Showing posts with label san jose restaurant reviews. Show all posts
Showing posts with label san jose restaurant reviews. Show all posts

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Spencer's Steak & Chops

I was lucky enough to get an invite to sample the Winter menu at Spencer's. I had been there a few years before when it was primarily a steakhouse, but it is obvious that the restaurant has dramatically changed since then. Chef William Hughins has transformed the menu to into something far more eclectic and contemporary. The steaks are still there (and they were delicious), but my favorite dishes were actually the courses that came before them. Below is a tour of my meal:

Freshly baked sourdough bread with black salt (not pepper). It was extremely difficult not to fill up on this before the meal started. 

Butternut squash soup with a roasted marshmallow, topped with chives. This one blew my mind. On the official menu the soup comes with creme fraiche instead of the marshmallow, which is too bad since this variant seems far more tasty and creative.

Braised bacon with local figs (middle part), and caramelized organic honey (top). I love bacon as well as combining savory and sweet flavors. The blend of the extremely thick cut bacon with the sweetness of the figs and honey made this my favorite dish. If you try this (and you should), slice from the very top to the bottom to make sure you get all three flavors in every bite.

Ahi poke. Sushi grade ahi, avocado, sesame, nori, and wonton. Here the secret is slightly burning the nori, which gives it a different flavor. This was very tasty and something I definitely was not expecting at a place known for their steaks.

Pan-seared Hokkaido sea scallops, filberts (no need to google that, they are hazelnuts), on top of orzo. The scallop was perfectly cooked and this would be a perfect light dinner for a pescatarian.

Kobe Ribeye, Spencer cut, and Tomahawk cut with potatoes and mushrooms. This was the most insane meat plate I have ever had. There was also a side of Ostrich steak (tastes like red meat but is very low in calories/fat). Even I couldn't finish the plate, but it made for a very luxurious lunch the next day.

Chocolate five different ways. If you haven't guessed it by now, Spencer's has gone a bit more upscale and they are raising the level of creativity in the menu. It really felt like dining at many of the Michelin star restaurants that I have been to. The dessert was a perfect cap to an outstanding meal.

I should also mention that they have a very nice setup for private events such as corporate parties and a cool bar area serving craft cocktails.

Spencer's is located at 2050 Gateway Pl, San Jose (inside of the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel San Jose). For the full menu or reservations, visit the website over here.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Roots and Rye Restaurant Review

Roots and Rye (R&R) is one of the newest Santana Row restaurants. It's tucked in next to Maggiano's and Kara's Cupcakes in a space that previously housed Roux Louisiana Kitchen and Hot Tamales. I'm not a big fan of the decor, which makes the whole restaurant look like it is still under construction. However, I hear that they are going to run plants and vegetation on those exposed wood pillars which would provide a unique effect. Like their sister restaurants Straights and Sino, they have a unique restroom that is partially unisex--might as well get that out of the way now so that there are no awkward surprises ;).

They have an impressive outdoor patio space with plenty of heat lamps. R&R also features live music on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays. A nice Jazz band was playing while we dined there the second time around.

So now, let's get to the good stuff... the food. They recently changed their menu to focus more on small, shareable plates that are available all day. They still have some main courses that are available after 5pm. R&R also has a long list of unique craft cocktails and bourbons.


Parmesan Fries with a 63 degree egg, fines herbs, truffle aioli - This is their signature small plate and an absolute must-try. You can either dunk the fries into the egg, or pour the egg on top of the parmesan fries. I could eat this all day.

Brussel Sprouts with parmesan, capers, red wine vinegar - Brussel sprouts are usually not my favorite side to order, but these were outstanding. The lemon zest and capers added an extra kick and help make this a perfect addition to your meal.

Roasted bone marrow with red wine braised short rib, potato pepper crostini, pickled radish - When foie gras became illegal in California, bone marrow turned into my new go-to for some extra indulgence on special occasions. The presentation, flavor, and portion size of R&R's bone marrow were all impressive. However, I will say that the first time I dined here there was foie gras on the menu, and it was excellently prepared. If I had the choice, I would go with the foie gras over bone marrow any day of the week.


Fried Petaluma Chicken with house-made apple sauce, brussel leaves, mustard caviar, pickled vegetables, apple cider jus - Excellent chicken with crispy skin exploding with flavor. They nailed this dish and the accompaniments.

Beef Short Rib with potato puree, caramelized roots, charred leeks, red wine jus - This dish was just okay. It was standard fare for short rib and did not blow my away like the chicken. I would have rather ordered two more small plates instead of this, which seem to be R&R's strong suit.


Fried Apple Pie with honey crisp apples, roasted quince, creme fraiche ice cream, cider reduction - Save some room for dessert, and order this! If you like apple pie, this dessert will not disappoint.

Candy Bar Tart with chocolate ganache, salted caramel, spanish peanut nougatine ice cream, sazerac caramel sauce, huckleberry compote - This is their most popular dessert and was my wife's favorite. It tastes like all of the candy bars you craved as a child melted into one.

