Where I’ve Been Getting Takeout of Late, Part 8
Ozumo, San Jose and San Francisco
What foods have you missed most during shelter-in-place? French fries, or most any fried foods for that matter, and sushi? That’s the consensus among my friends and family. Understandable, given that those are things most of us rarely prepare for ourselves at home.
Ozumo comes to the rescue on so many of those fronts. Former professional baseball player Jeremy Upland founded the restaurants after falling hard for Japanese cuisine during his time playing in the Japanese Pacific League. Its location in San Jose’s Santana Row is especially convenient because there are plenty of free parking lots just yards away.
To satisfy those fried foods cravings, look no further than karaage ($14) and Ozumo shrimp ($18).
I’m not going to lie — when you get these to-go, their crunchy coatings will suffer a bit by the time you get them home. But the fried white shrimp coated with shichimi can be re-crisped fairly well by just searing them in a hot frying pan on the stovetop. The accompanying yuzu-honey aioli is sweet and creamy like Japanese Kewpie mayo, with a citrusy and spicy edge. Our little plastic container of it got slightly melted when it was tucked inside the to-go container with the straight-from-the-fryer shrimp. But you can always transfer the sauce to your own dipping bowl at home.
The fried chicken, marinated in soy sauce and ginger, is flavorful, as well as very tender and moist. It comes with a creamy spicy aioli for those who want more heat. Or for purists, there’s a simple lemon wedge to squeeze overtop.
For raw fish aficionados, the hanabi ($20) is everything you’d want. Yellowtail sashimi gets dressed with a gingery ponzu sauce, jalapeno rings, and slices of avocado. The clean taste of the fish reverberates, with the light ponzu sauce caressing, not overwhelming it. The jalapenos add a nice pop of grassy heat.
The gyoza ($10) sport a more flavorful filling than most, with its nice mix of pork, chicken, scallion, cabbage, garlic, and ginger.
For a satisfying homey dish, there’s pork chashu yaki-soba ($18). It’s a generous mound of skinny, chewy noodles fortified with cabbage, barbecued pork belly slivers, shiitakes, nori, sesame seeds, onions, and pickled ginger. It’s a dish that keeps very well the next day, too, in case you want to save some for tomorrow’s lunch to be reheated in the microwave or in a pan on the stove.
Pro Tip: If you don’t mind working a bit, I highly recommend one of Ozumo’s hand-roll kits. And when I say “work,” it’s minimal, given that the restaurant has already neatly cut and prepped everything for you. All you have to do is spread the prepared rice on provided nori sheets with the various fillings, and roll up. The big advantage to this is that your roll tastes impeccably fresh, as the nori has not yet softened and sogged out, as is the case when you usually get takeout sushi rolls.
Packed with everything you need from the wasabi and soy sauce to the pickled ginger, the hand-roll kits come in two versions: Fukuoka ($49) and Tokyo ($79). Each comes with enough ingredients to make a dozen hand rolls. The Tokyo carries a higher price tag because it includes sea urchin and lobster.
We went with the standard Fukuoka, which includes small containers of spicy scallop, salmon, snow crab mix, toro, avocado slices, cucumber slices, tamago, and daikon sprouts.
It was fun creating our own combinations for each roll. Twelve rolls for two people is pretty filling, too. And considering one California roll at Ozumo is $10, paying $49 for a kit for 12 hand rolls — or about $4 per roll — is a great deal.
If you’re going to be a regular at Ozumo, consider the gift card promotion going on now to help the restaurant raise funds to expand its outdoor seating. Receive a $300 gift card by paying only $250, a $625 gift card for $500, and a $1,300 gift card for $1,000. The gift cards can be used at both the San Francisco and San Jose locations.
Sancho’s Taqueria, Downtown Palo Alto, Midtown Palo Alto, and Redwood City
How much does my husband love Sancho’s Taqueria? Sometimes, I think he secretly hopes my car breaks down or needs servicing, because it always provides the perfect excuse for us to grab food there, since there’s an outpost of this restaurant not too far from my mechanic.
I can’t blame him. I adore this place, too. It’s been one of my long-time favorite haunts, especially for its fish tacos, which are some of the very best you’ll ever experience.
The fish tacos ($5.35 each) are my go-to. I especially appreciate that you can get the fish lightly battered or — my choice — grilled. These are huge tacos that you need two hands to support to take a bite. They are loaded with chunks of grilled fish, along with chopped onions, tomatoes and cilantro. A smoky, creamy chipotle remoulade ties it all together. It is bliss wrapped up in a tortilla.
You can also get the fish — grilled or fried — stuffed into a burrito ($9.95) with rice, pico de gallo, sour cream, guacamole, and your choice of pinto or black beans. I won’t say it’s necessarily a lighter option than, say, carnitas, because really what’s the point of a light burrito, right? This fish one will definitely sate.
Getting the nachos platter ($9) in a to-go container doesn’t do it quite as much justice as when you enjoy it at a table at the restaurant (and they do have a few outside ones). That’s because when it’s served on a plate, you can appreciate how mountainous this dish really is. It’s an entire meal — tons of tortilla chips with melty cheese, and scoops of pico de gallo, sour cream, guacamole and beans. If that weren’t enough, you also get your choice of meat to go on top. It’s a true guilty pleasure. But after one loaded up chip, you can’t stop. There’s also a Cali Nachos version ($9.75), which includes all of that, plus french fries. Yes, nachos meets poutine. I think even I would yell “uncle” at that one.
My other must-order is the white fish ceviche ($7.95). It’s a sizeable amount of lime-cured white fish chunks mixed with tomatoes, onions, and cilantro, and topped with fresh avocado. It’s such a bright, zingy dish that’s especially welcome in summer. It comes with thick tortilla chips to scoop with.
Pro Tip: Be sure to hit the ATM before going, because Sancho’s only takes cash and checks as payment. When winter hits, definitely try the tortilla soup ($4.95 for a cup, $7.95 for a bowl), which does travel well, too. This chunky tomato-based soup is full of chunks of chicken and veggies, and comes garnished with avocado and crisp tortilla strips. It’s mildly spicy, redolent of lime, and so comforting. It’s saved me many a time when suffering through a cold.
Mademoiselle Colette, Menlo Park, Palo Alto, and Redwood City
If you think models subsist on nothing but kale and vitamin water, then you haven’t met Debora Ferrand. The former Paris-based model loves pastries so much that she would spend her paycheck at France’s best patisseries. That love for all things buttery, sweet and flaky led her to take baking classes, and to eventually open up her own patisserie, Mademoiselle Colette, in 2015 in Menlo Park.
There are now three locations. Go online, choose your items, pay with a credit card, and pick the day, time and bakery location to grab it all.
Choose from an array of pastries, as well as savories such as quiche of the day, French mac and cheese, and Nicoise salad, plus lunch boxes that consist of half a sandwich, house salad, and a macaron. Wines also are available by the bottle.
When the patisserie first opened, it didn’t make bread. But now it does, including a fine baguette ($4) that’s a little shorter than most, owing to the fact it doesn’t have those pointed long ends like others.
Recently, the online ordering system was updated, so you can now choose pastries by the piece. However, when I ordered under the previous system, you had to buy a box of assorted pastries, not knowing exactly what you’d get. My $38 box was supposed to have eight items in it, but it actually had nine. A win-win for me.
Included was a lovely chocolate croissant ($4.75), and a huge almond croissant ($5) filled with thick almond paste. There was a cute little iced lemon cake ($4) that was moist, fluffy in texture and zingy with citrus. There were two twisted, top-knot-shaped pastries made with flaky croissant dough. One was glazed and garnished with lime zest, and the other was swirled with dark, bitter chocolate, making it perfect alongside a cup of black coffee. There also was a kouign-amann that was quite buttery and flaky. Unlike B. Patisserie’s version, this one was sugared only on top, rather than throughout each layer, making it less sweet, crispy, and rich, which is not necessarily a bad thing but just different.
Additionally, there were two slender oblong tarts with centers of custardy cream and fresh fruit — one with fig halves, the other with whole raspberries. Beautiful to behold, they almost qualify as dessert.
Pro Tip: I admit that I hemmed and hawed for quite awhile before deciding to buy a chocolate tart ($26), too. It’s not like I needed a chocolate tart. But hey, given all that we’ve gone through this year, I think we are justified in spoiling ourselves now and again.
This tart is gorgeous — with a glossy, smooth dark top flecked with gold leaf. The perfectly uniform shell is as crisp and sturdy as a great butter cookie. The filling is a rich Vahlrona cream. The web site says it serves 4. But it’s quite rich, so you can easily get six slices out of this. It’s a chic little treat that will make you feel special at a time when we all deserve that.
It can be a little cumbersome finding everything on the web site, as there are categories for “mini cakes” and “large cakes.” For this tart, you actually have to click on “special menu,” then “dessert.”
Make your outing a twofer: Choose the downtown Palo Alto location of Mademoiseel Colette for picking up your sweet treats, and you can make a stop at Sancho’s Taqueria at the same time, because they are practically next-door to one another.