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GW=The Chief Cook & Bottle Washer here at Weimax.

RG=Bob Gorman, Weimax staffer and bon vivant...Bob passed away in November of 2012...

GB=Greg Bellow, a regular Weimax tasting participant and local Gourmand.

DR. T= A Young, Budding Wine & Food Enthusiast who dines out frequently at some of the SF Bay Area's top tables.  She has since married and moved to LA.

Please Note:  The reviews displayed on this site represent only the views of the author.  These are purely personal and written based on a single visit, so we can present but a mere snapshot of a dining establishment. 
Further, restaurants tend to have a short life span, so some of the older reviews may be of little value.



741 San Mateo Avenue
San Bruno

Tel: 650-270-9023

OPEN TUES-SAT  5:30pm-9:00pm

Crab Cakes

Patatas Bravas with Octopus

Bread & Butter

Nice stemware

Bruno Tartare

Homemade Bread Pudding




We had been invited to a wine lunch at this San Bruno dining spot, pre-Covid if I recall correctly.  The place was nicely elegant and the food was beautifully presented and pretty good.

We saw an advertisement for JC Bruno and thought we might see if the place is still worth visiting, so we booked a table on short notice one Friday night.

Parking at 7:30 is a challenge as there is a popular casino in the neighborhood and there's a Caltrain stop close by.  We drove around for a few minutes and parked a few blocks away on San Bruno Avenue.

We arrived the 741 San Mateo Avenue only to find the entrance had a closed and locked gate!  There was music from the nearby place, a sort of covered patio with tables randomly placed and people were seated and eating, while some fellow was seated on a stool and playing a guitar.

There was a sign near the sidewalk indicating this was "Marcela's Patio."  We were a bit this the right place?

It seems they had a door well into the patio area leading inside to what we hoped was the JC Bruno restaurant.

The decor was not as formal as I recalled from the previous visit and we were seated at a four-top table.  The menus and a wine list were presented as we were seated.  

I had a few bottles in my cellar bag, but thought we'd try to find a white or sparkling wine on the wine list.

There were 7 white wines offered and three Roses.  There were four "Bubble" selections, but nothing from France's Champagne region.
You'll find six red wine selections, none of which have a vintage date on the list.
We saw a Saddleback Chardonnay listed at $45/bottle so we asked what vintage that might be...a recent bottling would have been ordered.
The woman running the dining room, with the ambience of a pancake house (sadly) barked "we don't have that one.  Try the Roche Chardonnay ($52 for the unoaked bottling and $58 for the wood-aged bottling).!"

The had a couple of "Sauvignon Blank" yes, that's how it's spelled on the wine list...I kid you not!  One was from Mill Creek at $54/bottle, while the other was a New Zealand wine called "Savee See" ($15 by the glass and $45/bottle).
Roche Pinot Noir is $68, while their Merlot goes for $58.  Fidelity Red is $15/glass or $58 by the bottle.  We have that in the shop for $18/bottle.

Four sweet wines are available and these are by the glass, with "Faist Tawny Port"  at $12/pour.  We suspect that is actually a brand from Portugal called "Feist."  Quinta Cruz  Port is $18, but this actually is made in California's Santa Cruz Mountains, so it's not actually Port, nor does the winery label is as Port.

The wine list is a bit sloppy in its presentation and clearly wine is not a priority at JC Bruno.
The corkage fee is $30/bottle and they have a two bottle limit.

The stemware they offer, by the wine, is quite good and nicely elegant.  It's a pity their wine list is so poor, given the offerings on their menu.
If you see the photos of their food on Facebook, for example, you'd expect a more thoughtfully curated wine list.

We placed a Guigal "La Doriane" Condrieu on table and someone offered to open it.  They poured the wine for one of our party without offering me a chance to verify the bottle was in serviceable condition and not corked.  

We turned our attention to the menu.


There are about 8 starters ($16.50 to $18.50) and several salads ($11.50 to $14).
Soup of the day is $7/cup and $9.50/bowl, but when we inquired about this the lady barked that they did not have soup today.

We chose a couple of starters...Crab Cakes ($17.50) with Tomato Concase (sic), Basil Avocado Aioli.  The dish arrived with two smallish hockey pucks of a deep fried crab cake.  The crab was shredded and seemed as though it was pre-made and simply needed to be fried.  The Tomato Concassé was fresh, though...

Then we asked for Patatas Bravas ($18.50), described as "Patatas Bravas and Grilled Octopus.  Marinated with Huacatay and Siracha (sic) Aioli."
This was presented in a sort of iron skillet pan and featured small potatoes and chunks of octopus with a pleasantly spicy sauce.

We then added "Bruno Tartare" ($16.50)...Tuna, Avocado, Garlic, Ginger, Cilantro, Soy Glaze/Micro served with Taro Chips.  This was a lovely presentation and nicely flavorful.

A small basket of some bread arrived with a little butter dish plopped on top...they did not think to place the butter container next to the bread basket.  This might be acceptable service at a chain restaurant, but you'd think a small, Mom & Pop that's a "fine dining" place could do better.

The musician serenaded the guests with various tunes and we were not enthralled with this performance.  Come to think of it, we did not hear any applause from the people seated on that "patio."

There were 14 main courses the evening of our visit.  These range from $22 for a Burger to $46 for a Braised Lamb Shank.  Atlantic Salmon is $29 while Chilean Sea Bass is $42.
"Classic French Bouillabaisse" is $32 while Cioppino (with Peccorino (sic) Romano Cheese) is $39.  Add $5 if you want this with pasta.
A Filet Mignon is $42 while a Veal Chop goes for $40.
My friends opted for the Airline Chicken Breast ($30), "Pan Seared Airline Chicken brined with Peruvian spices, while I ordered the Rack of Lamb ($42), described as a "Pan Seared Rack of Lamb, Roasted Yukon Potatoes, Brussel (sic) Sprouts and Lamb Demi."

The Airline Chicken Breast is also known as a "Frenched Breast" and it's usually a boneless chicken breast with the drumette still attached.
It looked good with a generous-sized piece of chicken served with mashed potatoes and spinach.

The Rack of Lamb was about 6 rib chops nicely seasoned and cooked as requested to medium rare.  The Yukon Potatoes were nice and there were some al dente Brussels Sprouts on the plate.

As the restaurant crew was a bit inattentive even though the dining room had just a couple of tables to serve, we took matters into our own hands and opened a bottle of Bordeaux to accompany the main courses.  We used the same stemware as for the white wine.

The main menu is an elegantly designed document, but the dessert menu is a plastic-laminated card with six options, all priced at $9.50, an it's likely visually appealing to kindergarteners.
They offer. Pannacota (sic) w/Raspberry Coulis - Vanilla Bean Coustard (sic), Tiramisu and New York Style Cheesecake, Cremeburle (sic).  

I chose the Chocolate Lava Cake with Vanilla Ice Cream which was okay. 

My friends had the Homemade Bread Pudding with Vanilla Ice Cream.

I had an espresso after dessert...I'd have done better with a Nespresso at home.

The bill tallied to roughly $190 as they charged for but one corkage fee. 

JC Bruno aspires to be a premium dining spot, but they're going to have to pay a bit more attention to providing a fine dining experience in our view.

Had they posted their wine list on their website or Facebook page, we'd likely have skipped this place.

Reviewed September 2023




401 Primrose Avenue
TEL: 650-315-2488

Open Sun-Thurs:


The Tuna Carpaccio with plenty of vinegar...

Escargot without Garlic!

Boeuf Bourguignon
with a cafeteria scoop of mashed potatoes




Burlingame has been without a French dining spot for ages and we were delighted to see a new place going into the former Stella Alpina location a block from Burlingame Avenue.

We had dined, years ago, at the Chou Chou place in San Francisco and it was a pleasant, if unremarkable meal.
Perhaps this new place would provide a memorable evening?

We booked a reservation for a Thursday evening and arrived for our 8pm dinner, finding the place with but a few tables occupied at this 'late' hour.

The menu and a wine list were provided as we were seated, finding a comfortable ambiance with a wineglass at each place setting with a cloth napkin lodged inside it.
It's an impressive look, but before using the wine glass, it's a good idea to sniff the empty stemware in case the napkin leaves a fragrance of detergent soap or bleach aromas.
Happily, we did not have an issue.

The wine list features four French bubblies, two from Champagne and two others.  Three sparklers are offered by-the-glass (BTG), a Barton & Gastier (sic: it's Gustier) is $13 BTG and $52 for a bottle. Canard-Duchene is $17 BTG and $68/bottle, while Charles de Cazanove Rosé is $78/bottle.  They do not offer guests particularly exciting sparkling wines.


There's a heading for "White Chardonnay" which is curious as we are unaware of red versions of Chardonnay.  You'll find 5 white Burgundies including a rather old 2006 Beaune "Clos des Mouches" from Joseph Drouin (sic: it's Drouhin) for $112/bottle.  I'd be leery of such an old bottle, but you never know until the cork is pulled.
There's Josh Cellars Chardonnay from California, a grocery store brand, going for $12 BTG and $48/bottle. 
Why have such an ordinary wine on the list?


We found 9 Sauvignon Blanc wines with a Sancerre from the Millet winery at  $18 BTG and $72/bottle.  There are three "Other Whites" including a modest Rhône blend, a Muscadet and an Riesling from Alsace for $12 BTG and $48/bottle.


There's a heading of "Merlot & Bordeaux Blend with three Bordeaux wines, but below that under "Cabernet sauvignon & Cabernet Franc" you'll find three more Bordeaux wines.  There's a Cheval Blanc "cuvée grandes vignes" for $52, but don't get too excited.  It's not the Cheval Blanc, but a simple $15 retail Bordeaux.



Under "Zinfandel & Malbe (sic: should be Malbec) we find one modest Zinfandel of the Hullabaloo label for $13 BTG and $52/bottle.  The list indicates it's a Napa wine, but in fact the fruit is from Lodi...big difference!
With so many soulful, interesting Zinfandels, one wonders why they chose such a lackluster wine.
The Malbec, from Jean-Paul Mas in France's Languedoc region, is priced at $52.  That wholesales for just eight dollars.  Yes, a 650% mark-up!

Another "critter labeled" French red wholesales for $9 and this is offered at $12 BTG or $48 for a bottle, more than a 500% mark-up.
If a restaurant needs such margins to be profitable, perhaps offering more interesting wines which can justify such a mark-up???


There's a heading of Pinot Noir & Gamay, but all twelve selections are identified as being Pinot Noir.  One wine is listed twice.
The best buy, we suspect, is the Domaine Masse Givry 1er Cru at $77.  They have an interesting typo, a Belle Glos Pinot is listed as "Belle Gros" and that mass-market red is $78/bottle.


There are three offerings under the heading of Syrah and Rhone blends.
A Côtes-du-Rhône and Châteauneuf-du-Pape are lists as "GSM," while a second Châteauneuf, a wine from the prestigious Château de Beaucastel, shows it to be a 2006 vintage for a modest $168 price.  That might be worth trying.  It is not listed as a GSM wine but they've spelled out it's a "grenache, syrah, mourvedre" blend.  Go figure!

We ordered a bottle of the Allimant Laugner 2019 Riesling from Alsace at $48.  We offered the young server a taste, but she mentioned not being allowed "to drink on the job."  She pulled the cork and poured the wine properly and we were off and running.


To start, my dining companion ordered the "Carpaccio de Thon,"  described as Ahi tuna, sesame, thyme, arugula, parmesan, balsamic reduction and truffle.  $16.
I chose the "Escargots Gratines a l'Ail," described as Snails, garlic, parsley, shallots, butter and breadcrumbs at $15.
Other starters include French Onion Soup at $14, Mussels at $15 or a Crab Salad at $17.


The Tuna was set on the table and we both got a strong blast of the vinegar, bordering on being too strong in the company of the dry Riesling from Allimant Laugner (a good wine by the way...we retail it for $18).
The Escargot come in a ceramic dish, not in the shell.
I did not detect much garlic and my friend tasted a snail and wondered if it had been flavored with vanilla!  Whatever the case, garlic was missing, so this was disappointing.

We asked the server if they had a decanter as we brought a 20+ year old bottle of Bordeaux.
She was perplexed by the request, not knowing what a decanter is.

A colleague came out and deftly opened our 2001 Pontet Canet, but she was perhaps not quite clued in as to why we wanted this decanted.
The individual had a decanting funnel but was more intent on simply transferring the wine from the bottle into the decanter, rather than being mindful of the possibility of some sediment being present.
We again offered a taste to the Chou Chou crew, but nobody took us up on this.

My friend ordered the Boeuf Bourguignon ($38) and I went for the Cassoulet ($39).
The beef was rather nice although the ice cream scoop of mashed potatoes might conjure up memories of cafeteria cuisine, not fine dining.  Maybe a circular mold could enhance the presentation?


The Cassoulet ceramic comes on a plate that's otherwise naked...they might consider a few sprigs of parsley on the dish it's served on or perhaps a small napkin of some sort to make this more visually appealing.
It's described as being two kinds of sausage with duck confit and these all were tasty.  It did not seem, though, that these meats were actually cooked in tandem with the beans, however; merely assembled for the presentation at the table.
While it may not be classic, old school Cassoulet, it was still enjoyable.

We took the server's suggestion for dessert and each ordered a sort of Chocolate Lava Cake with Ice Cream...$12 I think.
This was a nice finish to our visit.

The bill tallied to roughly $205 before tax and tip.

The ambiance was nice and fairly tranquil as Burlingamers are dining early.  Parking is easy in this part of town and you'll find a spot within a block typically.

We look forward to a return visit, hoping this place can improve with experience, polishing its cuisine and its service.

Posted by GW
August 2023




651 Oak Grove Avenue
Menlo Park
Tel: 650-326-1314

Open Tues-Sun  4pm-8:30pm

We split a Caesar Salad...


And this is our Linguine with Clams, as we split that as well.


We were a bit surprised when someone came to offer to grate cheese on the pasta won't find Italians putting cheese on this dish!

We had long been fans of Belmont's Divino restaurant (and we need to go check out the place) and understand the chef/owner has departed.

His brother, we're told, has a little place in Menlo Park, so we booked a table on a Thursday night.

Parking is available in the lot near the restaurant and the place was fairly busy at 7:30pm.

We were seated in the main dining area which has seating for perhaps 35 or 40 people.  There were a few tables outside and there's another small dining area through a small corrider.

We were presented a wine list and menu upon being seated.
They have four reds and four white "by the glass" (BTG).

The mark-up seems to be close to today's "normal," something like 400% over the wholesale pricing.  A few of these seem to be offered at an even higher margin.

The selections are in a range of fairly standard to boring and not the work of a savvy wine buyer.
The most interesting white is Groth Sauvignon Blanc,  at $13 BTG and $52/bottle.
They ask $11.50 for a glass of a rather dull Italian Pinot Grigio called Danzante. That wine wholesales for less than $9/bottle and it's $46 by-the-bottle on the La Stanza wine list.
A pleasant Primitivo from Italy's Puglia region is $11.50 BTG and $46/bottle.  That wine retails for $13-$15.

There are but 5 white wines and a Rose on the list and 17 red wine selections by the bottle (in addition to the BTG offerings).

The whites range from $40/bottle to $58 for a Hanna Chardonnay from Sonoma.
The reds range from $40 for Sobon's Old Vines Zinfandel (we have that in the shop for $10.99) to $140 for a Frescobaldi Brunello from 2016.   Graci's Etna Rosso is $72 and the Produttori del Barbaresco bottling of Barbaresco goes for $100.

The corkage fee is a reasonable $20.

The menu has just two antipasti, with Arancini going for $13.95 and Polpette (meatballs) costing $12.95.  They have 4 sales ranging from $10.50 to $12.
There are a dozen selections under the pasta heading with four of them being "homemade."
A couple of items are noted as "vegan."
They have but three secondi (main plates) on the regular menu which include a chicken with Fontina cheese for $25.95, Tiger Prawns with Basil for $28.95 and Pork Loin with Porcini and Brandy for $24.95.
There is a daily menu and it had a Gazpacho soup for $9, a couple of salads and Veal Marsala for $33.95 and a Branzino filet for $32.95.

The wine list seems to not match the menu as there's not much in the way of red meat to pair with some of those mildly astringent reds.

We opted for a bottle of Alta Mora Etna Bianco 2019 at $48.  They brought a bottle of the 2020, which was fine and quite good.
We began with their Caesar Salad at $11.  The menu doesn't mention anchovies and the salad did not seem to have much, if any influence of those.  Still, it was a good start.
We then opted for their Linguine with Clams ($24.95)...this was good, though the pasta was a slight bit more al dente than ideal but at least it was not over-cooked.

We brought a bottle of Barolo and one of the crew brought a decanter and decanted it, seeming unaware the wine might have some sediment.  He simply poured the entire bottle into the decanter.  

To accompany this we had the Pork Loin with Porcini Mushrooms and Brandy, a nice dish though the Barolo was a bit too powerful for this.
We enjoyed it anyway.

There were perhaps half a dozen desserts, Tiramisu, Chocolate Mousse and Cannoli going for $9.  A Hot Apple Tart is $11.95.  We had the Affogato, a scoop of a nice Vanilla ice cream with a small shot of Espresso ($9.50).

The tab would have tallied to $190 before tip, but we were dining with a wine sales rep who's known to the staff, so they shined the corkage fee for us.

It was a nice meal and it's a good little neighborhood place, but not exactly a "destination" dining spot.

Reviewed July 2023



2501 Mariposa Street
San Francisco
Tel: (415) 612-8480

OPEN TUES-SAT  5pm-9pm

The Chartreuse Slushy

Asparagus - Lobster Béarnaise

Mushroom Profiteroles

Yellowtail Crudo

Charcuterie Plate...Impressive!

Tartine Bread



Some years ago a wine company was hosting a trade tasting event, mid-day, at The Morris.  We drove around for 40 minutes, looking for a parking space.  As a result we had been a bit skittish about booking a table during dinner.

But in March of 2022 some friends extended an invitation and on a Saturday night we took a taxi ride from Burlingame to this curious neighborhood restaurant.

The inside has perhaps seating for 30 people and they had a nice covered area outside along Hampshire Street, with tables along the sidewalk next to the building and a parklet across that sidewalk.

I arrived early and had been scouting their menu and wine list.

The Morris is named after owner/sommelier Paul Einbund's late father.
His partner is Chef Gavin Schmidt is a pork aficionado and duck fancier.
The pair had been working together for some years at the Michelin-starred Coi restaurant in The City and they teamed up at The Morris.

The "reserve" wine list is formidable and quite daunting on a couple of counts.  First, it's 50+ pages with amazing selections and numerous trophy wines.  Secondly, it's top-heavy with expensive bottles to the point where the average person might think that having a $4 tea or $10 beer.  But there's a $38 beer in a 750ml bottle and another $26 beer in half-liter format.

We were seated in one of their alcove, outdoor tables and a denim-covered binder was presented, the "big wine list."
You'll need your smart-phone to scan a QR code to see the nightly menu.

The list is a marvelous assortment of wines from all over, with significant selections from France, Germany and the West Coast.
The list reads a bit like a "Who's Who" of winemaking, with an emphasis on France's Loire Valley, Burgundy, Champagne and the Rhône Valley.  There are a few Bordeaux offerings, but this comprises a tiny segment of the list.
There are, for example, significantly more Loire Valley Chenin Blanc wines on the list than Bordeaux!
(We, too, have a fondness for the under-rated Chenin Blanc grape.)

You'll find wineries such as Clos Rougeard, Pierre Peters, Selosse, Marie Courtin, Dauvissat, Raveneau, Ganevat, Roulot, PY Colin-Morey, Coche-Dury, Dujac, Rostaing, Allemand and more on the list (if you have time to plow through it).

The menu is a four page document, featuring a listing of cocktails, beers, Madeiras, more modestly-priced wines, vintage bottlings of the famous French liqueur Chartreuse.  In fact, The Morris features a "Chartreuse Slushy" ($12). 
 [ I had a taste and found it more citrusy than redolent of Chartreuse. ]

On our visit there were four sparklers on the menu pages.  A good Cava from Pere Mata is $64, a J. Lasalle Champagne for $88 and a bottling from Marie Courtin for $132.  We began with an off-the-beaten-path French bubbly from Domaine Allemand in the French Alps.  It cost $68 and it's made of the Mollard grape.  
The servers brought some nice-sized white wine glasses and deftly opened the bottle without showering anyone.

We kept the wine list as we'd be ordering more wine what with 5 adults sitting at the table.

Three Sparkling wines are offered by the glass, the Cava from Pere Mata going for $16,  the Allemand pink costing  $17 while the J. Lasalle Champagne going for $22.

Six white wines were available by the glass.  Sylvain Bailly Sancerre is $18, while a Gruner Veltliner from Malat is $15.  A Jasnières from Janvier is $16 while Domaine Aux Moines Savennières is $24.  One Rose from Provence is $19/glass.

Ten reds are offered by the glass.  I was curious as to how the 2001 Tour Grise Saumur was showing, but did not remember to order a glass at $19 ($74/bottle).  Bedrock 2018 Zinfandel is $15/glass ($60/bottle), while Domaine Chapel 2020 Beaujolais-Villages is $18 BTG and $72/bottle.

There are numerous starters to consider.  Ten Charcuterie items are on the list, priced at $12 for one, $40 for 5 of "The Full Monty" (10 items on our visit) for $75. Six items are presented under the heading of "Nibbles," which included Duck Heart Skewers for $6, Mushroom Profiteroles at $6, Asparagus with a Lobster Béarnaise ($10) and a couple of other enticing items.

There was a selection of three cheeses for $20.

Royal Sturgeon Caviar is $35 for a half ounce and $65 for a one ounce serving.  "Golden Oscetra" is $65 for a half ounce and $120 for an ounce.

An order of Tartine bread is $7 and worth every penny!
And we actually ordered a second round on the bread.

For an "official" First Course, there were 4 options.  Little Gem Salad with bacon and hazelnuts is $15, while Charred Broccoli with Grilled Squid, somewhat of a signature dish, is $17.  An Arugula Salad with Beets and Mozzarella is also $17, while Yellowtail Crudo with Avocado is $20.

We ordered five selections from the Charcuterie menu and this is beautifully presented and, my oh my, all were exceptional.  And they are house-made!  The Duck Rillette, Rabbit Terrine and Pâté de Campagne where standouts.
We also had the Asparagus with the Lobster Béarnaise, the Mushroom Profiteroles and Yellowtail Crudo.  I preferred those to the Charred Broccoli with the Grilled Squid.

For main plates, the signature dish is the Smoked Duck with Root Vegetables.  $75 for a half and $150 for the whole shebang.  Sounds expensive but with the various starters, five adults still had some leftovers to take home.
Other main dishes included Kabocha Agnolotti with Mushrooms  ($32), Black Cod with Soy Milks Dashi ($35), a Ribeye ($55) or Grilled Pork ($36).
Our friends ordered the Black Cod as their little kids were joining us and that was mighty tasty, as well. 

Black Cod


The Duck, though, was mighty impressive!

The Famous "The Morris" Duck

We had finished that bottle of bubbly fairly early on and we asked our server to pick a vintage of Pattes Loup Chablis which he felt was nicely acidic and lean.  He chose the 2017 ($96) and this hit the spot!

As the Duck was coming, we then ordered a bottle of the Trediberri 2020 Nebbiolo ($72) which was a terrific match with the main dish.
The Duck was easily up to its lofty reputation on this occasion.

The server brought stemware appropriate for each wine and they kept an eye on the table so they could top up the glasses as needed.

We ordered their Buckwheat Doughnuts with Whiskey Crème Anglaise for dessert and these were excellent.
I had seen three dessert wines by the glass and by passed the 2006 Knebel Auslese Riesling ($19) in favor of the Moulin Touchais 1996 Coteaux du Layon ($19).  There was also a sweet Monastrell from Spain, Olivares 2016 at $11.

Espresso is $3.

This was a delightful gastronomic experience and the service was friendly and professional.

We look forward to returning to The Morris!

Reviewed by GW
March 2022


March 2022

We've been lax about posting notes regarding dining, as from the Fall of 2021 into Winter of 2022 so many restaurants have had staffing problems.

We have returned to some favorite haunts and enjoyed the return to what we knew as "normal."

We've been to Dumpling Time in San Francisco on a number of occasions...routinely good.

Dinners at Divino in Belmont have been good, as usual.

We went to a new breakfast/lunch spot out near Half Moon Bay:  Pilot Light.
It's at the Half Moon Bay Airport and is owned by the folks who have All Spice in San Mateo.
We had a lovely Sunday breakfast there in early March...casual, but good as the owners are serious "foodies."

Friends raved about lunch at Barbara's Fish Trap in Princeton out on the coast, so we had an early Sunday lunch there on day...the Tempura Artichokes ($12) were alright, but either made of frozen or jarred artichokes.  Fried Calamari (Ringy Dingy Calamari--$16) was good, but the best item was the Fish & Chips ($16).

Some friends orchestrated a dinner at San Francisco's famed Acquerello restaurant.
This was truly a "fine dining" experience.  We found a parking space in a garage across the street.
The menu was pre-set and they inquire as to any dietary restrictions.  
The Prix Fixe menu is $150 currently while the Seasonal Menu is $250.
We had a number of brilliant dishes...the Dungeness Crab starter was a tasty as it was pretty.
We had some Lobster Panzerotti  which was exceptional and followed by "Ridged Pasta with Faux "Foie Gras" scented with Black Truffles and Marsala, another delight.
Liberty Duck was remarkable, but the Kampot Peppercorn-Crusted A5 Wagyu Beef looked mighty good, too.

We are sad to have learned that Lorella and Massimiliano at La Ciccia in San Francisco have sold the place and are retiring in Mid-April, so we booked a table there in late March to refresh our memory of the great Sardinian dining.  We even saw some Weimax customers at a neighboring table and perhaps will cram in one more dinner before they officially move on.
The Calamari and Octopus starters are superb and the Spaghetti with Bottarga was exceptional.
The lamb main plate is quite good, as usual.

We look forward to getting out a bit more than we had during the Covid Pandemic.



1301 Sixth Avenue
Tel: 650-593-7311


Wed-Sun 5pm-9pm

You have to scan the QR Codes to the menu and wine list.

Tuna Sliders

Focaccia & Olives

Wild Boar Tenderloin & Gnocchi

Hanger Steak & Fries


Grilled Kohlrabi

A friend called mid-week in late June of 2021, as California had been fully reopened since mid-month.  "Let's meet at the Farm House in Belmont!"

This place is new to us, but we gather it's been operating for a few years, opening in mid-2017.

We checked their website and were pleasantly surprised to see an interesting and eclectic menu along with a fascinating wine list.  I usually bring a bag with some particular old bottle, but having seen their well-priced and eclectic wine list, we arrived empty-handed.
They ask $25 for their Corkage Fee on the first bottle and $35 for the second.

The restaurant is about three blocks south of Ralston Avenue, not far from one of our favorite dining spots, Divino.

It's a residential neighborhood and we are sure some of its residents are none too happy to find strange cars parked in front of their homes.
We parked about a block away and found 80% of the outdoor tables to be occupied.  There is indoor seating as well.

We arrived at 7pm and were promptly seated in a quiet corner near a plate glass window looking into the indoor dining area.

The server presented a one page document with QR Codes and a few wines by the glass.

We appreciate the idea of "contactless"  menus but here we had a little bit of difficulty seeing the wine list, as only two pages showed up on my phone.  My friend had greater success.

The menu QR code and pages worked well, apart from the phone fading off after maybe 30 seconds of inactivity.
We wondered what they do for guests who actually come dine without a so-called "smart-phone"?

They had one white, a Joseph Drouhin Bourgogne Blanc at $12/glass, one Rosé ($12), three reds (including a Waxwing Pinot Noir $12/glass, which is made locally) and four bubblies.

The wine list was very intriguing, with numerous selections, both locally-produced and imported.

There were seven Rosé selections ranging in price from $26 to $52 for a bottle.

There were 19 sparkling wines, starting at $23 for a modest Spanish Cava going up to $85 for a French Champagne from a grower's co-op.
It's a nice range of wines with a few decent picks in my view, but nothing that indicated especially savvy selections.

