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Santa Cruz Area restaurant to take my brother and his wife to..

Soif and Bantam are definitely in my top tier of Santa Cruz restaurants. I'd add Soif's sister restaurant La Posta. All three are very different, and together they are where I eat out the most in town (many dozens of visits to each). In all cases, the menu changes constantly in response to what is in season.

Soif's food is refined Californian farm to table, and they have an amazing wine list with 30+ by-the-glass options, plus all the wines from the excellent wine shop can be purchased for restaurant consumption with a modest fee ($20) over shop prices. Recently expanded, and have added beer on tap, plus a burger that to my taste is now the best in town. La Posta is strictly Italian food and wine -- I particularly like their charcuterie plate appetizer and pastas, and their pizzas are quite good as well. Extensive wide-ranging Italian wine list. Bantam is more focused on pizza, which is excellent, although they do have other mains as well. A shorter beer and wine list, with a greater focus on value. A slightly lower price point than the other two.

Soif is probably the quiestest of the three, then La Posta, then Bantam. The latter on a busy night can push comfortable hearing and speaking, at least to my taste, although it's less of an issue in the warm months when doors are propped open. Bantam also does NOT take reservations, and the wait can be long (1 hr is not uncommon) at peak days/times.

about 18 hours ago
bouncepass in California

Nice lunch with wife (cupertino / saratoga / los gatos)

Oak and Rye, though perhaps not "nice" enough. I've not yet been, but Orchard City Kitchen might fit the bill.

Narrowing down SF resto picks

Maybe too late, but for izakaya, Rintaro in the Mission is quite good. If it matters, just made Bon Appetit's Top 10 Newcomers list. I prefer Ippuku in Berkeley but Rintaro is in a small group on the tier below for me. Disclaimer is that I haven't yet been to Yuzuki which is generally liked on this board.

Corkage at Spanish (Barcelona) restaurants?

My trick: prefer white wine or champagne! Not de rigueur, I know, but one doesn't get to choose one's palate. A side benefit is not having to worry about sediment!

Aug 24, 2015
bouncepass in Spain/Portugal

Corkage at Spanish (Barcelona) restaurants?

That's interesting. It makes sense just from observing differences around the world, but I hadn't had it explained to me in plain terms, especially the liquor license aspect. Thanks for putting it together like that!

To push back a tiny bit based on a rather small (3 week) sample size: it does seem that some nicer places lack wines with a substantial amount of age on them. A lot of places don't post their wine list online, but I found Hisop's list here:

250 wines, a strong emphasis on Catalunya and Spain in general. Makes sense so far. But I counted only 1 wine (an '03) that was older than 2007. Not even any '04 or '05 Riojas, which are showing quite nicely now I believe. A large majority were less than 5 years old.

My question is whether this is (a) a conscious choice that this is what works best with the food; (b) a result of being a restaurant that has only recently opened (which could be said of Disfrutar and some fraction of the nice-ish places in town) and therefore hasn't had a chance to build up their cellar; (c) consumers aren't interested in such wines; or (d) these wines aren't available. You seem to suggest (a) but I guess I'm not convinced it's solely that reason. If it's b, c or d, could one argue that a certain amount of BYO culture would be reasonable, provided the wine is not in a similar vein to what is offered?

Aug 23, 2015
bouncepass in Spain/Portugal

Corkage at Spanish (Barcelona) restaurants?

There is some discussion on the France board. My take-away, consistent with Maximilien, was that it isn't common, but the occasional place openly allows it (have a published corkage fee), while in other places it may be possible if you negotiate it first.

On the Europe board (there's no separate Germany board), there was only a single mention of corkage, and that was of a Zurich restaurant that allows it, but in the context of this being very rare for Switzerland.

Aug 21, 2015
bouncepass in Spain/Portugal

Corkage at Spanish (Barcelona) restaurants?

Well... that's very clear, isn't it? Thanks for bringing this up with your friends and especially for the unambiguous warning. I guess it really is a cultural difference. I don't think an analogous group in North America would have the same reaction. In many parts of East Asia, it's actually the norm to bring your own wine or liquor. You don't even have to ask (but one corollary is that the wine glasses can be frightful). I find it amusing to be accused (second-hand) of being provincial, when it's an accepted practice of other cultures.

It's interesting that your friends seem to think of it as a sign of disrespect. That's certainly neither the intent nor accurate. Just because one would prefer to drink a particular off-list wine with a given meal doesn't mean that one thinks the list is unworthy or poor. If I'm listening to Pink Floyd it doesn't mean that I'm disrespecting Miles Davis, right? Sometimes one band or wine is suitable for the occasion, and sometimes another. That said, if it's a cultural taboo here, then that's enough of a final word for me.

Thanks again for the advice!

One night solo in Beverly Hills

So this is NOT walking distance, but a relatively short Uber away is Tsujita / Tsujita Annex (across the street from each other) and have tsukemen. Amazingly good! There are plenty of other great Japanese places in the area as well. On my list to try is the Kimakatsu for their 25 layer tonkatsu and a reportedly excellent bowl of ramen.

I think Tsujita is special enough to be worth the trip.

Corkage at Spanish (Barcelona) restaurants?

Does anyone know whether there is a corkage culture in Spain (and if it depends on location, Barcelona specifically)? If wanted to bring a nice bottle to Disfrutar (one that I'm positive they won't carry) or similarly nice-ish places, would this be frowned upon? Or would they just charge a corkage fee like I'm used in USA?

Thanks in advance!

Aug 19, 2015
bouncepass in Spain/Portugal

Lunch spot near Casa Mila?

Paco Meralgo is a handful of blocks to the southwest. I'd happily go there frequently, as the menu is large and there's lots to try. Tapac24 is also quite close. Pretty good, but I prefer PM.

Els Casals review (Sagas, Catalunya) - long

There are a few mentions of Els Casals, but no real review so I thought I'd get a thread started. I imagine others have been as well and can chime in.

It's fairly easy to get to from BCN (about an hour), although the last turn off the main road isn't well-signed. One warning: the freeway E-9/C-16 has 3 separate tolls, with a total cost of 9 to 10 euros. Might want to bring some cash if you have only a US credit card (for those of us forced to live in the dark ages). I returned from the other direction (C-17) and there was only one fairly inexpensive toll (1.61 euros I think -- how do they calculate such weird numbers?).

The room is beautiful in its simplicity and clean lines. Service wasn't perfect but was perfect for the place, if that makes sense. The menu is either prix-fixe (two choices, "petit menu" for 60 euros or larger one for 78 euros) or a la carte. I chose the petit menu and I am extremely glad that I didn't opt for the larger one. It was far too much food as it was! 2 apps, 4 mains, 2 desserts.

Liquid bread: like a pa amb tomaquet in shooter form. Nice tomato flavor but I'm not really that interested in modernist stuff.

Jamon and padrones: one large thin slice of jamon that was amazing (I liked it way more than the 3-yr Joselito at Bodega 1900) and some delicate baby padron peppers. Absolutely perfect.

Burrata: At this point, both apps had been so small I was getting worried if there was going to be enough food. This course dispelled that thought and then some. A sizeable serving of burrata with some cured anchovies, cured/smoked ?beef?, shaved pear, olives. I tried bites with each. The burrata had a nice delicate flavor but could have been a touch creamier. The anchovies were excellent, but the smoked meat was amazing. Like bacon but two octaves deeper, and worked great with the burrata.

Rice with cod guts and vegetables: I didn't know what the cod guts were at first, and texturally they were mushroom-like but had a clear seafood taste. The rice itself was cooked perfectly with a terrifically clean, umami-rich stock. Vegetables were nicely cooked. Excellent dish that I might try to recreate at home.

Turbot with potatoes two ways: Potatoes came pureed and fried as slices. I was really looking forward to trying the turbot since I haven't eaten much of it, but the texture was a bit odd -- very slightly gelatinous. Reading online suggests it should be firm, maybe similar to halibut. Perhaps this was cooked sous-vide just a few degrees lower than I would prefer? In any case, this was my least favorite dish but that might be my own lack of experience.

Grilled beef chop w/ piquillo peppers: The beef was cooked more on one side than the other. I'd say the more seared side was a perfect French "saignant", and the bottom was more a warm rare. I would have preferred saignant all the way through. The beef tasted very good but could have used a bit more sear and salt (definitely fell short of my apex steak at Etxebarri... but it's cruel to compare anybody to that standard). The piquillo peppers were outstanding. At this point, unfortunately, the mains had all been pretty sizeable so I couldn't finish this dish. If the mains were all 1/2 to 2/3 the size that they were, it would have been perfect for me.

Plum and vanilla ice cream: Slightly cooked plum and some tasty vanilla ice cream. Both were excellent and combined nicely.

Flan with ice cream and whipped cream: Beautiful textures, very clean, rich cream tastes. Another winner.

Lemon sorbet: a small lemon sorbet as a refreshing palate cleanser.

Fortunately the desserts were more modest in size so I could actually finish them both!

I had three wines by the glass, ordered by putting myself in the hands of the very capable and helpful English-speaker waiter Ana. Each pour was about a 1/2 glass, which I liked. A cava (Emocio from Julia Bernet), followed by a blanco blend of Pedro Ximenez and garnatxa blanco from Clos Les Fites, and a 100% garnatxa from Vinya Ferrer Tornar. All three were outstanding, and paired very nicely with the food. Total cost of the wine was 16 euros, which I thought was very reasonable for the quality and opportunity to taste by the glass.

Overall, almost all of the dishes were very good to excellent. Great ingredients, generous portions, well-executed dishes with nice flavor combinations. Top it off with a pretty location, beautiful room, capable, amiable service and a very reasonable price point and I would definitely recommend it!

Aug 12, 2015
bouncepass in Spain/Portugal

Does this look like a paella?

Muchas gracias!

Jul 27, 2015
bouncepass in Los Angeles Area

Does this look like a paella?

If the moderators will pardon a very brief deviation from the LA-area, would you care to say where in Barcelona you ate this? It looks so good! I'm probably not the only person curious about this! TIA.

Koi Palace / Daly City vs. Dublin (locations)

I suspected this might be the case. While it's their business and it's their right to operate as they see fit, it certainly doesn't make me want to do business with them. Based on the crowds, I doubt they care what I think! IMO it's not good enough to warrant such a wait. There are places that are 90% as good and 99% less hassle.

I was greatly looking forward to the Milpitas branch opening but now I'm concerned that if it's the same as this, it won't really be in the rotation.

Koi Palace / Daly City vs. Dublin (locations)

Wow. Thanks - that's a useful data point. Based on that, a two-hour wait on a weekend may very well be typical nowadays, even for parties of 4 or less. From now on, I'm going by 10 am or not at all.

Koi Palace / Daly City vs. Dublin (locations)

Tangentially related, I went to the Daly City location of Koi Palace as a party of 6 on Sunday (bad choice of day, I know). Arrived at 11 am promptly, and it turned into a two hour wait. Last time I was there was maybe a few years ago and it was a four-top, but I certainly don't recall the wait to be anywhere near that long. For those who frequent KP - is this commonplace nowadays? My European guests were very gracious but I was awfully embarassed that I overestimated the wait by an hour.

Nice Watsonville food article in Santa Cruz Sentinel

Some recent and very positive experiences in Watsonville:

Taqueria La Fuente: smaller than usual tacos, excellent tortillas. Best lengua I've had in a long time, excellent carnitas and chorizo-queso as well. Wasn't crazy about the recommended alambre. It was fine but the others were great. The icing on the cake is super-friendly service. Don't usually care, but this was notably positive. It leaps to the top of my list of taquerias in Santa Cruz County.

Nacho Mama's: in the space where the dearly missed Tepa Sahuayo used to be. The namesake nachos are very tasty. The chips are freshly fried, and the ratio of filling to chip is appropriately high. I had only two leftover chips with no filling to go with them. I had the Mean Green, with chile verde, cheese and jalapeno slaw. So good that I might have to get it again next time even though there are other tempting items on the menu. Nachos can also be done with fries instead of chips, but based on tasting the fries, that would be the wrong call.

El Volcan taco truck: Parked prominently across Riverside Dr from Nacho Mama's (at Gomez Gasoline), they make tortillas a la minute for every order. You can see roll out the masa right in the window. Tacos were pretty tasty but the meat wasn't quite as good as La Fuente, but that's a high standard. The quesadilla on the other hand really showed off the freshly-made tortilla and was terrific. Again, service was particularly friendly. I would definitely return.

Jul 23, 2015
bouncepass in California

Best croissant on the SF Peninsula?

Manresa Bread makes an excellent one that fits your description (which is pretty much my ideal croissant as well). Available at their brick and mortar in Los Gatos, plus some farmers markets as well (Palo Alto and Campbell I think).

Best Chinese available for takeout in the Menlo Park area

I agree that Da Sichuan >> Fey for food. Converse for decor.

I talked to one of the folks at Crouching Tiger on my one visit (with a very large group) and they told me that you can ask for Sichuan spicy.

Best Chinese available for takeout in the Menlo Park area

I really enjoy Da Sichuan in Palo Alto on El Camino near Page Mill. The cooking is complex although leans more robust than refined.

Breakfast around Union Square [San Francisco]

Crumb cake donut is king for me. So good. And I don't usually even like cake donuts. Apple fritter can be very good fresh as well.

ISO: Arthur from Hill Farmstead in the Bay area

You picked what some consider the best brewery in the world to find a replacement for. There just aren't many good alternatives. Sante happens to be one of the few, IMO.

I would say that it's a huge dropoff from Sante to any of the other local breweries. Discretion can be decent, as can Corralitos (not opened when that article was published). The rest are, for me, below the bar though I don't have sufficient experience with Hop Dogma (only tried a couple of their offerings) and New Bohemia (whose focus is lagers so probably not the right style).

If one is in the area and beer-interested, check out Lupulo (downtown), Aptos St. BBQ or Beer Thirty (Soquel). They often have lots of great beer on tap, including (to make the post more board-relevant) Bay Area notables such as Cellarmaker, Faction, Rare Barrel (occasionally), and Altamont.

ISO: Arthur from Hill Farmstead in the Bay area

Agreed with Spatlese's suggestion of Sante Adairius as a more locally available replacement. Even in nearby beer-soaked Waterbury, VT, you can usually only find one or two different HF beers, with Edward being the most common (for good reason - it's excellent).

To the list of Sante beers above in the appropriate vein, I'd add Nonna's Blend. I cracked a bottle of #6 a couple of days ago and it was amazing. Saison Bernice and Cask 200 are consistently terrific as well.

One beer you can find in local stores that is really good and also similar is BFM 225. BFM = Brasserie des Franches-Montagnes, and the label looks the expression for "square root of 225". It's not cheap, but then again you can pick it up today and not have to drive too far. Here's the beer advocate listing for it:

Saison Brett from Boulevard is also really good and in the ballpark.

Santa Cruz and Surrounding areas...trying to give a gift card to which restaurant?

La Posta - pasta dishes
Bantam - pizza

Jun 11, 2015
bouncepass in California

Dinner Tuesday evening (8PMish) somewhere near SFO?

+1 for Pizzeria Delfina.

In case others have a similar query, I also really like Yakitori Kokko in San Mateo. Open late (11:30 pm most days) and the food is excellent. I thought the grilled fish and skewers were the standout dishes. Not quite to Ippuku's level, but I enjoyed it as much as (if not more than) Sumika in Los Altos. The one skewer I wouldn't get again is the nankotsu (cartilege), which is a dish I normally love but here was done quite poorly. Otherwise, neck, skin, momo, tsukune, heart plus beef tongue, duck breast (among others) were all great.

lincoln in altadena/pasadena

I tried their croissant for the first time today. Had a nice rich color on the outside, and good buttery flavor, but it is far too dense for my liking. I'd say it's in the 95th percentile for density among decent croissants. The one I got was similarly sized to the others, so it wasn't a complete anomaly, but perhaps it's part of day-to-day variation that others have been critical of.

Jun 05, 2015
bouncepass in Los Angeles Area

San Francisco's Local Seafood

My impression is that it was one of his signature dishes at the original Matsuhisa. And not exactly low profile, given that in the 90s, Matsuhisa was a hot bed of movie industry types and other well-heeled Angelenos. It was almost impossible to go and NOT see famous people. So it seems to me the popularization started in LA rather than in NYC.

I agree that sablefish doesn't show off any chef's abilities, SF, NY or otherwise. It is simple to cook well at home since the high oil content provides a huge margin of error.

San Francisco's Local Seafood

Nobu Matsuhisa's first successful North American restaurant was Matsuhisa in Beverly Hills, which opened in 1987, followed 7 years later by the first Nobu in NYC.

San Jose without a car

Walking distance:

Da Lat Cafe: Honestly, I could probably eat lunch here for a whole week without being bored.

Bakery Mexico: I really like their tortas (I mainly go for the Milanesa). As good as above-average ones in Mexico City.

Nemea: I've never been, but it's on my list of places to try. Upscalish Greek.

Pizza Bocca Lupo: San Pedro Square. Also never been, but heard good things.

I don't know the best taquerias in the area, but I'm convinced there are good ones close by.

Easy bus distance:

Walia is 26 mins by public transit. It's the best Ethiopian in the area IMO (better than Zeni, which seems to be a popular choice).

Public transit to Japantown is pretty easy and close. I like Gombei but there are lots of other choices that I haven't explored.

If it were me, 5 lunches would break down as: Da Lat x 2, Walia, Bakery Mexico, and maybe Nemea to try something new.

Nice early Sunday dinner in Palo Alto, plus transportation help

+1 on Lure + Till. Good for a range of people, it's fairly nice (but not stuffy) and the food is well done.

If I were graduating, though, I'd choose Pizzeria Delfina. Love that place!