It’s been a banner year for Brandon Jew, who won two James Beard Awards — one for “Best Chef in California” and the second for “Best Restaurant Cookbook” for “Mister Jiu’s Chinatown” (Ten Speed Press, 2021) that he co-authored with San Francisco food writer Tienlon Ho.
Since opening in 2016, his fine-dining Mister Jiu’s in San Francisco’s Chinatown has racked up accolades galore. And his more casual Chinese-American eatery, Mamahuhu, which debuted on Clement Street in January 2020 just before the start of the pandemic, is doing so well that a second outpost is poised to open this year in Noe Valley.
On a recent trek to San Francisco, I made a beeline to try the takeout at Mamahuhu. As you crane your neck to find parking in the Richmond neighborhood, it’s easy to miss the restaurant, as its name is not easily visible in English above the door, but rather in neon-lit Chinese characters. Just look for the storefront’s vivid teal color, though, and you’ll know you’ve found the right place.
The restaurant’s name, which means “so-so” in English, salutes the Chinese-American staple dishes that Jew and so many of us grew up on, but is done here with better ingredients and greater balance.
Ever since its doors opened in June, Terra restaurant at Eataly in the Westfield Valley Fair mall has been a tough reservation to land.
So when farmer Fred Hempel invited me to join him there for dinner last week, I jumped at the chance. Being one of Eataly’s local purveyors obviously has its perks. Indeed, most of the tomatoes and squash blossoms that Hempel grows at his Green Bee Farm in Sunol have been allocated to Eataly’s San Jose-Santa Clara location. You’ll find his farm’s name listed on Terra’s menu, and its tomatoes and squash blossoms not only spotlighted in dishes, but sold fresh in the produce section of Eataly’s market, as well.
That includes his newest creation, the Benevento tomato. A plant geneticist and breeder, Hempel has created new varieties of tomatoes for more than two decades. This gorgeous red beefsteak streaked with green and yellow was bred with greater disease resistance and a longer shelf life. With a deep, full, lingering flavor of sweetness and umami, it’s the tomato that will make your BLT shine.
If like me, you’re limiting yourself to primarily dining outdoors these days, then Terra is right up your alley.
Last summer, the incredibly splashy iChina opened its doors in the Westfield Valley Fair, bringing an air of Vegas to this Santa Clara-San Jose shopping center.
Standing two stories tall, sporting a virtual-reality private dining room with projection screens all around, and dripping with sparkly, shiny jade-hued glass and gold accents everywhere, this restaurant is a true sight to behold.
If you’re like me, though, and limiting yourself to dining outside at the moment, the bad news is that iChina, which means “love China” in Mandarin, offers only indoor dining.
However, its first-floor bar and lounge, JiuBa, does have outdoor seating.
JiuBa, which means “bar” in Mandarin, serves a much smaller menu. However, it is definitely possible to compose a full and satisfying dinner from it, as I found when I was invited in as a guest last week.
The bar inside shares the same opulent look as the rest of the restaurant, as if an enormous jade-emerald-diamond ring was the inspiration.
Even the all-gender bathroom looks as if it belongs in a modern-day Chinese palace.
To the mix of amphitheater, movieplex and Google headquarters on this stretch of North Shoreline Boulevard in Mountain View came a swank new hotel last year.
In June, that property, the 200-room Shashi Hotel, positioned itself as even more of a destination when it opened its restaurant, Broma, with Chief Culinary Director Jarad Gallagher, formerly of Michelin-starred Chez TJ in Mountain View, and Executive Chef Aubree Arndt, formerly of Loma Brewing Company in Los Gatos.
This is the first restaurant by the Shashi Group, which also owns the Aloft hotels in the South Bay and The Nest boutique hotel in Palo Alto.
Last year, the Shashi Hotel opened its Emerald Hour bar and cocktail lounge. Still to come are a coffee shop called Carte Blanche, and a fine-dining restaurant, Belle Terra.
Last week, I had a chance to check out Broma, its Spanish-Portuguese restaurant, when I was invited in as a guest.
At this Burlingame spot, you will find a refashioned brighter interior, an added parklet, a new menu and name change, and owner Ajay Walia no longer greeting you in a sharp suit, but casual shirt and slacks.
In June, Walia closed his former Michelin-starred, fine-dining Rasa on this property, and morphed it into the second outpost of his Saffron (the original is in San Carlos). It was a difficult decision, he says, but one necessitated by the challenges of the pandemic.
Yet despite the transformation, Walia doesn’t believe anything is radically different.
“We’re still buying the same ingredients, and cooking with the same standards,” he says. “The only thing that has changed is people’s expectations.”
Indeed, when I was invited in as a guest of the restaurant last week to dine outside, I found the food as delightful as ever.