Table wines are organized by categories.  There's a selection of Aromatic White Wines which has some curious and potentially risky bottles.  There's a 2003 Kloster Eberbach Riesling from Germany's Rheingau at $44, but it's likely sourced from an importer that doesn't have a refrigerated warehouse.  A 2016 Torrontes from Argentina, priced at just $20, at 4+ years of age, might also be a bit past its prime.

Under "Light White Wine" there are more than two dozen selections, ranging in price from $21 for a modest Chilean Sauvignon Blanc to $55 for a Greek white made of Assyrtiko.  There's a Picpoul from France for $28 and a Dry Creek Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc shown as being from the Clarksburg appellation at $38.  But Dry Creek Vineyard, as far a we know, makes only Sonoma Sauvignon, while its Chenin Blanc does come from Clarksburg.
There are 20 "Medium to Full-Bodied" white wine selections, but I am not sure I'd consider some of those offerings as bigger than the Light Whites.  A few are certainly fuller, though, such as Domaine Eden Chardonnay ($53) or a Fess Parker Chardonnay at $63.
The list includes brief descriptions of the wines, such as this one:

You might think these are the notes of the Farm House wine buyer, but in checking a few websites, we see these are either the descriptions by the winery or importer.
The "~viognier" on the description of that Italian white wine might confuse some people as the wine is 100% Pallagrello and has no Viognier in it.

There are 18 "Light Red" wines listed.  The very first one is a Marenco Brachetto ($30) which might surprise someone if they don't read the notation that it's a dessert wine and best with chocolate.  
A Ca' Rossa Grignolino is $44, while a Ken Wright Pinot Noir from Oregon is $52.  
Some of the notes indicate a numerical score from some journal or even from a guy who works for an online wine vendor and this fellow assigns numerical scores to wines to help nudge them out the door.  We noticed, though, the numerical ratings are not always accurate for the vintage that's offered on the wine list!

There are 44 "Medium Red" Selections, though some tasters might consider a number of these to be full-bodied.  In fact, some of the tasting notes indicate "higher alcohol, fuller bodied."

Under "Full Bodied Red Wine" we find well more than 60 wines, but more than a few of these are actually lighter than some of the "Medium Red" wines.  It's a minor beef, to be sure, but some guests might be wondering what they are missing when ordering one of the Nebbiolo wines and finding these are not especially robust.

Still, the list is impressive for its eclectic variety and honestly-priced selections.

The menu on the day of our visit, had 9 "Shareable" starters, one soup and 4 salads.  Under the heading of "Nosh" we found eleven selections ranging from Venison Osso Buco ($33) to Shrimp Scampi ($26) to Grilled Hawaiian Kanpachi ($25) to Pan Roasted Chicken ($23).

We first ordered a bottle of a modestly-priced white wine and the server took note of the name of the wine and disappeared.  Maybe 15 minutes later he brought two nice, large wine glasses but told us while they have the wine, they have yet to locate the bottle.  After another 15 minutes our starters arrived, Ahi Tuna Sliders ($18) and their Focaccia & Marinara Dipper ($8).  There were three little Sliders...the tuna was not hugely prominent and the fried onions seemed to dominate.  There were two long pieces of Focaccia bread, a little container of a mildly spicy tomato sauce and a number of various olives on the plate.
Still no white wine, though.

We checked the red wine selections and after having sat there for 35-40 minutes waiting for the wine to arrive, the server informed us they are sure they have the bottle of white, but can't locate it.
We grumbled about the food having been brought before the wine and he agreed that was a mistake.

We selected an Aglianico from the I Capitani winery called "Jumara" ($43) and this was a perfectly pleasant, somewhat rustic Italian red.  The server presented the bottle and then took care of opening it.  It was served at ambient room temperature and was a bit warmer than we'd have liked.
Happily it required only about five minutes for them to bring this bottle to the table.

We ordered main plates, my guest going for the Hanger Steak ($28) which comes with "Onion Strings" and a red wine reduction along with Truffle Fries.  She requested simple fries, not wanting the truffle oil that is often employed to give the impression of truffles.  Being from Piemonte in Italy, a major truffle region, she eschews these truffle oils that are often synthetically produced and usually derided by truffle aficionados.

I opted for their Wild Boar Tenderloin ($33) which comes with Black Pepper Gnocchi over a Tomato Vodka Cream Sauce with an Apricot Relish.  
Her bowl of fries was huge and both main plates were more than abundant.  Happily these were also quite good.

We had two side dishes...One was Grilled Kohlrabi ($8) which was not especially tasty...and the other was Sautéed Broccolini ($8) which was good.

The menu changes regularly, apparently.  

As we were seated outside and it became a bit breezy, with the sun setting the temperature dropped, but they have outdoor heaters which can warm most of the tables.

We finished our main plates and the server asked about dessert. We'd have liked to try something but were simply too full from the starters and mains.

The bill arrived and they add a 15% "service charge," but you can still add an additional gratuity if you like as there is an open tip line on the credit card invoice.
Our bill tallied to $160 with that 15% service charge and tax.  Curiously there was a 50% discount on the wines, noted on the bill as a TWTh Wine Bottle Promo!
We did not see that offer on the wine list or menu and our server did not mention this either.
It could be a selling point if guests are informed, both online and in-person about this special offer.

This restaurant was a delightful surprise and with a bit more attention to detail, this could be a pretty good, casual dining spot.  They're certainly on the right track and, as noted earlier, we appreciate their adventuresome wine list.

Reviewed by GW
July 2021


We have dined out sporadically during the Pandemic and its various shutdowns.

Many restaurants have tried to convert to "take out" mode and we appreciate the effort, but the cuisine rarely translates "to go" in the same form and quality as in-place dining.

Writing this in April of 2021...

We dined at a few favorite haunts recently.

A dinner at Belmont's
DiVino restaurant was very good!  Tables are scattered as seating capacity is well less than it used to be.  We found the food and service to be really good, though and we enjoyed a wonderful meal in March of 2021.

Lunch outdoors under the sunny skies of San Carlos at
Johnston's Saltbox was another nod to returning to what was normalcy.  They did not have any tables inside the restaurant, with plenty of seating outside.  Bring your sun-screen, though.  Orders are taken at a window on the parking lot side of the restaurant.  There are numerous tables outside and their outstanding Ribeye Burger was excellent.

We invited an out-of-town visiting friend to dine at San Francisco's
Dumpling Time.  We met there at 6:30 on a Wednesday evening and enjoyed a stellar marathon of dim sum dishes (and more).  (We have stopped here a few times and gotten 'take out' dim sum and, yes, it's good, but not as exceptional as when it's right from the kitchen to the table.)

A Thursday night dinner at
Blue Plate was another taste of normal.  We enjoyed their terrific grilled octopus and their classic take on Meat Loaf (though our friend's fried chicken looked even better).  

We have read a San Francisco Chronicle article urging diners to not bring their own bottle of wine when dining out.  We brought special bottles to each of these venues and don't mind paying a corkage fee.  Of course restaurants want to sell their own bottles, but not many places have wines of particular quality or sentimentality.  

At Divino we brought an Italian sparkling wine gifted to us by the producer.  And we brought a 1961 Barolo to celebrate someone's 60th birthday.  We  did order a bottle of an Italian white.

At Johnston's we opened a 2001 Cabernet blend given to us by an importer rep several years ago.  We were having lunch with someone with whom he had worked and who currently represents that particular winery.

Dumpling Time doesn't have much of a wine list and we even bring our own stemware.  

At Blue Plate we ordered a bottle of a Spanish Rosado and our dining companion brought an old bottle of Châteauneuf-du-Pape from a winery we had visited together a decade ago.  In offering a taste of the wine with the owners of the restaurant we asked if they shared the view of some wine industry people who view this as an act of criminality.  They laughed, saying they appreciate when guests give that much consideration to dining there that they bring a special and memorable bottle to pair with their cuisine.

We appreciate the journalist's efforts to support restaurateurs, of course, but it is possible to leave a nice tip after all.  

Dining at another place which we won't identify, we noticed the wine prices have escalated significantly.  We suspect this has to do with trying to recoup revenue lost over the past year.  As a result, some wines were marked up 6 times their wholesale cost and other, more expensive bottles were now costing 4 times wholesale.  Good luck!  Few customers are looking to spend $150-$250 on a bottle of wine with a $25 meal.  And, we wondered if they become more profitable if guests choose a $7 beer or a complimentary glass of water instead of an extravagantly-priced bottle of wine.

It's certainly a thorny issue.


Needless to say, the Covid-19 Pandemic has precluded people from dining out these days.  
Those places that are serving food, apart from take-out, are doing so under stressful circumstances.

We had been in France in March when text messages arrived saying "Hurry up!  Get home soon!! Trump is blocking flights from Europe after Friday!!!"
And we raced home after less than a week of winery visits and good meals in Paris and Burgundy.  

We did venture to San Mateo's lovely
31st Union restaurant for lunch in early July.
We knew they had a few outdoor tables and the indoor dining spot was closed.  You order at their Ready Made storefront counter and they'll bring food to your table.  

We are big fans of their Burger & Fries ($18) and we brought two bottles of Burgundy to taste.
What a pleasure this was!
Not having "dined out" in months, sitting at a restaurant table and enjoying a simple meal was a delight.

Kudos to proprietor David Hunsaker for running a terrific place.

By the way, 31st Union posts a daily dinner offering, available for take-out (and they delivery locally).  

We so look forward to being able to  dine out regularly, but it's difficult to predict what the safety conditions are these days.

UPDATE (June 2020)  31st Union closed for food service and indicated it would reopen as a more cocktail-centric venue.
But we drove past the place and the signage has been removed and replaced with a "For Lease" sign.


Posted July 2020



715 Bush Street
San Francisco

TEL: 415-421-3154

The Vegetable Soup




Rack of Lamb

The Grand Marnier Soufflé

The Raspberry & Blueberry Tartelette



We booked a midweek table at this venerable San Francisco dining establishment that's located in the basement of the Hotel Cornell, a couple of blocks from the Sutter/Stockton Garage.

In late February at 7:30, there were perhaps 25 people dining and they had a lot more seating (empty) towards the back of the restaurant.  We had been presented a wine list and the daily, fixed-price menu by the hostess.

Wine glasses were on the table as part of the place-setting although these are not of recent vintage.  Keep in mind, though, this restaurant is a bit of a throwback and, in fact, the place has been operating for 40+ years.

For aperitif service, they offer a number of options, all priced at $7.  There's Lillet, Dubonnet, Dry Sack Sherry as well as a Kir.  They have an un-identified Port along with Harvey's Bristol Cream Sherry.

Under the heading of "Champagne" we see "Champagne Crayere de Beaumont" Grande Reserve Rose.  In fact, the brand name is "Beaumont des Crayères" and it's labeled simply as Grand Rosé.  They also offer a quarter bottle, single-serving of Laurent Perrier Champagne at $16, while a half-bottle goes for a modest $34.  The full bottle of Laurent Perrier is gently priced at $62, possibly the lowest price in town.  There's also "Veuve Cliquot (sic)" at $38 for a half bottle and $74 for a 750ml bottle.
Also categorized under the Champagne heading is Domaine Laurens Cremant de Limoux at $32 for a bottle, while Allimant Laugner's terrific Cremant Rose (it's actually a Cremant d'Alsace) goes for a mere $36.

The By the Glass options are limited.  Mirassou Chardonnay (made by the Gallo family) is $8 while a Touraine Sauvignon by an obscure vintner is $10.  Mirassou Cabernet is $8, with Domaine de Castelnaut Pinot Noir, listed merely as "French," goes for $9.  It's from the Pays D'Oc, not Burgundy in case you were wondering.
There's a Bordeaux Supérieur called Château La Reine Audry and that's ten bucks a serving.

There are four California white wines available, all offered in half bottle and full bottle formats.
Matanzas Creek Vinery (sic) Sauvignon Blanc is $18 and $36, while Dry Creek Vineyard Sauvignon costs $20 and $38.  Sonoma Cutrer's Russian River Ranches  is $22 and $40, while they offer a 2016 or 2017 Steele Napa Valley Chardonnay for $20 a $36.  Steele makes several Chardonnays, but we are unaware of a Napa Valley bottling, so this may be misidentified on their wine list.

California red offerings include Steele Pinot Noir at $20 for a half bottle and $38 for a full bottle. It's listed as being a Napa Valley wine.  Steele does make a Carneros Pinot Noir, but their label indicates it's from the Sonoma side of the Carneros region.   Saintsbury Pinot Noir is $26 in 375ml format and $46 for a full bottle.  That's correctly identified as a Carneros appellation wine.
There's a wine listed as a "Merlot Reserve" but we are perplexed by this $38 bottle as it's shown to be "Trefethen Flora Spring."  Perhaps they have two brands of Merlot, Trefethen Vineyards and Flora Springs?
There's a Freemark Abbey Cabernet for $48 a bottle, as well as Trefethen's Napa Cabernet at $26 for a half bottle and $48 (a real bargain) for a full.

As we might expect, there are more French wines on the list than domestic bottlings. Seven Loire Valley white wines are available, ranging from $30 to $40 for full bottles.  A Sancerre from the Millet winery goes for $36.
Five white Burgundies are offered, ranging from a $32 bottle of Macon from the Domaine de Denante to a Domaine Nudant Puligny Montrachet for $78.
We found four white selections from Alsace.  Allimant Laugner's Pinot Blanc is $32 while their Pinot Gris is $34.  There's a Riesling from the Grand Cru site Osterberg, but that $45 does not get identified as to the vintner.
A Gisselbrecht Gewürztraminer is a mere $32 a bottle.

There were two French Rosé wines, a Le Galantin Bandol for $34 and a Château Thivin from Beaujolais at $38.

There are 8 wines under the Bourgogne Rouge heading, though three of those are from Beaujolais.  They range from $30 for a Beaujolais Villages to $96 for a Domaine Nundant Nuits Saint Georges.
There's a nice bottle of Chinon from Domaine Beausejour which goes for $18 in half bottles or $34 in 750ml format.
From the Southern Rhône there's a half bottle of a simple Côtes du Rhône at $17.  The Clefs des Murailles Vacqueyras is $38 for a bottle.  Another curious entry is listed as coming from the Lavau appellation, but we suspect Lavau is the name of the winery.  It's shown as a "Cave de Rasteau," but we suspect this is Lavau's Rasteau wine.  $35 for that.

Under the heading of Rhône wines, we find 5 selections.  Three are actually from the Southern Rhône, so it's curious these are not listed under that heading.  There's a Gigondas of the Grapillon D'Or label at $48 along with the La Fiole Châteauneuf-du-Pape for the same price.
Le Galantin's Bandol Rouge is the lone red from Provence, offered at a mere $38.
There are 7 Bordeaux selections, ranging in price from $34 to $68.  You won't find anything along the lines of a blue-chip bottle, but the selections are certainly drinkable.

The wine list seems to feature but a few importers or distributors and it's not the work of a passionate wine director.  We suspect the buyer probably has a good relationship with the sales reps from the few distribution companies they work with.

The corkage fee is as gentle as the wine list pricing, a mere $20.

We perused the menu...lots of classically French offerings on the $58 price-fixed menu.  It starts with a vegetable soup and on our visit this was presented in a large, but quite shallow bowl.  I couldn't quite determine what sort of soup this was, apart from it being a bit bland...

A small basket of sourdough bread was on the table and we dove into that.

We ordered the Le Galantin Bandol Rosé ($34) and the server, a pleasant young lady from the Ivory Coast opened the bottle and poured "the say."  As it was a screw-capped bottle, this was perfectly fine and it accompanied the Escargot course we both ordered.  
The other options were salads; one featured truffled cheese while the other came with shrimp and half an avocado.
The Escargot are served out of the shell and in a ceramic dish...a small fork accompanies this and we asked for more bread to sop up the garlic butter.  Happily they used fresh garlic and this was a delightful rendition of an old classic.

There were 11 main plates.  There was a Chilean Sea Bass at the top of the menu, followed by a Prawns & Scallops dish.  They offer a Duck Breast or a Duck Leg Confit.  "Lapin Chasseur" was also quite tempting being Rabbit with Mushrooms.
Three Lamb dishes were on the menu, one being a Lamb Shank, another being a Lamb Loin or, my pick, the Rack of Lamb (with a $6 surcharge).
Three Beef dishes were offered including Braised Short ribs.  There's a New York Steak flambéed in Cognac for a $4 surcharge or you can opt for the Filet Mignon with Chanterelles for $6 extra.
We didn't see a vegetarian option, so good luck if you're in that culinary camp.


We brought a 12 year old bottle of Bordeaux and the server brought some red wine glasses from "the old days."  Perfectly serviceable, but not deluxe stemware.  She opened our bottle and immediately poured the wine without someone sniffing it to be sure it was of good quality.

The wine, as it turned out, was excellent.

My friend ordered the Rabbit dish and it looked quite good.  My Rack of Lamb featured three nice chops, possibly a shade more towards "medium" than the "medium rare" we had requested.   There was a thin fourth chop under the three which were artistically presented.  Accompanying the main courses are a trio of sides: fresh, crisp asparagus, steamed carrots and a potato purée.  All of these were good...not out of a freezer bag as we've seen at some places.

Three desserts are available (and we ordered dessert at the start of the evening).  My friend opted for the Grand Marnier Soufflé.  I chose the Raspberry & Blueberry Tartelette.  The other option was a Hazelnut, Mascarpone Rum-Cream Cake.
The desserts were both excellent.

I had a cup of coffee ($2)...our server did not remind us of dessert wine options.

The ambience of this place is quite "French" and they had some nice music playing in the background...well, a few accordion tunes, anyway.

The front door on Bush Street is locked, so you'll need to be buzzed in.

We thoroughly enjoyed the evening here, but it's a different dining experience than we had recently as the soon-to-be-closed La Folie.  That was a great and memorable gastronomic experience and it's truly "fine dining."  Jeanne D'Arc provides French "comfort" foods without the formality of a Michelin-starred place and it's well-priced.

We look forward to returning!

Reviewed by GW
February 2020



855 El Camino Real
(Town & Country Shopping Center)
Palo Alto

TEL: 650-321-0512

Sun-Wed: 11:30-9:15
Thurs-Sat 11:30-10:15


Pulpo with a Potato Puree


Gambas al Ajillo


Paella de Carnes Y Setas


We tried booking a table for early Sunday dinner using the Open Table app, but this was not fruitful, claiming no tables were available until the following day.  We called the restaurant a day ahead of time and were able to book a table for two.

This new place is located in the Town & Country Shopping Center on El Camino in Palo Alto.  It's across from the Trader Joe's outlet.

They have a little retail store on the corner, with wines at absurdly high prices (a $20 Rioja was tagged at $36/bottle for example) and comestibles were priced higher than we see them in good grocery stores.

We found our way to the reception desk...some people ahead of us were told they could have a table providing they finished in an hour so as to accommodate a party that had previously reserved a table.
We checked in an were guided to an outdoor table which was possibly a blessing and a curse.  The restaurant is quite noisy, so it was a bit quieter outside.  But there was a bit of a cool breeze, for one and there was a constant, chaotic parade of people passing by, going to and from that Trader Joe's store nearby.

No wine glasses are set on those outdoor tables, as passers-by might swipe them or knock them off the table.  The hostess provided menus but did not offer a wine list.  The menu features some cocktails at $11 to $13, though there's one for two people at $22 per person.

My dining companion ordered a Tanqueray Martini, but they don't offer that brand of Gin, so we selected Sipsmith.  I asked for a wine list, hoping to order a nice Fino or Amontillado Sherry.  We had seen some bottles of Lustau Sherries in that market store, so we expected these would be offered on the wine list.
The server said she'd bring the list, but we had to ask a second time since she'd forgotten.
The Martini arrived and we still had not seen the list.
Once it arrived, the server returned perhaps 30 seconds later to ask what we wanted!

The list features 16 wines By The Glass (BTG).  Two Codorniu Cavas are available under the "Bubbles" category.  The Blanc de Blancs is $11/BTG and $42/bottle, while the Codorniu Brut Rosé is $12/BTG and $45/bottle.
Two Rosados are offered, a Jean Leon that's a 2016 at $12/BTG and $45/bottle or the Marimar Torres 2017 Pinot Noir Rosé from Sonoma at $13/BTG and $55/bottle. No "fresh" vintages of pink wines!

A white called "Verdeo" is shown as a "Verdejo, Sauvignon Blanc" from the Rueda region.  It's a 2016 vintage at $9/BTG and $40/bottle.  They don't list the wine as being from the Torres winery in Spain.  It wholesales for less than $8 a bottle.  Near as we can tell, it's made entirely of Verdejo and has no Sauvignon Blanc.  "Pazo das Bruxas" is a 2016 Albariño and, again, the name of the Torres winery is not listed.  That goes for $10/BTG and $45/bottle (and wholesales for $13.33).  There's a Spanish Chardonnay for the same price as that Albariño and a Sonoma Chardonnay from Marimar Torres for $12/BTG and $51/bottle.  
A few other Torres wines are listed without the somewhat prestigious winery name being noted:  a Ribera del Duero red called Celeste ($12/BTG and $48/bottle), a Priorat red called "Salmos" (listed as a Garnacha, Garnacha and Syrah should be shown as a Garnacha, Syrah and Cariñena blend) at $15/BTG and $60/bottle with the wine called Purgatori from the Costers del Segre area shown as a Garnacha and Cariñena blend at $16/BTG and $68/bottle.  They don't mention this wine also has Syrah in its blend.
Numanthia Thermes (sic, it's Termes) is $13/BTG and $52/bottle.  There's "Viña Alberdi" at $12/BTG and $51/bottle as they neglect to list the winery name, La Rioja Alta.

The list indicates wines by the glass are 6 ounce servings.


The rest of the wine list has wines sold solely by the bottle.
There are three whites, including a Només Garnatxa Blanca at $40, Viña Esmeralda ($45) and Lolo 2013 (a bit aged) Albariño at $45.  The Esmeralda is listed as a Moscatel, but it typically has a bit of Gewürztraminer as well.  And it's a Torres wine, which is not shown.
There are four other reds by the bottle.  Three are made by the Torres family and two are actually listed as such!  Altos Ibéricos 2012 Reserva is $48/bottle and made by Torres.  Izadi Reserva, made by the Izadi winery (!) is $55/bottle.  Torres "Mas la Plana" is a Cabernet from the Penedès region and that's $110/bottle.  Torres "Grans Muralles" is listed as a "Unique Red Blend" (it's Garnacha, Monastrell, Cariñena and two obscure varieties which had nearly died out: Querol and Garró).  That goes for $180/bottle.

I asked for a glass of the Lagar de Cervera Albariño at $14.  The server took the order for that and someone else arrived a few minutes later with a glass of white wine.  As with most places, we take it on faith that they brought the correct wine, since few restaurants pour the wine at the table and show the customer the bottle.

The menu has a dozen Tapas.  Ham Croquetas are $8, while Crab Croquetas are $9.  You can have "Spanish Meatballs" for $14 and these are described as "Beef and pork meatballs with Canary Masala and grilled veggies sauce."  I've heard of Garam Masala but confess I don't know Canary Masala.  
Jamón Ibérico de Bellota is $28 and they don't indicate the serving size.
Patatas Bravas are $9 while Taquitos de Atún  are $13.  Those are described as "Marinated Sashimi Tuna with avocado and wanton (sic) shells."

Under "Carne Y Pescado" we see five items, including a 40 ounce "Catalan Premium Tomahawk" (steak) at $98. A grilled Hangar Steak is $27 while "El Halibut" is "grilled local halibut with prawns tartare" at $28.  Basque Salmon is $26 and that's "Salmón, seafood and clams with Basque Curry."
Crispy Porca is "Roasted Pork Belly, grilled veggies sauce and corn" at $17.
Under the heading of "Verdes" we see Cauliflower at $9, Brussels Sprouts ($9) and a Corn Kale Salad at $13.  A Cesar Salad is $13 and this is "Fried marinated Chicken with César Sauce and Lime."  And there's "La Burrata" at $13, "marinated Burrata cheese, figs, tomato and basil dressing."

Four Paellas are offered with the notation that these require 35 to 45 minutes and they're described as "Authentic Mediterranean Paellas."
Paella de Bogavante is $49, featuring Lobster, Gulf Shrimp, Clams and Cuttlefish.  The paella Negra ($38) is a Squid Ink Paella with Gulf Shrimp, Clams and Cuttlefish.  Paella de Verduras is $35 is Seasonal Vegetables paella with Broccolini, Cauliflower, Brussels Sprouts  and Green Beans.

We were told whatever we ordered would come to the table when it was prepared, giving us the idea that the kitchen isn't capable of timing the service of food in an orderly manner.

We figured with a couple of Tapas we'd be fine, as the Paella requires significantly more time.  We asked to start with Pulpo Teleféric ($17) which is Galician Grilled Octopus with Truffle Oil and Pimentón Potato Puree.  The other item we selected was Gambas al Ajillo ($17) which is described as "Garlic Prawns with Spanish Olive Oil and Garlic."

The Octopus arrived first, one solid tentacle perched on a bed of the Potato Puree with finely chopped nuts (I think) framing the dish.  The Octopus was fairly tender and the potato puree was okay...I didn't find the truffle oil to make much of an impact and, frankly, I'm not sure why they'd bother pairing that with Pimentón (smoky paprika essentially).
As we were finishing the Octopus starter the Gambas arrived...there were two large prawns on top of two smaller ones.  I did not find much influence of the garlic, though.

We put a nice bottle of red wine on the table, knowing there is a $20 corkage fee.  The server asked if we wanted to open that bottle and she then disappeared.  The bottle was on the table for a fair bit of time and the Paella de Carnes y Setas ($38) was brought out.

A runner had asked if we wanted fresh, cleaned plates as the prawns left that Olive Oil residue on the plates.  They cleared the utensils and plates, bringing clean plates and fresh silverware wrapped in a cloth napkin.  (This seemed a bit wasteful to be given more napkins which will need laundering.)

We waited for about 5 minutes before the wine glasses were brought to the table and that bottle was opened. All the while the Paella was sitting on the table.  The server did pour the "say" so we could determine if the bottle was in serviceable condition.  It was.

The Paella is described as a "Meat and Wild Mushrooms Paella, with Chicken, Pork, Wild Mushrooms and Green Beans."
It's presented in a Paella Pan and we were cautioned this is quite hot.
It was, in our view, a smallish Paella as the pan was maybe filled to 20% of capacity.  Of course, we did not expect the pan to be overflowing with rice, but you can see the burn marks on it go about halfway up the edge of the pan.  The rice was a tan, brownish color and I did not detect the use of Saffron, typically a main ingredient in seasoning a paella.  I'd be surprised if "meat" came to somewhere between six and four ounces.  The "green beans" were actually asparagus.  When I asked the server what kind of "green beans" these were she told us the kitchen uses whatever is freshest.    There were four skinny bits of asparagus on the paella, along with a bit of lemon and some dots of aioli which may have had some saffron.  A few strips of Boletus Edulis (Porcini) were adorning the paella, accounting for the wild mushroom part of the dish.

By the way, it did have the classic socarrat, the crispy, crunchy rice on the bottom of the pan.  But it's not what we'd describe as an "Authentic" Paella.

With such a modest-sized Paella, we had room for dessert and ordered Churros with Chocolate ($9).  "Barcelona Street-Fried Dough with Chocolate Cream."
There were two large and two small Churros in a paper cone and a small container of chocolate sauce for dipping.  These were not fried consistently as one was a bit darker and crisper than the other.  I can't say these were the best Churros I've ever had, but the chocolate dipping sauce certainly helped.

The bill tallied to about $139 before the tip.   We asked for "la cuenta" and the poor server had no idea what we were requesting.  

I thought the wine list was a bit weak being so top-heavy with Torres wines (maybe they're pals of the Torres family?), but you can certainly drink decently.  It's curious that we had to insist on seeing the wine list and that no Sherry was available.

The meal seemed expensive to us as we paid a "fine dining" price and had to deal with the constant parade of people and pets traipsing along the walkway outside the restaurant.

Perhaps things will improve with time, experience and a bit more attention to detail?

