Category Archives: Restaurants

New Goings-On At Arcadia San Jose

Bone marrow from the wood-fired oven at Arcadia.

Bone marrow from the wood-fired oven at Arcadia.

 

San Jose’s tallest hotel, the downtown Marriott, is starting the new year with a real bang.

The 13-year-old hotel that boasts 26 floors just completed a massive $10 million-plus renovation, remodeling guest rooms and conference areas, installing routers in every room for high speed Internet access (yes, you can even stream Netflix now), adding food and beverage service in the lobby, and mobile check-in.

What’s more, it’s rolling out a new chef in Justin Yu, who was chef de partie at Momofuku Ssam Bar in New York, chef de partie at Commis in Oakland and chef de cuisine at Haven in Oakland.

OK, Yu might not be brand new (he started 10 months ago), but with the completion of all the construction, the hotel’s Arcadia restaurant is finally ready to really show off its chef de cuisine.

Chef Justin Yu.

Chef Justin Yu.

Arcadia, a Michael Mina restaurant, has always floated a little under the radar. But with Yu, it has someone who really has the energy and skills to take the reins full throttle.

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Mexican Food Like You’ve Never Experienced — At Californios

The fanciful Yerba Buena Fruit Cup at Californios.

The fanciful Yerba Buena Fruit Cup at Californios.

 

If your idea of Mexican food is nothing but bulging burritos and bargain-basement tacos at a sombrero-saturated cantina, prepare to have your mind blown by Californios.

At this nearly year-old Mission District restaurant in San Francisco, Chef-Owner Val M. Cantu and his wife, maitre d’ Carolyn Cantu, serve up a contemporary single prix fixe each evening of, yes, Mexican cuisine. Oh, there are beans. There is menudo. And agua fresca. But reinvented with startling finesse like you’ve never seen.

Together with the new much-lauded Cala in San Francisco, which I’ve not yet visited, Californios is changing perceptions by broadening our definition of Mexican food in a most exciting way.

The open kitchen provides a dramatic centerpiece for this dark, enveloping little restaurant.

The open kitchen provides a dramatic centerpiece for this dark, enveloping little restaurant.

Art, wine, and culinary books fill a nearby bookcase.

Art, wine, and culinary books fill a nearby bookcase.

A few weeks ago, I was invited in as a guest of the restaurant. It’s a very intimate space of only about 22 seats that was designed by Carolyn Cantu. You step inside and it’s as if the restaurant envelopes you immediately in a cloak of secrecy. The street windows are tinted deep gray, the walls are paneled darkly, and the lighting inside is very dim — like that of a movie theater. Your eyes are drawn to the brightest spot — the open kitchen fronted by a chef’s counter, where three chefs, including Val Cantu, work the line. The effect is very romantic even with the classic rock music in the background. The look calls to mind a moody Edward Hopper painting, though it’s not a diner that’s glorified here, but a unique restaurant for the ages.

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Christmas Biscuits? Why Not!

Merry Christmas with out-of-the-oven, homemade biscuits!

Merry Christmas with out-of-the-oven, homemade biscuits!

 

As you ready to open presents this Christmas morning or prepare for the big holiday feast to come tonight, wouldn’t a pan of fresh, warm biscuits hit the spot?

Imagine them slathered with sweet butter and marmalade for breakfast today or alongside glazed ham tonight.

Is your mouth watering yet? I know mine sure is.

Biscuits don’t get any easier or more irresistible than these from Howard Bulka, chef-owner of Howie’s Artisan Pizzeria in Palo Alto and Redwood City.

The Palo Alto location is all about pizza. The Redwood City one, with its much larger and fully equipped kitchen, goes beyond the charred, flavorful pies to include everything from house-made pasta to classic burgers, too.

What’s more, the Redwood City one also offers weekend brunch, which includes an astonishingly great array of baked goods. This is where you’ll often find these heavenly biscuits offered.

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Fried Chicken, Paella, and More At Citrus at the Valencia Hotel

Let the good times roll at Citrus in the Valencia Hotel.

Let the good times roll at Citrus in the Valencia Hotel.

 

Chef Ocean Orssten acknowledges his parents were hippies who happened to be living in Capitola at the time he was born. Hence his unusual first name.

But the chef with the water-themed moniker also knows the land equally well. He grew up in the Napa Valley, raising heritage breed pigs at age 12 and developed a love for agriculture.

Is it any wonder that by the time he was a young teen, he knew he wanted to be a chef?

After stints at Arcadia in San Jose, La Folie in San Francisco, and Campton Place restaurant in San Francisco, Orssten took over the helm at Citrus at the Valencia Hotel in San Jose’s Santana Row in 2011.

It’s a restaurant I’ve longed wish more people would find out about. You have to know it’s there, as it’s not at visible at street level as all the other eateries at Santana Row. Instead, you have to take an elevator up to the third floor to get to it. But that trek rewards you once you arrive with a tucked away, intimate dining room that feels cloistered from the hubbub of the rest of the retail-residential center around it.

An unexpected and delightful goat arepas.

An unexpected and delightful goat arepas.

Recently, I was invited in as a guest to try Orssten’s recently revamped menu. There’s the expected rib eye and flatiron steak. But also offerings you don’t expect. Like the Jamaican curry goat arepas ($14). The stewed goat was tender and full of flavor atop the soft corn arepas. The poblano creme fraiche added a smoky, creamy heat, though, there may have been too much of it on the plate.

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