Roots & Rye Plants A Stake at Santana Row
I have joked with Chef-Restaurateur Chris Yeo that some day he will end up operating every restaurant at San Jose’s Santana Row.
Which would be pretty impressive for a guy who describes himself as retired.
Yeo may no longer be in the kitchen these days, but he’s still plenty active. In fact in July, he opened his third restaurant at that upscale outdoor retail-housing complex.
Instead, it’s a gastropub, featuring New American cuisine, offered in both small and large plates, as well as about 100 different whiskeys on the menu.
What it does share in common with his two other establishments is a boisterous, lounge-y vibe with pulsating music playing noon and night. His penchant for bar hostesses in short, tight, black attire also has been carried over here. So much so that I jested that I hoped my husband would not end up with whiplash when we dined here one recent evening when I was invited in as a guest of the restaurant.
The front of Roots & Rye opens up to bring the outdoors in. The bar area takes up about half the restaurant and spills outdoors with chairs set up around cool-looking glass-fronted fire pits. The dining room toward the back makes for a slightly quieter area.
Chef de Cuisine Jason Hahn, formerly of Block 34 and Porterhouse restaurant, both in San Mateo, is joined in the kitchen by Yeo’s son, Julian, who has followed in his father’s footsteps to become a chef.
The menu is still being tweaked a little, Chris Yeo explains, to add some new fun items as we transition into fall and to jettison other dishes that haven’t proved quite so popular.
It would be a shame to forgo a cocktail at a place like this. The Summer Hat ($12) is a lovely way to start, especially while it’s still warm outside. You can have it made with vodka or gin. Go with the gin because its inherent botanicals amp up the herbaciousness of this slightly sweet sipper made with tarragon, lemon, cucumber, sea salt and Fever Tree tonic.
Deviled eggs ($8) are the perfect palate awakener. Creamy, salty and extra rich from bacon, and finished with a kick of spice from pickled jalapeno, they make for the consummate bar food.
I do love my carbs, so I couldn’t pass up ordering the biscuits ($8) — huge, tender and with a nice crisp exterior. They’re served with soft, cultured butter that has a nice, subtle tang.
For a taste of breakfast for dinner, look no further than the smashed potatoes, which are just what they sound like — Yukon Golds cooked, then smashed and crisped up in a pan. But they don’t stop there. Each smashed potato gets crowned with pork belly, creme fraiche, a sunnyside-up quail egg and parmesan. It’s comforting and just plain delicious.
The burger ($18) is one of the most popular items — understandably so. It’s sizable and drips with juice when you bite into it. Caramelized onions, melty white cheddar, and a smear of apple-bacon jam add extra lusciousness. The accompanying fries could have been crisper, though.
That’s also an issue I had with the panisse fries that came with the Skuna Bay salmon ($24). The chickpea cubes were golden, but lacked real crispness. However, the salmon was one of the most perfectly cooked fillets I’ve had in awhile. The skin was crisp as a potato chip and the flesh still wonderfully pink in the middle, as it should be. A cascade of green olive tapenade was spooned over the top of the fish artfully.
For dessert, we shared a peach cobbler ($9) made with the storied stone fruit from Frog Hollow Farms.
It was served warm, but what I really appreciated was that the cobbler was not sugary sweet, allowing the natural flavor of the peaches to shine through. After all, when you are using some of the best peaches around, it would be a crying shame to obliterate their fragrance and flavor.
Roots & Rye may not be the ideal place to go for a quiet conversation. But for a big dose of fun and energy, it’s hard to beat.
More Santana Row Eats: Pizza Antica
And: Veggie Grill
And: The Counter