Pacific Catch; Santa Clara, Campbell, Corte Madera, Cupertino, Dublin, Mountain View, Palo Alto, San Mateo, San Francisco, Walnut Creek
This restaurant group, which was founded in 2003 in San Francisco, takes its seafood seriously, adhering to the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch Guide for sustainability. It also partners with the Surfrider Foundation to protect the world’s oceans by reducing plastic use. And it recycles its fryer oil and composts food scraps.
I was invited as a guest by the restaurant last week for a sneak taste, albeit pandemic-style, with a chance to sample takeout dishes.
Pacific Catch offers seafood in every preparation imaginable — from ceviches and sushi to tacos and burgers. Your takeout bag comes complete with compostable utensils, chopsticks, packets of Kikkoman soy sauce, and even wet-ones, which is an especially thoughtful touch.
Fried calamari is always chancey to-go, no matter how short the drive home. The light tempura-like batter on the Cabo calamari ($13) didn’t hold up with full-on crunch by the time I got it to my dining-room table. But the tentacles and rings were very tender. I loved how there were thin slices of fried lemon in the mix, too, and fried rings of red Fresno chilies. The calamari were seasoned well, and a container of smoky-spicy chipotle aioli was irresistible for dunking into again and again.
The rainbow roll ($18) is a solid rendition, stuffed with crab salad, then arrayed with slices of Kampachi, salmon and seared ahi, before being crowned with yellow yuzu tobiko for added pizazz and and a burst of citrus taste. The pickled ginger alongside is a real treat, if you’re a ginger fanatic like I am. That’s because it’s sliced into longer and larger shards than usual, affording a big burst of prickly warmth.
The Thai Brussels sprouts ($8) are nicely charred, with a slightly sweet and tangy taste, and a garnish of fried shallots.
The poke chirashi ($23) is a generous portion of three different pokes arranged over a bed of rice. So much so that I had enough left over for a light lunch the next day. You get the original ahi, cubes of tuna with sweet onion, all seasoned with sesame oil and soy sauce; Kona Kampachi, with the Hawaiian yellowtail in a ponzu sauce; and Serrano ahi, a spicy blend of tuna with creamy Sriracha aioli and Serrano chiles. A row of seaweed salad and another of lightly pickled cucumbers completed the dish, which afforded a different composed bite each time you dug in with chopsticks. I only wish the rice grains had been cooked with a little less water, as they veered ever so slightly into mushiness.
Pacific Catch also gives you the option to assemble your own fish plate, which is what my husband did, choosing the striped sea bass from Baja, Mexico ($27), done pescado asado-style with a smoky, peppery, citrus-guillijo adobo sauce. It was served with Mexican-style elote corn on the cob, four corn tortillas, and more of those delicious Thai Brussels sprouts. It proved a substantial and satisfying plate of food, especially with a good-sized fish fillet that was quite moist.
You can get house cocktails to-go, too, packaged in a glass canning jar. The blood orange margarita ($19 for 12 ounces to serve two amply) is like a brunch mimosa but with reposado tequila instead, acting as the foil for the vivid winter citrus juice.
Pro Tip: If you’re feeling up to dining outside, the Santa Clara location of Pacific Catch offers a relaxing patio in front, complete with a sleek fire pit for those still chilly nights. Or combine your outing with a trip afterward to pick up groceries at Whole Foods, which is conveniently just steps away from the restaurant.
Hong Kong Bakery, Mountain View
Mom-and-pop establishments have suffered mightily during the pandemic for a host of reasons, not the least of which is this recent spate of ugly xenophobia. So when you spy a hole-in-the-wall Chinese bakery that’s been around for 40 years — yes, four decades — run only by a dedicated husband and wife team, you can’t help but want to support its survival.
Walking into Hong Kong Bakery on Castro Street in Mountain View is like stepping back into my childhood. It sells the types of snacks and sweets I grew up on from so many small shops in San Francisco’s Chinatown, right down to the pink boxes everything is packed into to take home.
The bakery is most known for its baked pork buns ($4.25). No wonder since these are huge — 5 inches in diameter — with saucy diced char siu stuffed inside a golden brown, slightly sweet bun that’s squishy soft. One makes a nice lunch unto itself. They also freeze well, if you want to load up on them. The bakery owners are only too happy to give you precise — and I mean precise — instructions on how best to enjoy them the next day after they’ve been refrigerated: cover with a slightly dampened paper towel and microwave for about 35 seconds.
Even larger by an inch are the baked beef curry buns, flecked with black sesame seeds on the outside, and hiding a yellow curry meat filling. The ground beef has a pasty consistency, so you have to open to that type of texture. The warmth of the curry shines through with a moderate kick of spiciness.
The bakery’s other top seller is egg custard tarts ($3.25). The crisp, flaky pastry shells hold a smooth, bright yellow custard that’s silky yet stiff enough so that it doesn’t run or collapse after the first bite.
This is also the rare place that makes moon cakes year-round. Admittedly, mooncakes are not something I normally go out of my way for. But when you see a case full of half a dozen types, including taro and green tea, you feel the need to try at least one. So, I went for the pineapple one ($5.95). With beautifully golden soft pastry imprinted in a classic design, it held a dense jelly candy-like filling of cooked down pineapple that had a sweet, tropical, musky taste. Even my husband enjoyed it, and he is not usually a fan of mooncakes at all.
Pro Tip: Come prepared when you visit this bakery, because it is cash-only. Fortunately, there are ATMs for most of the major banks located with a short radius.