wedding next Sunday in San Jose. We'll be arriving Saturday night and leaving Monday morning.
My current tentative chow-related plans are as follows:
* Saturday Night: Late dinner at Liquid Bread
* Sunday Morning: Dim sum at Koi Palace (Daly City)
Is Koi Palace worth the drive from SJ to have or should we find a more local dim sum place? We're also not married to dim sum if there's a kickass place in the South Bay for Sunday Brunch. Something different than what we can get in L.A., perhaps.
Wedding is Sunday afternoon-to-evening so we'll be covered there.
* Monday Morning: ???
Probably something relatively quick and simple, but still chow-worthy for Monday so we can get back on the road.
What do y'all think? Thanks in advance!
(We're driving up from L.A., so if anyone has suggestions for stuff on the way, that's be great. I'll also ask on the main CA board.)
re: Robert Lauriston
In practice, the Dublin Koi's actually about the same distance if you factor in time (I make that drive from the South Bay too!), but the Dublin Koi is less crowded and opens later - for that reason, I'd say that location is a safer bet.
When you're talking about dim sum, the menu is so vast that it's more of a matter of knowing the restaurant's strengths and weaknesses. If you decide to go, here's what I've found over the years.
- *In general*, the ordinary stuff (siu mai, beef balls, spareribs, rice noodle rolls etc.) is nothing to write home about, and this is what bouncepass is probably referring to. The one "ordinary" item that is rather good is their shrimp dumpling.
- Their BBQ is a strong point - The BBQ neck meat is sublime, the char siu (if ordered fatty) can be very good. Suckling pig (and the cheaper but equally yummy roast pig belly) is usually a winner.
- Desserts: Sa Yung (donuts), portuguese egg tarts, durian puff pastry. Avoid the Mango Pudding.
- Other recommendations: stir-fried sticky rice, soup dumpling, beef organs, pan-fried turnip cakes, "ja leung" (rice noodle wrapped around donut)
Joy Luck is good (Robert linked to my post), but my sense is that you're looking for something different from what you normally have, and I'd still lean towards Koi Palace because the selection is so much more interesting.
I might be in the minority, but I find Koi Palace to be a step below the top-end SGV places (Sea Harbour, Elite, King Hwa, Mission 261 etc.) and thus I personally wouldn't make the drive. I find their execution lacks refinement. In the bigger picture, all these places are about in the same tier, below the best places in Vancouver and well-below what one can find in Taipei and Singapore (and, I assume in Hong Kong but I haven't been in a very long time).
A lot closer to you is plenty of interesting food, even if it doesn't hurdle the "can't find in LA" bar. Chettinad-style Indian:
I really like Walia (Ethiopian). I think the flavors are complex yet harmonious, more so than most Ethiopian places:
There's a ton of amazing Vietnamese in SJ.
Blue Line Pizza is a slightly different take which a lot of people, myself included, like quite a bit.
Ramen Halu has some interesting stuff that isn't found at a normal ramen-ya. Right now, pumpkin ramen.
Unless you're out to prove to yourself how much better the dimsum offerings are in LA/Rosemead compared to the Bay Area - I wouldn't bother with dimsum.
I know it sounds crazy but banana milkshakes and falafel at Falafel's Drive-In would be on the list. You must have the banana milkshake with your meal or else it's not worth the effort.
Also, there's great pho and vietnamese food in general - all over the south bay. It's just a matter of how adventurous you're feeling.
That's all I've got for you. LA seems to have it all, and it's usually as good or better, less expensive, and more accessible.
Maybe Indian? there is a big population of Indian expats here in Silicon Valley and there is a lot of good indian options.
as other suggested, SJ is also strong at vietnamese, and perhaps ramen (but you may have that in LA already).
How about Donostia Pintxos for dinner (also open late, tapas in Los Gatos)? Liquid Bread is open for lunch but only starting at 1pm.
I feel that Koi Palace isn't worth the 50 minute drive plus a probably 1-1.5 hour wait on sunday unless you go there and eat when they open.
Some of the rec's depend on what you usually eat in LA. As stated, there is better dim sum in LA, but maybe you don't get out that part of LA much.
