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 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.
Ostrich mousse with black truffle at Ambience.
The elegant Ambience in downtown Los Altos may have opened more than four years ago, yet it still flies relatively under the radar.
But thankfully, more people are finding out about this fine-dining gem on the Peninsula, as evidenced a few weeks ago when I was invited in for a repeat visit as a guest of the restaurant. The first time I dined there in 2015 on a weeknight, I have to admit I wondered how it managed to stay in business. I think my party of two was only one of three tables filled that night in what albeit is a small restaurant. But on the return visit, I was happy to see that about two-thirds of the restaurant was filled on a weeknight.
Cobalt water glasses.
A sip of warm almond tea to get in the mood.
A tasting menu-only restaurant can be a gamble, especially in too-impatient-to-wait-for-anything Silicon Valley. It’s one thing to devote 2 hours or more to a meal on a weekend or special occasion. But on a Wednesday night after work? For a lot of people, that’s a big ask.
Chef-Owner Morgan Song makes it worth your while, though. Song, who cooked for years in Sacramento and San Francisco, most notably at Kiss restaurant, and his wife, who manages the front of house and greets guests warmly when they arrive, have created a subdued restaurant, cloistered from the stresses and vagaries of the day with a candlelit dining room with smoky glass windows that seems to make the outside world disappear.
Tagines are the centerpiece of the menu at Porta Blu.
Driving Highway 101 on the Peninsula, you cannot miss the swank new Hotel Nia. Its 11 stories of gleaming glass make quite the statement.
Step inside the just opened hotel, and you are sure to get whiplash. That’s because the upscale yet whimsical decor by Colum McCartan of New York’s McCartan, Inc. will have you looking every which way. Everywhere you turn, there are eye-catching, fun touches such as a cart full of luggage turned into a planter and rakes leaning against doorways that are actually light fixtures. Just when you think you’ve spotted every surprise, you discover yet another one.
Somebody sure left their luggage here a long time. LOL
Don’t try using these to sweep up anything.
Just a tandem bike on the property.
The property somehow manages to feel secluded, even if it is right off always-jammed 101, and has Facebook as a neighbor.
Enter the restaurant, Porta Blu, and the unique artfulness continues. The backs of the bar stools look as if they sport an abstract squiggle design. But start at them a little longer to discover it’s actually a silhouette of two faces kissing.
Presenting the new burger at Bird Dog (conveniently cut in half for the two of us to share).
It might very well be the best burger you’ve ever had.
But it’s not listed on the menu. At least not yet.
The only way you can try the sublime double-patty creation at Bird Dog in downtown Palo Alto is to know about it and ask for it.
So for those of you reading this, go for it. You won’t regret whispering this order to your server.
What makes this burger so special?
Make Mom feel extra special this Mother’s Day by bringing her with you to a delicious cooking demo at Macy’s Valley Fair in Santa Clara, 1 p.m. May 12.
Yours truly will be hosting it with Chef Pamela Keith of Taylor’s Bay Cafe and catering company, CuisineStyle, both in Burlingame.
Learn how to make a perfect treat to spoil dear Mom on her big day the following day after the demo. Of course, you’ll get to enjoy samples, along with a printed copy of the recipe to take home.