A dining renaissance
Original post made
on Jan 17, 2014
There's a generally held perception that the Peninsula dining scene is dead.
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posted Friday, January 17, 2014, 12:00 AM
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Posted by Paly Grad
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 20, 2014 at 4:38 am
While still lacking, the dining scene in Palo Alto has been improving steadily in recent years. That said, there are still relatively few eateries worth driving more than 10 minutes to: Evvia, Pampas, Patxi's, Sprinkles Cupcakes, Kara's Cupcakes, Tin Pot Creamery, and soon Delfina. For the most part, Downtown is filled with generic, uninspired, and overpriced Italian, Californian, Mediterranean, and American restaurants. And of the "destination eateries," nearly all of them are outposts of SF or LA eateries. Compare this with San Francisco or Berkeley where unique, delicious, and charmful restaurants number in the hundreds. Where's Palo Alto's Cheese Board, La Note, Frances, Great China, San Tung, The House, Genova Deli, Tartine Bakery, Hog Island, etc.?
Klein puts it best when he says that what is needed in Palo Alto is "small, chef-driven restaurants." Too many of the restaurants on University seem to be owner/investor-driven. They have modern décor, serve decent food, have perfectly worded menus, and sound great on paper. BUT What they lack is passion, signature dishes, and original mixtures of flavors. Eating out is not cheap, so when one does, one expects something you couldn't make yourself at home. You crave Evvia's enormous, juicy lamb chops, San Tung's dry fried chicken wings, Bi-Rite's salted caramel ice cream, Sushi Sam's crab/eel rolls, Grégoire's potato puffs... But a $15 personal size margherita pizza at Campo? Not really. There's a reason why almost all the good eateries in Palo Alto are outposts of established SF restaurants: they're the only chef-driven ones.
I agree with the commentator "where's the diversity?" While Palo Alto has acquired a small collection of decent dessert stores and European restaurants in recent years, the selection of Chinese and Japanese restaurants is especially overpriced and Americanized (and not in a good way). The closest solid Japanese restaurants are Sushi Tomi and Kappo Nami Nami in Mountain View. After that you have to drive to San Mateo and further for a good bite. The same goes with Chinese. Steam is very so-so and overpriced, Ming's even more so, Taipan is quite good but then again very pricey, and the rest are forgettable. I often find myself driving to Chef Chu's in Mountain View, Cooking Papa in Foster City, Koi Palace in Daly City, or the newly reopened Great China in Berkeley.