Koi has had a purge of the kitchen about mid-summer this year, after a rather poor showing at a dinner chowdown. From what I hear (I'm not fully following dim sum, more of a dilettante), the dishes that are excellent there changed a bit. This kitchen change might make it better than some recent reports.
I haven't delved into the Indian scene in LA, the south bay has some winners if you like down-home indian-for-indians cooking. There is very little in the upscale or modern or even hipster direction. I was happy with a Chettinad meal at Anjappar last weekend - the place is a crazy madhouse, very indian - and I don't see any Chettinad in all of LA on some casual searching - we have somewhere like 3 places. The one area where NorCal can best SoCal? You tell me--- what's the good indian in LA?
I will posit Trail Dust BBQ in Morgan Hill, which topped my round-up of BBQ in the bay area. It's not that far from the freeway on the south end of town (if you're going out by 101), might be a plausible lunch. Texas style with tons of smoke. I bet LA has better BBQ generally, but this stuff is not bad.
I hope you like Liquid Bread. If I was to caution you, it's quite good _for the south bay_. I wrote yesterday that you can get a whole bunch of "tastings" (2oz pours) there, and if you like beer, you're a lot better off getting 6 beers x 2oz, they're just so peculiar that you're unlikely to want a whole pint of anything. If you have enough people, go for the "full monte" (my name not theirs).
I would not do falafel inn. I do like the place, don't get me wrong, in a kitchy way, it's like one of those songs you just can't get rid of, but the pita and toppings are so sorely lacking that it's hard to recommend.
"Non-ethnic, more "Californian" or "farm-to-table", organic, etc?"
what do the hounders think about these options in the south bay? i have always had the impression that sf and oakland are much stronger in these areas but i base my impression purely on the number of these restaurants getting talked about here and other food publications.
Thanks ckshen. It's funny that there's so many "ethnic" suggestions. Is the South Bay known for that?
I love Chinese, Japanese, Korean food, and I've recently delved deeper into authentic Thai cuisines down in L.A. So all of these suggestions are great... for me. Ironically, my wife is not that into Asian cuisines in general. She will want it occasionally, and when she does, it's generally it's usually sushi or dim sum.
I had heard that Liquid Bread was open for brunch on the weekends.
Donostia Pintxos looks interesting. Using Yelp to search for restaurants open late in/near SJ, in addition to Donostia, it came up with Nemea Greek Taverna and Cin-Cin Restaurant. How do those compare?
Yes, the south bay is known for "ethnic". It is an immigrant melting pot of the first order - but remember that it's 10x smaller than LA, so you simply can't expect the same quality.
Korean, Japanese, and Thai are all much, much better in LA. For example, I recently went to Night + Market in north hollywood - *far* better than what you'll find around here.
Chinese MIGHT be on par but is almost certainly better in LA - just not as much better than LA.
As long as you just try to find some of the beter South Bay food, and not try to exceed your LA favorites, you might find some decent eating.
Mayfield makes a decent brunch, in the local style. Just make sure there's no stanford game that morning. St Michael's Alley is another.
Night+Market (in West Hollywood, not NoHo) has become one of my favorite restaurants in L.A. I went for the first time in July (http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/910928) and have been there close to a dozen times since.
Yes, I am just looking for the better options around SJ, regardless of whether it might be better than L.A. *Different* than L.A. would be great but also not required.
I'll check out Mayfield. Thanks!
For something different that LA likely doesn't do as well is Burmese and Afghan. Look at Kyusu Burmese in SJ. I have not been. For Afghani food, Kabul in Sunnyvale is close to SJ. If you're willing to drive to Fremont, there's more places. There's also a few good ramen places in SJ but I think you get that in LA.
I can't compare the two places but if population is an indication, Fremont and the South Bay have the largest Afghan population outside of Afghanistan. Population density and competition usually help on the mom and pop level and why ethnic food like Chinese, Mexican or Armenian are better or has more options in LA.
LA does indeed have some killer ramen (with Tsujita leading the pack), but Orenchi Ramen in Santa Clara is pretty good. I also endose Kabul for Afghan, though I wouldn't say it's worth a special trip. (For the sake of completeness, I feel compelled to mention that Afghan House is just down the street and serves comparable fare, though I found the service abysmal the one time I went).