Reviewed October 2019



555 Santa Cruz Avenue
Menlo Park

Tel: 650-382-3191

Mon-Thurs:  11:30am-10pm
Fri-Sat  11:30am-11pm
Sunday 10am-9pm

Caesar Salad

Octopus with Fingerlings, Artichokes & Chorizo


Grilled Prime Ribeye Steak

Braised Short-rib with Fava Bean Purée and Root Vegetables.

Kennebec Fries

A bit of Calamari was in the container of fries...

Having the Downton Abbey film on our cinematic radar for a Sunday evening, we booked a table at Menlo Park's British Bankers Club at 7:45.

There's a parking garage below the restaurant and its neighboring businesses, so parking was easy.

The restaurant had a few outdoor tables occupied on a warmish evening and inside there were a few people dining, as well.

We were guided to a four-top towards the back of the restaurant by the windows looking out to El Camino Real.  
Wine glasses are not part of the table setting.  A drinks menu and small wine list are presented.

They offer four sparkling wines by-the-glass (BTG), including Vecchia Modena's dry Lambrusco ($13 BTG/$52/bottle) and Henriot's Brut Champagne ($26/BTG, $104/bottle).
There are two pink wines offered by-the-glass, along with ten whites  and a dozen reds.
The vintage dates of these are not indicated on the wine list.

There's a Pewsey Vale dry Riesling at $12/BTG and $48/bottle, Loimer Grüner Veltliner at $11/BTG and $44/bottle and Roark Chenin Blanc at $16/BTG (not available by the bottle as it's poured from a keg, on tap).
Gary Farrell Chardonnay is $19/BTG and $76/bottle, while Quintessa's Sauvignon Blanc is similarly priced.

Harrington Pinot Noir is $19/BTG and $76/bottle, while Merry Edwards Pinot is $25/BTG and $100/bottle.  Turley "Juvenile" Zinfandel is $18/BTG and $72/bottle.   There's a Cabernet on tap called "The Counselor" at $18/BTG, while a glass of Joe Wagner's "Quilt" Cabernet is $21/BTG and $84/bottle.

They have more than two dozen white wines available by the bottle.  
Darioush Viognier is $119, while a Louis Metaireau Muscadet goes for $35.  Three Sauvignon Blancs are on the list, including "Savee Sea" from New Zealand at $48, the previously mentioned Quintessa or Peter Michael from Knights Valley at $135.
Fifteen Chardonnays are available, ranging in price from $56 for a Brocard Chablis to $318 for a Domaine Leflaive 2011 "Pluginy (sic) Montrachet" from the Claviollon (sic) cru.  Jordan's 2016 Chardonnay is $75, making it one of the better values on the wine list.  

There are 11 Pinot Noirs and 15 Cabernets, 2 Syrahs, 3 "Red Blends" and then a dozen miscellaneous reds.

A La Follette Pinot Noir from the Sonoma Valley is $105 a bottle, while a Peter Michael Pinot goes for $270.  Comte de Vogüé "Chami Musi" (they've abbreviated Chambolle Musigny) is $332 for the 2011, while the 1er Cru of the same vintage is $465.
Produttori del Barbaresco 2015 Barbaresco is $108, while a 2013 Barbera d'Alba from Vietti, a single vineyard bottling of Scarrone, a $48 retail bottle, goes for $108.  The 2015 Château Mont-Redon Châteauneuf-du-Pape is $112.
Gilles Robin 2017 Crozes-Hermitage is $60, while a 2014 Ridge Monte Bello Cabernet blend is $388.  
Groth 2014 Oakville Cabernet is $128/bottle, while Jordan's 2014 is $133.
They have three vintages, 2011, 2012 and 2013 BV Private Reserve bottlings at $248, $258 and $268 respectively.
Chappellet's 2014 "Pritchard Hill" Cabernet is $510 a bottle, a few bucks more expensive than the various Peter Michael Cabernets costing $472 to $486 a bottle.

The list is not extensive, but there are some good selections if you're willing to spend a hundred, or more, dollars.

The $25 corkage fee is another option, of course and stemware at the BBC is good.

The menu was quite promising when we viewed it on-line.
There is a "Selection of Oysters" at $18, but the menu does not indicate how many make up a serving.  We saw ice and a few oysters shells in a glassed-in window display near the kitchen, but on a Sunday, perhaps there are fewer than during the week.    Salmon and Hamachi Crudo starters are $16, while a Tuna Poke is $17.

Under the heading of "Starters" there's Crispy Calamari  ($14), Fig Tartine ($14), Burrata with heirloom tomatoes ($15),  Deviled Eggs ($10), Sugar Snap Pea Salad ($13) or Artisan Cheeses ($15.50)

My dining companion ordered the Caesar Salad ($13) and liked it better than the one she had recently a San Francisco's Zuni Cafe.
I had the Spanish Octopus ($17) with Fingerling Potatoes, Artichoke Hearts and Chorizo.  The Octopus was nicely tender, the potatoes were cooked al dente while the artichokes had some really tough, fibrous leaves.  I was not sure these were fresh, so maybe they were prepared well ahead of time and kept in water until needed?  

For main plates there were three different pastas.  A Corn Agnolotti is $21, Orecchiette with roasted mushrooms and spinach is  $21.50, while Spaghetti and Heirloom Tomatoes is $20.

Nine other dishes are offered, with a Quinoa Bowl going for $16.  Seared Sea Scallops with roasted Pork Belly costs $35, while Roasted Alaska Halibut is $34.  King Salmon is $27, while a Grilled Half Chicken is $26.
Their BBC Burger comes with white Cheddar and Bacon and is $18 with fries on the side.
Southern Style Pork Ribs costs $25, while a Prime Ribeye is $38.  Braised Short-ribs costs $32.

Sides can be ordered to accompany main plates.  There's Sautéed Asparagus, Roasted Carrots, Sautéed Spinach, Mac & Cheese, Kennebec Fries and Truffle Fries.  These go for $6.50 to $8 or $9.

My friend initially misread the Grilled Prime Ribeye as being "Prime Rib."  Luckily we sorted that out and she knew she was getting a steak.
I went for the Short-rib dish with Fava Beans Puree, roasted Root Vegetables and Horseradish jus.

The waiter cleared the starter plates and said the mains would arrive shortly.  To their credit, they didn't bring the main courses while we were still working on the starters.
My friend asked why they didn't bring bread and butter and the server indicated they do have bread, but it's served upon request only.

The Steak looked promising, but she described it as having a lot of gristle.  I suspect these were tendons, but in any case, she was not thrilled with the steak.
My Short-Rib dish had an odd fragrance and perhaps this was the Fava Bean Purée?  The little bits of root vegetables were okay, but this was simply not to my taste.
We had a side of the Kennebec Fries and these were presented in a small metal container.  I found a small piece of Calamari in this dish, curiously.

The server kept our wine glasses filled and we consumed a rather nice bottle of a young Chambolle-Musigny. 

There are some TV monitors over the bar and with a few mirrors and glass windows, it's difficult to avoid the sports being televised.  The restaurant has a sound system with pop tunes...I recall a loud Whitney Houston tune, amongst others, for example...perhaps more appropriate for their bar scene than for "fine dining."

Our server pretty much disappeared after pouring the last of the wine, so getting the check took a shade longer than it might have otherwise.  Of course, by this time it was after the place was officially closed, though a number of tables were still occupied.

We solved the "mystery" of this place and this was likely our sole dining experience at the British Bankers Club.

Reviewed by GW
September 2019


September 2019 Notes:
We've been out and about a number of times, returning to places we've reviewed previously.

We had visitors from abroad and dined, as we frequently do, at San Francisco's Dumpling Time.  It continues to offer exceptional Dim Sum.  The wine list is limited, but it's improved a bit over the past year.  Still, we bring interesting whites as well as supplying our own stemware.

With tickets to see Hamilton one Sunday in San Francisco, we tried booking a late afternoon table at the famous Zuni Cafe.  But we discovered they don't take reservations on Sunday afternoons, but we had a brief wait for a table for four.  The starters were good, though their famous Caesar Salad lacked a strong bite from garlic and it didn't seem to have the requisite impact of anchovies.  The famous Zuni Chicken, though, did not disappoint.  
A bottle of Vietti Arneis, which retails for $24-$26, was $61.  We brought along an Ojai Pinot Noir which was stellar alongside the Chicken.

Dinner on a Monday night at Chez Panisse was excellent.  We had a table upstairs in the Cafe.  Five bucks for a little aperitif of Lillet.  We ordered a bottle of Vajra's Rose Spumante from Italy's Piemonte at about $68 and this was a delight with some olives, anchovies and Acme bread.  There was a lovely Tomato and Avocado Salad which we enjoyed with I Favati's crisp, stony Greco di Tufo at $48.  We brought some mature Spanish reds to pair with the main plates.  Some Braised Beef with Sweet Corn Polenta was quite good and the 1994 Alion and 1985 Tondonia from Lopez de Heredia were memorable.  
We may have not noticed a gratuity had been included in the bill and we think this is noted on the menu, but they don't remind you of this as the credit card receipt does have a tip line.

We had a terrific meal one night at San Mateo's 31st Union.  Their pizza was a most pleasant surprise and the Charcuterie plate was good, too.  A couple of people ordered  the Bavette Steak ($32) and they said it was excellent.  We had a roasted chicken with a peach glaze (mid-$20s?) and it was also delicious.

Some friends booked a table for 10 at Daly City's Koi Palace and they took some pre-set menu.  This brought a few dishes we had not previously tried.  We enjoyed the meal, but our Asian friends were less impressed by the cuisine and later said we might have done better ordering various dishes a la carte.




JUNIPERO Between 5th & 6th
CARMEL, California

TEL: 831-250-6295

Open Tues-Sunday
Lunch 12-3:30
Dinner 5-10

Some warm bread with a nice olive oil for dipping.

Fried Cauliflower

Octopus and Watermelon...grilled.


Bruschetta...Eggplant, peppers & Capers

Crispy Potatoes & Aioli

Corkage is $32

Tuscan Bean Soup

Rigatoni with Housemade Sausage

Bavette Steak & Crispy Potatoes

Pollo Frito...stellar!

Some friends wanted to celebrate their son's birthday, so we drove to Carmel one Sunday morning, having reserved a table at the Italian dining spot called La Balena.

We arrived a bit early and were the first to be seated in the empty restaurant.  Wine bottles are all over the place and we were delighted to see so many "friends" on display.  

We had our pick of tables and chose, on a foggy and cool morning, to sit inside.  A fellow brought us to a table and presented a wine list and menus.  No wine glasses were on the table.

The categories on the wine list include "Half Bottles" from both California and Italy.  There is a Sparkling Wine category with one California offering, a sparkling Malvasia from Birichino at $40/bottle, roughly twice its retail price.  There are twelve Italian bubblies.  Under the heading of Rosé. we find a California wine and five Italian selections.
There's a section of "Orange (Skin Contact Fermented)" wines with four selections.
White wines are categorized by "California," "Toscana" and then "Italy."  There are eleven red wines from California and 34 from Italy.

You'll find these wines to be sourced from smallish, independent importers and distributors and the large liquor houses have but a few bottlings at La Balena.  As a result, the list has many good wineries which will be known to Italian wine aficionados, but the average consumer will likely be unfamiliar with many of these.

We found 9 wines offered "by the glass."
Sorelle Bronca's Brut Prosecco is $12 BTG and $45/bottle.  It is the lone sparkling wine offered by the glass.
There's a Figge Cellars 2017 Grenache Rosé at $12 BTG and $44/bottle, while the Chianti estate of Istine has a 2017 "Rosato Toscano Sangiovese" at $10 BTG and $38/bottle.
La Carraia 2015 Orvieto Classico is $10/BTG and $34/bottle.  Castel di Salve's 2017 Verdeca from Puglia wholesales for about $9 a's $12 BTG and $36/bottle.
Amongst the various artisan white wines, we find the industrial brand of Santa Margherita at $15/BTG and $56/bottle for a Pinot Grigio.  Meroi Chardonnay from Friuli is $15 BTG and $58/bottle,  Two reds are available by the glass, both being from California.  There's a Monterey Pinot Noir called BOLD at $13/BTG and $50 for a bottle, while another Monterey red, Mesa del Sol's 2014 Zinfandel is $14 BTG and $55 for a bottle.

As for the Italian sparklers, we see a wonderful Lambrusco from Barbolini at $34 a bottle, while Sorelle Bronca's Brut Prosecco is $45 for a bottle.  Castello di Verduno makes a lovely, offbeat sparkler of the Pelaverga grape.  That's $70 a bottle.  For $100 the exceptional Ca' del Bosco Franciacorta "Brut Prestige" is a good option and if you want to spend a bit more, the 2008 "Annamaria Clementi" from the same winery ia $150 a bottle.

On our visit there were five pink wines on the list, two from the most recent vintage and three from the previous harvest.  Istine from Toscana, Paolo Cali and Girolamo Russo from Sicilia are good picks, as is Ciavolich from the Abruzzo region.

The "Orange" wines, skin contact fermented whites range from $60-$80 and come from Skerk in the Carso region, Fonterenza in Toscana and Aldo Viola in Sicilia.

Their California selections are fairly local, mostly bottlings from Monterey County or the Santa Cruz Mountains.  

Amongst the whites there's a Mount Eden Vineyards Chardonnay at $136, Birichino's Monterey Malvasia (non-fizzy) at $34 a bottle and Chalone Chenin Blanc for $72.
There we 32 Italian whites on the list when we visited.  There's no organization to the listings apart from lowest price to highest and these are quite varied. 
There's a Ciavolich Passerina at $40/bottle, while a Sylvaner from the Alto Adige producer of Abbazia di Novacella is $48.  There are two listings for a Torbato wine from Sardegna from the Parpinello family.  One is $45/bottle while the other is $48.  That winery does make a couple of different bottlings, but the notation of one being the "Torbato Centogemme" is not printed on the list.
There's a lovely Umbrian Trebbiano Spoletino from the Tenuta Bellafonte at $54.  From the Alto Adige there are two whites from Manincor, a Sauvignon Blanc costing $58 and a Chardonnay going for $64.  I Clivi's Friulano is $68 and the most costly white is Girolamo Russo's Etna Bianco at $80.

California reds range from $42 for Birichino's Grenache to $345 for Ridge Monte Bello (Cabernet). 
The Italian reds start at $46 for a Scarpa Barbera d'Asti to $188 for a 2012 vintage of E. Pira Barolo "Via Nuova."  There is a nice range of Piemontese reds, with some good producers of Barolo and Barbaresco being represented.  Giacomo Grimaldi's 2015 Barolo is $88, while a Produttori del Barbaresco single vineyard "Rabaja" from the 2011 vintage is $128/bottle.  Cantina del Pino 2009 Barbaresco "Ovello" is $145.
Jermann Pinot Nero (listed as Pinot Noir) is $65, while Perillo Taurasi from the 2004 vintage is $95.  A Corte Sant'Alda Valpolicella is $50 while a 2012 Amarone from Prà is $140.  
It's a terrific range of wines with many good choices.  Prices are reasonable and you can drink well at all price points.

The corkage fee is $32, high enough to discourage guests from bringing a bottle of plonk in hopes of cutting corners on the check.

We ordered a bottle of Mancini Vermentino Superiore, a wine wholesaling for around $11.50/bottle.  This is $44 on their wine list.

We perused the menu, which is printed daily.  And, yes, it was "hot off the press" as they were printing it as we were seated...we were first lookking at menus from the previous day.

There were 8 Antipasti, 4 Insalate, and 2 Zuppe.  

We were 5 people so we ordered a handful of plates to share as starters.  We had their Cavolfiore Fritto ($13)...fried Cauliflower with pine nuts, currants, chili and bread crumbs.  It was quite delicious.  The Polpo Grigliato ($22) is grilled octopus with watermelon, mint, onions and chili oil.
Bruschetta ($13) featured an eggplant mash with bell peppers, onions and capers.  We had a Gemma Salad ($10), comprised of Romaine Lettuce,, radish slices, olives, onions and a Gorgonzola cream dressing.

The server brought three nice stems for the white wine and opened the bottle at the table.  He poured the "say" and the bottle was fine, so we gave the go ahead to pour.

We placed a bottle of an older vintage of Barolo on the table, having brought along a special wine for celebrating the kid's birthday.  Too bad he is not yet old enough to enjoy it!  Larger stems were provided and we opened the bottle our self.  I'd asked for a decanter and they provided a nice one into which we poured the wine.

There were three panini (sandwiches) on the lunch menu.  The Marinated Steak is $18, which a Chicken sandwich with tomato sauce and Parmesan Cheese is $16.  A Prosciutto and Pecorino Sandwich is $15. 

There are five pastas offered, all "housemade."  A non-meat Spaghetti with San Marzano tomato sauce is $20.  Pappardelle with a wild boar sugo is $23.  Rigatoni with homemade Pork Sausage is $24.  Spaghetti Neri with Mussels, clams and prawns is $28.  Gnocchi with wild mushrooms is $24.

Main plates on our visit included a Frittata with organic eggs, potatoes, mushrooms & spinach on a salad at $18.  The Bavette Steak is $34, while the Pesce del Giorno was local wild salmon with spinach at $30.  Pollo Frito is $30 and it's Fogline Farm Chicken fried with a rice crust ($30). 

I asked the server to suggest something that's representative of the restaurant and he said to go with the Pollo Frito.  I did and this was stellar and I'd highly recommend it. One of our party ordered the steak and that was properly cooked and also quite good.

The others ordered pasta dishes and everyone was pleased by the kitchen artistry.

We were offered a dessert card at the end of our meal and chose a few items which were shared...all quite delicious.

This was a delightful lunch and we look forward to returning to La Balena on another foray to Carmel.

Parking was convenient, but you do have to watch the clock as the time limit for a space is two hours.

Reviewed by GW
July 2019






1405 W. El Camino Real
Mountain View

Tues-Sat 5:00-9:00
Sun 5:00-8:30


French Onion Soup

Half a Dozen Escargot



Pre-Processed Carrots?

Chocolate Mousse

Tarte Tatin

For dinner on Bastille Day we took the opportunity to book a table at this French place in Mountain View.  We arrived 15 minutes early for our 7:15 dinner reservation on a Sunday and found the place to be fully occupied.
It has seating for perhaps 35 to 40 people and every table was taken.

We were finally seated around 7:30.

The restaurant's web site says the place has been open for 24 years.
It shows.

We were finally seated at a table for two.  They presented menus but neglected to place a wine list on the table.  Wine glasses are part of the table setting and we saw a number of tables with bottles of wine on them.

We've often said that the wine list is a pretty good indication of the cuisine and perhaps that is true at Le Petit Bistro.

The wine list is nicely compact.  You can order a glass of "House Wine" in white or red at $9.  We suspect these are Fred Franzia's "Salmon Creek" label, a very inexpensive wine sold solely to restaurants, allowing them to mark up the wine several hundred percent.  Franzia, by the way, makes the "Charles Shaw" label sold these days for three bucks a bottle at the Trader Joe's chain.
They offer a "Glass of Champagne" for $10.

The first wines on their wine list are under the "Dessert Vine (sic)" heading.
There are two offerings, the first being Domaine de la Pigeade's "Muscat de Beams (sic) de Venise." (It's Beaumes de Venise, by the way.)  This is $28 for a half bottle and no vintage date is indicated.
The other listing is "1/2 Sauternes, Chateau Laribotte" at $30 for a half bottle.  Again, no vintage date is listed.

There's a category of "Champagne."  Two of the five selections are sparkling wines which do not come from Champagne, though.
There's a Cremant d'Alsace from the co-op of the Cave de Ribeauvillé and it's listed as "Cremant d'Alsace Giersberger" at $30/bottle.
There's a Cremant de Bourgogne called L'être Magique which is from the Maison de Grand Espirit, a label from the large drinks company, Treasury Wine Estates.  It's distributed by the same company as the Salmon Creek wines and a number of other selections, indicating an interest in minimizing wine purveyors more than in offering good, artisan wines.
For Champagnes, your choices are the value-priced Monthuys Brut ($30/half bottle, $60 for a full bottle) while Nicolas Feuillatte Brut, a $25 wholesale, is $80.  From an obscure grower, Lombard Champagne Brut Nature is also $80.

There's a heading of "American White Wines" and here we find a half bottle of Santa Carolina Chardonnay from Chile for $28, while Terlato's Pinot Grigio from Italy goes for $38.  American?
There are "House Whites" from Franzia's Salmon Creek label for $28 and there you can select White Zinfandel, Pinot Grigio and Chardonnay.  Were they available in a store, these would retail for $5 to $7.
There's a Forest Glen Moscato for $28, another Franzia-affiliated wine.  Pacific Oasis Riesling from the 2013 vintage is $35 as is the 2016 vintage.  That's another Franzia label.  There's "2017 Stag's Leap Napa Valley Chardonnay" at $40, but it's likely Stags' Leap Winery, rather than "Stag's Leap Wine Cellars."  It's a subtle distinction, certainly, but many people make this mistake, especially when selling the former and presenting it as the latter.
Rodney Strong 2014 Chardonnay is $40 as is the 2014 Rusack from Santa Barbara.  Bell Chardonnay from Napa is $60.  There are no Californian Sauvignon Blanc selections, nor is there a Viognier or white "Rhone" blend.

Under the French White & Rosé heading there are 11 selections.  Sauvion 2015 Muscadet is $35 while a Puligny Montrachet from the Domaine Nudant is $120/bottle.  The 2017 Domaine Auchere Sancerre comes in half bottle format for $25 or full bottle for $45.

We saw 18 "American Red Wine" selections with all but one coming from California.  The lone non-Californian red is not from Washington or Oregon, but it's a half bottle of Santa Carolina's Chilean Pinot Noir at $20.
Twelve of the reds are Cabernets or Cabernet blends.   Robert Hall's Zinfandel, Cabernet and Syrah from Paso Robles go for $35 a bottle.
There's Rodney Strong's 2013 Alexander Valley Cabernet at $95 (this wholesaled for maybe $17).  The 2014 Phelps Napa Cabernet is  $125 a bottle.  Etude Carneros Pinot Noir is $65, while BV Rutherford goes for $60.  
There were 28 French red selections.  Of the 7 Rhône wines, 5 are from Châteauneuf-du-Pape (all $75 in full bottle format) and one each from Rasteau and Vacqueyras.  No Northern Rhônes.  
There's one Beaujolais wine, a 2015 Morgon from Domaine de Penlois at $45.
If you like Burgundy, there are four selections, ranging from $130 to $275.  "Alex Gamba (sic) 2015 Clos Vougeot is $275, while a 1999 Gevrey Chambertin from Alain Burguet is $180, a reasonable price for this older vintage providing it's been well-stored.
There are 14 Bordeaux selections, ranging from $50 for a Château de Haut Coulon from the Cadillac Côtes de Bordeaux  region to the 2012 "Margaux du Château Margaux" at the eye-popping price of $600.  We had recently purchased a bottle of Margaux's "third wine" and it would have retailed for about $100 a bottle.  We didn't think it was worth that price based on the actual wine, though knew some customers would give it a try based on its fame and perceived prestige.  Might guests know this is not Château Margaux, but their third level bottling?

Apart from the 2005 Lynch Bages at $450/bottle, it seems like most of the Bordeaux are "second" wines from various estates.  There's a 2000 vintage "Clos Marouis (sic)" that is the second wine from Léoville-Las-Cases.  It's called "Clos du Marquis," by the way.    There's a second wine of Boyd-Cantenac called Josephine de Boyd from the 2009 vintage at $95 a bottle.
We were shocked to see a wine from Cahors on the list priced at $200 a bottle.  It's the Château de Haut-Serre from 2011.  You'd find the 2014 or 2015 retailing for $20-$30 (at most) and the wine list does not indicate that this is more costly "Icone Wow" bottling of Cahors, so we don't understand how this wine can be so expensive.

Our dining companion ordered an aperitif pour of Lillet Blanc at $9 and she drank two of those.
We inquired about the corkage fee and that is a reasonable price of $15.  Too bad the stemware is rather small and clunky.
We brought a bottle of a spiffy Bordeaux and this was whisked off to where the proprietor was stationed, keeping an eye on the dining room, running the cash register and making coffee, we supposed.  
We noticed they tend to open bottles there rather than tableside.

The stemware is probably a ten ounce glass and it's heavy-duty so they don't incur breakage in the dishwasher.

Overall the wine list is fairly standard and while guests can drink standard quality bottles at modest price levels (for the most part), it's not a list reflecting the selections of a savvy wine director.  As noted earlier in this review, the restaurant deals primarily with Fred Franzia's Classic Wine Company and a local French importer with modest quality selections.
So...would this reflect the work of the kitchen?

To start our friend ordered the French Onion Soup ($9) and I chose the Escargots de Bourgogne ($12).  She often sends soups back for not being sufficiently hot, but this was not a problem at Le Petit Bistro.  She did say the soup needed more salt.
There were six Escargot shells on the hot metal serving plate and these are presented with a springy snail tong device and a small fork to coax the snails out of the shell.  I was afraid of launching a snail across the dining room with that clumsy gizmo and I'm afraid I was unable to find a snail in each of the shells.  Five out of six had a snail, anyway.  The dish didn't have the usual blast of garlic, by the way.
We had been served some slices of a baguette, presented hot out of the oven.  Our friend wanted to dip some bread in the snail butter and, despite not being a big fan of garlic, the first thing she said was "It needs more garlic!"
Yes, indeed.

They cleared the appetizer dishes and soon brought the main plates.

Our friend couldn't resist order the daily special of Bouillabaisse ($35), described as "Fish Soup, Salmon, Sea Bass, Halibut, Prawns and Lobster Meat."
I should have tasted the soup, in any case...sometimes this has a splash of Pastis in it and our friend did not detect this.
I snapped a photo of the dish, but didn't see if there were pieces of grilled bread which typically accompany a Bouillabaisse.  We noted a few pieces of fish in the serving.  She said it was of average quality.

I ordered the "Demi Canard Roti a l'Orange" ($32).
Other main plates were the daily special of Rabbit ($35) or Coq au Vin ($20), Medallions de Porc aux Champignons ($21), Lamb Chops au Jus ($34) or Filet de Boeuf au Poivre Vert de Madagascar ($36).

The duck had two nice sized portions on the plate...a duck breast (cooked to medium or medium-well...a bit over-cooked, actually) and a duck leg confit.  Accompanying this were three stubby "baby carrots."  There is some controversy about these, but whatever the case, we suspect these are not fresh carrots, cut and shaped in the Petit Bistro kitchen, but more likely purchased pre-processed and simply steamed or heated.  They didn't taste like fresh-from-the-garden carrots.  The little haricots verts were fine and the potato gratin or scalloped potatoes was simply not to my taste, but may be okay, otherwise.


The place was nearly empty when we ordered desserts.  Our friend chose the Mousse au Chocolate ($8) and I had the Tarte Tatin ($8).  The Mousse was intense and a bit heavy.  The Tarte Tatin was a slice of the apple tarte with some slices of a strawberry and a few blueberries, along with two rounds of whipped cream.  It was perfectly okay...


There was no music being played on their sound system when we arrived and about halfway through our meal they had the idea of playing the French National anthem, La Marseillaise.  This energized the guests and the staff was amused, apparently.

Over all, this was an average dining experience.  We appreciate classic French cuisine (big fan of San Francisco's Chapeau! restaurant on Clement Street), but while the menu is certainly enticing, its execution lacked energy and precision.  
So, sadly, the wine list was a good indication of the work in the kitchen.

Reviewed by GW
July 2019




315 Main Street
Half Moon Bay

Tel 650-726-5125

Lunch Weekdays 11:30-2:00
Lunch Weekends 12:00-3:00

Dinner from 5:30-8:30
Dinner Fri-Sat 5:30-9:00

The breads are homemade and quite good.

New England Style Clam Chowder

Since the soup isn't thick, it sloshes around making for a somewhat messy presentation.

Summer Peach Salad


Tagliatelle with Shrimp and Calamari.

We took at leisurely drive out to the coast on a Sunday morning as our elderly friend wanted to peruse some sporadic antique show being held that weekend in Half Moon Bay.

