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Citrus Restaurant: Beyond Street-Level Dining at Santana Row

Thursday, 21. June 2012 5:25

A new look at ahi tartare at Citrus in the Valencia Hotel.

With luxe boutiques and restaurants galore lining the main interior roads, it’s easy to confine your gaze at San Jose’s Santana Row to street level.

But that’s a shame because you would be missing out by not looking up.

Three stories high to be exact.

That’s where you’ll find Citrus Restaurant in the Valencia Hotel.

A bit hidden and an elevator ride up three floors, the dimly lit restaurant with bare dark wood tables that overlook a sunny central courtyard, is worth making the trek.

The dining room up on the third floor of the hotel building.

Executive Chef Robert Sapirman, who  previously headed Parcel 104 in Santa Clara, is slowly but surely personalizing the menu since coming on board a year and a half ago. He’s awaiting the planned top-to-bottom renovation of the hotel, though, before transforming the menu completely into one of eclectic global tapas. That major hotel remodel, which has already been pushed back a couple times, may start later this year. For now, you can get a good feel for what’s to come cuisine-wise, as Sapirman’s menu already boasts many Asian and Spanish influences.

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Maui Morsels

Friday, 20. April 2012 5:25

Thick, crisp French toast -- what a way to wake up at the Old Wailuku Inn. And this is only a half-order.

MAUI, HAWAII — Two weeks ago when invited to visit this spectacular island by the Maui Visitors Bureau, I had a chance to be a guest at a couple of complimentary accommodations as I noshed my way around the island.

Here are the highlights:

The Old Wailuku Inn at Ulupono

Total charm is what you’ll find at this B&B that evokes 1940s Hawaii, with its grand lanai, lush garden and handmade Hawaiian quilts that adorn the beds in each distinct room.

Janice and Tom Fairbanks run the Old Wailuku, a plantation-style inn that’s located in a residential neighborhood. It has seven rooms in the main house and three in a separate rear building.

Complimentary breakfast is included and shouldn’t be missed. It usually begins with a goblet of fresh fruit, including mango, banana and strawberries. That’s followed by a warm dish, such as mega French toast made from a crisp Vietnamese baguette that’s smeared with a creamy mixture of ricotta, cottage cheese and fresh mint.

The plantation-style sitting area in the main house.

The bedrooms are adorned with handmade Hawaiian quilts.

In the dining room, there’s a fridge stocked with cold cans of juice and soda to help yourself to throughout the day, as well as bowls of snack foods to nibble.

Star Noodle

I admit that when Chef Jay Terauchi was driving myself and a slew of travel bloggers to this restaurant, I secretly feared he might be a serial killer, about to do us all in and dump our bodies where nobody could find them.

That’s because Star Noodle is located off the beaten path, up a rather deserted road off the main highway, where there’s a warehouse or two and a couple of bulldozers idle on barren land.

A sampler of kimchee, shiitakes and other pickled veggies.

But continue up that road until you hit the restaurant, and you know you must be on to something because there will be a line of folks in the parking lot, waiting to get inside. Always a good sign, right?

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Category:Bakeries, Chefs, Donuts, General, Restaurants, Travel Adventures | Comments (10) | Author:

Viognier — Still Full of Vim and Vigor

Friday, 20. January 2012 5:26

Short ribs elegantly presented at Viognier restaurant.

It wasn’t long ago that the notion of a restaurant operating inside a hotel doomed it to second-tier status.

While that no longer holds true, the idea of a fine-dining restaurant inside a grocery store still prompts some disbelief.

But when Viognier opened inside the gourmet market, Draeger’s in San Mateo 15 years ago, it made a convincing case that unlikely scenario could work.

After all, the restaurant was opened by none other than Chef Gary Danko, who later left to open his own eponymous restaurant in San Francisco. He was followed by Chef Scott Giambastiani, who is now an executive chef at Google. Chef Preston Dishman, former chef-partner of the General’s Daughter in Sonoma, took over the restaurant, named for the aromatic grape varietal from the Northern Rhone region of France, in 2008.

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Take Five with Chef Robert Sapirman, on His Big Plans for Citrus Restaurant in Santana Row

Wednesday, 1. June 2011 5:27

Chef Robert Sapirman on the terrace of the Hotel Valencia.

Chef Robert Sapirman has circled the Bay Area in the past year, only to wind up not too far from where he once was.

Bay Area foodies may remember him as the long-time head chef of Parcel 104 in Santa Clara. He departed that upscale restaurant in the Marriott Hotel to open Vesu in Walnut Creek, only to see that restaurant shutter a year later.

Now, for nearly six months, he’s been the executive chef of Citrus in the Hotel Valencia in San Jose’s Santana Row, just a few miles from – you guessed it — Parcel 104. The eight-year-old Hotel Valencia, known for years far more for its lively bar scene than its restaurant food, is in for a transformation. By the end of the year, not only will the lobby and other public areas of the hotel get a freshened look, but Citrus will debut a new concept. Sapirman, long known for his commitment to stellar ingredients, was brought in specifically to try to put Citrus on the map for discriminating foodies. Under his direction, expect the restaurant’s current steakhouse concept to give way to a more dynamic one of global tapas.

Recently, I had a chance to sit down with the 37-year-old, New Jersey-born and Fort Lauderdale-reared chef who now oversees the food for not only for Citrus, VBar, and Cielo wine bar, but banquets and room service for the 212-room hotel.

Vietnamese-style caramelized ribs cooked sous vide, finished on the grill, then served with housemade kimchee.

Q: Is your food here similar to what you were cooking at Parcel 104?

A: It’s similar in that it’s ingredient-driven. I try to seek out the best ingredients that I can. My passion now is global tapas. I did a little of that at lunch at Parcel 104 before I left. Vesu also was a great platform for that.

Q: Are you hoping to change the perception that the Hotel Valencia is all about the bar scene?

A: Absolutely. We have a handicap in Citrus in that we’re surrounded by other restaurants. We need to make you come up to the second floor here. Plus, the perception is that restaurants in hotels are not good. I know we struggled with that at the Marriott, too.

I hope to fill this 62-seat restaurant every night and to get people up here to love my food. That’s what every chef wants, right? I hope to make the restaurant as busy as the hotel is, so that when people call for a reservation, there won’t be any.

Q: How will you differentiate yourself from the other restaurants at Santana Row?

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Category:"Take Five'' Q&A, Chefs, Donuts, General, Restaurants | Comments (12) | Author:

The Newest in Wine Pairings — Lady Gaga Donuts and Cupcakes

Thursday, 26. August 2010 5:25

You’ve had cheese with your wine. You’ve had chocolate with your wine.

But you’ve probably never had the likes of a Lady Gaga donut with a Petite Syrah.

This Saturday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Aug. 28, you can enjoy that unusual pairing that sounds as out there as one of Gaga’s outfits.

Poetic Cellars of Soquel is hosting this creative food-wine pairing. Psycho Donuts of Campbell is supplying all the donuts that day, including the pop star-inspired iced cake ones topped with fresh blueberries.

The winery is offering up even more donut-wine combos with the likes of “Apricotology fritters” with Chardonnay and Viognier; an Oreo cookie-like cake donut matched with Syrah; and S’Mores cake donuts with Poetic Cellars’ Bourdeaux blend, Ballad.

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Category:Bakeries, Cupcakes, Donuts, Enticing Events, Fruit, General, Wine | Comments (21) | Author: