Category Archives: Best Takeout Food

Where I’ve Been Getting Takeout of Late, Part 33 (All-Sweets Edition)

The St. Honore tart by Tarts de Feybesse makes any day that much more special.
The St. Honore tart by Tarts de Feybesse makes any day that much more special.

Tarts de Feybesse, Vallejo, and Pop-Ups Around the Bay Area

When you first lay eyes upon the creations of Tarts de Feybesse, you find yourself astounded that they were made by two chefs whose forte has come on the savory side of the professional kitchen.

But when you realize that husband-and-wife founders, Paul Feybesse and Monique Feybesse met while working at Geranium, the rarefied Copenhagen restaurant that was the first in Denmark to receive three Michelin stars, you realize the talent, precision and artistry they obviously possess.

They began baking for friends and family, plying what they had learned on their own and from pastry chef colleagues along the way. Baking required an attention to detail to which they were already accustomed, so it was not that great a leap, Monique says. If their savory side does come into play, it’s in their restraint of sweetness in their desserts. Instead, she jokes, they’re always wanting to add just a touch more salt, in order to create harmony and balance.

The jaw-dropping brioche feuilletee.
The jaw-dropping brioche feuilletee.

Pre-pandemic, they started to craft a baking business out of their Vallejo home, quickly building a clientele through social media for their breads and fine pastries, done up in a strikingly singular, modern aesthetics. Then, once the pandemic hit, the business really took off. Because who can turn down strawberry tarts, opera cakes, and eclairs with such distinctive fillings as blackberry violet?

Definitely not me. So, when Tarts de Feybesse held a pop-up last Sunday at Camper restaurant in Menlo Park, I threw calories to the wind and pre-ordered.

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Where I’ve Been Getting Takeout of Late, Part 32

The mixed grill plate of chicken and lamb from Athena Grill.
The mixed grill plate of chicken and lamb from Athena Grill.

Athena Grill, Santa Clara

It would be understandable if you thought you’d gotten lost while trying to get to Athena Grill in Santa Clara. Surrounded by low-slung industrial buildings, it doesn’t look at all like a neighborhood where you’d find a restaurant of any sort.

But this casual, family-owned Greek restaurant has been drawing a loyal following to this spot for the past 19 years.

It’s the type of simple, oregano-fragrant food in ample portions that you picture yourself enjoying at an outdoor cafe overlooking the Aegean Sea. When you get the food to-go, just be prepared to work up an appetite, inhaling the heady garlic the whole way home.

It’s one of the few places you’ll find smelt ($11.95). These tiny fish, lightly breaded and fried, are about the size of the french fries they come with. In fact, you may have trouble distinguishing the two at first glance. Squeeze on some lemon juice and dunk into the container of skordalia, a creamy potato garlic dip. They’re mild tasting, and edible in their entirety.

Fried smelt and fries (back), and grilled sardines with garlic fries (front).
Fried smelt and fries (back), and grilled sardines with garlic fries (front).

If larger fishes are more your speed, go for the grilled sardines mezes ($12.95). They are marinated in olive oil, garlic and lemon before getting crisped on the grill. You have to debone them yourself. But that’s easy enough to do. They are tender, slightly stronger in taste with their rich oil, and just a joy to dig into.

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Where I’ve Been Getting Takeout of Late, Part 31

Cuban pork-plantain enchiladas from Aqui.
Cuban pork-plantain enchiladas from Aqui.

Aqui, San Jose, Campbell, Cupertino

Long before certain chefs in Southern California and on the East Coast were gaining fame for stuffing tacos and burritos with all manner of global ingredients, there was Aqui.

It was a forerunner to the novelty of folding flour tortillas around a filling of Thai peanut saucy chicken or tangy goat cheese to create something anew.

It opened way back in 1994 in San Jose’s Willow Glen neighborhood. I remember going there in the late ’90s, where no matter if it was lunch or dinner, you’d have to time it just right or risk not getting a table. Today, Aqui is not only still going strong, but it now boasts five locations in the South Bay.

