This might be one of the South Bay’s best-kept secrets: You’ll find zero mention of it on its web site, but San Jose’s venerable fine-dining Le Papillon actually offers outdoor dining.
Granted, not much of it, as there are only three tables.
But for those like myself who still prefer dining al fresco in these times, it’s definitely news you can use and appreciate.
When my husband and I had driven past the elegant, 44-year-old restaurant, which is located incongruously on the edge of a strip mall off congested Saratoga Avenue, we thought we caught a glance of a small outdoor area at the rear. A look-see of Yelp images showed what appeared to be a couple tables outside there. Finally, a quick call to the restaurant confirmed it.
When you make a reservation online, you can request an outside table, though it’s not guaranteed. However, if you make a reservation on the early side on a weeknight, and show up a few minutes beforehand, there’s a good chance you’ll score a patio table.
When my husband and I dined with another couple last week, we were the only ones dining outside along with one larger party. It’s a small, slender space, which is why it can accommodate so few. But it’s a very sweet spot, dressed up with walls of live succulents and pretty potted plants. There are plenty of heaters, too, which will keep everyone toasty enough after the sun sets.
For an astounding 44 years, Le Papillon has not only endured but thrived during Santa Clara Valley’s metamorphosis from orchard-rich Valley of Heart’s Delight to tech-visionary Silicon Valley.
So, it’s no surprise that even during a pandemic, it’s managed to roll with the punches, successfully offering a three-course menu ($75 per person for pick-up; $85 per person for delivery) that changes each week with two to three options to choose from for each course.
Even if all you do is roll up to the front of the restaurant to have a server place the takeout in your hands or your trunk, there’s still an air of specialness about it all.
It starts with the attention to detail: The hot food comes in one bag; the cold food in another. First courses and desserts that have a bit of intricate plating get cleverly adhered to the bottom of the takeout container with an extra dab of sauce so that even after a few right or left turns in your car, they not only stay upright, but completely intact.
I was duly impressed when I witnessed that with the chilled beet and puff pastry tart that stood ramrod straight when I opened the container at home, thanks to a tiny bit of goat cheese underneath that acted as mortar.