Category Archives: Best Takeout Food

Where I’ve Been Getting Takeout of Late, Part 18

Tandoori lamb chops and garlic naan from Jalsa Catering & Events.
Tandoori lamb chops and garlic naan from Jalsa Catering & Events.

Jalsa Catering & Events, Milpitas and Bay Area

Its name means “celebrate,” and pre-pandemic, Milpitas-based Jalsa Catering & Events was all about that, catering lavish weddings and festive parties all over the Bay Area.

But of course, with large events — and pretty much gatherings of any sort — verboten right now, Jalsa has pivoted to being a meal delivery service instead.

The company was co-founded by Vittal Shetty, who for years was the corporate chef of the Bay Area’s Amber India restaurants; and Reshmi Nair, who was Amber India’s director of events and catering.

Delivery (2 p.m. to 6 p.m.) and pick-up are available on a schedule that depends on what city you live in: Monday and Friday, there’s delivery to San Jose, Santa Clara, Sunnyvale, Saratoga, Cupertino, Los Gatos, and Monte Sereno. Tuesday and Sunday, it’s Palo Alto, Los Altos, Atherton, Redwood City, San Mateo. Thursday, it’s San Carlos, Hillsborough, and San Francisco. Saturday, it’s Fremont, Pleasanton, San Ramon, Dublin, Hayward, and Danville. And Wednesday, pick-up is available at its Milipitas commercial kitchen.

A side salad of pomegranate, mung bean, onions and corn, with crisp taro chips.
A side salad of pomegranate, mung bean, onions and corn, with crisp taro chips.

You don’t know necessarily when the food will show up at your doorstep between 2 p.m. to 6 p.m., but everything heats up well enough in the microwave or a skillet if you want to enjoy it hours later, as I found when I was invited to try some of the food gratis.

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Where I’ve Been Getting Takeout of Late, Part 17

Five-spice ribs from Straits restaurant.
Five-spice ribs from Straits restaurant.

Straits, San Jose

There was a time when the Chris Yeo Group was the king of San Jose’s Santana Row, operating three restaurants in this retail-restaurant-housing complex.

Only one remains now, though — Straits. It was his first establishment at Santana Row, and the concept that really made a name for him when he first opened the original Straits in San Francisco (which shuttered long ago). These days, with Yeo mostly retired, it’s his son Julian who runs the restaurant operations.

With its lounge-y, nightclub-like vibe and seductively attired female servers — which can be a plus or minus, depending on your predilection — Straits always drew a lively crowd pre-pandemic. Now, with only takeout and delivery service, the atmosphere is obviously more subdued.

The unexpected hue of the coconut rice.
The unexpected hue of the coconut rice.

While its atmosphere may have overshadowed the food at times, Straits still serves up solid, satisfying Malaysian cuisine.

The braised pork belly buns ($16) come on squishy Hawaiian-bread-like slider rolls, with a succulent thick slice of pork, crisp cucumber, and sweet-tangy pickled onions.

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Where I’ve Been Getting Takeout of Late, Part 16

Pausa's festive pizza laden with butternut squash puree, delicata squash pieces, and fabulous lardo.
Pausa’s festive pizza laden with butternut squash puree, delicata squash pieces, and fabulous lardo.

Pausa, San Mateo

Its name in Italian means “pause,” which I’m sure is the button we all wish we could hit for a respite from the previous year. But San Mateo’s Pausa does the next best thing — serving up to-go Italian specialties that are so delicious we can forget the challenging times we’re still in right now, at least for a moment.

Veneto, Italy-born chef Andrea Giuliani and co-owner Steven Ugur imbue the food with true Italian soulfulness. Just consider the pizzas, with crusts made from a special blend of flours imported from Italy, that bake up over almond wood with blistered edges. Even at the restaurant (when dine-in is allowed), the pizzas arrive uncut. Same with takeout. At the restaurant, you get a pair of scissors to portion it out, yourself. At home, just use kitchen shears to do the work.

Like all the pizzas, the sausage one ($22) sports a crisp crust that’s chewy-tender, bready in some parts with a nice little hint of salt. It has the long-developed flavor of an artisan boule. The crumbled, house-made sausage and house-made mozzarella are the perfect complements to the sweet-fruity tomato sauce.

House-made tagliatelle with duck ragu.
House-made tagliatelle with duck ragu.

For something unique, try the pizza zucca & lardo ($22) that tastes of autumn with its sweet butternut squash puree, caramelized onions and cabbage, slices of tender delicata squash, fresh rosemary, and of course, long, paper-thin shavings of cured pork fat that fairly melt in your mouth.

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My Top 10 Eats of 2020

As someone who rarely used to order takeout, I never thought I’d be turning my annual Top 10 list of the year’s best dishes into one centered solely on food picked up at restaurants to enjoy in my own home.

But 2020 has been like no year we’ve ever experienced.

It was more difficult than usual to cull my favorite eats down to only 10 mentions, because every restaurant or bakery that I visited has something wonderful to offer in these most challenging time. What’s more, each place I visited this year deserves an enormous thanks and pat on the back for persevering in this extremely difficult situation.

With 2021 around the corner, and the beginnings of a very slow return to normalcy just inching forward, I hope you’ll join me in continuing to support your local restaurants by getting takeout. Do pick up the food yourself if you can, rather than relying on delivery apps that eat into the already slim margins that restaurants reap from your order.

Without further ado, in no particular order, here are my Top 10 takeout picks of 2020.

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Where I’ve Been Getting Takeout of Late, Part 15

Tan Tan noodles from Chili House. Underneath is a layer of red chili oil to mix in.
Tan Tan noodles from Chili House. Underneath is a layer of red chili oil to mix in.

Chili House, San Francisco

Some like it hot. And if they do, they head to Chili House in San Francisco’s Richmond District for Sichuan and Beijing specialties, most of which will make you feel the burn — in an albeit delectable way.

You know what you’re in for when you see menu items such as “Pork Chop with Explosive Chili Pepper.” Even so, when I was invited by the restaurant to try some of its dishes for takeout, I was game — and at the ready with a yogurt drink to douse the flames, just in case.

Chef-Owner Li Jun Han cooked for two Chinese presidents before immigrating to the Bay Area to open Chili House, as well as Z&Y Restaurant in Chinatown.

Beijing-style pot stickers.
Beijing-style pot stickers.

The Beijing pot stickers (4 for $7.95) are not the usual half-moon shaped ones you’re familiar with. Instead, these are long and slender wrappers rolled around a pork filling. You could even pick them up with your fingers to dunk into the accompanying black vinegar-soy sauce.

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