We booked a mid-day table at Pasta Moon, a venerable Italianesque restaurant on the main drag.  There were numerous tourists strolling up and down the street on a warm summer day.

We were amongst the first to be seated and were offered a two top close to the street in a bright sunny dining room.  No wine glasses are on the tables as part of the place setting, but the menu does have quite a few "wines by the glass" on the backside and the hostess presented a wine list as well.

With the Italian theme of the restaurant, the wine list features Italian wines, with just a handful of other selections.

Three sparkling wines are offered by-the-glass (BTG).  Canella Prosecco is $12 BTG and $45/bottle, while Bellavista's Brut Franciacorta is $15 BTG and $58/bottle.  Luigi Giusti's "Bolla Rosa" is listed as a sparkling rosé, but it's up to guests to know the wine is from the Marche region and made from the exotic Lacrima di Morro d'Alba grape.  That's $12 BTG and $48/bottle.

There's one pink wine listed under the "Blush" category.  It's from the Cantine di Dolianova but we do not know which bottling they have (the winery makes at least two different pink wines).

They offered 8 white wines by the glass, including Cantina Terlano's "Winkl" Sauvignon Blanc at $13 BTG and $50/bottle.  Pieropan's 2015 Soave is $15 BTG and $58 for a bottle, while Niklas Kerner from the Alto Adige is $12/BTG and $48 by the bottle.
Amongst the nine reds, we'd consider Elio Altare's 2017 Dolcetto d'Alba at $12/BTG and $46 for a bottle.  San Lazzaro's "Rosso Piceno" is listed solely by the grape varieties, Montepulciano and Sangiovese.  It's from Italy's Marche region and that goes for $13/glass or $49 for a bottle.  There's an importer's label for an Italian Gamay from the Valle d'Aosta called SFUSO21 at $12/BTG and $48 for a bottle.

The wines are listed with brief descriptions to entice guests to order them.
The Terlano Sauvignon Blanc is described as "Mandarin, hints of nettle and mint, intense minerality," while the Altare Dolcetto is said to show "sweet red stone fruit, silky smooth, spicy finish."

The wine list is presented in a book format.  There are a few half bottle selections and some large format bottles.  They offer a 3 liter bottle of Masi's 2003 "Campofiorin" wine at $325.  It seems to be priced for its rarity as the wine is not typically intended as a hugely cellarworthy wine and normal bottles of that retail for $13-$18 typically.  

The wine list then is broken down by regions.  Under Northern Italian White Wines we see four offerings under the heading of Friuli-Venezia-Giulia.   There's one from Lombardia, a Lugana wine from Otella.  I believe Otella's Le Creete bottling is from vineyards technically within the Veneto borders (the appellation overlaps from Lombardia into the Veneto).  That wine is $49 for a bottle.  There are two Piemontese whites, one being Brandini's Arneis at $42/bottle.  There are five selections under the "Trentino-Alto Adige" heading, but all five are from the Alto Adige.  Manincor's "Sophie" is $63 a bottle and the list does not indicate that it's predominantly Chardonnay (with a few drops of Viognier and Sauvignon Blanc).
White Wines of Southern Italy includes one white from Puglia, three from Campania and two from Siclia.  Under "Extraordinary Non-Italian Whites" we see a Slovenian selection and an Oregon Chardonnay.

For Red Wines of Northern Italy there are 21 offerings from Piemonte and they range in price from $41 for a Pechinino Dolcetto di Dogliani to $285 for a 2010 vintage Barolo from Elio Altare's Brunate cru.
Luciano Sandrone's 2011 Barolo Le Vigne is $199, while a 2014 Gaja DaGromis Barolo is $175.  Vietti's 2015 Barolo Castiglione is attractively priced at $85.  
Under Trentino-Alto Adige we find one selection.  It's from the Trentino producer, Elisabetta Foradori.  Her once-great "Granato" bottling of the Teroldego is $100 and it's from the 2010 vintage.
There are ten reds from the Veneto region  and all are Valpolicella-area selections.  (No Bardolino, for example.)  A Valpolicella Ripasso from the Roccolo Grassi winery is $75, while the same winery's Amarone goes for $125.
From Central Italy there's a Cantina Tollo Montepulciano d'Abruzzo for $36...that's a wine wholesaling for $7 or less.  Marotti Campi's special bottling of Lacrima di Morro d'Alba called "Orgiolo" is $50, about twice the normal retail price.
Marco Caprinetti's "Nero Buono" from the Lazio region is $58, while the Perticaia Montefalco Rosso from Umbria is $65.  Curiously, for a list featuring many interesting indigenous varieties, there's no Sagrantino offered, a major red grape from Umbria.
There are 34 Tuscan selections, 18 featuring Sangiovese.  These range from $46 for Chianti Classico 2015 from Molino de Grace to $950 (!) for a Bibi Graetz "Colore" from the 2004 vintage, a "Super Tuscan" blend.
There's a 2013 Brunello from Piancornello at $85, a well-priced, top notch wine.  If you want something with some bottle age, the 2006 Casanova di Neri Brunello :Tenuta Nuova" is $285 a bottle.
There were 16 Tuscan reds featuring Bordeaux varieties or Syrah.  Those go from $50 to $520. The 2013 Sassicaia is $350 a bottle, while the 2015 is $400.
From Southern Italy and The Islands we find two Sicilian bottlings, both based on Nero d'Avola.  Etna has yet to make the cut at Pasta Moon apparently.

The wine list offers plenty of diversity in terms of price and styles of wine.  

The corkage fee is $20.

We had perused the wine list posted on-line and had identified a nice $50 bottle, but found the wine list we had been presented was slightly different from the one on the Pasta Moon website.
We ordered a bottle of wine by the winery name and type, but the server needed to have the four digit bin or stock number that's printed on the wine list.

The Old Bat ordered a Bloody Mary ($12 for one made with Ketel One Vodka) and we selected a bottle of wine from the wine list, a Masseria Li Veli "Verdeca," well-priced at $39.  After a few moments a basket of bread was brought to the table and a young fellow offered to pour olive oil and some vinegar on a shallow plate.  We rejected the vinegar but had him pour the olive oil.
(As mentioned in various other reviews, we cannot recall any restaurant in Italy offering oil and vinegar as a dipping sauce for bread.)

The Bloody Mary got the thumbs up, aside from the rim of the glass being coated with coarse salt.

Starters range from House marinated Olives ($6)  to Asparagus Fritti ($14)  (funny that it's not all in Italian: Asparagi Fritti) to P.E.I. Mussels ($18) or a Salumi Platter ($25) that serves 2 people (at least).
Six different pizzas a offered...Pear & Prosciutto is $24, as is a Shrimp & Avocado pie.  A Pizza Margherita is $19.
I saw some postings about a new pizza place near the shop and someone said the place was expensive...their Margherita pizza is $13.

Under the heading of Insalata E Zuppa (Salad and Soup) there were four salads and two soups.   A Chioggia Beet Salad is $15, as is a Classic Caesar.  Their "Della Casa" Salad is $12.   Their New England style Clam Chowder is $15, while the Tuscan Ribollita soup is $11.

Under the "Secondi Piatti" heading there are two more salads.  A Roasted Chicken Salad is $21, while it's $25 for a Seared Sea Scallop Salad.  Eggplant Parmesan is $23, while a Skirt Steak Marinated in Balsamic is $26.  Mary's Free-Range Lemon Chicken is $24.
Eight pasta dishes are on the menu and they indicate the pasta is "housemade."
Fettuccine Calabrese Sausage is $22, while Butternut Squash & Mascarpone Ravioli goes for $24. Linguini with Ahi Tuna is $26 and Spaghetti Puttanesca with Day Boat Sea Scallops, Clams and Mussels is $25.

My dining companion, who hails from New England, ordered the Clam Chowder ($15).  That's always a mistake because Chowder these days is never like it was when she was a youngster.  Back then they likely didn't have electricity, for one thing.  The soup was nicely presented, with a lone clam in its shell swimming in the middle of the bowl.
Immediately she squawked that New England Clam Chowder doesn't have "green stuff" in it.  There was some chiffonade of something (basil, perhaps) or chopped chives scattered on the soup.  She criticized it further for having (as noted on the menu) pancetta instead of bacon.  And she said it was not very hot and sent it back.
Yes, it's a joy dining with her.

I opted to start with the Ribollita ($11), curious to see how Pasta Moon's compared to one I enjoyed in Florence back in late March.  The menu described this as  "Florentine Bread Soup, Kale, Swiss Chard, Kohlrabi, Zucchini, Carrots Beans, Garlic, EVOO, Parmesan."  I requested it without the cheese.
I had always heard Ribollita should be so thickened with the bread that a spoon can stand up in it.
Here's a snapshot of the Ribollita I enjoyed in Tuscany:

What arrived was much closer to a simple Minestrone soup than Ribollita.  It comes in a rather shallow bowl, so being transported from the kitchen to the dining room, the soup sloshes around making a mess of the rim of the bowl.
It was perfectly standard, but I may have been more disappointed in my soup than the fuss-budget was with hers, except I didn't grouse at the server.  And my soup was moderately warm, but not particularly hot, either.

For a main plate, my friend ordered the Summer Peach Salad ($14) with Fifth Crow Farms Lettuces, Harley Farms Goat Cheese, Spiced Almonds with a Prosecco Citrus Vinaigrette.  She thoroughly enjoyed the salad and asked if they sell the dressing "to go."  (I don't think so.)

I ordered the Tagliatelle with Jumbo Shrimp & Calamari ($28) which comes with Basil, Spring Peas, Leeks, Red Pepper Flakes and I asked they not include the Pecorino.  The pasta was cooked al dente and there was a nice spice element to this, but I didn't note and red pepper flakes.  I think the spice was from a few grinds of black pepper.  Very good, though!

We skipped dessert and the bill tallied to $129 before the tip.

I should say the Italian theme of the restaurant carries only so far when the sound system is playing contemporary (I suspect) Latino tunes.  I'm not a Mariachi aficionado, so I didn't find the music being played to be much in keeping with the theme of the restaurant, for one thing and so it didn't enhance the dining experience.  Yeah, I'm an old curmudgeon, I suppose.

We enjoyed a nice, sunny day in Half Moon Bay and this was a sufficiently pleasing meal that we'll likely return.

Reviewed by GW
June 2019



1772 Broadway
Redwood City

Tel: 650-679-8141

Open Sunday-Thursday 11am-9pm
Friday-Saturday 11am-10pm


Mildly spicy salsa

Half a dozen Oysters

Octopus, Calamari, Potato and Fennel "stew"


Tallarines con Mariscos

Mariscada...a sort of "paella"

Our friend Mark N, a regular reader of this web page, sent along a note suggesting we dine at this Redwood City restaurant and so we booked a table on a Sunday over the Memorial Day weekend.
Open Table's app showed no tables between 6pm and 8:30, so we looked on the restaurant's web site.  They have Yelp's reservation app there and we found tables being available every 15 minutes during that gap on Open Table.  We booked a 6:30 table for two.

This is a short drive south on Broadway, maybe 5 minutes from the movie theater in downtown Redwood City.  You could make the hike in less than 10 minutes if you're at that cineplex.

We arrived a bit early for our reservation and found the place was perhaps 75% full.  The host offered us a choice of two-tops along the wall.  He presented the menu which also has their wine list.
No wine glasses are on the table as part of the place setting.

The server pitched us on their various tequila and Mezcal cocktails, also suggesting their wonderful and popular Sangria ($12/glass or $35 for a carafe).

The wine list is small and concise.  They offer a Prosecco Rosé (there isn't yet a pink version for the Prosecco denominazione) with either Cranberry or Pear Liqueur at $9/glass.
There's a quarter bottle of Tiamo Prosecco for $10. The Prosecco Rosé used for the cocktail is $30/bottle.  "Baily (sic) Lapierre France" is $24 for a half bottle.  It's Bailly Lapierre's Crémant de Bourgogne.  
There are 5 white wines available on the list, all being offered by the glass as well as by the bottle.
Nautilus "New Zealand"  from the Marlborough appellation is $11/glass and $38 for a bottle.  The grape variety, Sauvignon Blanc, is not listed.  Oops!
Gallo's "J Vineyards" Pinot Gris is shown to have a Russian River appellation, though it's actually labeled as "California."  That goes for $9/glass and $31 for a bottle.  Legado del Conde Albariño from Spain is $11/glass and $38/bottle.  Two Chardonnays are offered. at $13/glass and $45 by the bottle.  "Force of Nature Rebble (sic) Santa Barbara" is one option while "Caneros (sic) Saintsbury" is the other.
Seven reds are on the list with all offered by the glass except the Alexander Valley Vineyards Syrah at $29.
For $9/glass and $31/bottle you can choose between a Bujanda Tempranillo Rioja and a Montevia Malbec.  The Spanish wine could be the entry-level Tinto or it might be a Crianza or Reserva bottling.  These designations are not indicated.
There's a "Tempranillo Rioja 1808 Valcavada" at $12/glass and $42/bottle.  The brand name carries the 1808 but, of course that's not the vintage date of the wine.
There's an Oregon Pinot Noir from the Cloudline brand.  It's listed simply as "Pinot Noir, Row 503, Willamette Valley" at $12/glass and $42 for a bottle.
They offer two Cabernet Sauvignon bottlings.  Siete Fincas from Argentina is $10/glass and $35 for a bottle.  Your other Cabernet choice is from the Donati Family Vineyard at $15/glass and $52 for a bottle.   (This wholesales for $13-$15/bottle.)
Vintage dates are not listed, so we don't know if the whites are youthful and fresh or past their prime.
Wine is not an important feature of La Viga and it shows.

The corkage fee is $20.
Stemware is a bit clunky and heavy duty.

We ordered a half bottle of the Crémant de Bourgogne from Bailly-Lapierre at $24 (375ml) and the server took about 5+ minutes to bring it to our table.  He brought a couple of flute glasses and managed to open the bottle, correctly pouring "the say" first.

The menu features several Ceviches, two seafood "Coctels" and oysters.
Ceviche de Camaron ($16) features "shrimp, pico de gallo, avocado, cucumber and a cilantro-lime cucumber purée.". Ceviche de Dorado ($17) features "mahi-mahi, fresh mango, cilantro, red onion, sweet orange-lime mango habanero sauce.  The Ceviche de Pescado ($16) is "wild caught red snapper, pico de gallo, cucumber, lime and tapatio sauce.
Under the heading of "Tapas," we find Guacamole at $10 or $15 (probably $15 with the crab).  A couple of different salads go for $10. 
Coliflor Picante (Spicy, crisp cauliflower) is $11, while Sopecitos de Mariscos is $13.  This is "corn masa cups with shrimp, crab and octopus in a tomato chipotle sauce, cream, queso fresco and micro-greens."
Calamar Frito is $13 and Camarones al Coco is $14.
Seven different Tacos are offered, featuring homemade Corn Tortillas.
These go for $4.50 and you can select from Salmon, Chicken, Braised Pork, Red Snapper, Crispy Shrimp and two others.
They had 10 Platos Fuertes the night of our visit.  A Grilled wild Mahi Mahi filet is $25, while a Stuffed Chicken Breast is $22. Caldo de Mariscos is $25 and it's a lobster broth with an assortment of seafood.  Yucatan-styled Braised Pork is $22, while a whole Mediterranean Sea Bass is offered at "M-P" (market price).

My dining companion started with half a dozen oysters ($15) and I chose the Pulpos Salteados ($14) which was a nice serving of octopus, calamari, baby potatoes and fennel in a Garlic and Saffron sauce.
I tasted an oyster which was reasonably good.  The Octopus "stew" was nice, though I missed the influence of both the garlic and the saffron.

The plates had been removed with the silverware and the main plates arrived without new utensils having been provided.
We had to flag down the crew

For main plates my friend ordered Tallarines con Mariscos ($25) which features "sautéed prawns, calamari, mussels, mixed wild mushrooms, poblano red bell peppers & onions, fideo pasta and spicy tomato cream sauce."    She enjoyed this and actually polished off the entire serving which is unusual.
The server had suggested the Mariscada, a sort of Mexican version of Paella ($25) which is Saffron Jasmine Rice with Spanish Chorizo,  Chicken, Prawns, Mussels, Clams,  Poblano red bell pepper, onion, lime, chile de arbol and tomatillo sauces.
I couldn't detect the use of Saffron, but the dish was pretty good, with the clams and mussels showing freshly.  

The meal, by the way, commenced with a basket of tortilla chips and some sort of sauce.

The place was full as we departed around 8pm, so making a reservation is a good idea.

There is a large flat-screen monitor in one corner of the restaurant which was tuned to a tennis match.  I can't recall if there were tunes playing on the sound system.

We requested the bill and this came with a 3% Surcharge.  The menu states : "In support of rising wages and city and state ordinances, a 3% surcharge will be added to your check.  Please let your server know if you'd like this surcharge removed.  Thank you for your patronage."
Curiously they didn't add the 9.25% sales tax (applied to Redwood City purchases) on the 3% surcharge.
With that surcharge and sales tax, our bill tallied to $139 before the tip.

This was a nice meal and we'll likely return.



352 Broadway

TEL: 650-692-7905

Open Daily 4pm-9pm


Cup of Minestrone


Caesar Salad

Linguine with Clams


Chicken Cacciatore with Spaghetti


The Old Bat has been dining at this old-time Millbrae restaurant for many years and we finally took the plunge and walked in on a Sunday evening.  We didn't have a reservation, but the place was maybe one-third occupied at 7pm, or so.

We were shown to a table in the side dining room and a menu with wine list was placed on the table.
Wine glasses are not part of the table setting.

The wine offerings are on the back of the menu.
It's a throwback wine list to the days when a restaurant printed the list every few years.  That means they don't offer vintage dates, for one thing (with one exception).  For another, they feature wines that are produced in massive quantities so they are always available.  No issues with supply problems.

In a way, while this is valid criticism of the wine list, it's perhaps slightly unfair since the restaurant is a throwback to the 1950s and 1960s when few people knew much about wine. Wine lists were routinely lame.
The food items on the menu are "old time" dishes.

There are four reds and five whites offered "by the glass", by the half liter and by the liter.
Your choices are Chianti, Pinot Noir, Cabernet or Merlot for reds.  The first two are $7.50/glass, $20 for a half liter and $30 for a liter.
The whites costing $7.50/glass and $20 or $30 for a half liter or full liter are Pinot Grigio, Sauvignon Blanc and Moscato.  
The Chardonnay and White Zinfandel go for $7/glass, $18 for a half liter and $27 for a full liter.
Patrons are not informed as to the identity of these "house wines," allowing the restaurant to buy according to price and thus being able to buy some items on a distributor's close-out list.  

If you're looking for some sparkling wine, they offer Mionetto's Brut Prosecco for $27.50/bottle.  It's a wine wholesaling for about $11.  There's Lunetta Prosecco in a 187ml, single serving size at $8.50.  A half bottle of Gloria Ferrer Blanc de Noirs is $22.50.   Nicolas Feuillatte Brut Reserve Champagne is $55.
There's one selection of white in half bottle format.  The Clos du Bois Chardonnay is $17.50.  Two red half bottles are available: Robert Mondavi Cabernet and Francis Coppola Merlot.  $17.50 for those, as well. The Mondavi wine must be their "Private Selection" bottling which carries a California appellation.  It wholesales for about $4 for a half bottle.

In full bottle format we find Banfi Chianti Riserva at $32, while Clos du Bois Pinot Noir is $31.Coppola Merlot is $29.50, while the same producer's Cabernet is $32.  A Barbera from Piemonte's Marchesi di Barolo winery is $30.  Ravenswood "Old Vine" Zinfandel is $29.50.  Rodney Strong Cabernet goes for $31, while Antinori's "Santa Cristina" red blend is $32.

You can select from four white wines and you'd better be looking for Chardonnay since there are no other options.
Clos du Bois and Kendall-Jackson Chardonnays are $30.  There's a Kendall Jackson "Grand Reserve" Chardonnay at $32.50 if you're a big spender, while Rodney Strong Chardonnay, noted as being from the 2014 vintage, is $30.

Now perhaps you know why we've not dined at this place previously.  I was too scared off by the wine list.

The menu is large and varied.
For starters there's "Appetizer Italian Style" ($10.50) which comes with Lettuce, Tomato, Salami, Provolone Cheese, Olives and Pepperoncini."  It's about ten bucks. but add three dollars if you want Prosciutto, as well.
Fried Calamari is $12, while a bowl of Minestrone Soup is $4.95 (or $3.95 if you've ordered a main plate).
Bruschetta is $7 and they have Garlic Bread for $4.  There's a Mixed Green Salad ($5.50), a Caprese Salad ($12), Sliced Tomatoes ($8) or a Caesar Salad ($8).

All sorts of Pasta dishes are available...Spaghetti with Garlic and Olive Oil ($12.50), Spaghetti with pesto ($13.50), Spaghetti with Meatballs ($16.50), Mushroom Sauce ($14.50), Meat Sauce ($12.50) or Mushroom & Sausage Sauce ($16.50).  There's a Spaghetti & Ravioli combo for about $13.50.  There's Tortellini, Gnocchi al Pesto, Fettuccini Alfredo, Lasagna, Cannelloni, Penne with Sausage & peppers, Cheese & Spinach Panzerotti, Pumpkin Ravioli or Crab meat Ravioli.

There's Petrale Sole  for about $19.50 and Grilled Salmon for $18.50. They have Crab Cakes ($17.50).  There's Sautéed Prawns.
A rack of Lamb goes for $30 and it comes with Mashed Potatoes, Spinach and Minty Jelly.  There's a Veal Cutlet Milanese for about $17.50.  A ten ounce New York steak is said to be grilled over charcoal and that's around $27.  Nonni's Italian Pot Roast was about $17.
All these main plates come with your choice of Spaghetti, Ravioli, Sautéed Spinach or "Vegetables."
And the place apparently specializes in Pizza.  There are eight selections to choose from or you can probably order whatever you like in a pie.

The Old Bat ordered a cup of Minestrone while I opted for a small Caesar Salad.
She loved the soup.  The Caesar Salad features Romaine Lettuce drenched in their cheesy dressing.  I didn't detect much garlic nor did it seem to have much influence of anchovies.

A basket of warm French bread was brought to the table, as well.

We pulled out a bottle of red and the server brought two old stems to the table.  These were possibly 12 ounce Libbey glasses.  Mine had a slightly odd smell, but it wasn't bleach.  Perhaps they polished or dried the glass with an old kitchen towel?
The server opened the bottle and immediately began pouring before we could have a sniff to see if the bottle was corked. He filled the glass to just past halfway.  

The plates for the starters were cleared and a few minutes later the main plates arrived.  Our friend ordered Linguine with Clams.  It was a nice presentation and teeming with clams.  I chose the Chicken Cacciatore (about $18 or $18.50) and this came with close to half a chicken in a tomato sauce with some mushrooms.  It's "old fashioned" Italian/American cooking.  There was a small cup with a side of about old school!

We were too full to order dessert.  They have several sweets featuring the chocolate sauce called "Bosco."  Remember that?
There's Cannoli, Tiramisu, Cheesecake, ice cream or a a Torta Nocciola.
They do have a few sweet wines including Graham's Six Grapes Port for $5 or Dow's 20 Year Tawny Port for $8.50.

Our server, recognizing The Old Bat, didn't charge us corkage and so we were out of there for roughly $50.  Old time prices, too.

They had a fellow playing the accordion and serenading customers.

We left a nice tip for the server and a few bucks for the musician.

This is an old-time place as noted earlier.  It's not a destination restaurant, but if you're looking to step back in time and dine economically, this might be worth a shot.
We'll make a return visit out of nostalgia.

Reviewed by GW
April 2019



885 Middlefield Road
Redwood City

TEL: 650-367-4939

Open Daily from 11:30


A dipping sauce and butter for the bread

Persian Salad

Caesar Salad

A 12-ounce New York Steak with nice grill marks.


"Wild Mushrooms"...Crimini and Enoki.


A 12 ounce Ribeye


We had just seen a film Sunday afternoon down the block from this dining spot and had booked a table post-cinema.

There seem to be two dining rooms and we were guided to a table in the one away from the open kitchen.  The hostess presented menus and a wine list.

Wine glasses are on the table and there are many wine bottles on display in the restaurant to help nudge patrons to order a bottle of wine.
Our friend asked for a Martini, but they don't have a license for distilled spirits we were told.  Apparently an on-premise license to serve spirits is "difficult to obtain in San Mateo County."

We perused the wine list looking for a suitable cocktail white or bubbly by-the-glass (BTG).

There were two options listed under "Sparkling Wine."  One is Cavit Moscato ($10/glass) and it's not a full-throttle bubbly, coming in a standard wine bottle, not a sparkling wine bottle.
The other choice is a quarter bottle (a split of 187ml) of Banfi's "Mascio" Prosecco (wholesales for $2.50) at $11.
You'll find three Chardonnays...Wente's "Morning Fog" from Livermore is $10/glass while a wine called "Persian Tradition" is $13.  Rombauer is $17, so if you're a wine aficionado, good luck!
Other whites include Parducci "Sonoma County" Pinot Gris ($10/glass) which actually comes from Mendocino County vineyards.  Chloe Pinot Grigio, the work of a marketing company, goes for $11/glass.  There's a Pacific Rim Riesling at $11/glass, but the list does not indicate which of the five or six Pacific Rim bottlings this might be.  Finally there's a Rodney Strong Sauvignon Blanc at $12/glass.

You'll find maybe 15-17 red wines By The Glass.
Cabernets featured are from Liberty School ($12/glass), Wente  ($10/glass), Justin ($17) and Hess "Allomi" $18), while there's a Patz & Hall Pinot Noir ($19/glass) along with a Rodney Strong Pinot Noir ($15) and Rombauer Merlot ($18/glass).
They post Cline "Ancient Vines" Zinfandel as a Sonoma wine, but the fruit is actually from Contra Coast County.  Rombauer Zinfandel ($17/glass) is shown as a Sonoma wine, but their normal bottling is largely from the Sierra Foothills and has no Sonoma fruit in it.

There are two half bottle selections for white wines, a Landmark Chardonnay at $38 and a Silverado Sauvignon Blanc  for $35.
Stag's Leap Wine Cellars Cabernet is $66 for a half bottle while Patz & Hall Pinot Noir is $51.

There are eight sparkling wine selections, with Gloria Ferrer Brut going for $50.  Clicquot's Yellow Label is $99 and Dom Perignon is $350.

There were 11 Chardonnays offered by the bottle, with Far Niente costing $125.  Sonoma Cutrer's Russian River Ranches is $58.
Three Sauvignon Blancs are available, with Cakebread costing $52 and Rodney Strong going for $42.

We found 7 Zinfandels with brands such as Saldo (a second label of the Prisoner) costing $70.  They show the Rombauer on the bottle list as having a Napa Valley appellation and that goes for $70.  Rombauer does make a Napa Zinfandel, so there's a chance that could be posted correctly.
Merlots come from Stags' Leap Winery ($90). Coppola ($45) and Darioush ($120) amongst others.

Pinot Noirs include Josh Cellars ($55) and Deloach ($45) along with Flowers ($90) and Patz & Hall ($85).
There's a heading of "Meritage/Syrah/Shiraz" and we find BV's Tapestry at $130/bottle.  Conundrum Red is $54, while Stags' Leap Winery Petite Sirah is $85.  The Prisoner red is $95 and there's Inglenook Rubicon for $300.

You might expect there to be a good range of Cabernets given the steak-house theme.  Jordan is $130/bottle, while Robert Mondavi's Oakville is $120.  Mount Veeder is $85 and Caymus is $159.
"Extraordinary Cabernets/Meritage" sees a couple of Nickel & Nickel bottlings at $175 and $185.  Beringer Private Reserve is $240 while Far Niente Cabernet goes for $195.

Interestingly the wine list does not indicate the vintage dates of any wines except for three Opus One bottlings.  The 2006 and 2008 Opus wines are $600, while the 2013 is a mere $425.

The wine list, as you may have figured out, features brand name producers for the most part.  It's not a list for the adventuresome wine drinker.  Nor is it a list of wines selected by a particularly savvy wine aficionado.  The list is geared towards the neophyte wine consumer.
The lack of vintage dates on the list demonstrates it's constructed for the convenience of the restaurant, not the customer.

The corkage fee is $20 and we took advantage of that, putting a bottle of Bordeaux on the table.  The server opened the bottle and was ready to pour without our sniffing the wine to be sure it was not corked.
The stemware is 1970s Libbey...big, clunky glasses that can take a beating in the dishwasher.  
Again, this is out of convenience for the establishment, not for the enjoyment of the customer.

The menu is varied, featuring Persian cuisine and Steaks.

The Old Bat asked if they served bread and we were assured it would be coming.  A few minutes later she asked again and we were told they bake it fresh for each table.
A few minutes later a small basket of a warmed pita/flatbread arrived along with a sumac-seasoned dipping sauce.

Starters include an Alaskan Crab Cake ($18) or Pomegranate Pistachio Meatballs ($10). Beef Carpaccio is $12 while Oysters Rockefeller goes for $18.
A Lobster Cocktail is $18 while a Shrimp Cocktail goes for $19.
Three soups were offered and a few salads, too.

There were six Kabob plates, ranging from $20 to $35.

We found a nice range of steaks.  A 6 ounce Filet Mignon was $38 while an eight ounce Filet was $46.  A Ribeye is $35 while a dry-aged Ribeye is $48.
A bone-in New York (18 ounces) is $43 while a 12 ounce New York is $38.  A 16 ounce Lamb Rack is $40 while a 48 ounce Tomahawk is $120.
Seafood "enhancements" are available, with a Lobster Tail  costing $18.

They also offer a broad range of side dishes...lots of potatoes and rice offerings.

Other main dishes include a Paella at $38 or something called "Red Velvet Salmon" ($38).
A Braised Lamb Shank is $28.
There are several Vegetarian main dishes, too.

My dining companion ordered a Persian Salad ($9) while I opted for the Caesar Salad ($12).
She raved about her salad.  The Caesar was a large serving of Romaine Lettuce with some industrial croutons.  It was mildly garlicky and hinted at having anchovies in the dressing.  I found the salad to have too much dressing, though...but that's my perspective.  Others may find it properly bathed in salad dressing.

The server and another fellow hovered around our table and routinely topped up our wine glasses, seeming in a rush to empty our bottle.

For so much hovering, you might expect the service to be superior, but in fact the steaks we ordered arrived before they cleared away the starters.
As a result, there was a moment of chaos as the fellow with two steak platters couldn't clear the starter dishes.

My friend ordered a 12-ounce New York Steak ($38), while I chose the $35 Ribeye (also 12 ounces).

We asked for "Herbed Wild Mushrooms" ($8) which features "Crimini" mushrooms, a fancy name for your basic button mushroom, and Enoki mushrooms.  I would be surprised if these are actually foraged in the wilds, as both are commercially farmed.  The serving was sufficient to be splint amongst perhaps 4 or 6 people.

The steaks are presented on a wooden plank, set atop a "bed" of potatoes.  There's a half of a head of roasted garlic on the plate, along with some salt and pepper.  The menu doesn't indicate the presence of the potatoes accompanying the steaks as they try to encourage you to order additional sides.  There's a small ramekin filled with a red wine sauce, but they also have "3 Sauces for $6."  How many sauces do you need for a steak? (I don't need any if the steak is of good quality.)
The additional sauces include a Green Peppercorn Sauce, Herb Butter and a Chimichurri sauce.

My friend's New York steak, cooked to "medium," had nice grill marks on it.
My Ribeye lacked this, appearing as though it had been cooked in a pan or on a griddle (see the photo to the left).
Both steaks were quite tender and of good quality.

We didn't need desserts, so we skipped those.  Most are $10 and these include a Molten Chocolate Cake, Warm Butter Cake, Mango Cheese Cake, Cinnamon Monkey Bread Pudding, Chocolate Eggshell and there's something called Pastel Feuille that's described as "Chocolate Cremeux, Guillotine, Chantilly, Espresso Sauce and Candied Hazelnuts..."  Have you any idea of what the reference to "guillotine" might be?

They offer a few dessert wines.  Fonseca's Bin 27 Port is $9/glass, while the 10 year old Tawny is $10.  Taylor Fladgate 20 year is $11, while Sandeman's 2011 Vintage Porto is $20/glass.
Michele Chiarlo Moscato d'Asti is $9/glass, while Far Niente's "Dolce" is $25/glass.

A few of the nearby tables were a bit loud and the restaurant has a sound system which played some old pop tunes.  Seals & Croft?  
It was an unpleasant ambience, though, until someone had the idea of opening the curtain and allowing the setting sunlight to hit us in blinding fashion.  We asked them to close that curtain, which they did.

The bill, with the $20 Corkage fee, came to $133 before the tip.

Arya is a perfectly decent neighborhood place and with some refinements it could be even better.  We may make another visit after a movie at the theater down the block.

Reviewed by GW
April 2019


Image result for italico palo alto

341 California Avenue
Palo Alto

TEL: 650-473-9616

Lunch: Mon-Fri  11:30-2

Mon 5-9
Tues-Thurs 5-9:30
Fri-Sat 5-10

Closed Sundays









Butter Lettuce Salad

Frittura Mista












Bucatini Pomodoro


Orecchio d'Elefante
smothered with vinegary mixed greens









Affogato del Caffé

A friend booked a table for two at this busy restaurant across the street from its "older brother," Terún.

We had a midweek reservation and the table was ready for us at the appointed hour of 7pm.  No wine glasses are on the table, but the host gave us a wine list and menus.

The wine list is impressive from a selection standpoint.  It's a small book of more than 40 pages with tasting notes describing many of the wines.  That's a good idea as much of the wine list is likely unknown to most people dining there.  Further, we did not see a sommelier or wine steward during our visit.

There is a good range of wines-by-the-glass (6 ounce pours).

Four sparklers are featured, two from Franciacorta.  Camossi Brut is $17 by-the-glass (BTG) and the Camossi Rosé is $18.  These are $68 and $72 by the bottle respectively.
Riva dei Frati Prosecco and Bertolani Lambrusco are $12 BTG and $48/bottle.

Half a dozen white wines are offered at $12-$15 BTG with bottles costing 4 times the amount of a glass.
The list is almost entirely Italian.  
There's a "Di Leonardo" Chardonnay from Friuli at $14/BTG ($56/bottle), while Pinot Grigio from Zorzon in Friuli is the same price, as is Ciavolich's Passerina.  Capichera's Vermentino is $15 BTG and $60/bottle.
In reds there's Musso Dolcetto for  $13 BTG ($52/bottle), with Farnese Primitivo and Gran Sasso Montepulciano d'Abruzzo being the same price.
The Kaltern winery is not identified (only as  Kellerei Cantina which means winery in German and Italian), but their Pinot Nero is $18 BTG and $72/bottle.
There's a Refosco from a winery so obscure, I've not heard of it and it can't be found on the internet:  Genio is the brand.  $18/BTG and $72/bottle.
Benanti Etna Rosso is $16/BTG and $64/bottle.

There are some more costly wines, dubbed "Premium Selections," and these are offered in two-ounce pours, four-ounce pours and by the bottle.  The restaurant invested in a fancy wine dispensing system which keeps the wines under the inert gas called Argon.

The Produttori del Barbaresco 2015 Barbaresco is $9/$18 and $81/bottle.
Elio Grasso Barbera is  $8/$16 and $72, while Podere La Vigna Brunello from the 2014 vintage is $10/$20 and $89.  Antinori's Tignanello is $25/$50 and $225.

The wine list sold by the bottle is impressive.  Ca' del Bosco Franciacorta Brut Rosé is $99, while the top-of-the-line Annamaria Clementi 2008 is $139 (that's quite reasonable for such a wine).  Ferrari's Riserva del Fondatore from the 2007 vintage is $220, while the 1995 is $800.

There are some nice selections of white wines from various regions,  with Antinori's Cervaro della Sala going for $94.  Tiefenbrunner's special bottling of Müller-Thurgau is $79, while Saint-Michael Eppan's Sauvignon Blanc is $94.
There's one California white wine selection and the brand is Gehricke.  $54 for the Chardonnay.

The range of red wines provides a broad spectrum, especially at the higher end of the price scale.
Giacomo Conterno's 2008 Monfortino Barolo is $2200/bottle, but if you're a bit more frugal you can go for Gaja's 2015 Barbaresco at a mere $470/bottle.
Of the 20 Nebbiolo bottles from Barolo or Barbaresco, there's only one with enough bottle aging to be fully developed.  That's a 1996 Gaja single vineyard at $900.
A Valpolicella from Romano dal Forno, whose wine resembles a red closer to a Cabernet, is $149 for the 2010 vintage.
The 2015 Sassicaia is $459 per bottle.  We've tasted several bottles of this and the character and quality has been inconsistent.
Chianti is, of course, a famous and popular Italian red, yet out of the 29 Tuscan choices there are but two Chianti Classico options.  The Felsina 2013 Chianti Classico Riserva of the Rancia vineyard is $96. 
The list features a number of Brunello di Montalcino wines ranging from $89 to $389 per bottle.  They also offer many Cabernets and Cabernet blends from Tuscany, along with Ornellaia's famous Merlot called Masseto at $1200.

There are two selections from Campania and yet neither is the famous appellation of Taurasi.  From Sicily there are just five offerings, one being Donnafugata's Cerasuolo di Vittoria ($56), described as a blend of  Nerello d'Avola (sic) and Frappato.  There's one Sardinian red, a Cannonau ($55) from the Cherchi winery (which is more famous for its Canuglari wine).

The list offers a page of Oregon and California wines.  The one Oregon red is Archery Summit Pinot Noir ($79).  They have three bottlings from The Prisoner Wine Company and yet none is the famed "Prisoner" bottling.
Ridge Three Valleys Zinfandel is a winner, though, and that's $60.

The wine list offers interesting descriptions of many of the wines.  One might expect these to be the work of the wine director of Italico.

On a lark we searched for the description of their selection of the white wine made of the Fiano grape by the La Rivolta winery.
"The color is a definitive golden yellow with green reflections. There are sharp sensations of the Mediterranean: fresh flowers such as chamomile, yellow peach and candied orange. On the palate, there are typical notes of the softness of the vine that are supplemented by freshness and minerality."
It's the identical description for a Fiano wine made by Feudi di San Gregorio!  This description we found on the Feudi di San Gregorio website:

There are two different vintages of Barolo from the Ettore Germano winery, one being 2013 and the other being 2012.
They have identical descriptions:
Following an initially wet spring, growers enjoyed a long, temperate growing season that has produced voluptuous, balanced, enchanting wines.
As you can see, it's a generalized characterization of a vintage and not something really describing a particular wine.

The wine list shows Antinori's Cervaro della Sala as being from the 2015 vintage, yet the paragraph describing the wine tells about the 2013 vintage.

They offer a 2012 Bruno Giacosa Barolo Falletto, yet the description is one published in the Wine Advocate journal.  They don't attribute this prose to that publication and, in fact, it's a description for the 2011 vintage, not the 2012.

The description of Giacomo Conterno's 2012 Barolo "Francia" is also cribbed from the Wine Advocate without crediting wine critic Monica Larner who penned that prose.
A description of a Gaja Barbaresco is actually published by The Wine Enthusiast magazine.

We found other descriptions to be from a few other publications or the handiwork of the wine producer or its importer.


The corkage fee at Italico is an ambitious $30.


Our server was busy, apparently, and it took maybe 15 minutes for her to stop by the table to see what we might want.  My friend had arrived earlier than had I, and must have asked for pane as there was some nice bread on the table with a rather good, intense olive oil for dipping.

We ordered a glass of Franciacorta from the Camossi winery at $17/glass.
We were told the reason the sparkling wines from this region are called "Franciacorta" is because the wines resemble those from France.
You learn something new everyday, even if it's not true.

We also asked for a glass of Tiare Sauvignon ($14) from Friuli.

It took more than a few minutes, but these finally arrived and were presented in stylish, elegant stemware.

I brought a bottle of red and placed this on the table.

We had perused the menu.  They had a nice selection of salumi and also a handful of cheese selections.
There are 9 "small plates," ranging from Potato crochette ($14) to Polipo ($16), breaded Octopus to Bresaola ($16).  Polpette (meatballs) are $16 as are Verdure al Forno (wood fired baked Butternut Squash, Brussels Sprouts and Sweet Potatoes with Grana Padano cheese).
There are five salads and my friend ordered the Butter lettuce Salad with Pistachios  and Grana Padano ($14).  
I opted for the Frittura Mista ($17) which featured Calamari, Sardines and a few Prawns.
This was quite good, but large enough to easily split two ways.

Now our bottle of red was noticed by the server, but it stayed there for a few more minutes until I grew a bit impatient and opened it myself.  I was going to pour it into the nice white wine stems, but a manager showed up and brought two larger stems.  He immediately poured some for my friend and I indicated he should pour a small amount to get the "okay" first.
He then poured some in my glass and, uh oh!  It was not a bad bottle, but the glass was redolent of the bleach rinse they employed after washing the stemware.  It had not been properly rinsed, though.  I had a quick sniff of my friend's glass and hers was fine.

This was a bit embarrassing for not only the restaurant, but for me, as well.  My friend had just mentioned a work colleague who's a wine aficionado and she finds him to be extremely fussy "as he's always sending things back."
Now here I am doing the same!

Before the red wine was poured, we should mention, the main plates had arrived.
The lady ordered Bucatini Pomodoro ($17) which comes with a simple tomato sauce.  The restaurant is proud to use either the Rustichella brand of dried pasta or that of Felicetti.  They do claim to have a few "housemade" pasta offerings.
My main dish was the "Orecchio d'Elefante" ($30).  It's described as "Breaded Beef Cotoletta, French Fries, Mixed Greens."
This is not exactly a Milanese version of Wiener Schnitzel.  It's a de-boned cutlet and it's quite in vogue in Milan these days.
What arrived was a large, oval plate with a large cutlet which was smothered with vinegary mixed greens.  Having sharp, pungent vinegar on the plate made sniffing the wine a challenge.
The meat, though, was well over-cooked as it had not been pounded to a uniform thickness.  Some forkfuls were dried out and leathery.  It was a disappointing rendition of this dish, frankly.

We did go for dessert.
The separate dessert menu features  8 sweet wine selections, yet they don't list the brand name or wine producer of most of them.  There's a "Moscato d'Asti"  and a "Brachetto" at $10/glass or $40 for a bottle.  The bottle size is not listed, so we don't know if these come in half bottle or full bottle format.
Vin Santo, again unidentified, is $20/glass and $90 for some sort of bottle.
A Recioto di Soave is $13 and $57, while a Moscato Rosa is $15 and $69.  
A Passito wine identified as "Passito Comtess" is likely from the St. Michael-Eppan winery and this is $24/glass and $95 (I don't believe it comes in a 750ml bottle, so it's likely a half-bottle).
The Ben Ryé Passito comes, of course, from the Donnafugata winery, but this is not listed as such on the menu.  It is $15/glass and $75 for what is surely a half bottle.
They don't seem to be consistent in pricing these dessert wines at four times the price of a glass, do they?
I suspect these are smaller pours by-the-glass.

My friend had a serving of Chocolate Gelato ($7) and I had the Affogato al Caffé ($8).

The bill tallied to about $133 before the tip.

My friend, who picked up the check, was delighted with the meal.  I was less impressed.

The ambience was okay...with a pro basketball game being televised, a number of people were loudly wound up with the Golden State Warriors on the night of our visit.

Reviewed by GW
February 2019





160 Castro Street
Mountain View

TEL: 650-938-4147

OPEN Mon-Fri 11:30-2:30
Dinner: Mon-Thurs 4:30-10pm
Friday & Sat until 11pm
Sunday until 9:30pm


A Dipping Sauce of sorts...

Spinach Salad

Grilled Salmon

Pizza Salsiccia

We made another visit to Mountain View's Castro Street, a place filled with restaurants.

It was a Sunday evening in January and the restaurant Doppio Zero (named after a famous type of flour) was perhaps half-full at 7pm.  We were guided to a table along the side wall, just past the bar.

Our server presented menus and a wine list.
No wine glasses are on the table as part of their table setting.

The wine list features a handful of Sparkling wines, four of them being available By-the-Glass (BTG).
There's a "Lambrusco Terre Verdiane" for $10 BTG and $38/bottle.  They don't identify the winery, Ceci, however.  Their choice for Prosecco is that of the industrial producer, Zonin, who makes several bottlings.  It, too, is $10 BTG and $38/bottle.  Marotti Campi "Rose Brut" is $12 BTG and $46/bottle and the grape variety, Lacrima di Morro d'Alba is not identified.  Their lone French sparkler is Veuve Clicquot ($95/bottle) and it's not identified by its Champagne appellation, nor do they indicate which bottling this might be (such as Yellow Label, Brut Non-Vintage, etc.).  We're pretty certain it's the Yellow Label which is a non-vintage Brut.

There are 14 white wines on the list, ten of them being offered By the Glass.
Ten of the selections are Italian, while two are from California and one each from France and Germany.
You can find a couple of wines from Pierpaolo Pecorari.  One is a Pinot Grigio at $11 BTG and $42/bottle.  Similarly priced is Pecorari's Rosato.
There's a Kerner from the Cantina Valle Isarco winery in Italy's Alto Adige.
That's $12 BTG and $46/bottle.  Sauvignon from Friuli's Specogna winery is $12 BTG and $46/bottle, the same price as Pieropan Soave.
The German wine is listed as "Risling (sic) Saint M pfalz (sic)" and is brought in by Washington State's wine giant, Chateau Ste. Michelle.  It wholesales for about $9/bottle and is $9 BTG and $34/bottle at Doppio Zero.
There's Gallo's "J Vineyards & Winery" Chardonnay, listed as a Napa Valley wine at $12 BTG and $46/bottle.  We suspect the wine is from Sonoma County fruit, not Napa.  It's $12 BTG and $46/bottle.
Graci's Etna Bianco is $60/bottle while a Pascal Jolivet Sancerre goes for $52.

The night of our visit there were 34 red wines on the wine list with nearly half of them being available By the Glass.  I wonder how they keep these opened bottles "fresh."
The reds from Italy feature some off-the-beaten-path selections.
Some are listed by the type of wine, missing the name of the winery.  There's a "Nebbiolo Valtellina Sassella" at $65, but we have no clue as to which winery in the Valtellina made this wine.
The reds are listed by wine type first, followed by the winery.
There's a Chianti Classico from "Albola" at $11 BTG and $42/bottle. We see "Montepulciano Bosco - Abruzzo 15"  at $11 BTG and $42/bottle.  This would be Nestore Bosco as the producer and the wine is a Montepulciano d'Abruzzo.   Quacquarini's "Serrapetrona" (a Vernaccia Nera from Italy's Marche region) is $13 BTG and $50/bottle.
There's "Pellaro Malaspina Calabria" at $14 BTG and $54/bottle.  I'm betting few people would know that Malaspina is the winery name and Pellaro is the appellation, being made of Nerello Cappuccio and Nocera.  These are not mentioned on the wine list and there's not a sommelier to guide customers.  Of course, this is an upscale pizza place, so the wine list is a bit ambitious.
There are three Italian reds at $20 BTG and $78/Bottle.
"Barolo Francone" from the 2014 vintage is one of those options and there's  Corte Majoli's Amarone from 2012.  Tenuta Pietrino Brunello from 2013 is the same price.
Allegrini's "Palazzo delle Torre" red, is described as a "baby Amarone" and that's $13 BTG and $50/bottle.  A wine from the giant Zonin winery is listed as "Primitvo Sasseo Puglia" at $10 BTG and $38/bottle.  
Doppio Zero offers a couple of Gaja's Tuscan wines.  There's a Ca' Marcanda bottling called Magari at $110/bottle.  The Pieve Santa Restituta Brunello is $160/bottle.  Caprili Brunello is $110/bottle.  Antinori's famous Tignanello Super-Tuscan is $190.
Rosenblum Zinfandel from Paso Robles is $45/bottle while a 2012 Jordan Cabernet from Sonoma is $90.
The wine list, as mentioned previously, is a bit ambitious, featuring some good artisan bottles as well as some obscure industrial wines.

The corkage fee is $20.

They have maybe nine "Small Plates" and four Salads.
Fried Calamari & Shrimp is $13, while Grilled Octopus is $16. Fried Brussels Sprouts is $10 as is the Roasted Cauliflower.  Salads are mostly $12.
We saw six pasta offerings, five of them listed as "homemade."
Garganelli with Sausage is $19 as is the Fettuccine with a wild Boar sauce.  A pasta listed as "Bottarga" ($20) is described a "Fresh spaghetti, fresh salmon, cured Fish Roe, roasted garlic, lemon zest and Italian Chilies."
A neighboring table had two pasta dishes and these looked quite appetizing.

They also offer a "Zuppa di Pesce" ($29) with clams, calamari, shrimp and fresh fish in a light, spicy tomato broth.  Tagliata di Manzo, $30, is a grilled rib-eye.
There are 8 "red" pizza offerings and five "white."  These are typically $19 to $20.

We put a bottle of an Italian red on the table...a "taster" bottle I'd purchased to evaluate.  The server indicated the corkage fee is $20 and he went to get a couple of nice, large red stems.  The fellow opened the bottle and set it on the table to "let it breathe."  We immediately poured the wine...merely vinous and simple, so it was perfectly decent with pizza.

The restaurant serves a small basket of nice, moderately crusty bread.  I was disappointed to see them put a plate on the table and then pour oil and sharp vinegar as a dipping sauce.  As we've noted in earlier reviews, this is a seemingly American affectation and not something you'll see in Italy.

The Old Bat ordered a Spinach Salad ($12)  and this was really too large for one person.  Happily I had bypassed the Fried Calamari or the Grilled Octopus and this salad, which had fresh bacon bits, mushrooms and some pieces of red onion, was more than enough for the two of us.

Before we'd finished the salad, someone was standing over us and wanting to drop the main plates on the already crowded table.  It's not white table-cloth, fine dining, but they might consider having a protocol in place for the table to be cleared before bringing the main dishes.

Our friend ordered Grilled Salmon ($22) and I ordered a Salsiccia Pizza ($19).  She enjoyed the salmon and said it was excellent.  The pizza was perfectly fine, but there wasn't much Salsiccia on it.  The crust was quite good and they certainly know what they're doing in that department.

There is a music system in place but all I could hear was the drum beat.  Being close to the bar, there was a flat-screen TV nearby showing a basketball game.  We could hear the screeching sound of tennis shoes on the court.  Having much of a conversation was out of the question.

The bill, with our $20 corkage fee and tax came to $80.

This is a lovely, casual neighborhood place and we'd consider coming back.

Reviewed by GW
January 2019



50 East Third Avenue
San Mateo

TEL: 650-344-9444

Mon-Fri 8:30-2pm
Sat-Sun 9:00-2pm

Sun-Mon 5:30-8:00
Tues-Thurs 5:30-9:00


"ceaser" (sic) salad

Steamed Clams with Chorizo

Chicken Ratatouille

Lamb Adobo


This venue has been a number of restaurants.  At one time it was Lark Creek Cafe and then Astaria.  Today it's called "Three" as three women are at the helm.

We booked a Sunday evening table and arrived around 7:15, or so.  The place had about half the front dining room occupied and a few folks at the bar watching whatever sporting event was on television.

We were presented a drinks list and a menu.  No wine glasses are on the table as part of the place-setting, as the restaurant features lots of cocktails and beers.

The wine list is limited and features "popular," rather mainstream selections.

For Sparkling wines, we find two offered in 187ml, single-serving format.  There's Borgo Magredo Prosecco for $13 (this wholesales for less than $4) and Chandon Brut "Sonoma" at $17 (a $5 wholesale bottle).  The Chandon carries a California appellation, not Sonoma, but perhaps mis-identifying it helps sales.
If you're a big spender, they have Gloria Ferrer Brut (which is from Sonoma) at $42/bottle, along with Zardetto Prosecco at the same price.

There are five Chardonnays.  "Louis Jadot, France" is $11 by-the-glass (BTG) and $40 by the bottle.  They do not identify the precise Jadot selection, so we don't know if it's the simple "Steel Chardonnay" or the "Chardonnay Bourgogne" which does get a touch of wood aging.   There's a "Smoke Tree Somona (sic)" Chardonnay at $8 BTG and $30/bottle.  There's a lower-tier Newton Chardonnay called Skyside at $44/bottle.  Gloria Ferrer's lower-tier Chardonnay is $40 and the J. Lohr Monterey Chardonnay is $36.  
There's a California appellation Sauvignon Blanc called "Proverb" at $8/glass and $30/bottle.  This is a brand launched by Gallo and it was originally targeted for sale only on the Amazon website.  Gallo's New Zealand import, Whitehaven, is $40 for Sauvignon Blanc, while Wither Hills New Zealand Sauvignon is poured from a 'keg' and goes for $11 BTG and $32 for what is described as a "half carafe."  It wholesales for 34-cents per ounce, so a half-liter carafe would cost the restaurant less than $6.

As for "Other Whites" there's "Vencia" (sic) Pinot Grigio from Friuli's Venica & Venica winery.  That's $14 BTG and $52/bottle.  Gallo imports Spain's Martin Codax Albariño and that's $10 BTG and $36/bottle.  Italy's Cavit winery sells Gallo a private label Pinot Grigio called Maso Canali and that's $40/bottle.

Five Cabernets grace the wine list at Three.    There's "True Myth Cabernet at $13 BTG and $38 for a half carafe serving.  We calculate the wholesale cost of that half carafe, based upon a half-liter serving, to be about $8.  A six ounce pour costs less than $3 and the consumer pays $13.
Justin Paso Robles Cabernet is $17 BTG and $68/bottle, while Gallo's "Bridlewood" Cabernet is $36/bottle.  Educated Guess, from Napa, is $52/bottle while Joseph Carr Napa Cabernet is $65.  
"SinZin" is $10 BTG and $36/bottle, though they don't indicate this is a wine from the Alexander Valley Vineyards winery.
There's a Ravenswood Sonoma County Zinfandel for $12 BTG and $44/bottle.  Two Merlots are offered, Starmont being $15 BTG and $56/bottle.  St. Francis is $13 BTG and $48/bottle.
Pinot Noirs include Gallo's MacMurray Ranch at $13 BTG and $38 for a half carafe.  Meiomi is $14 BTG and $52/bottle, while the Educated Guess brand is $52/bottle and Jekel is $56/bottle.
There are "Other Reds" and her we find Inkberry Shiraz from Australia at $9/BTG and $32/bottle.  There is a Spanish red called Termes of the Numanthia brand at $11/BTG and $40/bottle.  Jadot Beaujolais is $10/BTG and $36/bottle, while a Silver Oak 2004 Cabernet from the Alexander Valley is $200.  It is the only wine where a vintage date is indicated.
The wines are not the selections of a savvy wine buyer, but likely guided by the wholesaler's quota-driven sales representatives.

In any case, as we often say, the wine list gives a good indication of the kitchen and the food.

The corkage fee is a modest $15 and given the lackluster wine selections, bringing your own bottle is a good idea unless you are content with wines made at the direction of a marketing department.

Our friend ordered her usual Tanqueray Martini and said it was properly made and of good quality.

We perused the's far more ambitious than the wine list and this may be the challenge for a kitchen given the diversity of the selections.

There are 11 Appetizers, from House-Made Pickled vegetables ($8) to Jewel Yam Fritters ($10) to Ahi Tuna Tartar (sic) (18) to Dungeness Crab Cakes )$20) and a Coastal Calamari Fry ($13).
There are several Sandwiches...a "3 Grind Burger" is $15 while a "Skirt (Steak) Sandwich" is $21.  There's a Grilled Chicken Club at $15 and a Fried Chicken Club at $16.50.
They offer three different Pizza selections ($18-$20).  
There are two Soups and a few Salads.
There were ten Entrees on the night of our visit.  Beef Bourguignon ($26), a Pan Roasted New York Steak ($34), Seafood Risotto ($26), Skirt Steak Balsamico ($30) and Butternut Squash Ravioli ($18).  There's a "Fried Chicken Stack" at $19, Gnocc-N-Shrooms ($18) and Sesame Salmon Bites ($20).  

They have seven "sides," including Fries ($7), Parmesan Risotto ($5) and Sautéed Mushrooms ($5).

So our friend was interested in a Caesar Salad but the server indicated it's fairly large and nearly the size of a main plate.  He offered to bring the smaller version  of what's listed on the menu as a "ceaser" (sic) at $5.
It apparently doesn't have the anchovy filets on the salad, he told her.
So she went for that and I opted for the "Spanish Style Steamers with Chorizo ($16).

A small basket of yellowish/orange chips is placed on the table.  These are Sweet Potato Chips, if I recall correctly.  

The small salad arrived and my dining companion said "This is merely a Romaine Lettuce Salad.  It's not a Caesar salad."  I tasted it and the dressing was maybe some sort of mustard vinaigrette and seemed to lack the anchovies and garlic one might expect.  The server said they do use Anchovy Paste in making the dressing, but we could not taste it.  And since she had not ordered the larger version, they wouldn't bring any anchovies.  The server did, though, bring a small ramekin of the salad dressing and, again, this was not much of a Caesar dressing.  Bland, at best.

The Steamers featured either Clams or "mussles" (sic) or a combination of the two.  I asked for Clams only.  A large bowl of Steamed Clams with ground sausage arrived.  Despite the Chorizo sausage in this, the dish was rather mild in flavor...perfectly acceptable, but not exciting.

We had placed a bottle of a nice little Bordeaux on the table and the server brought reasonable stemware.  He opened the bottle and poured the wine in proper fashion.

Our friend ordered Chicken Ratatouille ($22) described as pan roasted free range chicken, eggplant, zucchini, yellow squash, peppers & tomatoes with risotto.  
I chose the Braised Lamb Adobo ($27), described as "village white bean ragout, cilantro, pickled carrots."

Both these dishes arrived before the starters had been cleared which is a service flaw.

The Ratatouille makes up the bottom layer of the Chicken dish and then there's a layer of risotto topped with slices of Chicken.  The Ratatouille was bland and our friend kept saying "this doesn't taste like Ratatouille."  Well, the basic ingredients were present, but there didn't seem to be much influence of herbs such as rosemary or thyme.  I didn't detect garlic either.
She was disappointed in the blandness of the dish.

The Lamb was mildly gamey and the lamb was quite tender.  The beans were just cooked to al dente and were fine, though some might saw they were still a bit undercooked.  I missed the cilantro in this dish and the "pickled" carrots didn't seem pickled to me, but more like barely steamed carrot slices that were closer to simply raw.  There were some wilted leafy greens on top of this and I suspect they were sautéed beet leaves.  In any case, this dish was somewhat more akin to a French or Italian lamb stew and I missed the impact of vinegar that one might expect in a dish described as "adobo."  I didn't mind the absence of vinegar, though.

We were not much interested in dessert and the server kindly skipped charging the $15 corkage fee since my friend complained about the salad.  In doing so, he seemed to have forgotten to charge for the Martini.

The bill tallied, then, to just less than $80 and we left him a nice tip.

I went to get the car and my friend said as she was leaving a woman at the bar told her the drinks are good at Three, but it's not a place for food.  Imagine that!

We'll probably wait until this place changes to another format or name before returning.

Reviewed by GW
December 2018




110 Castro Street
Mountain View

TEL: 650-964-1888

Lunch Mon-Fri  11:30-2:00
Dinner Fri-Sat 4:30-10:00
Sun-Thurs 4:30-9:00


Grilled Shrimp Rolls

Rolling Duck Rolls

Bun Thit Nuong


Miso Salmon

Mellow Yellow Noodles

Having seen a movie in Palo Alto, we planned to try this "modern" restaurant featuring Vietnamese cuisine in nearby Mountain View.

We arrived at 7:30 on a Sunday and the place was rather empty...there were a few people watching football in the bar and perhaps two or three tables occupied.  Even with just a few people in the dining room, it was a bit loud.

The hostess guided us to a table and presented the menu and drinks list.  No wine glasses are on the table as part of the place-setting.

They have a number of cocktail creations and asked if we wanted a libation.  Our old friend wanted a Tanqueray Gin Martini, but the choices were just Bombay Gin or Hendrick's.  She went with Bombay and this seemed to be satisfactory.

With a $20 corkage fee, I said we'd bring a bottle out of our bag and asked the server for a couple of wine glasses.

There are three Sparkling wines on the list...there's a quarter bottle of Chandon for $14.  Clicquot's Yellow Label is $120 and Dom Perignon is $425.

There are nine white wines on the list, all offered By-The-Glass (BTG) and By the Bottle.
Zonin Pinot Grigio is $11 BTG and $38 for a bottle. Two Sauvignon Blancs are available, both $12 BTG and $44/bottle.  Your choices are "Montess" (sic) from Chile or Angeline from California.
BEX Riesling, a very modest German wine, wholesales for about $8 and it's $12 BTG or $44/bottle.  
There's a Cuvee Los Gatos Chardonnay (Testarossa Winery makes this from Monterey, not Los Gatos-grown grapes) is $12 BTG and $45/bottle.
Napa Cellars Chardonnay is $13 BTG and $47/bottle, while Chardonnays from La Crema and Sonoma-Cutrer are $14 BTG and $49/bottle.

XANH offers a dozen reds.
Testarossa's Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir is $16 BTG and $60 for a bottle.  La Crema Pinot is $55 for a bottle and not offered by the glass.
A Lodi Merlot called Noble Vines is $11 BTG and $40/bottle.
Cabernet choices include Hess Select ($13 BTG $47/bottle), Joel Gott ($14 BTG $50/bottle, Jordan at $25 BTG and $95/bottle or Stags' Leap at $90/bottle.
Zinfandels are from DeLoach ($12 BTG, $44/bottle) or St. Francis ($13 BTG, $47/bottle).  It's curious they proudly note the Testarossa wines as being "Local," yet don't offer Zinfandel from a hugely prestigious, equally local winery, Ridge Vineyards.
The final red wine offering is a Lodi Syrah called 6th Sense ($13 BTG, $47/bottle).

Overall it's a mediocre selection of rather standard to weak wines.

We perused the menu and when the server brought the two wine glasses, perfectly serviceable stemware, we ordered a couple of starters.
They have a number of "rolls" and we opted for the Grilled Shrimp Roll ($8 for 2 or $14 if you want four) and The Rolling Duck ($14).

We waited for the server to open our chilled bottle of white wine...she did ask if we wanted an ice bucket, which we declined.  The two starters arrived before she opened the wine.  In fact, curiously, she did not ask if we wanted her to open the bottle.
We opened it ourselves.

As the appetizers arrived, we chose a couple of main plates.  After putting in the order, she returned a moment later to ask if we would want anything else as the kitchen was closing!
The restaurant posts its closing at 9pm.  We had not yet seen the main plates and it was only 8:10.
We added a plate of noodles to our order, not knowing what we'd be getting.

The Shrimp Rolls are deep fried, crispy rolls...good.
The Rolling Duck rolls featured 8 small pieces...the duck was well done and if you told me it was pork, I'd have believed it.  Still, both were nice starters.

We asked the server about the Cha Gio, the classic Vietnamese "egg rolls."  She turned us away from those saying the Bun Thit Nuong ($16) was better.
This is your choice of beef, pork or shrimp  with rice noodles and we opted for the pork.  It's an artistic plate and the fellow who brought the dish asked if we wanted him to mix it...and he took each item and deconstructed each into a blended plate.  Perfectly fine, but I'd go for the Cha Gio next visit.

We also ordered Miso Salmon ($28) which came with a "log" of slightly over-cooked salmon and little pot of beans and cauliflower, topped with a couple of small carrots.

The other dish we ordered was "Mellow Yellow Noodles" ($18).  We are not sure what makes the noodles yellow, though.  There's chicken and shrimp with this.

We finished our meal and the server eventually stopped by to present the bill.  She did not ask if we wanted dessert because, we suspect,  the kitchen had closed earlier in the evening and the crew was anxious to go home.

The bill tallied to about $125 including the $20 corkage fee for the bottle of wine we had to open ourselves.

This is a potentially nice place, while a bit expensive, if they offered the level of service commensurate with the price of a meal.

On our visit, by the way, they were playing Christmas we are not sure what sort of sounds they have the rest of the year.

Reviewed by GW
December 2018



122 West Napa Street

Tel: 707-996-8272

Open Daily  Noon-Midnight




Wines are served in a water glass.


Nicely presented Tapas.


The Double Espresso was a bit weak and lacked aroma and flavor.


We were poking around Sonoma Wine Country on a Sunday in early November and had planned to have lunch at this newish Portuguese-themed dining spot not far from the Sonoma Square.
We arrived a bit after noon and found the restaurant to be about 40% full, or so.

We were asked to select a table along the wall (the two tops) and we took one towards the back of the restaurant.  A TT staffer brought the menu which has a selection of wines and other beverages.
No wine glasses are on the table as part of the place-setting.

Tasca Tasca features Portuguese wines, as one might expect.
They offer 3-ounce or 6-ounce pours or you can order the selections by the bottle.

You might  also consider having a red or a white "flight" of three wines, offered in 3 ounce-pour formats. $17 for the white and $22.50 for the red on the day we visited.

There are two unidentified "house" wines, the white costing $4.25 for a 3 ounce pour and $7 for a 6 ounce glass.
The red was $4.50 for a small pour and $7.50 for a glass.
We have no clue as to the identity of these as there is solely the notation "Selection Varies."

There are two Sparkling wines.  Luis Pato is $5.75 for a 3 ounce pour and $10.50 for a 6 ounce glass.  It's $38 for a bottle.  A Douro Valley pink wine called Vértice is $6.50, $12 and $42.
You'll find "Light Whites" and "Rich Whites."  Five of the former and four of the latter.  There is one pink still wine.
For reds you'll see four Light Reds, five Medium Reds and four Powerful Reds.
Most of the selections range from $32 to about $60 a bottle, though there's an expensive red at $149 and one costly white at $89.
Soalheiro's Alvarinho, a benchmark dry white is $7.75 for a three ounce pour, $14.50 for a 6 ounce glass and $52 for a bottle (It's a $25 bottle at retail).
As Portugal makes some great sweet wines, there's a list of dessert wines, too.  We find five Late Bottled Vintage Ports or Ruby Port bottlings.  These are offered in one ounce or two ounces pours, with two of the selections being offered in a bottle format.

There are 7 Tawny or Vintage tawny Ports and one Vintage-dated Madeira.

There are five other Madeira bottlings, one White Port and one Moscatel de Setubal, though this last wine is not identified by brand or winery.
They also offer a handful of "flights" of these dessert wines.

There is no notation as to the cost of a corkage fee on the wine list, but that would be $20.

The menu has several categories:
Cheese, Garden Sea and Land.
You can pick three items for $15, five items for $24 or 7 items for $35.
So it's five bucks per item if you order 3 or 7, but slightly cheaper per item if you order five.  Go figure.

My hungry friend ordered 7 items and I chose 5.

We engaged the server in a brief conversation about the white wine selections and she was seemingly conversant in these.
We ordered three 3-ounce pours to start, expecting to order some reds after.

A few minutes later our server brought a tray with a piece of paper, noting the identify of each of the white wines.  These were offered in the same vessels they use for water!  No stemware.  No wine glass.  A water tumbler.
I'm certain the notion is that the place is informal and so the wine vessels are informal.
That's charming on one hand and sad on the other.
Here's a fellow trying to elevate the image of Portuguese cuisine, but they serve the wine in glasses which do nothing to showcase the aroma and bouquet of the wines.  As a result, the wines offer less flavor than were they to be poured in a nice, proper wine glass.  We were disappointed in their lack of respect for the wines and, as a result, we did not bother to order a set of reds.  Sorry.
They do offer a range of beers, by the way. Curiously, though, no Sagres or Super Bock, major Portuguese beer brands.  If you're looking for a Pabst Blue Ribbon though, that's $4 and Olympia Beer is $3.50.  These might be a good alternative to the poorly-presented wines.

The food items are brought on wooden platters, an attractive way to offer these.  

Under the heading of "Cheese," there are several Portuguese offerings and the locally-produced Point Reyes Blue Cheese.  There's Mac & Cheese and there's "House Made Butter."
They have ten selections under the heading of "Garden," including Stone Soup and Caldo Verde Soup.  There's a Roasted Beet Salad, a Kale Salad, Portuguese "Beer Nuts" and Olives.  There are two potato dishes and they have Tremoços (Lupini Beans).
Under the heading of "Sea" we find Oysters (three to a serving), Crab Empadas (a sort of deep friend empanada), Ceviche,  Monterey Squid Salad, Salt Cod Cakes, Boquerones and a Pâté of Sardines.
Under the category of "Land," there were 14 items.  
Goat Stew, Pork Sliders, Escargot, Steak Tartare, Serrano Ham, Linguiça and a Foie Gras terrine, for example, amongst others.

We had quite an array of tapas, which we shared.
There was a smoked Duck Breast (three slices) with a Moscatel Glaze.  The Bacalhau Salt Cod Cakes were quite good, too and the Crab Empada was excellent.  I wasn't crazy about the Kale Salad, frankly.  The Oysters were okay, while the two potato offerings were both delicious.  The Serrano Ham was good and the slices of seeded bread were delicious.

We finished the white wines and the server never came by to nudge us to ordering the reds.  In fact, once the tapas were on the table, the server disappeared for the most part, until she was finally enlisted to make coffee for us.
The double espresso I ordered was merely dark brown water and was not a noteworthy coffee.  This was disappointing, as Portugal does have a discriminating coffee culture.  My friend said her Cappuccino was good, though.

Tasca Tasca does have about 7 different dessert offerings, but we skipped these.  I don't recall if the server asked us about dessert.  They mostly have sorbets and ice creams.  One of them is an Olive Oil Ice Cream.

Tasca Tasca is a nice little place and we will probably make a return visit.

The bill tallied to $95 before the tip.

We enjoyed our meal at Tasca Tasca, but would probably order a beer next time unless they serve the wine in a proper glass.

Reviewed November 2018



39 Taylor Street

TEL: 415-896-4021

Tues-Sat  5pm - 10pm
Sunday 4pm - 8pm

Pizza-like bread...served fresh from the oven.

Pork Belly & Maitake Mushroom


The Chef at Work
Michele Bevilacqua

Pork Chop

Ribeye Steak

Roasted Vegetables


We had a vegetarian visitor and so we looked for a suitable dining spot in The City for a Sunday dinner.  We had heard of this new Italian place called Dispensa and booked a table around 6:30.  We were surprised to see the restaurant requires a credit card for a reservation (Open Table).

The restaurant is located in the Tenderloin District, just up the block from the Golden Gate Theater.  We decided to take a taxi to the restaurant from the Metreon rather than look for parking in such a sketchy neighborhood.  This was well worth the $6 cab fare.

There are approximately 40 seats at Dispensa and at 6:30 on a Sunday, we nearly had the whole place to ourselves.  A part of 8 showed up eventually, too.
(It turns out we visited on the first Sunday evening they've opened...typically they had been closed on Sundays.)

No wine glasses are on the table and we were asked if we wanted sparkling water as we sat down.  The menu is on a single page document and the wine list is on another.

The wine list is small, but offers a nice range of maybe 16 Italian wines to accompany the menu.  Most of the wines are offered By-The-Glass (BTG) as well as by the bottle.

Loredan Gasparini's "Asolo" Prosecco is $11 BTG and $55 by the bottle.  The by-the-glass price covers the cost, so it's a rather hefty margin of 500% when they sell a bottle.  That's a sign of the times, we suppose, as the overhead costs have skyrocketed and restaurants routinely have ambitious wine pricing in hopes of making ends meet.
Scacciadiavoli Brut Rosé from Umbria is $20 BTG and $100 for a bottle.  The Scacciadiavoli Brut, another Metodo Classico bubbly, is not available by the glass, but it, too, it $100 for a bottle.

White wines include a Grüner Veltliner from the Cantine Valle Isarco in Italy's Alto Adige region.  It's $11 BTG and $55/bottle.  Similarly priced is Ronco Blanchis Friulano, while a Verdicchio from the Accadia winery in Italy's Marche region at $16/BTG and $80/bottle. This wholesales for about $11 so the mark-up there is, again, quite ambitious.
Zuani's white blend from Friuli $14/BTG and $70/bottle.  They list a Ravello Bianco, a white from the Amalfi Coast without noting the name of the winery, that of Marisa Cuomo.  You'll pay $15/BTG and $76 or $78 for a bottle.

A Campanian red blend called Erta dei Ciliegi from the Viticolturi del Casavecchia is $11/BTG and $55.  Le Piane's Maggiorina blend from northern Piemonte is $13/BTG and $65, while Valle dell'Acate's Cerasuolo, a Sicilian red blend, goes for $16/BTG and $80.  From the Veneto there's a Carmenere blend (with 10% Oseleta) from the La Cappuccina at $19/BTG and $95 for a bottle.  There's a Brunello from Casanuova delle Cerbaie from the 2010 vintage at $120/bottle, the lone red not available by-the-glass.

They offer two sweet wines, a Marsala and a Moscato d'Asti.  The former is $9 for a 3 ounce pour while the Moscato is $12/BTG and $60 for a bottle.

The corkage fee is $25 which might make the $7 beers an attractive alternative for some people.  We did have a bottle of Lauretana sparkling water and that added $7 to the tab.

It's an Italianesque dining spot with the name "dispensa" referring to the pantry.  Yet, different from most Italian restaurants, this place does not offer pasta, risotto or pizza.

One of the innovations here is an environmentally-friendly indoor "charcoal" grill.  It's an indoor "grill" called an X-Oven and it burns charcoal made of vegetable waste we're told.  You can smell a sort of charcoal-like fragrance when you enter the restaurant.

The menu is small, with four starters and three salads.  
There's "Sopa de Tripe," ($14) which is described as "Slow Cooked Tripe, Organic Tomato Sauce and Pecorino Sardo."
There's "Folpo aea Grgilia" which is "Polpo" or Octopus...perhaps this is some special dialect with which we are not familiar?    That's $18.  "Stracietea" is $16 and it's Stracciatella (soup) with Mediterranean Pesto and Anchovies.
How about "Panseta Rosta"?  That's "Crispy Pork Belly with Maytake (sic) Mushrooms" ($20).

There are three $15 salads.
One called "Cavoeo" features "Kale, Persimmons, Sesame Seeds and Ricotta with a Dijon Vinaigrette."  "Saeta" is Baby Lettuce, Granaresu (A Sardinian cheese), Cherry Tomatoes, Olives and a red wine vinaigrette.  The third is called "Betarave" and this is "Beets, Lemon Zest, EVO and Ricotta Sarda."  

There were a handful of main plates;
"Pesse del Giorno"  is the fish of the day...Sorry, I did not make a note of what this was.   "Brixioea ai Feri" is a thick-cut Pork Chop with Roasted Organic Delicata Squash ($28).  "Gaeto Rosto" is an "Organic Cornish Hen with paradise Farm Organic Carrots" ($32).  "Verdure Roste" is a plate of mixed vegetables and is not only vegetarian, but can be vegan.  Not vegan is the "Bisteca ai feri," a 12 ounce Ribeye with 2 Dog Farm Zucchini and Salsa Verde ($36).

They offer three $ 9.00 "sides," one being "Pavaroni ae Bronse," which is described as "Padrons pepper Lemon Zest."  "Caoli ai formaio" is "Organic Cauliflower, ricotta spicy aioli."  "Fungheti in tecia" simply described as "Seasonal Mushroom."  

We were asked is we wanted water as mentioned previously, sparkling or flat.  Our guest ordered a bottle of sparkling water...$7 for that.

We put a bottle of a light, fruity Italian red on the table and the server brought some large, rather elegant stemware for us and opened the bottle at the table.  The "say" was poured and then, given the go-ahead, the wine flowed for the guests.

The two ladies split the Beet Salad starter while I went for the 24 Hour Slow-Cooked Octopus.  They loved the Beets and the Octopus was good, too.  The chef, having recognized me from when he worked selling wine some years ago, brought us some beautiful, perfectly baked "pizza bread."  Very fine!  And the Crispy Pork Belly was also excellent.  Don't miss it if your a fan!

We really filled up on these starters, making the main courses a challenge.
The vegetarian chose the Roasted Vegetables as her main dish.  Our friend went for the Pork dish which was a thick-cut chop...also very good.
The chef said the Ribeye was really good so I went for that.  He was right...a beautifully cooked steak with lots of zucchini wedges.  There was his "salsa verde" on the steak which was fine, but I didn't think this was necessary.

Our elderly friend loves chocolate sweets and Dispensa has a really intense gelato which we shared...very fine.

The bill tallied to $200 and we were given an "industry" discount which was unexpected.

Dispensa is a delightful dining spot and we will certainly make a return visit.

Reviewed by GW
October 2018



3052 Woodside Road

Tel 650-851-5555

Lunch Daily 11-3:30
Dinner  Daily 5-9:30

Rosemary & Garlic Flatbread

Baby Romaine Lettuce Salad


Atlantic Salmon

St. Louis Ribs

Shoestring Potatoes

Eggplant Ratatouille

The Village Bakery and cafe in Woodside opened it doors in the Summer of 2017 as part of the same company that owns Spruce in San Francisco and the Village Pub in Woodside.

We booked a table for two around 7pm on a Sunday evening and the place was fairly well occupied.  We were guided to a two-top in a back dining room.  The white table cloth-covered tables have a piece of butcher paper on them for the kids to draw designs with restaurant-provided crayons.

A one page menu is offered along with a small paperback book-of-a-wine-list.  Curiously, despite having hundreds of wines to choose from, wine glasses are not part of the table setting (which might give patrons a nudge to order a bottle of wine).  

For sparkling wines by-the-glass (BTG), there's a Prosecco from Adami at $13 and two Champagnes.  Larmandier-Bernier's Extra Brut is $18 BTG while a Brut Rosé from Pierre Paillard is $22.

Nine white wines are available by-the-glass, ranging from $10 to $17.
An Austrian Sauvignon Blanc from Glatzer is $13 BTG.  Regis Minet's old vines Pouilly-Fumé is $17.
Arnaldo Caprai's Grechetto is $10, while a Kabinett Riesling from the Mosel estate of Josef Rosch is $15.  Three Chardonnays to choose from,  Wrath from Monterey is $11, Aerena from Sonoma is $14 while a Comte Lafon Macon is $16.
Three pink wines are offered, a Sancerre Rosé from Pascal Jolivet is $13, a Graci Rosé from Etna is $14 and a California bottling from The Withers is $15.
There are nine red to choose from under the By The Glass heading, priced between $10 and $20.
Giacomo Fenocchio's Nebbiolo Langhe is $16 as is a Catena Malbec from Argentina.  Seghesio's Sonoma Zinfandel is $14, while Mount Veeder Cabernet is $20.

There are 16 pages of wine selections, categorized by "Old World Reds," "New World Reds," etc.  There are some "Local Favorites" featuring three Santa Cruz Mountains Chardonnays.   Alfaro ($54), Neely ($82) and Portola Vineyards ($60), but not, curiously, Ridge, Mount Eden or Thomas Fogarty.
Five Santa Cruz Mountains Pinot Noirs are offered, Clos de la Tech going for $90, Mindego Ridge for $94 and a Rhys bottling for $100.  There's a Woodside Vineyards Cabernet at $92.

They have 13 Italian white wines, five German Rieslings and five Austrian Grüner Veltliners.  We found half a dozen New World Rosé wines, all from the most recent vintage and all from California.  From the Old World there a 6 entries, four French and two Italian.
The Village Bakery Cafe has two pages of New World Reds, with an emphasis on Pinot Noirs from California and Oregon.  
Four Zinfandels including a Ridge Ponzo from Sonoma at $64 while Rafanelli Zin is $84. There are seven Cabernet or Cab blends.  Simi's Landslide is  $80 while a Robert Craig is $100.
The wine list offers half a dozen French reds made from the Gamay grape and six Loire Valley Cabernet Francs.  There are five Tuscan reds but not one is from the Chianti Classico region!  There are seven Piemontese Nebbiolo wines.  Of the four Spanish reds, there  are two Mencía bottlings but just one Tempranillo, a Rioja producer called Milenrama.

There are twelve Champagnes on the Reserve list.  Krug's Grand Cuvée is only offered in half bottle format and that's $140 for a 375ml bottle.
A Jacques Selosse "Substance" is $600 for a bottle.  Billecart-Salmon Brut Rosé, on the "reserve list" is $180, while Clicquot's Rosé is $118.
Kistler's entry-level Chardonnay is $120 on the reserve list, but there are no single vineyard Kistler bottlings.
Bartolo Mascarello's 2013 Barolo is $280 a bottle and years away from being worth drinking.  Similarly Paradigm's Napa Cabernet is from the 2014 vintage and it's $140 a bottle.  There's a 2006 Monte Bello Cabernet from Ridge at $500.

So, what about the food to go with these fancy wines?

Sweet Corn Soup is $12, while a Roasted Tomato Soup is $16.  Avocado Toast is $15.  Hand-Cut Steak Tartare is $16, while Prince Edward Island Mussels are $19 if they have them.  On our Sunday evening visit, these were not available.
They offer 4 pizzas, ranging from $17 to $23.  There was a Spaghettoni pasta with Olive Oil, Garlic and Tomatoes at $19, while Gulf Prawn Orecchiette with Red Swiss Chard, Lemon Zest, Garlic and Bread crumbs is $22.

A Burger is $19.  Fried Chicken is $27.  Roasted Atlantic Salmon is $34.
Riesling Braised Chicken is $27.  Seared Amberjack Tuna is $32.  A Bavette (sort of a Flank) Steak is about $34 if I recall correctly and St. Louis Ribs goes for $23.

It's a terrific selection of wines, for one thing.  For another, though, I wonder if it's necessary to have such an extensive list given they have a relatively limited menu.
It seems a bit unbalanced.
Do you need to offer such an extensively roster of wine when the menu is limited?
Do customers request $200-$600 bottles of wine to pair with $20-$35 main plates?

Does it need to have three Rosso di Montalcino selections and no Chianti, for example?

Why don't we see world famous, locally-produced wines such as Ridge Santa Cruz Mtns. Cabernet?  Where's Fogarty Chardonnay and Pinot Noir?  What about Mount Eden Vineyards Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay?  You can't tell me these esteemed wines don't belong on this list as they are, in my view, superior to most of those on the list.
Might those wines find an audience more easily than the half a dozen French Gamay or Cabernet Franc selections?

My dining companion requested a Tanqueray Gin Martini, but her brand is not amongst the dozen gin selections.  Beefeater and Bombay?  Yes.  Tanqueray?  No.  We selected a locally-made, artisan gin called Bummer & Lazarus.
I opted for a Nigl Grüner Veltliner at $14 BTG.
This arrived several minutes ahead of the Martini, which our friend disliked.  I suspect there was nothing "wrong" with the Martini, but she's accustomed to Tanqueray Gin.  
Along with the aperitifs, we ordered "Rosemary and Garlic Flatbead with Extra Virgin Olive Oil" at $9.
It did not mention coming with cheese, so we were surprised to see and smell some sort of cheese sprinkled on this.

My friend asked for the Mussels to start, but by 7:30 on a Sunday, these were no longer available.  So we both had "Baby Romaine Lettuces with Creamy Anchovy and Herb Dressing, Parmesan, Croutons" ($14).
I asked for mine without cheese and this was noted, thank you.
Each of us received a lovely serving of Romaine, nicely chilled and perfectly crispy and fresh.  
I could easily taste the anchovies in the dressing, another positive feature.
As for the croutons, it's entirely possible they were house made, though they more perfectly resembled the industrial ones sold in packages at the grocery store.  Maybe for a $14 serving of lettuce they might consider offering croutons of higher quality?

We put a bottle of a nice red wine on the table and the server brought some nice sized Burgundy glasses.
He then, instead of opening the bottle at our table, took the bottle off into a back room where one of his colleagues apparently opened it.  She brought it to the table and mentioned she had not tasted this particular wine.  We offered her a taste and she was delighted to bring a glass.
Typically the guest pours his/her own bottle for the service crew, but the gal helped herself.  It's not a big deal, but another point about fine and proper service.
Corkage is a hefty $30.

Our friend ordered the Roasted Atlantic Salmon ($34) and this was a nice, if smallish piece of fish, beautifully presented.
I inquired about their Fried Chicken and the server told me this was not especially flavorful.  I gather they don't use near the eleven herbs and spices favored by The Colonel, for example.  So I asked about the St. Louis Ribs and the fellow said "now those are good!"
So I went with the ribs.  They brought a small bowl with a hot towel to the table.  Was I supposed to wash my hands at this stage or wait until they were a sticky mess after (when the napkin was cold)?
I never get this right, I'm afraid.
The ribs were perfectly fine, with the meat falling off the bone.  Mild spice.  Not vinegary, thankfully.

The main plates come relatively unaccompanied, so they have a handful of side dishes.  I ordered Shoestring Fries ($8) and my friend asked for the Eggplant Ratatouille ($8).  The fries were nicely done and the Ratatouille was okay, if a bit under-seasoned.

We skipped dessert.

The bill tallied to about $170 with tax and a 3.5% "Living Wage Surcharge" for living wages and Health Insurance according to the note of the front page of the drinks list.

The back room where we sat was a bit noisy.  There might have been some sort of sound system playing music, but this was not easily heard.
Once a couple of parties of 4 or 6 departed, the sound level was much more comfortable.

Given the cost of dining here, I'm not sure I'll be making a return visit in the near future.  The quality of the food is certainly good, but the overall dining experience is a bit pricey in terms of value.  If you're in the Woodside area, though, you might consider dining here.

Reviewed by GW
October 2018



2021 Broadway
Redwood City

TEL: 650-367-7974

Mon-Thurs: 11:30-10:00
Fri: 11:30-11:00
Sat: 3:00-11:00
Sun: 3:00-9:00

A Pour of Chalk Hill Chardonnay.

Crab Cake


Tuna Poke

Prime Rib....14 ounce cut

Ten Ounce Filet Mignon


Asiago Whipped Potatoes

Truffle Fries


The Courthouse is a new dining spot in Redwood City, just south of the theaters by a couple of blocks on Broadway.

We booked an on-line reservation for a Sunday evening and found the place moderately busy with a few patrons seated at the bar by the TV monitors and there were perhaps 25 to 30 people seated at tables in the dining rooms.

The tables set inside did have wine glasses as part of the table setting, but those closer to the entrance and street did not seem to be set identically.
The wine list is on the reserve side of the one page menu.

We found eleven white wines by the glass (BTG), along with three sparklers and thirteen reds.
The white wines range from $12/glass to $15/glass.
The selections are of standard quality wines and there's nothing terribly exciting...merely "serviceable."  Los Vascos Chardonnay is $12 ($46/bottle)  for a wine that retails for $10-$12 a bottle.  Spy Valley Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand and Four Graces Pinot Gris from Oregon are similarly priced.  Roth Sauvignon Blanc and Bargetto Pinot Grigio are $13/glass and $50/bottle.
The three sparklers by the glass includes J.P. Chenet at $11/BTG and $42/bottle. It's listed as being from Napa, but it is a French product. This wholesales for somewhere between $5 and $7.67 a bottle and it may be over-priced.
Rack & Riddle Blanc de Blancs is listed as a Napa bottling but the winery is located in Sonoma County and that wine carries a "North Coast" appellation.  It's $13/BTG and $50/bottle.
A South American Brut Rosé called Antucura is $16/BTG and $62 for a bottle, but costs less than $14 wholesale.
There's a Cabernet called "Bread and Butter" which carries a "California" appellation, yet the wine list shows this as a Napa bottling.  $13/BTG and $50 for a bottle.  There's a very modest Bordeaux called Cap Royal at $11/BTG and $42 by the bottle.  It wholesales for less than ten bucks.
Oak Farm, a Lodi winery, has a red blend...that's $15/BTG and $58 for a bottle, as is the Banshee label of Pinot Noir from Sonoma.
The wines come from but a few distribution companies and I can't say these are especially savvy selections, especially given their pricing with 400% markups.
They offer some sparkling wines by the bottle and there you'll find Clicquot's non-vintage Brut at $75/bottle (this wholesales now for just under $50).
Piper Heidsieck Brut is $58/bottle, while Schramsberg Blanc de Blanc is $65.

The best California Sauvignon Blancs they could find include Emmolo ($48), Gamble ($62) and "Patland Esate 2014" from Napa for $82/bottle.
Chardonnays include a wine called "Contagious" by a rock musician named Meniketti ($65), Montelena's 2014 from Napa at $98, Flowers at $115 and DuMol  at $145.  Keep in mind the Flowers and Montelena wholesale for far less than Clicquot and yet they're much more costly.  The DuMol wholesales for maybe $2 more than Clicquot and yet it's $145.

Under the heading of "Interesting Whites" we find D'arenberg's Viogner (sic)-Marsanne blend from Australia.  This wholesales for around $11 and it's $34 on the wine list.  Donnafugata Grillo from Sicily is $42 while Fillaboa Albariño from the Ríax Biaxas ( should be Rías Baixas) is $55 (yet it wholesales, possibly, for less than the Grillo!).
Four Pinot Noirs are available, including Fort Ross from Sonoma at $80 along with Wayfarer 2014 at $125.
Three Zinfandels are available with Gamba from Sonoma's Russian River region at $75.
If you want a Cabernet to pair with some grilled meat, you're spending anywhere between $88 and $325 for a bottle.
An older vintage of Groth Reserve from the 2007 vintage is $145, while Cliff Lede's 2014 is $190.
Montelena's Estate Cabernet is from the 2006 vintage and that's the $325 bottle.
Phelps 2006 Insignia is $345 and Opus One from 2006 is $425.  Given that these are older vintages, customers might wonder where these bottles were sourced, since they're not typically in the market currently from the wholesaler.
There's Qupé 2014 Santa Barbara Syrah at $68/bottle, yet the distribution company shows the 2012 as being available today.  There's a "Central Coast" bottling from 2015, so I'd wonder if they're offering that less costly wine.
Klinker Brick Syrah from Lodi wholesales for about $14 and yet it's $80 on this wine list.
We find three Merlot offerings.  Franciscan is $40, while Rodney Strong is $56 and Peju goes for $64.
Three half bottles are on the list.  "Clos de L'Oratorie" ('s Clos de L'Oratoire) is $38/375ml, while Napanook (from Dominus) is $75.  They have a Sauternes (sweet wine) from Clos Haut Peyraguey (that they spelled correctly!) at $52.

Below the half bottles are three "Large Format" wines. Faust Napa Cabernet, wholesaling for $90 is $275.  Patland Estate Cabernet is $400.
They have one white wine in magnum and, are you ready for this???
It's "Woodbridge by Robert Mondavi" which wholesales for about $12 for a magnum-sized bottle.
This, shockingly, is $155 on this crazy wine list!

That is a cruel joke on some poor, unsuspecting customer and it qualifies to be described as "outrageous."

The corkage fee is $28 and given the somewhat crazy pricing here, you might consider bringing something of good quality to this place.

My friend ordered her usual Tanqueray Martini to start...she wondered if they really made it from Tanqueray Gin.  I had a sniff and don't know that brand well enough to identify it.  But it was gin.  
I started with a pour of Chalk Hill Chardonnay at $13.  They brought a small carafe of maybe 5 or 6 ounce capacity and poured half into the wine glass on the table.  It's brought "anonymously" so the customer does not see the wine being poured from its original bottle.

I was amused that our friend didn't torment the waiter for bread and butter as she usually does.  We were not offered brad, however.

The menu is categorized by different sections.  
From The Start has quite a range of appetizers.  There's a Lobster Bisque ($11) and Clam Chowder ($10), though we don't know if it's red or white.
Grilled Colossal Prawns is $19.  No menu price on the half a dozen oysters...the young lady trying to serve more than 2 dozen covers said it was $12 which seemed low given the other prices.  In fact, they were about $22 for six oysters.  Seared Foie Gras is $18, while Grilled Octopus is $16.
My friend started with Ahi Tuna Poke ($15) which comes with a bunch of crispy Papadoms (or Papadums, if you prefer) and a seaweed salad.  Nice.  She enjoyed this.
I opted for the Crispy Dungeness Crab Cake ($18).  This was perfectly okay, though the crab was rather bland.  Standard...

They have, by the way, several salad offerings under the heading of "Green Earth."
Under the heading of Charcoal and Wood we find a few Flatbreads.  Under the subheading of Steaks and Chops there's a 14 ounce "Bone In Filet Mignon" aged 35 days at $65.  A similarly-sized and similarly aged New York Steak is $58.
A 24 ounce Prime Ribeye is $65, while a 26 ounce Porterhouse is $85.  A Prime 42 ounce Tomahawk steak is $125.
Add Seared Foie Gras to these and you'll be billed $13.  An 8 ounce Lobster Tail is $24 while a 14 ounce "Main (sic) Lobster Tail" is  $59.
Weekend evenings they have Prime Rib with a 10 ounce slice costing $29, a 14 ounce serving going for $39 and an 18 ounce cut is $49.

From the Land and Sea we find a few seafood items and two chicken dishes. Scallops are $32 while Loc-Duart (sic) Salmon is $29.  A Wood-Roasted, Boneless Whole Fish is $34.  Boneless Chicken is $26, while Fried Chicken is $27.
Side dishes are $5 to $7 and you'll find Sautéed Mushrooms, Truffle Fries,  Asiago Whipped Potatoes, an Idaho Baked Potato, Creamed Spinach. Grilled Asparagus or Mac and Cheese.

Before the crew cleared our starter plates the mains showed up and they didn't seem to have noted who gets what causing a slight bit of chaos.

My friend ordered the Filet Mignon along with the whipped potatoes and sautéed mushrooms.  I had a mid-sized cut of the Prime Rib and had Truffle Fries... The Prime Rib had quite a bit of fat to it, by the way. 

We had engaged the bartender who was waiting on us in conversation.  We neglected to offer him a sip of the Bordeaux we brought, but he comped the corkage fee which was nice.

We had asked both the harried server and the bartender if they could check to see if the magnum of Chardonnay was actually Mondavi's cheap Woodbridge bottling but neither seemed much interested in verifying the identity of that $155 bottle.

We skipped dessert and the bill tallied to around $169 before the tip.

With a bit of refinement this place could be a nice dining spot.  The prices are perhaps a bit high for the food given what we see frequently in San Francisco.  The wine list is a bit of a mess in terms of selections and pricing.

I'm on the fence about a return visit.

We put a bottle of a red Bordeaux on the table and the fellow taking care of us (the bartender was pressed into service) brought two nice Bordeaux stems and opened the wine.

Posted by GW
September 2018



3324 Steiner Street
San Francisco

Tel:  415-567-9588

Tue-Thurs 5:30-9:30
Fri 5:30-10:00
Sat 5:00-10:00
Sun: 5:00-9:00

Tomales Bay Oysters

Local Grilled Calamari with Flageolet Beans



Flat Iron Steak with Tarragon Butter, Haricots Verts and a Polenta Cake


Rack of Lamb



Flourless Chocolate Cake and Vanilla Bean Gelato


We had initially booked a 7pm table at this dining spot in San Francisco's Marina District, but changed plans at the last minute and arrived as ISA was opening around 5pm on a summer Sunday.

They initially crammed us both side-by-side in a cramped window table, a location that might be comfortable for a solo diner or a couple who like to sit cheek-by-cheek.
It seemed there was seating for maybe 30 people in the front part of the restaurant, but it turns out there's a covered patio in the back, past the kitchen,  where perhaps another 60 seats are available.  We moved to this back location and this was much more comfortable.
This was a good move as there had been a crying baby near us in the front.

Our host provided menus and a wine and drinks list.  Wine glasses are on the table to give guests a subtle nudge to order wine.
The restaurant does not have a liquor license, so don't go there planning to order a Martini, unless you don't mind your cocktail being made with Soju instead of Gin, Vodka, Tequila, etc.

There are 9 white wines offered By-the-Glass (BTG).
For $9.50 BTG (or $36/bottle), you'll find Perrin Côtes-du-Rhône Blanc, Fess Parker Riesling, Mohua New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, something called "Vin Fiz" Chardonnay from Sonoma and Quinta da Raza Vinho Verde.  "Wonderwall" Chardonnay from Field Recordings is $10 BTG, while Adelsheim Pinot Gris is $11. J. Moreau Chablis is $12.50 BTG.
We found ten red wines by the glass.  They have their own "Isa Red Blend" for $9.50 BTG or $36/bottle.
Sonoma's Bonneau winery has several wines on the list, including  a Zinfandel and their Egret label Cabernet and Merlot, all $9.50 BTG.
Domaine des Champs Fleuris 2016 "Cabernet Franc" is also $9.50 BTG, though it's not listed as a Saumur-Champigny, likely due to space restrictions.  A Brouilly from Château de Pierreux is $10 BTG, while a Mencía (Spanish red) from the Avancia winery is $12 BTG.   Ancient Peaks Cabernet from  Paso Robles is $12 as is Bonneau Pinot Noir.
There is one bubbly available by the glass, a modest quality French sparkler called Baron de Seillac.  It's $9.50 BTG.

There were seven white wines under the heading of "Whites."
"C & C" Dry Gewurztraminer is $40 and we might guess the C & C is Claiborne & Churchill.  Benoit Gautier Vouvray "Argilex" is $42/bottle, while Sans Liege "Côtes du Coast" white is $48.  There's a Pouilly-Fumé called "Les Cris" for $58.  Missing is the name of the winery, Cailbourdin.  
There's "JB Taille aux Loups, Chenin Blanc, France, 14" at $68.  We suspect JB refers to the name of Jacky Blot, owner of the Domaine Taille aux Loups.  He makes a half a dozen, or so, Chenin Blanc wines, from dry to sparkling to sweet, so they do not identify which bottling is available.
Morey Coffinet's Rully Blanc is $60 or you could opt for Rombauer's Chardonnay at $74.

Under the heading of "Pinot Noirs, Red Burgundy" we find five selections and not one is from Burgundy.
The least expensive offering is The Forager from Sonoma at $46.  Blacksmith Napa Pinot Noir is $48, McIntyre Santa Lucia Highlands is $58 and Toulouse Estate from the Anderson Valley is $74. Carden, from Oregon's Willamette Valley is  $85.
There are 15 "Other Interesting Reds."  For $40 you can have a Viña Cobos "Felino" Malbec or Field Recordings 2016 Cabernet Franc from Paso Robles.  There's a Bokisch Lodi Graciano from the 2013 vintage at $44/bottle.  An older bottling from the 2011 vintage of Urban Legend Dolcetto is $46...wonder if this wine is still holding up?
There's a California appellation red table wine misidentified as being from Napa (that's where it's bottled) called Sexual Chocolate.  $50 for that.
Similarly Turley's Juvenile Zinfandel, which carries a California appellation, is $68 and it's identified by the bottling location, St. Helena, not by where the grapes are actually grown.
Angulo Innocenti "Unisono" Malbec from Argentina is $80 as is a wine called "Audacieux" Napa Cabernet.  Illustrating how so many high-priced wines cannot find a market, this bottle, which retails for $125 and claims to be produced in minuscule quantities, is offered by a restaurant that seems to mark up its wines by two-and-a-half times to three and a half times wholesale, for a relatively modest price.
There's a Tuscan red from Casanova di Neri called IrRosso at $46 or Milbrandt's Washington State Merlot for $48.  Herman Story "Milk & Honey" Red wine is the most spendy bottle at $88.

The corkage fee is $20 though the wine list indicates :

So if they need 5+ wine glasses perhaps the corkage fee is higher...?

It seems the white wines have been selected with a bit more care than the reds.  Sparkling wines are not impressive, either.  The lone Champagne is Nicolas Feuillatte at $68, with two French sparklers masquerading as the real thing.  Louis Bouillot Blanc de Noirs is $48 and it's a Crémant de Bourgogne while the Baron de Seillac bubbly, labeled simply as French Sparkling Wine, goes for $36.

My Martini-drinking friend was willing to try their "cocktails" made with Soju instead of Tanqueray, but I cautioned the server who took that order she would likely send it back as being "undrinkable."  Happily they had the French aperitif Lillet on their menu at $10 and we requested one of those and a glass of the Quinta da Raza Vinho Verde ($9.50).
They brought an anonymous glass of white wine to the table and it was pleasantly citrusy and fresh, tasting younger than the 2016 listed on their wine list.

There is an A La Carte Menu and, Sunday through Thursday, a Prix Fixe menu at $34.99.
That menu looks pretty good and we'd have saved a few bucks had we ordered some of the courses from that.  You can have a Loch Duart Carpaccio, Steamed Mussels, Grilled Calamari or Heirloom Tomatoes amongst a few other items as a starter.
Not on the Price-Fixed menu for starters you can find Sea of Cortez Wild Prawns at $17, a half a dozen Tomales Bay Oysters at $12 or a Dungeness Crab Salad at $17.

On the Prix Fixe menu for Main plates we find a Truffle Risotto,  Spaghetti with Himalayan Truffles, a daily Fish Special, a Pan Roasted Chicken dish or a Flat Iron Steak.
From the A La Carte Menu we find Seared Scallops ($27), Potato Wrapped Sea Bass ($26), Saffron Paella, Dutch Valley Veal Sweetbreads & Mushroom Fricassee or a Duck Breast with Braised Red Cabbage. I didn't record the prices of those last items. Sorry.

We inquired if the Prix Fixe portions were smaller than those on the A La Carte Menu and were told they are identical-sized servings.

The crew tells guests that dishes are designed to be shared and so they serve them "family style."  Further, they inform patrons these will be brought to you when they are ready and not necessarily simultaneously.  We told our server we didn't want the main courses after the starters and didn't want them before we finished the first courses.
"That won't be an issue." he told us.  
We suspect they have this system as the kitchen is rather small and perhaps they're not sufficiently organized or capable of sending out the starters in a timely, coordinated manner.

We watched a large group at a neighboring table being served over the course of maybe 15+ minutes as starters arrived in waves.

My friend started with the Tomales Bay Pt. Reyes Oysters on the half shell with a Spicy Orange Mignonette ($12) and I had the Grilled Local Calamari with Honey Spice, Flageolet Beans, Lemon Zest and Arugula ($14).
The Oysters were quite good and the Calamari was also delicious.
The Calamari arrived maybe 6 to 10 minutes after the Oysters.

A nice basket of bread, slices of a baguette, were brought warmed to the table.

My friend noticed a small glass pepper shaker on the table and when we had looked away, a small bowl of salt that you, I suppose, dip your fingers in...seemed less than a sanity idea to us.

We put a bottle of what turned out to be a really good Pinot Noir on the table.  The young fellow serving us brought two somewhat larger wine glasses than they used for the glass of white we had.
He was somewhat challenged to open the bottle, as this was clearly not something he did every day.  Then the young man poured a bit more than a small taste for us to assess.  We explained the notion of "the say," where someone at the table is presented a small pour to see if the bottle is corked or if it's suitable for service.  He thanked us for the education.
We offered him a taste, encouraging him to bring a glass, but he was either not interested or too embarrassed to partake.

The Grilled Golden Gate Natural Angus Flat Iron Steak with French Haricots Verts, Polenta Cake, Tarragon Butter and Red Wine Sauce ($24) arrived and she immediately pushed the herbed butter that was melting off the meat.  The beef was quite good, though and nicely cooked.
I had opted for the Roasted Rack of Lamb with Sautéed Eggplant, Zucchini, Red peppers, Niçoise Olives and Lamb Jus ($29) and this, too, was delicious and perfectly cooked to medium rare.

To finish the meal there are a couple of Cheese Plates and a half a dozen sweet desserts.  I'm not counting the "Chocolate Flavored" wine or the "Peach Flavored" wine as dessert wines, but they redeemed themselves with Uroulat's Jurançon ($9) and Six Grapes Porto ($8), though they don't identify Graham's as the Port Producer.  There's an Orange Muscat by Robert Hall ($9) and a "Sweet Chardonnay" ($8) by Bonneau in Sonoma.  
We both had the Flourless Chocolate Cake & Vanilla Bean Gelato ($8.50), bypassing the Semifreddo all' Amaretto ($7), the Farmer's Market Fruit ($7) and the Grapefruit Granité ($6).

The bill tallied to $136 as the server didn't nail us for the $20 corkage.  He didn't mention this, so it's not clear whether this was simply an omission or if it was intentional.  We left him a nice tip, though.

The sound system had some sort of peppy music, but nothing memorable or distinctive, so it was more background noise tempering the conversations taking place.  We could converse, by the way.

Isa was a very good dining option, being well-priced, casual, comfortable and also importantly, delicious.

We were bemoaning the fact that we don't have this sort of place in our hometown.

Reviewed by GW
August 2018



133 Clement Street
San Francisco

Open: Wed-Monday 11:30-3
Wed-Monday: 5pm until 9:30
(Fri-Sat 5pm-10pm)

Imperial Rolls

Shrimp Rice Crispies


Sizzling Seafood


Claypot Rice


Garlic Noodles



On a Sunday evening during the Summer we booked a table for two at this venerable San Francisco Vietnamese dining spot, just across the street from the famous Chapeau! restaurant on Clement Street.  We found parking about a block away.

We estimated there's seating for about 50 to 60 people and the place was about 75% occupied when we arrived around 6:30, or so.
We were shown to a two-top table in the window.  No wine glasses were on the table as part of the place setting.
I had thought we might simply opt for a beer, not seeing any notation of the restaurant having wine on their on-line menu.

In fact, though, there was a wine list  which was presented along with the menu.

We find 6 By-The-Glass (BTG) offerings, including La Playa Sauvignon Blanc at $9 BTG, Trefethen Chardonnay ($10/BTG) and La Fornarina Prosecco at $9 BTG.  All three red selections are $9 BTG.  You'll find Leese Fitch Pinot Noir, William Hill Cabernet and Belasco de Baquedano Malbec.

There are ten "White" wines offered.  Hugel's dry Riesling from Alsace is $45/bottle, while Schlumberger's Pinot Gris is $44.  Sauvignon Blancs include J. Lohr at $42, Mulderbosch from South Africa at $46 and La Playa at $35.  The La Playa, by the way, wholesales for about $5 a bottle.
Chardonnays include Flora Springs ($58), Trefethen ($54) and Orin Swift's Mannequin ($60).
Zocker Grüner Veltliner isn't a bad choice and that's $44.

They have two pink wines.  Curiously both are French sparklers.  
Pol Clement, which wholesales for $7, goes for $38 and Bailly Lapierre, wholesaling for around $12, is $52 on the wine list.

There were 16 red wines on the list.  These ranged from $38 (for a Jacob's Creek Cabernet)  on the low end, while Flora Springs Trilogy is $98.
The Flora Springs and Dry Creek Vineyard's "Mariner" ($65)  bottlings are both listed as "Meritage" wines, but neither carries that special designation on their labels.  This may cause a bit of confusion as Dry Creek Vineyard does offer a wine with the Meritage designation.
There's a Trentadue "Cuvee 32" at $57, though this wine comes under that winery's "La Storia" label.  There's a J Vineyard 2015 Pinot Noir ($46) listed as Monterey County, but it actually has fruit from Sonoma and Santa Barbara Counties as well.  There's a Leese-Fitch Pinot Noir ($42) shown as coming from Sonoma, but only 3% of the wine comes from Sonoma (most is from Clarksburg and Lodi!).  There's Jacob's Creek's Double Barrel Cabernet ($38) which is listed as a Barossa Valley wine, but the appellation for the US market carries the more general region of "Australia."
Dry Creek Vineyard's 2014 "Old Vin" Zinfandel ($57) from Sonoma's Dry Creek Valley is $57, while Ridge Vineyards "Three Valley" Zinfandel bottling is $50.

The corkage fee is a modest $15.

The wine list is perfectly okay if you're not a wine geek or terribly fussy about wine.  We were not expecting to find this place to be a wine destination, so having wines from Dry Creek Vineyard, Ridge and Trefethen was a pleasant surprise.  Still, a few more offerings of Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc and Grüner Veltliner would be a good idea as these can pair quite handsomely with the food.

We did not see tables with wine bottles on them, so it's likely few guests at Le Soleil have much interest.  On the other hand, when the restaurant doesn't give customers the subtle clue to order wine by placing glasses on the table, we should not be surprised.  


The menu has about a dozen starters.
There's Beef Carpaccio ($9) which is hardly a traditional Vietnamese dish. Quail flambéed tableside is $8.  They have a handful of "rolls," such as a Pork & Shrimp Spring Roll, BBQ Pork Spring Rolls and Duck Spring Rolls (all $9). A Vegetarian Spring Roll is $8.  There are two Crepe offerings, Chicken & Shrimp ($15) or Mushroom & Tofu ($14).
Two salads are on the menu, both $12.  Lotus Root comes with beef while there's a Green Papaya Shrimp Salad.    Soups are $9.50 and there's a Spicy Chicken Coconut and a Hot & Sour soup that comes with Catfish.

There is a dozen Seafood & Non-Meat dishes. Tofu Eggplant is $15 as is the Curry Veggies dish.  Caramelized Sea Bass is $24, while Sizzling Seafood (tiger Prawn, Calamari, Fish, onion, Basil and House Sauce) is $30.  There's a Dungeness Crab dish with garlic,, egg, Crab Roe and Garlic Noodles going for "market price."  This can be had in half or whole portions.
There were nine Meat & Poultry items.  Roasted Five Spice Chicken is $18, while Macadamia Lamb Chops are $19. Shaken Beef is $22 and Lemongrass Beef is $18.  House Fried Rice is $14 and comes with duck, while Curry Short Ribs are $20.
The choices are difficult to choose from.

We put a bottle of a nice, crisp Sancerre on the table and paid the $15 Corkage fee.  Our server brought two glasses which reminded me of Riedel's "Degustation" stems.  They're about a 12 or 13 ounce-sized glass.


We asked to start with their Imperial Rolls ($9) which are described as "Pork, Mushroom, Carrot, Rice Paper, Fresh Vegetable, Chili Nuoc Mam.  These came with fresh lettuce leaves in which to wrap the rolls, along with some mint leaves, shredded carrots and noodles.  Very good!
The "Shrimp Rice Crispies" (Shrimp Cake, Water Chestnut, Sweet Rice Crust & Peanut Sauce) is a serving with skewered, round "shrimp cakes" and there are three skewers with a pair on each.  The flavor is quite good and this also went well with our Sancerre.

We had asked our server to not bring everything at once and he nodded, indicating they don't slam a table with all the items simultaneously (as we've experienced at many Asian dining spots).

And, in fact, they cleared the starters and our plates before bringing the next dishes.  They do take soiled/used utensils off those starter plates and leave them for the next dishes.

We ordered "Claypot Rice" (Chicken, Shrimp, Chinese Sausage, Mushroom and Onion) at $16 and this was quite tasty.  The rice at the bottom of the clay pot is crispy and reminiscent of the socarrat on the bottom of a paella pan.
We also had the Sizzling Seafood ($30) which we described earlier...very good, though I was not sure what kind of "fish" they included.  From their list of side dishes, we ordered Garlic Noodles ($11) and these we nice, though I can't say it was very intense in terms of garlic.

We skipped dessert, having ordered a bit too much food in the first place.

The bill tallied to $98, which included the $15 corkage fee and tax, but not the tip.

This is a great little dining spot and we look forward to returning to try some other dishes.

Reviewed by GW
July 2018



1041 Middlefield Road
Redwood City

Open Mon-Thurs 11:30-9:30
Fri-Sat 11:30-10
Sun: 11:30-9:00

Tel 650-701-1000


Bread and Tapenade

Farro and Calamari

Shrimp and Panelle

Here's a close-up of the rather unappetizing Romano Bean item they included in this dish.

The server laughed uproariously when I asked him what those unusual items were.

Lamb Shank

A Veal T-Bone with squash, beans and a Mushroom Tortino



Having enjoyed a splendid meal at Donato & Co. in Berkeley, we thought we'd check out the original Donato restaurant in Redwood City, Donato Enoteca.

