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36 hours in San Jose

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.)

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  1. Some discussion of things we have that you may not in LA:

    http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/521784

    Koi Garden is closer than Koi Palace. Joy Luck is good.

    http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/882159

    3 Replies
    1. re: Robert Lauriston

      Thanks Robert. I'll add these to the rest of the browser tabs I have open from the SF board. Always fun to read what's happening on another board.

      1. 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.

        1. re: Jon914

          Thanks Jon914. I think if we do dim sum we'd likely go to Koi Palace as a destination spot, even if it may or may not be better than what we have in L.A.

      2. 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:

        http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/789761

        I really like Walia (Ethiopian). I think the flavors are complex yet harmonious, more so than most Ethiopian places:

        http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/860087

        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.

        http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/833956

        Ramen Halu has some interesting stuff that isn't found at a normal ramen-ya. Right now, pumpkin ramen.

        http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/40849

        1 Reply
        1. 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.

          2 Replies
          1. re: scarmoza

            Would the banana milk shake by itself be worth a quick visit? Thanks.

            1. re: PeterCC

              IMHO, it's not that the banana milk shake is worth the trip or the falafels either but more about the combo and the old school experience that makes this place.

          2. 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.

            15 Replies
            1. re: ckshen

              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.

              1. re: bbulkow

                Thanks bbulkow. I haven't really delved into Indian in LA, so I can't answer.

                If I rethink Sunday morning, instead of dim sum, what are some higher-end options in the South Bay? Non-ethnic, more "Californian" or "farm-to-table", organic, etc? Or more classic like La Foret?

                1. re: PeterCC

                  "Non-ethnic, more "Californian" or "farm-to-table", organic, etc"

                  The Table in Willow Glen would fit that: http://www.thetablesj.com/

                  1. re: robertee

                    Thanks. I saw that place mentioned in another thread and will definitely check it out.

                  2. re: PeterCC

                    "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.

                    1. re: ckshen

                      SF & Oakland are much much stronger. Unless you take Manresa into account.

                      There are some good examples of that in the mid-northern peninsula e.g. flea street cafe, station 1, village pub.

                      1. re: goldangl95

                        I checked to see which of these is open for brunch, seemed like none, or I would have chimed in.

                      2. re: ckshen

                        Manresa's as good as it gets for that style. Dinner only, though.

                      3. re: PeterCC

                        Not super high end but on the higher end of casual fine dining: Scratch in Mountain View does a lovely brunch.

                        http://www.scratchmtnview.com

                        I'm heard good things about The Table in Willow Glen but haven't been.

                    2. re: ckshen

                      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?

                      1. re: PeterCC

                        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.

                        1. re: bbulkow

                          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!

                          1. re: PeterCC

                            If you like Night+Market, stay away from Thai around here. The only exception I'm even marginally happy about, is the Cambodian at Tommy Thai, and I've only had one dish there so I won't recommend it.

                            Even the "Thai Elvis" place is superior to what we have around here.

                        2. re: PeterCC

                          Does Los Angeles have any Vietnamese food courts similar to the ones at Grand Century Mall and Lion Plaza?

                          1. re: Robert Lauriston

                            LA proper? Not so much in my experience there's the occasional scattered decent restaurant, but Orange County has a huge amount of awesome Vietnamese.

                      2. 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.

                        5 Replies
                        1. re: ML8000

                          Oh LA has a good corner on the Afghan market. Burmese maybe not as much.

                          1. re: goldangl95

                            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.

                          2. re: ML8000

                            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?

                            1. re: adk

                              Hate, hate, hate the mucoid gloppy rip off known as Splash clam chowder, as detailed in this post on the California board, http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/7797...

                            2. re: ML8000

                              I've been to Kyusu and do not recommend it.