If you're driving up from LA on the 101 you should absolutely stop at Splash Cafe, in Pismo Beach, for their clam chowder. If you're taking I-5, though, you won't do better than the In-N-Out in Kettleman City. But really, what more do you need?
bbulkow Oct 21: 'Yes, the south bay is known for "ethnic". It is an immigrant melting pot of the first order - but remember that it's 10x smaller than LA, so you simply can't expect the same quality'
Technically 5.4 times (9.8 million LA-Co. pop. vs 1.8 million Santa Clara County), but then that would imply even poorer quality in SF (a mere 0.8 million residents and 47 sq. miles), which contradicts my experience.
But yes, South Bay has an extremely high immigrant population (as just one example, traditionally the largest ethnic Vietnamese community in North America, and most of them grousing about the poor qualty of many Phở restaurants :-) and unfortunately you see very little representation of its full restaurant scope on this board lately, owing to the small number of regulars with really extensive experience there. bbulkow, who seems to get around an awful lot and avowedly eats most meals out, stands out as an exception.
For very decent dim sum at a convenient freeway location I suggest the longtime ABC Seafood, N. SJ area (technically Milpitas but on the SJ side of the freeways), Barber Lane off the 880/237 Junction. Huge, bustling place, wider selection than most Bay Area dimsum joints. Opened 1997, and has another Bay Area location too, but the one just north of SJ is the one I know and often enjoyed.
Sadly, I recently heard that Afghani House (already recommended here), longtime flagship of the peninsula Afghani restaurant corps (competitors, including both Kabuls, owned by relatives) and consistently the best of them across maybe 60 total meals at all of them in 15 years of my experience, has closed, but you might want to verify that. It opened in 1994.
Current threads on this board re a South-Bay Asian restaurant search, and Two Weeks in Mountain View, touch on many notable restaurants and restaurant concentrations in southern Bay Area.
Some respectable, distinctive, very "Japanese" ramen houses compete with each other on the penin. and S. Bay and the largest concentration of them is around Saratoga Ave. off 280, in or near SJ. They are among my favorite options for quick, interesting, inexpensive meals. Search for Melanie's _latest_ personal ramen list on this board, it's one person's opinion, but that one person is able to compare all of the Bay Area ramen joints together.
A few things
Koi Palace opens up at 9 am on Sundays. I don't know how crazy crowds get, but if you get there say 8:45 am, you should be ok. Any later and it's risky, and 10 am probably forget about it. The only issue going that early would be that you will have to wait for any carts doing the rounds, but if you order via checksheet the stuff should come out quickly. Also the advantage of coming early is that you should be able to have your choice of seats, the ones near the Koi pond structure area (nearest the kitchen) are optimal, plus you can see the roasties on the window should you get camera happy.
I cannot think of a South Bay brunch option that is otherwise mindblowing and worth your while, so don't dismiss Koi Palace right away. I am in 200% agreement with Jon914 that the run of the mill basic lineup is nothing to write home about (eg ha gow siu mai) but if you are really lucky they will be acceptable.
I would focus more on unique interesting things that Sea Harbor will not likely have and the suggestions Jon has made are very solid. There is a variant of ja leung they recently added to the menu that while doesn't have cruller, has some sweet crispy fluffy like carb inside, with bbq pork...it's a bit on the sweet side, but the texture is very nice.
Another thing Koi Palace does quite well are the daikon cakes, whether pan fried (comes with a stellar XO sauce), or the steamed version (no XO sauce, but a dab of house chili sauce sends this to great heights).
The steamed spareribs over rice noodle is the Zhongshan style with preserved olives...but the best part are the rice noodles themselves which they call 陳村粉 that has specific Shunde Cantonese origins, which is a lot closer to fresh Vietnamese banh cuon in texture. This is unusual and good enough that I'd say is worth a spin, and very likely Sea Harbor doesn't have.
