Category Archives: Restaurants

Takeout Time: Palette Tea Garden

Iberico cha siu from Palette Tea Garden. And yes, this is the full amount.
Iberico cha siu from Palette Tea Garden. And yes, this is the full amount.

If you are seriously into quantity versus quality, then Palette Tea Garden in San Mateo’s Hillsdale Shopping Center might not be the place for you.

But if you’re craving top-notch dim sum made with premium ingredients — and don’t mind splurging a bit — then head here pronto.

That’s exactly what I did recently, intent on getting some superlative takeout dim sum in honor of the Lunar New Year.

Palette Tea Garden is owned by the same folks behind Koi Palace, which started in Daly City, and is the sister restaurant to Palette Tea House in San Francisco.

Siu mai, ha gow, and Wagyu black pepper seared buns.
Siu mai, ha gow, and Wagyu black pepper seared buns.

While I’ve enjoyed Palette’s xiao long baos before, I opted not to get them to-go, fearing they would not travel well. Instead, I opted for ha gow (four for $8) that were plump with shrimp, and siu mai (four for $7) that had a juicy filling of ground pork, shiitakes, and shrimp.

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The Return of Cyrus

A perfect cube of succulent pork belly served with a zingy ale aged with cherry blossoms at the new Cyrus in Geyserville.
A perfect cube of succulent pork belly served with a zingy ale aged with cherry blossoms at the new Cyrus in Geyserville.

After a seemingly interminable odyssey, the wait is indeed over.

Cyrus, the acclaimed fine-dining restaurant that closed in Healdsburg in 2012 after a landlord dispute, finally reopened again last September in a striking new iteration in Geyserville.

Chef-Owner Doug Keane, co-owner Nick Peyton, and their team couldn’t be more relieved and thrilled to be back at it again. Neither can their legions of fans, so many of whom considered the original Cyrus their favorite restaurant.

The original Cyrus garnered two Michelin stars. The new one already scored one star — barely two months after opening.

At the entrance.
At the entrance.

Keane spent a decade searching high and low through the Alexander Valley, which was founded by the restaurant’s namesake Cyrus Alexander. He had all but given up when this site came available. Though this sleek contemporary glass, steel and concrete building is the polar opposite of the restaurant’s original Old World provincial aesthetic, it’s hard to imagine a more fitting place in this new age and time. At least, that’s what I found when I finally had the opportunity last week to dine here.

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Dining Outside at Momosan

The "Tokyo Chicken'' ramen at Momosan at Santana Row.
The “Tokyo Chicken” ramen at Momosan at Santana Row.

Few things satisfy in winter like a bountiful bowl of ramen. If you’re still primarily dining outdoors, you’ll be glad to know that Momosan, which opened at San Jose’s Santana Row last year, is equipped with patio dining to enjoy your noodles al fresco.

“Iron Chef” Masaharu Morimoto’s new restaurant is the perfect place to people-watch on the Row as you slurp your noodles. The outside tables at the side of the restaurant sport compact awnings, enough to shield you from light rain, but probably not ample enough in anything heavier. The tables also have overhead heaters and free-standing ones to keep things fairly comfortable even when the wind picks up.

The bar inside the restaurant.
The bar inside the restaurant.

Given this ramen joint’s celebrity panache, it’s no surprise that prices here are on the higher side with ramen bowls going for $18 to $29. In comparison, Ramen Nagi’s bowls start at about $15. Still, there’s no denying that the ramen, and rest of the food here, is superlative.

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Dining Outside at Jaks

The Karuveppilai chicken fry at Jaks in Santa Clara.
The Karuveppilai chicken fry at Jaks in Santa Clara.

With its chic, muted sandstone colors, the new Jaks at the Santa Clara Square Marketplace doesn’t announce itself conspicuously as an Indian restaurant.

Which is just what owner Michael Agnel intended.

The former general manager of Arka in Sunnyvale and operations manager at Sakoon in Mountain View, Agnel explains that he wanted to attract diners not only craving modern Indian cuisine, but ones who desired an elegant, upscale experience overall — no matter the food’s provenance.

To that end, he hired Mumbai-born Chef Prakash Singh to take regional Indian specialties and make them his own. Agnel also designed the extensive beverage program that includes the Peg Gastropub Bar inside the restaurant that sports a revolving 12 microbrewery selections on tap. A daily Happy Hour, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., features specially priced beers and cocktails.

The Peg Gastropub Bar inside the restaurant.
The Peg Gastropub Bar inside the restaurant.

The bar also boasts a sizeable selection of Japanese whiskies, tequila, and mezcal, not to mention a wine list that includes a 2018 Joseph Phelps Insignia for $450 and a 2018 Hundred Acre Napa Cabernet Sauvignon for $650 for big spenders.

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My Top 10 Eats of 2022

Whether enjoyed outside, inside or as takeout, restaurant food has never felt more special.

I am so grateful to restaurants for weathering all that they have in the past few years, and managing to come through it all to keep nourishing us in body, spirit, and soul.

Here’s to them, and to all that they provide, including these most memorable eats, in no particular order, that made my Top 10 for the year:

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