It’s easy to see why it’s so popular. It’s fun, vibrant California-ized Mexican-inspired food in generous portions. Order the avocado dip ($7.49), and you’ll get enough tortilla chips to feed four handily, along with salsa fresca on the side for good measure. The avocado dip is essentially a chunk guacamole with habanero, lime, and cilantro. The menu says there’s mango in it, but it’s not readily detectable. The chips are very crisp and have a great rustic corn taste.

The Cuban pork enchiladas ($12.49) come three to an order, along with black beans and crunchy, mild tasting Aqui slaw. The enchiladas are filled with ground pork that’s been cooked with mashed plaintains, giving it a nice sweetness, before being napped with a red, nutty tasting achiote sauce. Squiggles of sour cream decorate the top.

Don't miss the flourless chocolate cake.
Don’t miss the flourless chocolate cake.

On the lighter side, the Southwest Caesar ($9.49) was a kaleidoscope of color with yellow, purple and red fried tortilla strips all over the top. It’s a simple mix of crunchy Romaine, pumpkin seeds, black beans and grilled corn, done up with a flourish of Asiago cheese, but really hits the spot.

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Where I’ve Been Getting Takeout of Late, Part 30

A beautiful beet and goat cheese tart packed with care by Le Papillon.
A beautiful beet and goat cheese tart packed with care by Le Papillon.

Le Papillon, San Jose

For an astounding 44 years, Le Papillon has not only endured but thrived during Santa Clara Valley’s metamorphosis from orchard-rich Valley of Heart’s Delight to tech-visionary Silicon Valley.

So, it’s no surprise that even during a pandemic, it’s managed to roll with the punches, successfully offering a three-course menu ($75 per person for pick-up; $85 per person for delivery) that changes each week with two to three options to choose from for each course.

Even if all you do is roll up to the front of the restaurant to have a server place the takeout in your hands or your trunk, there’s still an air of specialness about it all.

It starts with the attention to detail: The hot food comes in one bag; the cold food in another. First courses and desserts that have a bit of intricate plating get cleverly adhered to the bottom of the takeout container with an extra dab of sauce so that even after a few right or left turns in your car, they not only stay upright, but completely intact.

Miso Chilean sea bass with Cape gooseberries.
Miso Chilean sea bass with Cape gooseberries.

I was duly impressed when I witnessed that with the chilled beet and puff pastry tart that stood ramrod straight when I opened the container at home, thanks to a tiny bit of goat cheese underneath that acted as mortar.

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Where I’ve Been Getting Takeout of Late, Part 29

The Crispy Chicken Sandwich from Winner Winner Chicken.
The Crispy Chicken Sandwich from Winner Winner Chicken.

Winner Winner Chicken, San Mateo

Chefs Jeremy Cheng and Chef Randy Magpantay couldn’t have been more excited to finally open their Winner Winner Chicken after conceiving of the Nashville-style hot chicken establishment in 2018.

Only, they opened it in March 2020 in San Mateo’s Hillsdale Shopping Center. Five days later, the pandemic put the kibash on it.

Fortunately, with the Bay Area seemingly turning the corner now in this health crisis, Winner Winner Chicken has been able to sling its specialties for the past couple of months. I was invited in by the fast-casual eatery a week ago to try some menu items gratis, which I ferried home as takeout.

It’s a family operation, with Cheng and Magpantay, and their wives, behind the counter overseeing the ordering and cooking. Cheng and Magpantay are veterans of the South Bay’s Avenir Restaurant Group, which includes Nola in Palo Alto, Milagros in Redwood City, and Town in San Carlos.

At Winner Winner Chicken, you can choose how incendiary you like it, from Classic (no heat) to Medium (starting to heat up) and Spicy (That’s hot) to Extra Spicy (Hot as cluck).

Crispy barbecue chicken spring rolls with a center of gooey cheese.
Crispy barbecue chicken spring rolls with a center of gooey cheese.

I went with medium, though I think Magpantay dialed it down a bit and gave me medium-light (which you can request, by the way) that offered up a modest amount of heat on the palate.

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