Definitely avoid the mango pudding, it sucks. Also might be a nice change of pace for you not seeing metal tin steamers!
re: K K
KK, have you tried the recent "Sunday Brunch" offerings at either Scratch (already suggested in this thread) or Steins (recent, see my report in the pinpoint link below)? Both "new American, comfort-food" cuisine, emphasis on local ingredients, both somewhat upscale, very much what the OP had specifically requested. Both located three blocks apart (park in one of the empty midblock city lots on Sunday, or at the newer free public garage at California and Bryant, near both restaurants. Steer clear of the train station, off Central Expwy, 9-1 Sundays, as it brings in crowds for a weekly farmer's market). Then there are another, literally, 100 restaurants within, literally, 5-6 blocks very pleasant stroll of that garage, most of them doing good business on Sundays, three ramen houses included, just in case OP's party doesn't care for current menus at Scratch or Steins.
That's all in Mountain View, a few miles north of SJ, so I did not specifically suggest them earlier, but people are talking about Koi Palace, and even the town of Dublin (40 miles?).
All of this is implicitly illustrating my earlier point about recommendations on this board being skewed by the comparative lack of south-bay specialists. The OP is getting many suggestions here from people who spend MOST of their time in the E. Bay, SF, and/or upper Peninsula. They are fine suggestions, but geographically skewed away from the OP's focus. I spend most of my time around Mountain View, Sunnyvale and Palo Alto, which are all much nearer to SJ, and even then I'm ashamed to be unable to offer more comprehensive perspective on SJ proper, which likely has places that could interest the OP but are not being suggested at all here.
(Liquid Bread is also high on my own to-visit list, based on some detailed postings about it on this board.)
Points all very well taken and all wonderful suggestions (including some I have not thought about previously due to lack of awareness), but I've been involved in quite a number of sushi and dim sum discussions where Peter participates on the Los Angeles board and am somewhat familiar with his preferences. With that said, I'm only helping to set the right expectations and provide more accurate datapoints as to what Koi Palace does well or not, rather than plainly dismiss it because he can get dim sum at Sea Harbor in Rosemead. Ultimately the decision is up to him and I'm not exerting more influence than others.
This is also why I am a little wary of recommending Vietnamese food in San Jose, even though that region is our best in town...but if Peter frequents Westminster in Orange County for example (or Korean in Buena Park/Garden Grove, or LA K-town), it would be a more difficult challenge finding something we have that's unique and interesting and worth his time. With that said, I probably would not even recommend ramen, regional Chinese (ie non Cantonese) or most Japanese options in town, except maybe Orenchi...but even then a place like Orenchi may not be a significant upgrade (if at all). Should Peter choose any of these options (Japanese, Korean, Vietnamese, whatever little "Taiwanese" we have up here) it would be more out of convenience, but some expectations need to be set.
Perhaps what might help is if Peter gives some examples of what he considers killer stellar brunch in LA or the places where he would recommend us if he were to go, and see if people who have actually been there and live up here, can find something worthwhile.
One advantage though, if Peter does end up at Koi Palace, is that he can buy their house chili sauce and likely XO sauce to take home (also canned abalone and dragon beard candy if that's his thing).
Though Los Gatos and Saratoga areas are also quite nice and enjoyable.
while 40 miles to other parts of the bay area is certainly not a small distance, but it certainly is dwarfed by the 400 miles the OP already drove to get to SJ from LA. and if OP really wants farm-to-table-california type of food, and he's not here very often and he has the time while here, expanding the dining radius to cover even SF can be considered.
if the OP mentions whether he's looking at 'the best of the bay' or whether he prefers 'the best with certain constraints' that'll narrow down the choices quickly.
Yes, Los Gatos has a happening weekend and breakfast restaurant scene. Depending on where OP will be in SJ (a town something like half the size of Belgium, having grown enormously in past decades by annexing and absorbing townships involuntarily, not unlike the amorphous monster in a 1958 science-fiction film), either Los Gatos or Mountain View will be closer (LG more or less to the west, MV to the north).
This is sad, but I can't think of anyplace I would go in San Jose for a "kick ass" meal. I live in the Monterey Bay Area and when I meet friends from the SF Bay Area in San Jose we end up at Santana Row or some middling Asian dumpling place.
Some places have decent pho, there's some serviceable Mexican, but I find it kind of bleak. Joy Luck is good for dim sum.
But I'm willing to learn, Chowhounds.
I have in front of me the 2014 SF-region Michelin Guide, released yesterday, which recommends 44 restaurants in the S. Bay (defined there as basically Santa Clara County, i.e. from Palo Alto south.)
(This book incidentally is getting passionate discussion in other threads by people who haven't read it, which seems to me personally like strong opinions about restaurants by people who haven't tried them.)
Among the recommendations, Orenchi in Santa Clara (among the ramen houses I cited earlier), "so authentic that Japanese expats come from all over for a piping-hot taste of home." Cash only.
Other suggestions include Nick's Next Door ("upscale American bistro") in Los Gatos (I'd similarly characterize Scratch in MV, by the way -- Scratch is not, but three other of the 100+ restaurants in downtown MV's restaurant cluster are, recommended in the Guide, as are four in Los Gatos including aforementioned Nick's); Jang Su Jang In Santa Clara, current in other threads on this board (whose neighborhood "teems with Korean ... shops whose owners and families congregate at Jang Su Jang"), and Smoking Pig BBQ in SJ, another American option with some Chowhound buzz ("Leave your diet at home, ignore the neighborhood, and follow your snout ...")
Now you have still more to digest!
First report: Arrived in SJ just before 10pm. By the time we checked in at our hotel and got settled in a bit, wife was too tired to go out and wasn't hungry anyway.
I looked around for late night options good for a solo diner and settled on Truong Thanh Restaurant in Milpitas. Ordered a Hu Tieu Nam Vang, rice noodle soup with shrimp, ground pork, pork liver, and squid.
Soup came with pig stomach rather than liver but I didn't mind. I'm no Vietnamese food expert but it tasted good to me after a long drive!
Second report: Went to The Table for brunch. Arrived around 10 AM, restaurant was 3/4 full, no wait.
My wife had the Eggs Benedict, but since she doesn't generally eat pork or beef, they substituted mushrooms for the pork loin. I had the Fried Chicken and Cheddar Biscuits w/Country Gravy.
My wife and I both agreed that we weren't very impressed with the food. They were competently prepared but was rather bland, somewhat one dimensional. I wouldn't have known my biscuits had cheddar in them if I wasn't told, for example. My crispy potato wedges were excellent though. My wife's Benedict was rather pedestrian too.
Service was very friendly but rather forgetful. My wife was offered milk with her coffee, which she said yes to, but after several minutes had to ask for it again as her coffee was getting cold. On the plus side, the milk that was brought out was warmed--a nice touch. I was offered hot sauce for my entree, and it was never brought to me. Unlike the milk for my wife's coffee, I didn't _need_ the hot sauce, so I didn't ask for it again later.
Pics uploaded below, but for larger versions:
Third, and likely last, report, as we're likely going to leave SJ early tomorrow and have breakfast in Santa Cruz...
Based on a tip for chuckEats (https://twitter.com/chuckeats/status/...), we decided to check out Tin Pot Creamery, which the tweet claimed was the best ice cream in the Bay Area. I've been having some excellent ice cream in L.A. at Sweet Rose Creamery (http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/917526) so I wanted to see how this would compare.
After sampling a few flavors, my wife settled on a scoop of salted butterscotch ice cream, a scoop of rich chocolate ice cream w/TCHO chocolate shards, with salted caramel sauce. She enjoyed her ice cream but still likes the salted caramel and chocolate ice creams better at Sweet Rose back home.
I sampled a few as well, and decided on a scoop of four barrel coffee w/cocoa nib toffee, and also a scoop of the rich chocolate w/TCHO shards. I was properly impressed, as was my wife, with the coffee ice cream. Interestingly, it didn't have that café au lait color to it; instead, it looked like vanilla. But it had the best coffee flavor I've ever had in an ice cream. It didn't taste like typical coffee ice cream; rather, it tasted like real coffee. And the cocoa nib toffee was excellent too! I also liked the chocolate with TCHO shards a lot too!
Pics uploaded below, but for larger versions:
Thanks again everyone for all your input! Things didn't quite work out how I wanted (no dim sum), but I did still enjoy myself very much, chow-wise, in SJ, and I have a lot of fodder for the next time I find myself up here.
Thanks for the up-to-the-minute reporting!
Should you dawdle after breakfast and find yourself still in Santa Cruz at noon when it opens, check out The Penny Ice Creamery. It's closer to Sweet Rose in style. They both pasteurize their own base using Clover organic milk and have many seasonal flavors.