A temple to stir-frying has morphed into a bona fide beer garden in downtown Mountain View.
The former Golden Wok on Villa Street has been transformed into Steins Beer Garden & Restaurant, which opened late last month.
The large space has been broken up into several that includes a beer hall with flat screens, main dining room, two private dining rooms, a main beer garden with a glass two-way fireplace, and a private beer garden.
Owner Ted Kim has helped open Paris Baguette branches in the Bay Area. But Steins is the first restaurant Kim, a beer aficionado who even brews his own at home, has owned. Executive Chef Colby M. Reade has worked in the past at such landmark San Francisco restaurants as Square One and Hawthorne Lane.
Last month, I was invited in as a guest of the restaurant to a pre-opening dinner. Some of the dishes noted here may have been tweaked since then, as Reade said he was still fine-tuning a couple of them.
The beer list is extensive with offerings from around the world, including 30 on tap. A fun one to try is the Wells Banana Bread Beer ($7 per glass), which, yes, does smell and taste like a baked loaf of banana bread.
All the actual breads are made in-house, as well as a couple of cheeses, including the fromage blanc. The pickled veggies ($5) also are made in-house and make a fine snack as you quaff your cold suds.
We couldn’t pass up the house-made pretzels ($8 for two). When we tried them, unfortunately, they were rather tough and chewy. The piquant caraway beer mustard almost made up for that letdown, though.
Poutine in its original incarnation featured a mound of crisp, thin fries topped with a small dice of pork belly, fromage blanc (rather than the traditional cheese curds) and a hearty, old-fashioned beef gravy. With a beer, it’s enough for a meal. Reade has since tinkered with it, substituting smoked chicken for the pork belly and fontina cheese for the fromage blanc in an effort to make the dish a little more gooey-cohesive.
What I appreciated — and what I’m sure other women diners will — is that this is one beer pub that doesn’t lack for vegetables nor is all about gut-busting food. In fact, the roast beet and wild mushroom salad ($12) was one of the best things I tried that night. It sounds simple. But it’s bright and full of texture and flavor thanks to watercress, pecans with a hint of spice, turnips, watermelon radish, fromage blanc and shimeji mushrooms — all in a citrus coriander vinaigrette. The mushrooms are an inspired addition, lending an earthy, meaty taste to cut through the sweetness of the beets.
There’s also a seasonal fish dish available. The night we were there, it was mahi mahi, seared and served on a bed of lentils. Preserved lemon and smoked tomato confit added acidity and a nice muskiness that tied in with the lentils. The fish was juicy and perfect.
Fried chicken makes an appearance — in a sandwich ($12) on house-made ciabatta. Golden and crisp, the slab of white meat was surprisingly moist without being greasy. Paper-thin slices of Granny Smith apple add a subtle tartness and crunch, while a sweet, creamy cabbage slaw binds it all together. The sandwich is served with more of those addicting fries.
Dessert for the pre-opening dinner was a sampler of cookies, apple crisp and rice pudding.
Or heck, one could just order another Banana Bread Beer and call it a night at this brew pub that’s a fine new addition to downtown Mountain View.
Another Mountain View Place to Try: Bushido