Category Archives: Restaurants

Camper Stakes Its Claim In Menlo Park

Beautiful yellowtail crudo at Camper in downtown Menlo Park.

Beautiful yellowtail crudo at Camper in downtown Menlo Park.

 

On a rainy, dreary Friday afternoon in Menlo Park, Camper was full of — yes — happy campers.

The restaurant, which pitched its home in the former LB Steak locale last year, was buzzing and completely full at lunch time, as I found when I met a friend and colleague there, with both of us paying the tab at the end.

Roland Passot, owner of La Folie in San Francisco and former owner of LB Steak, partnered with Chef Greg Kuzia-Carmel, who cooked at New York’s Per Se and San Francisco’s Cotogna, and Logan Levant, who owned Buttercake Bakery in Los Angeles, to open this smart spot built around hand-made pastas and elevated classics with global influences such as Crispy Fried Chicken “Milanese” ($14) and Overnight Yucatan-Style Braised Pork ($18).

The bar.

The bar.

The airy dining room.

The airy dining room.

It’s a handsome restaurant done up with light wood, plenty of windows, a long back-lighted bar, and a dough room just off the entrance, where you can watch the pasta being made.

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NIDO Is Pretty Neato

You can't miss finding this place.

You can’t miss finding this place.

 

Its name means “nest” in Spanish, and NIDO is very much a comforting place in every sense.

This Mexican restaurant was opened in Oakland in 2012 by husband and wife, Cory and Silvia McCollow.

It’s colorful and energetic, with a homespun air, as if a bunch of friends got together in a modern-day barn-raising to build a restaurant. Candles in mismatched glass containers give off a warm glow inside, along with a mini disco ball at the front that creates a party-like verve. The bar is built from repurposed wood pallets, giving it a “Gilligan’s Island” can-do look.

On Sunday nights, the restaurant offers a more truncated menu, dubbed “Sunday Night Tacos & Margaritas.” It’s super popular, too, as I found out, when I went a week ago, paying my own tab at the end. Even before the doors opened at 5 p.m., there were already more than half a dozen people lined up to get in.

Chips, salsa and guacamole.

Chips, salsa and guacamole.

A cocktail made with black vermouth.

A cocktail made with black vermouth.

The short and sweet menu encompasses two starters, two large plates, two taco choices, and chips with salsa and guacamole.

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Rich Table’s Spaghetti with Peas, Goat Cheese — And A Most Unexpected Ingredient

A pasta dish that will thrill with surprise.

A pasta dish that will thrill with surprise.

 

As I set this brimming bowl of pasta in front of my husband, he twirled in his fork, then took a bite.

“This is so weird,” he exclaimed with growing glee. “But it’s really good!”

That might just be your reaction, as well, to this eyebrow-raising spaghetti tossed with peas, lime, goat cheese — and are you ready for it — duck fat.

Yes, “Spaghetti with Peas, Lime, Goat Cheese, and Duck Fat” is from the cookbook, “Rich Table” (Chronicle Books, 2018), of which I received a review copy. It’s by husband-and-wife chef-owners Evan and Sarah Rich with assist from Eater Cities Director Carolyn Alburger.

Rich Table cookbook

If you’ve ever had the pleasure of dining at San Francisco’s Rich Table — where scoring a table is never an easy feat — you know that this type of dish is part and parcel for this Michelin-starred restaurant that has a knack for creating winning dishes with rather unexpected, and often mind-boggling combinations of ingredients.

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Wagyu Everything at Gozu Pop-up at Avery

Wrap our heads around this: yellowfin bone marrow. At the Gozu pop-up at Avery restaurant.

Wrap our heads around this: yellowfin bone marrow. At the Gozu pop-up at Avery restaurant.

 

Gozu, the Wagyu beef-centered restaurant, isn’t expected to open its doors in the South of Market area of San Francisco until May. But it’s already opened my eyes to the possibilities of this prized, specialty Japanese beef.

Last week, I had the pleasure of dining as a guest at one of the three nights that Gozu hosted a pop-up at Avery in San Francisco.

The $95 per person tasting menu featured four dishes from the Avery’s Chef Rodney Wages, an alum of The French Laundry in Yountville, and Benu, Atelier Crenn, and Saison, all in San Francisco; as well as four dishes from Gozu’s Chef Marc Zimmerman, who cooked at Nobu, Restaurant Guy Savoy, and Alexander’s Steakhouse in San Francisco. Two supplemental dishes also were available for an extra charge.

Like its predecessor in this Fillmore Street locale, the elegant Korean-influenced Mosu, Avery continues the tradition of having no sign out front. The windows are opaque, too. So, just look carefully for the numerical address, and you’ll find it just fine.

The two-story restaurant is quite compact, and done up with grays and black to give it a chic air.

The upstairs dining room.

The upstairs dining room.

Chef Marc Zimmerman of the forthcoming Gozu (left) and Chef Rodney Wages of Avery (right).

Chef Marc Zimmerman of the forthcoming Gozu (left) and Chef Rodney Wages of Avery (right).

For the first half of the meal, before the restaurant got too full, the two chefs both brought out their dishes, hand-delivering to the table. Zimmerman says he got the idea for a Wagyu-focused restaurant after traveling through Japan. There, casual robata-style eateries specialize in Wagyu and make use of every bit of the pampered, outrageously marbled cows.

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A Visit to Sam Choy’s Poke to the Max

A huge musubi with Spam and green onion omelet at Sam Choy's Poke to the Max.

A huge musubi with Spam and green onion omelet at Sam Choy’s Poke to the Max.

 

At first, you might scratch your head at the fact that Hawaiian celeb Chef Sam Choy picked a sleepy block in San Bruno, right across the street from Artichoke Joe’s Casino, for the first California franchise of his Sam Choy’s Poke to the Max.

But the reason for the unlikely location becomes crystal clear when its head Chef Wade Tamura explains: First, the seafood gets flown in regularly from Hawaii, and San Francisco International Airport is just a short hop away. Second, one of Choy’s favorite vacation spots just happens to be San Francisco.

With poke places seemingly popping up on every block these days, what sets this one apart? I had a chance to find out, when I was invited in as a guest of the fast-casual eatery a week ago.

Chef Wade Tamura.

Chef Wade Tamura.

First, there’s no denying the pedigree of having a James Beard Award-winning Hawaiian chef behind it. Choy comes out to the Bay Area at least four times a year. And Tamura, who was previously at Facebook, Google, and the Slanted Door in San Francisco, also has worked with Choy for more than two decades.

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