It’s a restaurant named for the original lot number for the Bartlett pear orchard that once thrived there.
It’s only open weekdays for lunch and dinner, not weekends, owing to the fact that it’s in a hotel that caters to the business crowd.
And that crowd is often prominently male, given all the tech companies nearby.
Parcel 104 in the Marriott Hotel in Santa Clara has always been one of my favorite places in the South Bay for its farm-to-table fare served in a warm, inviting, contemporary environment. As a journalist, I’ve also been partial to it as an ideal place to conduct lunch interviews, because you can actually hold a clear conversation with someone without the usual din found at so many of today’s trendoid spots.
I’ve dined at the restaurant many times over the years. On my most recent visit a couple of weeks ago, in which I was invited to dine as a guest, I was happy to find that the restaurant is still going strong after marking a decade last year.
A number of the staff have been at the restaurant since Day One, always a good sign that it’s not only a good place to work, but one that knows what it’s doing.
Executive Chef Jonathan Hall has been with the restaurant more than half a dozen years and has worked closely with Consulting Chef Bradley Ogden. Executive Pastry Chef Carlos Sanchez may be known for his precious trios of desserts that are meticulously put together, but he’s also been doing double-duty for the past few years as the restaurant’s chef de cuisine. His training in both sweet and savory cooking affords him the skill to incorporate unusual ingredients in his desserts, including red bell peppers and fennel. So, definitely save room for dessert.
My friend Donna and I started with one of the restaurant’s most classic dishes that’s always on the menu: “Organic Hearts of Romaine” ($12). The whole leaves were crisp, cold and drizzled with Ogden’s signature Caesar dressing. I appreciated that marinated white anchovies came with the salad as a true Caesar should (though, you can ask for it without, if you prefer). Fried capers added another level of piquant salinity.
The salt cod croquette ($9) could have had a crisper exterior, but the interior was wonderfully fluffy. Tender fingerling potatoes were coated in a creamy dressing like the best potato salad ever. Orange segments added a bright acidity to cut the richness of the dish.
Pan-roasted California white bass ($34) was beautifully seared. Fennel slaw and a study in artichokes completed the dish with the globe showcased in fried, baked and emulsified variations.
Hawaiian tombo tuna ($32) was served perfectly rare in the center with Brussels sprouts leaves and local squid. For a little surf-and-turf action, a potato hash with chunks of beef short rib lay underneath. It played off the meatiness of the tuna.
Desserts are all $12, each of them composed of at least three dainty variations on a theme.
“Citrus” brought a tangy Meyer lemon panna cotta, a doll-size pound cake, a quenelle of lime sherbet and a shot glass of fuchsia-hued blood orange-ginger nectar that will have you longing for a huge glass of at brunch.
“Carrot” arrived like a fantasy dessert garden. Macaron-size carrot cake circles sandwiching mascarpone cheese like tiny whoopie pies proved an inventive presentation. Grand Marnier ice cream wasn’t boozy, but nostalgic like a childhood creamsicle. A scattering of almond and raisin chutney, as well as rounds of candied toy box carrots reinforced the flavors of classic carrot cake even more.
A meal at Parcel 104 isn’t complete without one of Sanchez’s famous Columbian flans with chantilly cream and coffee flakes. It’s a dessert he’s justly known for. It’s teeny, but broadcasts a real presence. It’s a flan that has substantial body and extraordinary smoothness. Even when you’re full and tell yourself you’ll only have a smidgeon, you wind up polishing it all off.
That’s true in general with the food at Parcel 104. Go there and you can’t help but be inducted into the Clean Plate Club.