All of us have our favorite places to eat. We live in a time and place where we can get to, within driving distance, any food we like, “within an arm’s length of desire,” as they say. And so, here’s a quick list and my reasons:
When we want a good old American breakfast, we go to Stack’s. They know how to do breakfast. We’ve been elsewhere, a little more novel or modern or even stylish. But nothing beats Stack’s scrambles, omelets or their short stacks or their French toast. They know the breakfast business better than anyone else! More often than not, it’s done just right. And there is always a line.
When I want neighborhood Italian, I like to go to Il Fornaio or Stella Alpina. At Il Fornaio, I will go for their salads with an Esmeralda. On some nights, I’d go for their seafood pasta or their comforting lasagna. At Stella Alpina, I’ll order for their Osso Buco, or the fish of the day, their gnocchi, of course (to die for!) for starters, to be shared, or even the risotto. Both places have good wine selections. There is also Amici’s San Mateo on 3rd for their great salad, pasta, and pizza. Hmmm! Comfort food all year round!
A favorite “girls’ night out” place is Astaria in San Mateo, where the menu is partly Californian, partly Middle Eastern to Mediterranean. Good wine selection too. Their Sonoma or Linda Salad is for salad aficionados. Order that with a perfectly grilled salmon, crisp on the outside, tender and juicy on the inside, and pair with a good Sauvignon Blanc, and you’re in heaven!
When we have a hankering for good Ramen (Not the instant noodle! Yuck!), there’s Santa Ramen on El Camino just south of Hwy 92 or Himawari on 2nd between Ellsworth and B Street. Be ready to stand in line though, for both. But the wait is always worth it. Don’t forget to order a Chicken Karaage on the side. Both do a decent job of the dish too.
For more imaginative Sushi or something pretty classic, there’s Barracuda and Tomokazu in the neighborhood. We also like the Udon at Hotaru on 3rd Avenue. But if you want to splurge, there’s Sakae Sushi. Pretty Zen.
For Dimsum, we go to Hong Kong Flower Lounge or Asian Pearl. You know what? We really should try out the Dimsum in the city one of these days. We’ve only been to Yank Sing last year for a wedding but not much more. Are we becoming creatures of habit maybe? You know, going to the same places, expecting a certain level of familiarity with wait staff, and all? Why not?
There are not too many authentic Greek places in the Bay Area. Most of them are really either Middle Eastern or Turkish-run. I’m not saying these are bad. The food can be all right but not really Greek as we know it should be. For really good Greek food without having to go to Greece, there are the line-up of restaurants on Pape and Danforth in Toronto. Try Omonia or Astoria. Just take the Bloor train going east from Bay and Bloor and you’re there. Make sure you finish off your meal with good coffee made with three different liqueurs. Smooth!
When we’re craving for a serious burger, it’s Jeffrey’s on B Street, or The Counter in Hillsdale, or for something really over the top, the Burger Rossini at Burger Bar on Union Square. We do have to mention Mr. Bartley’s Burgers on Harvard Square. Try the Clinton or the Reagan Burger! We haven’t been back recently but I’m sure there’s an Obama burger by now.
For Seafood, Legal Seafood in Boston still tops my list. I know it’s a chain but they’re pretty good, especially the one on Harvard Square. But there are also Crustacean in the City for roasted Crab. When we want to get down and dirty (I mean really dirty as in eating with our hands on a table only lined with butcher paper and no plates!), Boiling Crab has been the go-to place.
Where do we like to go for something special? My favorites in the area have been Delfina in the Mission district, Gary Danko near Fisherman’s Wharf, Bistro Jeanty in Yountville, Evvia in Palo Alto. For special occasions where we want Asian fare, we go to Tamarine in Palo Alto, Slanted Door in the Ferry Building, Ame near Moscone Center or Nobu in New York. Did I mention Quince and Acqua?
Although I’m not a great fan of Vegas (I don’t gamble. I can’t stand the cigarette smoke. I don’t care for their selection of shows either.), I must say that Le Cirque at the Bellagio has done some great meals for us. We also liked Japonais at the Mirage, which is why we’ve been back a couple of times when we have to attend business meetings on the Strip.
My best experiences in Europe were our meals in Paris. I still relive our meal at Pierre Gagniere a few years ago, where we had lunch for three hours! We opted for the seven course tasting meal. What we did not notice at the bottom of the menu was that for that day, the dessert was an additional eight courses. Needless to say, we did not feel like eating the rest of the day. The courses were inventive and astonishing. They were novel not for the sake of novelty but rather, to tease, inspire, titillate even.
The other was a lunch at L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon at Saint Germain with Louie, Maj, and Lara. The six course meal was a first each time. I’d go back on a heart beat!
There was this two-course bouillabaisse meal made out of seven different fishes that we had on a seaside restaurant in Cassis back in 2007. The soup alone was worth savoring and appreciating, dunking your crusty piece of bread and soaking into, under beautiful weather and such great views of the Mediterranean Sea.
And then there was that dinner in the gardens by the pool at Hotel Ousteau de Baumaniere de Provence when Lara was 14. The day was winding down and we came for the first seating. The sun was setting and the heat had dissipated to a very pleasant evening. They had illuminated the tall hills of Les Baux so beautifully. What a view! The meal was composed of choices that Provence was known for. We were also introduced to the wines of Chateau Romanin, a winery nearby, small but very good at their craft. I still recreate the foie gras appetizer, the duck breasts done perfectly, and the overwhelming choices of cheese to choose from at the end of the meal.
Of course, the place and service were top-notch in all these places. I probably would not return if the service was poor or the place looked disorganized and messy.
Ah, yes, it’s great to be a foodie. At the end of all this, it’s good to go home, make chicken adobo or pork sinigang. Heavenly!
- A Place for Solely Ramen (myworldmylifeliveit.com)