Category Archives: Restaurants

A Caviar Pop-Up, Dining Deals & More

A luxury pop-up -- Regiis Ova Caviar and Champagne Lounge. (Photo courtesy of Regiis Ova)
A luxury pop-up — Regiis Ova Caviar and Champagne Lounge. (Photo courtesy of Regiis Ova)

Thomas Keller’s Caviar and Champagne Pop-Up

Even if you can’t score a coveted table at The French Laundry, you can still enjoy some luxe tastes in Yountville from Thomas Keller.

The acclaimed chef joined with caviar expert Shaoching Bishop to start their own caviar brand, Regiis Ova (“royal egg” in Latin), in 2017. Now, the two have collaborated on the Regiis Ova Caviar & Champagne Lounge pop-up, 6480 Washington St. in Yountville. Open Thursday through Saturday, 5 p.m. to 11 p.m., and Sunday, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., the pop-up is expected to continue at least through the fall.

Take a plush seat indoors or outdoors to enjoy a tasting of caviar, starting at $45 for 15 grams with classic garnishes, two deviled eggs topped with caviar for $35 or French onion dip topped with caviar and served with kettle fried potato chips ($65)

If that’s a little rich for your pocketbook, opt for smoked sturgeon rillettes with pickled garden vegetables ($20) or a whimsical Bouchon Bakery “Oh Oh” (a gourmet take on a Ho Ho) for $10.

Alongside, sip prestige French or California bubbly by the glass or bottle, or a variety of red, white and rose wines.

Whether for a sip and snack or a complete meal, kick back with the sounds from a jazz pianist or DJ.

Dine Downtown San Jose Restaurant Promotion Runs Through July 18

In a normal year, “Dine Downtown San Jose” would indeed last a week. But as we all know, this past year has been anything but conventional. As such, the annual promotion will run for 10 days this year, from now through July 18.

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Dining Outside At Be.Steak.A

This is how Be.Steak.A does a deviled egg. With truffle shavings, of course.
This is how Be.Steak.A does a deviled egg. With truffle shavings, of course.

Chef-Owner Jeffrey Stout weathered not only three years of permit approvals and construction, but a worldwide pandemic, to finally open his splashy new Be.Steak.A.

For diners, it was more than worth the wait.

The fine-dining Italian-influenced steakhouse playfully named for the classic Italian steak known as bistecca Fiorentina, initially was limited to only takeout during the pandemic. But now, with both indoor and outdoor seating available, it can be enjoyed in its full glory.

Whereas his Orchard City Kitchen, just steps away in the same Pruneyard complex, presents a casual and eclectic array of global small plates, Be.Steak.A is pure luxe. It’s where 5 ounces of Hokkaido Snow Beef (aka A5 strip loin) with a “snow” of cacio e pepe will set you back $288. And no, that’s not a typo. It’s where food is presented on famed Italian blue and white ceramics by Richard Ginori. But it’s also a restaurant that doesn’t take itself too seriously. It’s not stuffy in the least, not when deeply bronzed beef fat popovers ($9) with smoky deviled ham butter (like the most elevated version ever of Underwood Deviled Ham) and pickled cucumbers is served under a cloche shaped like a lounging pig.

The inside of a beef fat popover.
The inside of a beef fat popover.
The popovers are served with deviled ham butter and pickled cucumbers.
The popovers are served with deviled ham butter and pickled cucumbers.

When you check in at the host stand, you’re presented with a soothing cup of warm bone broth. As you’re escorted to your table, you pass a huge long window that affords a direct view into the kitchen, all done up in stainless steel with accents of lipstick-red all around. If you happen to time it just right, you might even get to see cooks making pasta by hand at a massive table in front of the window.

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Mister Jiu’s Heavenly Parisian Dan Tat

Just-baked Parisian Dan Tat that's like a giant Portuguese custard tart.
Just-baked Parisian Dan Tat that’s like a giant Portuguese custard tart.

When I was a kid, my dad would often tote home a pink box tied with red string from his shopping trip to San Francisco’s Chinatown.

Inside could have been anything from pudgy dim sum dumplings to triangles of airy buttercup-yellow sponge cake to a double-crust apple pie so shiny and bronzed that it nearly looked lacquered.

More often than not, though, what was hidden inside was a custard pie.

It had a simple crust, which honestly, wasn’t anything to write home about. The real star was the smooth, eggy custard filling, almost the pale hue of eggnog, soft and just barely jiggly, and with a taste of both comfort and lavishness all at the same time.

It was my dad who gave me my first taste of this nostalgic pie, proferring an affection for it that I still possess to this day.

So, when I baked this “Parisian Dan Tart,” I couldn’t help but think of him immediately.

No doubt he would have loved this majestic version of a custard tart.

And no doubt he would have been tickled to know that its origins are also from Chinatown.

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Dining Outside In the Napa Valley at Press

Swordfish gets smoked so it's silky and reminiscent in taste of pastrami -- at Press.
Swordfish gets smoked so it’s silky and reminiscent in taste of pastrami — at Press.

Last week, I drove to the Napa Valley, which may not seem remarkable in and of itself until you realize it was my first trip there in 16 months.

Visiting Wine Country has always felt as soothing as a vacation — even when I was there for work. Now, after being cooped up for days on end during a pandemic, it seems even more exhilarating.

It was also my first time in as long dining at a fine-dining restaurant — albeit outdoors. I couldn’t have picked a better place than Press, where I had been invited in as a guest to check out the new offerings by an impressive new team now in place at this venerable dining destination owned by the influential Rudd family.

Executive Chef Philip Tessier oversaw a kitchen remodel and transitioned the restaurant away from a steakhouse to more nuanced modern American fare with lighter, brighter, seasonal flair. If his name is familiar, it’s likely from his time in the kitchens at The French Laundry in Yountville and Per Se in New York, as well as for his headline-making turn as the first American chef to reach the podium at the Bocuse d’Or international competition, garnering a silver medal.

Dine in or out at Press.
Dine in or out at Press.

Tessier has recruited two fellow Thomas Keller restaurant alums: Chef de Cuisine Darryl Bell, former executive sous chef at Bouchon Bistro in Yountville, who also has his own line of barbecue sauces and rubs at Stateline Road BBQ; and Master Sommelier Vincent Morrow, whose impressive experience stretches from The French Laundry to Gary Danko, Benu, and One65, all in San Francisco. The front of the house is manned by General Manager Cole Mathers, formerly of Gary Danko restaurant.

If you need any affirmation that people are flocking to Wine Country again, consider the fact that during the Saturday of Memorial Day weekend, Press served more than 350 diners.

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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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