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Dining Outside at King’s Fish House

The albacore tuna roll at King's Fish House.
The albacore tuna roll at King’s Fish House.

King’s Fish House opened in the Westfield Valley Fair shopping center during the height of the pandemic in October 2020.

But you’d never know it.

The place has been hopping since it debuted. So much so that the mall even turned over to the restaurant an additional outdoor dining area a few steps away that had been just extra public space before. The restaurant now opens up that seating area on weekends when it gets extra busy.

Even on weekdays, though, there’s still plenty of outdoor dining, as the 7,400-square-foot restaurant is lined with floor-to-ceiling garage doors that can be opened up entirely. The tables on the perimeter also have woven mechanized blinds that can go up entirely or be let down to shield from the sun.

That’s where I sat when I was invited in as a guest last week, enjoying a nice breeze on a balmy night. After more than a year of cooking at home or getting takeout, I’ve only dined outside at about eight places in the past two months. I will say that King’s is the only one I’ve encountered so far where not everyone on staff was masked. As of today, mask wearing indoors is only recommended, not mandated, but if you’re the very cautious type, that may be a consideration.

The restaurant opened on the mall's new dining terrace.
The restaurant opened on the mall’s new dining terrace.

This is the first Northern California outpost of the Southern California restaurant chain that’s owned by King’s Seafood Company. It operates a dozen restaurant concepts in California, Arizona, and Nevada.

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Honey & Sriracha-Glazed Duck Skewers

A taste of a yakitori bar in your own home.
A taste of a yakitori bar in your own home.

Duck, duck, sticks.

That’s what this easy grilling recipe is all about.

“Honey & Sriracha-Glazed Duck Skewers” is from the new “Skewered: Recipes for Fire Food on Sticks from Around the World” (Dog ‘n’ Bone), of which I received a review copy. It’s by Marcus Bawdon, who runs the UK BBQ School and is the creator of the cooking site, CountryWoodSmoke.

The book features more than 60 globally-inspired recipes to up your grill game, including “Pina Colada Chicken Skewers,” “Grilled Gnocchi Skewers,” “Burnt Ends and Dill Pickle Skewers,” and the unlikely, “Kangaroo & Bacon Skewers.”

This duck recipe is super easy, but I admit that I took a few liberties with it.

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Chicken (Or Turkey)-Zucchini Meatballs With Feta

Zucchini stars in this meatball dish two ways.
Zucchini stars in this meatball dish two ways.

Blessed — or cursed — with too much zucchini?

Then, get grating. And slicing.

Not for ubiquitous zucchini bread. But for dinner on the table in no time flat with the warmth of cumin and the zing of feta.

And all cooked on one sheet pan in the oven.

“Chicken (Or Turkey)-Zucchini Meatballs” is from Brooklyn-based recipe developer Ali Slagle. Published in the New York Times’ “At Home” section during the pandemic, it immediately caught my eye because who doesn’t love meatballs?

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Dining Outside at Saffron

Smoky, spiced tandoori prawns at Saffron.
Smoky, spiced tandoori prawns at Saffron.

Owner Ajay Walia can’t help but chuckle these days when patrons — and even long-time regulars — walk past his Saffron restaurant in San Carlos, only to back-peddle in a double-take.

Like some other establishments, Walia decided to use the time during the pandemic when his 19-year-old restaurant wasn’t operating at full capacity to refresh its look.

The result is night and day. The once near-black exterior is now bright white. The interior, once much more traditional in vibe with gold and saffron-hued walls, is now as crisp and fresh looking as a starched summer shirt with white walls and banquettes, and loads of greenery. With so many of us spending time in our own backyards during lock-down, Walia says he was inspired to bring the outdoors in.

If you’re like me and still only dining outdoors at the moment, though, you’ll be glad to know that Saffron also has a few tables outside its front doors. That’s where I parked myself when I was invited to dine as a guest last week.

The refreshed exterior.
The refreshed exterior.
And the inviting interior.
And the inviting interior.

Walia, who also owns Michelin-starred Rasa in Burlingame, has updated Saffron’s menu, even going so far as to do away with the restaurant’s long-time buffet, to concentrate on quality rather than quantity. I’d say the food’s never been better.

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Dining News Around The Bay

"Fall Off the Bone'' wings from alaMar Kitchen & Bar. (Photo by Dana Plucinski)
“Fall Off the Bone” wings from alaMar Kitchen & Bar. (Photo by Dana Plucinski)

Nelson German of “Top Chef” Reopens Indoor Dining at alaMar Kitchen & Bar In Oakland

After months of doing only takeout and delivery, alaMar Kitchen & Bar in Oakland reopened last week for indoor dining. Come by to say “hello” to Chef Nelson German, whose time on this season’s “Top Chef’‘ was cut short by an injury from which he has thankfully recovered.

The lively restaurant, which blends Latin, Caribbean, and Mediterranean flavors, has undergone an interior refresh. The menu also has been updated with some new offerings, including shrimp tacos “quesa style” with Oaxaca cheese, chow chow and salsa criolla; roasted oysters with salsa verde, pork longaniza, and Parmesan butter; and stuffed masa, a recreation of his “Unidentified Dominican Object” created in an episode 6 challenge of “Top Chef.”

Chef-Owner Nelson German. (Photo by Melati Citrawireja)
Chef-Owner Nelson German. (Photo by Melati Citrawireja)

Perennial favorites, “Fall Off the Bone Wings” and “Peel and Eat Shrimp,” that proved popular during takeout can still be enjoyed on the dining room menu, too.

For more fun, pick up a copy of my cookbook, “East Bay Cooks: Signature Recipes from the Best Restaurants, Bars, and Bakeries” (Figure 1) at the restaurant, local bookstores or on Amazon. It features recipes and stories from a roster of top East Bay chefs, including German.

Scott’s Chowder House Opens in San Jose

Scott’s Chowder House, a more casual spin-off from veteran Scott’s Seafood, opened in downtown San Jose last week, with another planned to debut next month in San Francisco at 334 Grant Ave.

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