Monday, January 22, 2007

a few good restaurants

I like trying new restaurants, so it's been a couple of good food weekends for me.

Two Fridays ago, I went to a birthday party at E&O Trading Company, in downtown San Jose. It's a Southeast Asian place that serves small plates, which can be shared family style. The food was fine, but I mostly remember the excellent cocktail that I had before dinner; I think it was a martini of some tropical flavor.

That Saturday, four of us waited the half hour that it takes to get into Queen House, in downtown Mountain View. I live two blocks away but have only been there twice due to the long wait times. But, it's always nice to have some cheap ($40 for 4, plus leftovers), authentic Chinese food. This time we had beef noodle soup, black bean chicken, salt and pepper pork ribs, a clay pot stew, and some stir fried Chinese veggies. Mmm...

Since Monday was a holiday, I was able to make it up to the city to eat with some friends at Helmand, an Afghan place which is located in a sketchy area of North Beach but is actually very nice inside. I had a lamb shank dish, which was good, but several people ordered the lamb chops (Chowpan?), which was better. I'll probably get that next time.

This weekend, Friday dinner was at Left Bank, a not-too-expensive French restaurant that has several locations throughout the Bay Area. We had booked the private room at San Mateo, for a birthday party, which turned out to be a good thing because we had a few bottles of wine and some people got a a little loud. I had the skirt steak (much better than Cheesecake Factory) with fries, and am now completely hooked on their fries.

We went upscale on Saturday, eating at Silks inside of the Mandarin Oriental. I'll have to recommend this place to my parents; my mom has a thing about noisy dining rooms, so she'll love the hushed atmosphere as well as the Asian fusion food. I actually liked the amuse bouche best of all the food that night; it was a raw oyster in a delicious onion-y, vinegar-y sauce. I had a clever "Eggs, Ham, and Toast" appetizer (the "ham" was crispy suckling pig, etc.) and rack of venision entree. Dessert was a coffee souffle, and then we were treated to a creamy-smooth hot chocolate with "Snickers" whipped cream on top. Service was really good; they took longer than usual to serve the main course, and someone came to apologize, well before I would have thought to complain. When our waitress presented the bill, she told us that as an added apology, our desserts were on the house. Bonus!

On Sunday night, I finally tried out one of this year's Dine about Town menus, at the Moroccan restaurant aziza. The restaurant is in the outer Richmond, mixed in with the Chinese grocery stores, so it's not very appealing on the outside, but once we went inside I was impressed by the cozy booths, exotic but not cheesy music, mood lighting, and curtains everywhere. The food was yummy and the portions were generous; I had three courses (lamb sausage with yogurt, couscous aziza, and almond chocolate cake), didn't finish my entree, and was completely stuffed.


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