Admittedly, when it comes to whisky, I am a total light-weight. It’s not that I don’t enjoy its smooth smoky, vanilla and caramel richness. It’s just that I fear keeling over after two sips.
That’s why I was glad to get introduced to Nokori Japanese Whisky Bar in the Tetra Hotel in Sunnyvale. It’s designed not only for true connoisseurs who like to sip premium and potent whisky neat, but for more wimpy imbibers like myself who can kick back instead with a lightened-up, tall whisky highball instead.
Last week, I was invited in as a guest of both Nokori and its adjacent restaurant Adrestia. Both are housed inside the upscale Tetra Hotel, which is actually right across from the AC Hotel Sunnyvale Moffet Park, which has a bar that conversely specializes in gin. Both are Marriott properties.
Since it’s located near several Google buildings and Lockheed Martin, don’t be surprised to see plenty of tech types with laptops and suitcases biding their time in the lobby, bar or restaurant until they depart for the airport.
The book is by Josh Ku and Trigg Brown, co-founders of the wildly popular Win Son and Win Son Bakery, both in Brooklyn, with an assist from noted Brooklyn food writer Cathy Erway who’s the author of “The Food of Taiwan” (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2015).
Brown, who had cooked at New York City’s Craft and Upland had a Taiwanese American mentor, Pei Jen Chang early in his career. He teamed with best friend Josh Ku, a former property and construction manager whose parents grew up in southern Taiwan, to open the restaurant. It is named for the sweater manufacturing company, Winsome, which Ku’s grandfather started in Taiwan. Its name roughly translates from Chinese to “success and abundance of profit.”
It proved prophetic given the throngs now flocking nonstop to both Win Son and Win Son Bakery.
When it comes to upscale modern Indian cuisine, Chef Sri Gopinathan and business partner, restaurateur Ayesha Thapar, seem to have the magic touch.
Their first restaurant, Ettan in downtown Palo Alto, opened just before the pandemic hit. It not only managed to survive that turmoil but come out of it flourishing.
In February, the duo debuted Copra, just blocks from Japantown in San Francisco. Taking its name from the word for the dried flesh of a coconut, Copra showcases Southern Indian coastal cuisine, the type that Gopinathan, who held two Michelin stars at San Francisco’s Campton Place Restaurant, grew up eating. You’ll find surprising dishes here such as octopus and bone marrow that you’d be hard pressed to see on any other Indian menu around (well, except at sister restaurant Ettan, that is, where octopus does appear).
If my visit last week is any indication, Copra is hitting it out of the park. The restaurant was jamming and jammed — and this was on a Wednesday night.
Expect it to be even more so now that the Michelin Guide California just announced this week that Copra is one of 19 new establishments that will be in the 2023 guide to be released later this year.
Like Ettan, Copra is a looker. Whereas Ettan drips with chandeliers and vivid marine blue tones, Copra is done up with earth tones, enough plants (artificial) to resemble a greenhouse, and more macrame than you’ve probably ever seen in one place at one time.
One Fish Raw Bar opened in 2021 in downtown Campbell next-door to Manresa Bread, and what a find it is. Chef-Owner Trent Lidgey opened his small, fine-dining raw bar after stints as sous chef at San Francisco’s Atelier Crenn, chef de cuisine at The Lexington House in Los Gatos, and most notably, sous chef at Uni Restaurant, a modern izakaya in Boston where he oversaw the sashimi program.
The vibe is relaxed and the food meant to be shared tapas-style. There’s a small patio in front with outdoor dining available, as well as seating inside at tables and high-counter seats. There are also seats right at the chef’s counter, reserved for guests partaking of the $185-per-person 11-course sashimi tasting menu. A final option is the 5-course family-style meal ($95-per-person for the standard; $135-per-person for the premium).
Much like Madonna, Adele and Beyonce, this storied chef is so recognized the globe over that you know him readily by simply his first name.
The one and only Nobu Matsuhisa came to town this week to christen the new Japanese-inspired outdoor garden dining space at his Nobu Palo Alto restaurant and hotel, completely transforming what was formerly a florist shop into a zen oasis.
If you have an appetite for fine Japanese cuisine, you owe a debt of gratitude to him. If you appreciate impeccable sushi and sashimi, especially done with groundbreaking global influences such as jalapenos, olive oil, garlic, and lemon, you have him to thank for introducing this new style. Matsuhisa helped turn what was once considered exotic into a mainstay of which we now can’t get enough.
His accomplishments are nothing short of breathtaking, opening 21 restaurants in the United States and Canada alone, not to mention 16 in Europe; five in Mexico and the Caribbean; six in the Middle East and Africa; and eight in Asia and Australia. In all, 56 restaurants across the globe. Moreover, his hotel in downtown Palo Alto is one of 34 operating or in process of opening worldwide.
It’s been quite the journey for Matsuhisa, one that began with the most challenging of circumstances in Japan, when he lost his father at age 8 in a motorcycle accident, only later to get expelled from high school for acting out. Looking to turn his life around at 18, he moved to Tokyo to apprentice in a sushi restaurant. What followed next were a series of soaring highs and crushing blows — moving to Lima to open his first restaurant, only to have that business partnership dissolve badly, then relocating to Alaska to open a Japanese restaurant, only to see it destroyed in an accidental fire less than two months later.
Eventually, armed with a green card, he immigrated to Southern California with his wife and two young daughters for a fresh start. In 1987 he opened Matsuhisa in Beverly Hills. There, a regular nudged him repeatedly to open an outpost in New York until he agreed to do so, debuting restaurant Nobu in Manhattan in 1994. That regular was none other than actor Robert DeNiro, who would go on to partner with Matsuhisa in all his future projects and be instrumental in steering him to opening hotels, too.
Yesterday, I had a chance to spend a few minutes with Matsuhisa in the tranquil garden with its decorative bronze gate, seasonal blooms, and boulders that were hand-picked and flown in from Japan.