Roots and Rye Affogato with house spun fennel ice cream, almond anise biscotti - A much better alternative that just ordering coffee at the end of your meal. I really enjoyed the cappuccino-soaked ice cream and biscotti. The coffee was a little bit too bitter for my tastes, but a regular coffee drinker should love this.


Churchill Downs (bourbon whiskey, strawberry aquavit, lemon, green cardamom, fever tree ginger beer) - This is one of their signature cocktails and had a very unique flavor that is difficult for me to describe. It was like drinking a flower. This is light enough on the alcohol for either gender to enjoy. This was my wife's favorite.

Goldenrod (terroir gin, herbal liquor, lemon chrysanthemum honey, absinthe, rosemary) - The taste here was even more unique than the Churchill Downs. The combination of flavors actually made this taste kind of like sawdust, which pairs well with the decor. I couldn't resist drinking this since it was so different, but wouldn't recommend it to most people.

Barrel Aged Old Fashioned (bourbon whiskey, bitters, demerara sugar) - I'm a bit of an Old Fashioned snob since this is my favorite cocktail in general and this is the only cocktail that I can reproduce at home. R&R uses Buffalo Trace, which has a bit of a bite to it but I would expect nothing less from a traditional Old Fashioned. This is the cocktail that I would order first in the future.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Lark Creek Kitchen Review

I still fondly remember Yankee Pier, the first Santana Row sit-down restaurant. It ended up becoming the first of many in one of the South Bay's premier dining destinations. After several years, the space was remodeled and transformed into Lark Creek Blue, which was still heavily focused on seafood. Now in the third incarnation of this space, Lark Creek Kitchen opens up the menu dramatically and focuses on more creative and elaborate dishes. Executive chef Nick Tall previously worked at Amber, a Two Michelin Star restaurant in Hong Kong. You can definitely see the influences from both Amber and Nick's Miami upbringing in the dishes. The menu also changes frequently with seasonal items being added every two weeks or so.

The summary (if you don't want to get into all the specifics below) is that I loved it. This is now easily one of the best restaurants on Santana Row. Ask your server for the chef's recommendations for that week and I don't think you'll be disappointed.

Smaller Plates

24 hour slow-cooked pork belly - This was both tender and crispy at the same time. It came with a flavorful side of morning glory (water spinach), a rare and hard-to-find topical plant used in Asian cooking but surprisingly hard to find in Silicon Valley.

Heirloom beet and buratta - This is a must-try appetizer if you visit! The buratta cheese was smooth and creamy and was accompanied by beets, dates, and pomegranate. I could eat three of these and call it a day.

Hamachi ceviche verde with avocado, kiwi, cucumber, green yuzu (Asian citrus) and plantain chips - Of all the great dishes we had, this one was my favorite. If you are a sushi fan like I am, you will love this. They use the fatty part of the hamachi (toro) for extra flavor. You can either use the plaintain chips to scoop up generous pieces of fish or use the lettuce on the bottom of the bowl to make a hamachi wrap (which I highly recommend, this helps you sop up all of the ceviche juices at the bottom).

Larger Plates

Yellowtail amberjack (cooked hamachi) with maitake mushroom, bacon, broken noodles, pickled cauliflower, and miso mustard glaze - Mind-blowingly good hamachi made from a dorsal fillet. A seaweed bacon infusion is used for the noodles.

Braised local lamb cavatelli pasta with homemade lemon ricotta, grilled fennel, roasted tomato, olive, three herb pesto - Perfect for a hearty meal when it's cold outside. There were a lot of flavors on the plate and it was very filling. If you feel like skipping the appetizers and getting down to business, this is a great choice.


Cheesecake creme brulee, pink guava puree, cafe culce de leche - Very unique, I have never had a dish like this. This is a perfect hybrid of both cheesecake and creme brulee, two of my favorite deserts. I would order this again in a heartbeat.

Caramelized pineapple and preserved lemon tart, white chocolate zabaglione (Italian custard made with egg yolks, sugar, and a sweet wine), pineapple caramel - This one was my wife's favorite. The flavors were very balanced and the cubes of pineapple inside of the custard were a great touch.


Unfortunately the cocktails were not quite up to the same caliber as the food. A place like this really deserves some true craft cocktails to go with the killer dishes. I tried the Cucumber Mule (hanson's organic vodka, bitters, lime, and ginger beer) and Broken Branch (rittenhouse rye whisky, sweet vermouth, maraschino liqueur, amaro averna, bitters). They were fine, but I wouldn't come out of my way to grab a cocktail here. Wine might be a better choice with your meal.

Chef Nick Tall also has ambitions to bring local craft beer vendors into the restaurant for multi-course beer pairings. He happens to be a brewer himself and has a strong appreciation and fondness for the art. If he launches a beer pairing for his outstanding menu, I'll be the first one in line.