At True Food Kitchen, sustainable sea bass is paired with mushrooms, sugar snap peas, broccolini, grains and umami sauce.
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The Catamount's beef short-rib and beet crostini and Honor Among Thieves cocktail.
Photo: Chloe Jackman Photography
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The wines are as big a draw as the fare.
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The smoked burrata at Pausa.
Photo: Kristen Loken
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Terrain Cafe's bright and airy dining room.
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Black Pepper's pandan leaf and coconut milk panna cotta.
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The lamb barbacoa at Oveja Negra.
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The refined interior of Din Tai Fung is anchored by bar seating.
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Among Tacolicious' fillings are shot-and-a-beer-braised chicken, seasonal veggies, chorizo with potatoes and Pacific cod.
Photo: Aubrie Pick
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Vina Enoteca's Insalata di Stagione features roasted and raw seasonal vegetables from the Stanford Educational Farm.
Photo: Lisa Deneffe Photography
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1. Terrain Café
Attached to the grand two-story Anthropologie & Co. in Stanford Shopping Center, this is the first West Coast restaurant by James Beard Award–winning chef Marc Vetri of Philadelphia’s Vetri Ristorante. It’s not just for ladies who lunch, but anyone in need of sustenance from dishes made of top-notch ingredients such as line-caught tuna nicoise carpaccio; grilled avocado showered with pecorino and breadcrumbs; or an artisan farm board groaning with salami, cured salmon, beef tartar and duck terrine.
180 El Camino Real, Palo Alto
2. The Catamount
Chef Ray Tang of San Francisco’s Presidio Social Club has brought his brand of updated American food to his first South Bay venture, an airy 10,000-square-foot plantation-style establishment in Old Town. The menu features a 30-ounce bone-in rib-eye for two, house-extruded pastas and an Angus burger with an optional foie gras add-on. He’s even brought executive pastry chef Rene Cruz from San Francisco to Los Gatos to turn out Le Gateau with layers of milk chocolate, coffee and hazelnuts; and Madagascar vanilla soft-serve with a chocolate “magic’’ shell.
50 University Ave., Los Gatos
3. Pausa Bar & Cookery
Housemade is the operative phrase at this stylish trattoria—from the salumi and mozzarella to the pastas, gelatos and pizzas crafted from four Italian flours mixed with a special enzyme, a unique imported blend used by no one else in the United States. The care and precision is on display in the open kitchen and glassed-in dough room. Start with a spritz, a classic Italian wine-based aperitif, before diving into Italian-born chef-owner Andrea Giuliani’s beef tongue carpaccio, and squid ink shell pasta tossed with spicy lamb sugo.
223 E. Fourth Ave., San Mateo
More than 200 vintages from around the world are available by the glass, carafe and bottle at this wine bar, store and cafe. Owner Donato Scotti of Redwood City’s Donato Enoteca and Oakland’s Desco was inspired to open Cru after watching diners clamor to buy the wines at his wine dinners. The European-style cafe serves croissants and Verona’s Giamaica Caffè coffee in the mornings. At lunch, there are sandwiches, salads and Roman-style pizza. At night, it’s all about shared plates of cheeses, charcuterie, and lamb sausage cassoulet. If you find a wine you adore, you can even buy a bottle to take home.
900 Middlefield Road, Redwood City
5. Black Pepper
It took chef-owner Kay Tan 18 years to open a sequel to her Milpitas restaurant, Banana Leaf, but it was worth the wait: In Menlo Park, Black Pepper serves up Malaysian cuisine in a contemporary setting. The flavorful sauces are all made in-house from fresh ingredients, says Tan, who was born and raised in Malaysia. No surprise, anything on the menu with the words "black pepper" (a Singaporean specialty) is a signature. Handmade roti prata, and pandan and coconut milk panna cotta, further transport diners to Southeast Asia.
1029 El Camino Real, Menlo Park
6. Din Tai Fung
Go on an off-hour or prepare to stand in line at the first Northern California outpost of this Taiwanese dumpling darling. Hordes are drawn to what is arguably the best xiaolongbao around—soup dumplings with gossamer wrappers enclosing a pork filling of gushing, steamy broth. Round out the meal with sauteed mustard greens topped with shredded ginger, and a restorative chicken noodle soup. The restaurant—inside Valley Fair—sports a modern look, as well as a glass-enclosed kitchen right at the entrance to gawk at the rapid-fire dumpling-makers.
2855 Stevens Creek Blvd., Santa Clara
7. Oveja Negra
In the Hotel Valencia, chef Ocean Orssten presides over this Moorish-embellished restaurant whose name in Spanish means “black sheep” (or colloquially, “odd man out”). It’s a nod to his brand of “unruly tapas” that break from tradition in incarnations such as daal shrimp & grits, bison meatloaf albondigas and the signature barbacoa—banana-leaf-wrapped lamb shoulder, slow roasted overnight in chilies and epazote until fork tender, then accompanied by marrow bone and tortillas fashioned from marrow-enriched masa. Six craft cocktails are offered, including Unruly Sangria.
355 Santana Row, San Jose
After working up an appetite shopping at Santana Row, revive yourself at the newest outpost of this fun-loving San Francisco taco joint. Indulge in made-to-order guacamole, albacore tostadas with crispy leeks, and guajillo-braised beef brisket tacos that you’ll need two hands to hold. Don’t forget to ask for the off-menu “orange sauce,” a take on the famed spicy, creamy one at La Victoria Taqueria in San Jose. Wash it all down with housemade horchata or a margarita fresca dolled up with fresh strawberries.
300 Santana Row, San Jose
9. True Food Kitchen
The ever-present mealtime crowds are a good indication of the Valley’s desire for health-conscious, flavor-packed fare that is seasonally driven. (The Stanford location was TFK’s first in Northern California.) The menu—which includes gluten-free, vegetarian and vegan options—is based on co-founder Dr. Andrew Weil’s anti-inflammatory food pyramid. Think edamame dumplings; bowls and salads starring quinoa; and pizzas topped with roasted artichoke, housemade chicken sausage or wild mushroom. Save room for desserts like coconut and chia seed flan.
180 El Camino Real, Palo Alto
10. Vina Enoteca
In late 2016, Shannon and Rocco Scordella—the proprietors of Tootsie’s—unveiled their Italian restaurant in the Stanford Barn space that previously housed California Café. The tantalizing pastas, breads and pizza dough are all made in-house. In March, Vina Enoteca became the first place in Silicon Valley to offer the Impossible Burger, the plant-based meat alternative developed by Redwood City’s Impossible Foods. A pair of sliders—composed of poppy-seed buns, sun-dried tomatoes and cavolo nero, served with marbled potatoes—is available only during lunch.
700 Welch Road, Palo Alto
Originally published in the July/August issue of Silicon Valley
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