On a warm Summer Sunday evening in July we found a parking place near the restaurant and arrived a bit early for our 7pm reservation.  The hostess guided us to a table for two in one of the several dining rooms near the bar.  We had a window-side table.  The menu was accompanied by a wine list and a "specials" list called "On the Board," four wines offered By-the-Glass (BTG) and in quarter bottle, half bottle and full bottle formats.

Wine glasses are part of the table setting.

The special list features four good quality Italian wines:  Malvira Arneis at $10/glass, $16, $31 and $46.  Elena Walch 2016 Rosato is similarly priced.  Felsina's 2013 Chainti (sic) Classico Riserva is  $16/glass, $26, $51 and $76, while a young Barolo from Paolo Scavino is $22/glass, $36, $72 and $105 for a bottle.

The list offers Sparkling, Rose, and White wines, with the later category broken into three sub-headings.  

For wines available By The Glass we find 5 Sparkling wines, two roses and six white wines.  Drusian's Prosecco is well-priced at $10/glass and $45/bottle (the Berkeley Donato restaurant asks $8/glass and $32/bottle).
There's "Champagne Francese Francia," a bit redundant on one hand, but they do not identify what brand of Champagne they are offering.  It's $18/glass, $49 for a half bottle and $85 for a bottle.
All the other sparkling wines come with a winery name.

The two pink wine selections are two vintages old, not from the most recent harvest.  Graci's Etna Rosato is $11/glass, $18, $38 and $52.

In the white wine category the prices range from $9/glass to $15 and these go from $40/bottle to $69.  There's Malabaila Arneis for $10/glass, $16, $31 and $46.  Graci's Etna Bianco is $14/glass, $23, $45 and $65.  

Other white wines by the bottle are categorized as "$30 & $40," "Oltre" and then the interesting heading of "Caveat Emptor."

You'll see Montenidoli's Vernaccia di San Gimignano at $39, while $49 gets you a Pecorino from Abruzzo by Cataldi Madonna.  Peter Dipoli's Sauvignon "Voglar" from the Alto Adige is $58, while Isole e Olena's Tuscan Chardonnay is $99.
Under the "Caveat Emptor" heading we find a couple of naturalista wines.
One is posted as "Paolo Bea Lazio Bianco Coenobium" at $67 a bottle.  But this wine is not made by Paolo Bea, but the Monastero Suore Cistercensi.  It's a wine made in roughly the same neighborhood as Paolo Bea's and the Bea family are friendly with the sisters.
Our experience with this wine is that many vintages are a bit oxidized and this is viewed by some as a "feature" and not a flaw as the wine is "natural."
The second wine under the Caveat Emptor heading is Damijan's Bianco Kaplja, a blend from Friuli which spends 2 to 3 months on the skins.  The 2009 vintage is $85/bottle if you're sufficiently adventuresome.

There are ten red wines offered by the glass and in various-sized pours.
All are Italian and none are big, corporate-type wine brands.  Bravo!
You'll find Gulfi Nero d'Avola "Nerojbleo" at $11/glass, $18, $35 and $52.  There's a Nebbiolo from the Valtellina by Sandro Fay, the "Ca Morei" bottling  at $16/glass, $26, $51 and $76.
Francesco Rinaldi's 2013 Barolo is $21/glass, $35, $69 and $99.
With so many wines open at one time, we wondered how the restaurant preserves these.  
Do they sparge the bottles with argon, for example, to replace the oxygen? 
(We have an argon tank in our shop and if the bottles are sparged each time we pour wine, the bottles can last for several weeks.)
Donato, like many places, uses a Vacuvin gizmo which sucks a bit of air out of the bottle...This system might be okay for bottles opened for a day or two, but we've not had great success with wines being opened for a week.
A Coravin gizmo, which costs more, would also be useful and a superior option for these wines.

They have two wines listed as "Chilled Red" and one is a Lagrein from the "Michael Eppan" winery in the Alto Adige at $44/bottle.  The other is Burlotto's Pelaverga from Verduno in Piemonte at $54.

The rest of the red wine selections are categorized at "$30 & 40,"  "$50 & $60" and "Other."  There's also the page dubbed "Riserva" and there we find Barbaresco, Barolo, Brunello di Montalcino, Super Tuscan and Others.
As with the white wines, you will not find big, corporate wine brands on the list, for the most part.

Paolo Scavino's "Vino Rosso" from Piemonte is $35 a bottle, Vignalta's  2011 Gemola (a Merlot/Cabernet Franc blend) from the Veneto is $74/bottle.  Luciano Sandrone's 2012 "Le Vigne" Barolo is $185.
Under the Reserve page heading we find a Paitin Riserva Barbaresco "Vecchie Vigne" from the 2004 vintage at $175.   Gaja's 1999 "Sori Tildin" bottling from Barbaresco is $414/bottle.
The 2007 Barolo from Bartolo Mascarello is $585/bottle, while the 2008 goes for $494.  Massolino's 2009 "Margheria" Barolo is  $232, while Oddero's 2006 "Vigna Rionda" is $265.
The Monte Vertine 2011 "Le Pergole Torte" is $344 a bottle.  Quintarelli's 2006 Valpolicella is $198, while Romano Dal Forno's 2004 Valpolicella is $360.

There's a notation at the bottom of the reserve list: "Local wine available upon request."
Corkage is $20 for the first two bottles and $30 per bottle for the third, an on.

The list is easy to navigate and unlike the East Bay location, there are no spelling errors apart from the one on the specials list.

My dining companion ordered a Tanqueray Martini, $11.  I opted for a glass of Marco Felluga "Collio Bianco Friuli" ($9).  This was brought in a small carafe and dumped into the wine glass on the table with all the grace of a beer vendor at the local ballpark.  They don't show the bottle from which it was poured, a major gripe of mine (as restaurants are often given significantly lower pricing on wine which they pour "by the glass."  Wineries view this as some sort of advertising or promotion.  But it's a rare restaurant that brings the bottle to the table and shows off the name of the winery, etc., to the customer.)
By the way, Marco Felluga offers two Collio Bianco wines.  One is called "Molamatta" and retails for about $26 while the one labeled "Just Molamatta" goes for about $15 in a shop.

Only when the bill arrived at the end of our meal did we see the notation of the wine as being "Just Molamatta."  Both have the appellation of Collio Bianco.
In any case, the wine we had was of good quality.

There is a name on the wine list, suggesting they have a Sommelier or wine director.  No wine specialist, though, stopped by our table to consult with us about wine or to open the bottle we brought with us.

The menu offers "Antipasti e Insalate" as starters.
Here you'll find various items such as "Sampling of Olives, affettati, pickled vegetables, imported artisan cheese, seasonal fritters, olive oils, & bomba bread" at $19.  There is a Spinach & Goat Cheese salad at $11, as is a salad featuring Red Quinoa & Beans.  Lamb Meatball with Provolone cheese and a Spicy Tomato Sauce is $12 while a plate of Prosciutto e Giardiniera which comes with a tortino of Grana Padano is $13.

There were 6 house-made pasta dishes and one risotto.  Agnolotti del Plin is described as "Housemade small ravioli del Plin of three meats; sausage , veal, Tomato and Onion Sauce" at $18.  Well, we suppose the sausage could be made of more than one type of meat.
Orecchiette Pesto e Melanzane is $17 and it's described as "Imported Orecchiette pasta, roasted eggplant, Slow cooked cherry tomato medley, basil pesto & ricotta salata cheese."  Well, apparently not all the pasta is made in house.
"Bigoli e Coda" is Bigoli pasta with Nebbiolo braised Oxtail & Asparagus ($19).  There is no notation as to the bigoli being housemade.
There's a Housemade Tonnarelli Neri con Calamari, Vongole e Canestrelli at $19 which is a squid ink pasta with Monterey Bay Calamari, Manila Clams, Bay Scallops, fresh Roma tomatoes,  Basil and Calabrian Peppers.

They had 5 selections under the heading of Pizza dal Forno a Legna (wood-fired oven).
A Pizza Margherita is $15, while Sausage and Mushroom is $17.

Two seafood offerings were available on our visit...a Seafood "stew" is $28, while a Sea Bass (Branzino) is $29.  And there's an entire Branzino offered at "market price."

They had four meat dishes.  Well, 5 if you count the price-fixed menu which can be ordered individually, too.
There was a roasted chicken dish, "Pollo Arrosto in Tecia" at  $24, while a "Bracciola di Coppa," a 16 ounce Pork Chop is $25.  "Garretto d'Agnello" is a braised lamb shank and that's $27.  I missed seeing the "Costata" on the's an Allan Brothers Prime T-Bone at $34.

The server asked if we wanted bread and tapenade.  Yes...good idea.
They brought a few thin slices of some sort of bread...not as interesting as we'd had the previous week in Berkeley, though.

My friend chose the Farro e Calamari alla Griglia.  She did not know what Farro is and the server described it as somewhat reminiscent of oatmeal.  She was not interested in oatmeal, but I told her to try it anyway.  She did and was thrilled.  Now she knows what Farro is. (It's a grain somewhat akin to wheat or barley.)
I went for the Gamberi e Panelle, which is described as "Crispy Gulf Prawns & Garbanzo Fritters with Caper Berries and Romano Beans."
This comes in a little basket coated with paper to soak up the oak from the panelle and other fried items...
There were a few prawns and several large caper berries, but also these very unappetizing elongated black things.  It seems they rolled the beans in something and then deep-fried them.  They were not "burnt" but had a strange blackish color reminiscent of dog poop. 
I kid you not.
When our server came by to check on us, I displayed one on a plate and asked him precisely what is this?
The poor fellow nearly wet his pants laughing so hard because he, too, thought this was not especially appetizing.
"Please tell the kitchen they need to work on the presentation," I advised.

We were just wrapping up the the starters and the main plates were being brought to the table before the dishes had been cleared.

My dining partner opted for the Braised Lamb Shank at $27.  I asked the server for a suggestion, choosing between the Pork Chop or the "Nodino di Vitello," ($29), a veal steak.  He advised me to go for the latter, so I did.
The Lamb was good, as it had been the previous week in Berkeley.  The veal steak was very good and cooked as ordered, to medium-rare.

We had placed a bottle of a fancy red on the table and the server opened the bottle.  He poured the wine immediately for my friend without offering the "say" in case our bottle was corked.  And he poured wine for me into the same glass as I used for the white wine (instead of bringing a new, clean wine glass).  

So we had a few minor gaffes, but still enjoyed the meal.

They brought a dessert card with seven sweets and a cheese plate.

We skipped dessert, but the Warm Chocolate Hazelnut Cake ($9) was mighty tempting.  The was also a Tiramisu at $9.  There was "Meringata alle Pesche" at $10, described as "Crispy Meringue, Balakian Nectarines and Chantilly Cream." There's an assortment of housemade Sorbets and Housemade Gelato, both costing $7.

They have half a dozen coffee options, the coffee being roasted by an artisan company in Verona.

Under the heading of "Digestivo" we see "Moscato d'Asti" and "Vin Santo" at $9, while "Late Harvest Moscato" is $10.  "Marsala Superiore" is $12 and "Chinato" is $15.  Sadly none of the producers or brand names are listed.

There are 17 different Amaro options and all are identified by the brand name or producer.  These range from $6 to $9.

Fourteen Grappa options are listed, as well, ranging from $9 for a Capovilla (one of Italy's top artisan distillers) to $30 for Berta's wood-aged Moscato grappa from Piemonte.

Skipping dessert, our bill tallied to $133 before the tip and including the $20 corkage fee.

As noted earlier, we enjoyed our meal and will certainly return to Donato Enoteca.

 Reviewed by GW
July 2018



2635 Ashby Avenue

Open Monday-Thursday 11:30-9:30
Friday 11:30-10pm
Sat 10am-10pm
Sunday 10am-9pm

TEL: 510-838-1131

Bread with their olive dipping sauce

Fresh Spinach Fettuccine with a Pork Ragu

Monterey Bay Calamari & Mediterranean Octopus

Braised Lamb Shank, Torpedo Onion and Polenta

Pork Tenderloin, Red Bell Peppers and Polenta Targana


Cioccolato e Frutti di Bosco


We've enjoyed a few meals prepared by Chef Donato Scotti at Donato's in Redwood City.  His little empire is expanding and this place opened in late 2017, so it's still rather new.

We had seen a film around the corner at the Elwood Rialto theater and this place is just a minute away, so it's quite convenient.  Parking on College Avenue was a bit challenging, but we found a spot a block north of Ashby.

Our reservation was at 6:30 on a Sunday evening and the restaurant on our visit in early July, was about 30% occupied.  We were shown to a nice table close to the open kitchen.  A menu and wine list were presented and there were wine glasses on the table as part of the place setting.

There's a By-The-Glass list which offers a nice range of wines "by the glass" (BTG), by the half liter and by the bottle.

There are three sparklers and these are offered by the glass or by the bottle, as they don't pour half liter servings of bubblies. There's a grower Champagne by Jerome Dehours at $18/glass and $85 for a bottle.  There's Lambrusco Gasparossa (sic) by Manicardi at $12/glass and $45 for a bottle.
Drusian's Prosecco is well-priced at $8/glass and $32 for a bottle.

Under the heading of White Wines we find a Cascina Ca' Rossa "Vino Rosato" at $10/glass, $20 for a half liter and $38 for a bottle.
There are actually six white selections, all from Italy except for an Oregon Chardonnay from the Lavinea winery at $15/$36 and $69.  The Italian whites include a Vernaccia from Tuscany, a Vermentino from Sardinia, a Passerina from the Marche, an Insolia from Sicily and a Sauvignon from Friuli.
Of the 8 reds by the glass and half liter, 7 are Italian with one Californian selection: Alfaro Pino (sic) Noir from the Santa Cruz Mountains at $14/$30 and $54.
There's a "De Concilis" (sic) Aglianico at $13/$27 and $52.  Pasetti Montepulciano d'Abruzzo is $16/$34 and $65.   We noticed a Gamay from the Valle d'Aosta at $10/$22 and $42.

There's a list of wines available by the bottle which is categorized by the cost.

There are whites costing $30-$40, $40-$50, $50 to $60 and $60-$70 (which go up to $120).  There are numerous misspellings on the list, which is sloppy since each item comes with packaging that indicates the correct spelling of the winery name, its appellation and grape type.  

In the $30 price range we find "Cambrugiano Verdiccio (sic) di Matelica" for a wine from the Belisario winery. It's a 2014 vintage at $30.
There's a 2016 "Cantina di Morogo" white made of the Semidano grape. The winery name, though, is Mogoro.  $35 for that.
Of the 6 whites in the $40-$50 category, two are Greek.   There you'll find a 2016 Bruno Giacosa Arneis from Italy's Piemonte at $48.
In the $50-$60 category we find this sloppy entry: "Meran, Reisling (sic), Alto Ridge (sic) '16, $50." Riesling from the Alto Adige.  Graci's lovely Etna Bianco is $58 and this is spelled correctly.
There are two columns of red wines (as opposed to one of the whites).  These go from the $30-$40 range up to $100 and then there are some "Aged and rare" bottlings costing more.
Caprili's Rosso di Montalcino is $37.  There's a wine made of the Bovale grape at $42 and this time they correctly spelled Cantina di Mogoro.
Ca' Rossa Barbera "Mulassa" is $54, while they list a "Domaine Fively (sic) Mercurey at $54.
Chateau Montelena Zinfandel is $61, while a De Vescovi Ulzbach Teroldego is $70. 
In the next pricing category I'll confess to being perplexed by this listing:  Gagnulari is the winery name ostensibly with the grape listed as "Cannovav" and the region is Sardegna.  It's $80.  I've not been able to track down a winery called Gagnulari, though Sardegna is home to a grape variety called Cagnulari.  A major red grape in Sardegna is "Cannonau."  Who knows what wine they'll bring you if you order that! 
 Cantina del Pino 2012 Barbaresco is well-priced at $82, three bucks less than the 2014 entry level wine from the Produttori del Barbaresco.
Giacomo Fenocchio 2012 Barolo from the famed Villero cru is $120.  There are three vintages of Barbi Brunello under the Aged and Rare category, the 2004 going for $220 while the 2006 is $250.  A 2006 Francesco Rinaldi Barolo from the Brunate cru is $285.

We do find four Sparkling wines and on this page  and the grape called Grasparossa is spelled correctly.  There are four wines listed, including Ayala Brut Rosé Champagne at $92.  Curiously there are five entries of pricing, so there's a wine missing perhaps.

There are two offerings for pink wines, a Ca' Rossa Nebbiolo at $39 and a Tuscan Rosé at $44 with no notation as to the grape variety.  

Donato & Co. has done a nice job in selecting wines from good wineries and the list does not feature a bunch of quota-driven bottlings from the large liquor distributors.  Bravo for that!

The corkage fee is a reasonable $20.

My friend ordered a Martini and was thrilled at its good quality.  One of the white wines on the By-The-Glass list did not indicate its producer, a Passerina, so I inquired.  It took maybe five to ten minutes for this information to reach our table and I ended up ordering a glass of what I think was from Poderi San Lazzaro at $10/glass.
The wine was brought in a small carafe and poured into the empty glass on the table.

We asked for bread, as they don't automatically bring it unless requested.  Two really good artisan breads are brought along with a lovely olive dipping sauce that resembles tapenade to a degree.  Very good!

The menu  features categories such as "Farm and Fields," "Salt & Water," "Pasta & Co" and "Iron and Fire."

From the Farm & Fields category, there's a Chicken Liver mousse served in a vasetto or glass jar.  $9 for that.  Arancini are $11,  while "Carne Salada with Farro Wheat, Oyster Mushrooms and a Parsley-Celery Emulsion" is $12.
Under Salt & Water we find "Prosciutto di Parma, Taleggio cheese, Tigella Bread and Balsamic Roasted Apricots" for $13.  "Pizzelle mushroom & Pecorino, oven-dried tomatoes & Mozzarella; Burrata & Bresaola" is $5 for a small serving or $13 for a regular-sized plate.
Under Pasta & Co. there are 7 offerings. "Squid Ink Spaghetti with Calabria Peppers, Monterey Bay Calamari, Tomato Confit & Bottarga" is $18.  "Carnaroli Risotto with green Asparagus, Crispy Pork Belly, demiglace" is  $19.  "Fresh Tonnarelli Cacio e Pepe with Sarawak Black Pepper and Pecorino Romano" is $17.
Under Iron & Fire there's "Tonno Rosso Pistachio Ahi Tuna, Black Rice, Tomatoes, Sicilian Capers and Taggiasca Olives" at $26, while "Herbs & Garlic grilled Pollo, Yukon gold roasted Potatoes, Romano green beans and garlic" is $21.  

We began with two small serving-sized portions.  One was "Monterey Bay Calamari & Mediterranean Octopus, Sicilian Caponata & Salmoriglio sauce" at $12.  The large serving is $20.  We also had the small size of "Fresh Spinach Fettuccine pasta with Pork ragu," asking that they serve it without the Grana Padano.  This is $10 for the small plate and $18 for a large.
These arrived in a timely manner and both were excellent.

We put a bottle of Brunello on the table and our server cheerfully opened it and brought new stemware.  Wine glasses are of good quality and elegant.
We invited the server to bring a glass and have a taste.  She was on the run as it seemed like she was charged with virtually all the tables and had about 25-30 covers to handle. She brought a glass and we poured her a nice serving which she finally fetched after running herself ragged for a good hour or two.

As we had finished the starters, the used silverware was removed from the table and new utensils were brought for the main courses.

The fellow who brought the main plates had no idea as to which plate went where, but that's a minor criticism in dealing with the "food auction."

Our friend ordered the "Braised Lamb Shank Garretto, Mushrooms, Torpedo Onion & Soft Polenta" at $26.  They had a Braised Pork Shank on the specials blackboard, but this was erased just as we were ordering it.   So I opted for the "Duroc Pork Tenderloin Maiale, Sweet Bell Peppers, Onion and Tomatoes, Soft Polenta Targana" at $24.  The lamb tasted mildly gamey and very much like lamb.  The Pork Tenderloin was pink in the middle and the peppers and polenta accompanying it were quite good.  Both main plates were flavorful and done properly.

Our personable and bubbly young server was delighted we shared the wine with her.  We were ready for the check and going to skip dessert, but the young lady brought us a little surprise:  Cioccolato e Frutti di Bosco.  
This was a nice mound of a dark Chocolate Mousse with a few berries and a berry sauce.

They also had an Affogato at $7, a Semifreddo al Pistacchio at $9 or Panna Cotta e Grattachecca at $8.

There are some dessert wines available.  Degiorgis Moscato d'Asti is $7 a glass, while Cascina Ca' Rossa's Birbet is $10.  They have a handful of Amari, with Averna, Nardini and Lucano costing $9, Villa Zarri is $7 and Montenegro is $8/glass.    There are four kinds of Grappa, too.  Well, one is an eau-de-vie, a J. Poli Pear distillate at $16.    Sibona's Barolo grappa is $12.

Our bill tallied to $123 with the $20 corkage fee.

This is a real good dining spot and we will certainly return.

Reviewed by GW
July 2018


MONTESACRO Pinseria-Enoteca

510 Stevenson Street
San Francisco

TEL: 415-795-3040

Lunch:  Mon-Sat  11:30-2:30
Aperitivo Mon-Sat  4-6

Dinner: Mon-Thurs 4-10
Fri-Sat 4-11
Sun 4-9:30

Caprese Classica

Prosciutto di Parma




Sardella e Pane Tostato

Mushrooms and Eggplant "Sott'oli"

Focaccia der Muratore with Mortadella

Pinsa Corviale

Pinsa Centocelle



We've heard good things about this newish San Francisco dining spot, with recommendations from a number of wine & food aficionados.  We booked an early table for Saturday evening during the summer and found our way to their Stevenson Street address, a sketchy neighborhood with numerous "street people" out and about.  We found parking on 6th Street, just a few steps from the restaurant and crossed our fingers that the car would be safe

The restaurant was about 80% occupied when we arrived and there was a steady stream of customers standing in line after about 6:30.

The four of us were escorted to a four-top and the menu and wine list were presented.  There are wine glasses on the table as part of the place setting.

The wine list indicates they feature "Old World" wines made of grape varieties that are particular to their place of origin.  Further, they say they feature smaller wineries that work organically or biodynamically...

The concept is to offer simple foods, salumi and "pinse," flatbreads said to be typical of the Lazio region.  Montesacro is the name of a neighborhood in Rome.

While the menu is decidedly Italianesque, the wine offerings are from areas you'd likely not see in a Roman pinseria.

For Sparkling wines by-the-glass (BTG) we find Andreola's "Verv" Prosecco for $11/glass.  They offer one other bubbly BTG and that's not Italian, but Portuguese: Filipa Pato's Rosé at $13/BTG.
Five white wines are offered by the glass and only two are Italian.  There's a De Sanctis Frascati at $11 and Primosic Ribolla Gialla at the same price.
If you want to taste a wine from Turkey, the Turasan winery's bottling of Emir at $12.  Ulacia's Txakolina from Spain's Basque country is $13, while Kreydenweiss Pinot Blanc from Alsace is $14.
Two pink wines grace the list by the glass.  Neither is Italian curiously.
There's a Greek Rosé from Domaine Zafeirakis made of the Limniona grape. The other is called Pink Kong (we don't make up the names of these wines) and it's from Spain.  $9 for a pour of that.
Of the five reds available by the glass, three are Italian.  There's a Cesanese from Damiano Ciolli at $16/glass.  There's a very obscure brand of Dolcetto that's listed as Villa Balestra and that goes for $13/BTG.
Podere Assolati's Tuscan red from the Montecucco area is $12.  Other reds by the glass include a German Lemberger at $14 and a Portuguese Douro Valley red at $15.

Sparkling wines by the bottle range from  $41 for a Lambrusco to $105 for a Champagne.  You'll find a simple German bubbly, a Pet-Nat from Baja California and a Vernaccia Nera sparkling wine from Italy's Marche region.
We counted 21 white wines offered by the bottle, with an interesting range.  You can get a half liter of Greek Retsina for $35.  There's a Spanish Albariño for $45 and the Ulacia Txakolina for $52.  A Grüner Veltliner from the Austrian winemaker Barbara Öhlzelt is $54.  A 2008 dry Riesling from the German vintner J.B. Becker is $70.  Ciù Ciù Pecorino is well-priced at $40
There are six pink wines, including a 2008 Lopez Heredia Rosado from Spain's Rioja.  That's $75.  The Italian pink selections are made from Cannonau, Cesanese and there's a 2011 Tuscan wine from Massa Vecchia that's $104 a bottle.
They have about 40 reds available and these are quite esoteric and varied. Twenty three are from Italy, but if you want a Greek Agiorgitiko you can get one from the Tetramythos winery for $37.  
There's a 2000 vintage red blend from the famed Lebanese winery, Chateau Musar, at $137.  You'll find a Spanish red, the 2014 Priorat from Clos Mogador at $187.  
The restaurant being "Roman-themed," it's appropriate that they feature a number of wines from Lazio.  Three different Cesanese reds range from $42 a bottle to $64.  There's a blend from Marco  Carpineti from the Lazio region called Capolemole.  It's a Cori Rosso, a rather obscure appellation and that goes for $60. Two California reds grace the list.  One is a Meritage from the 2010 vintage and it's listed as "Sanel Valley Vineyard."  We wondered if this isn't made by the Terra Savia winery?  It's $52.  There's a second label of Radio Coteau called County Line.  This selection is a Syrah and it's $70.

The corkage fee is $30 a bottle and they limit customers to two bottles.

The menu is quite varied, too.  Under the heading of Insalate e Piatti Freddi we find all sorts of temptations.  Five are listed as "vegetarian" or "vegan" dishes.  We ordered a plate of "Cavolfiore," ($14) which is Cauliflower with olives, capers, tomatoes, black olives and hot chili.  It's served at room temp and was quite tasty.  Sardella e Pane Tostato ($13) is a small bowl of a spicy sardine spread and some toasted slices of bread.  Also very good and moderately spicy.  Caprese Classica is $16 and features Mozzarella and Tomatoes with some Basil.
Porchetta ($16) featured about four slices of meat, beautifully savory and delicious.  This is served close to room temperature.
There are two selections of Prosciutto.  We had the Parma at $10 which was very good.  There's a San Daniele, aged longer, at $12.
There's a category called "Sott'Oli" and these are $6.  It's various vegetables marinated in extra virgin olive oil with parsley, chili, garlic and salt.  We ordered two of the 6 items, Mushrooms and Eggplant.  Both good...the mushrooms were not basic button mushrooms, but something along the lines of the cultivated "Alba" mushrooms.  
They had something called "Focaccia der Muratore" ($16) which was some kind of focaccia sliced horizontally and then with Mortadella tucked between the two pieces of oven-baked dough.  Very good.
 We picked a couple of pinse Corviale (Mozzarella, Porcini Mushrooms, Lardo and Parsley.  We had another called Centocelle which featured Tomatoes, Mushrooms, Artichokes, Olives, Prosciutto di Parma and a hard-boiled egg.  Both were $21.
The pinse come on a wooden board with a pizza cutter wheel.
These were both delicious.

We ordered in stages as, we gather, if you order everything at once, they will bombard the table with everything at the same time.

We dined well and my friends took home a few slices of the two pinse.


They do have a handful of desserts and a number of dessert wines & digestives.  There's a Sauternes for $11/glass and three Italian sweet selections including a Moscadello from the Brunello producer Caprili.  That's $8/glass or $65 for a bottle. There are two Sherries, a Marsala, a Madeira and a Tawny Port as well. Cappellano's Barolo Chinato is $17/glass and $120 for a 500ml bottle.

We appreciate the interesting wine list, of course.  We understand restaurants are being killed by the high cost of operation, but guests can bypass the high mark-ups on wines and corkage fees by simply ordering a $7 or $8 beer.  

We had a lovely evening and our friend's toddler enjoyed the food (she's an adventuresome eater).  The bill, with one $30 corkage fee, tallied to $188 with the taxes and before the tip.  

Montesacro is a nice dining spot and it would be even more pleasant if the neighborhood gets cleaned up.

Reviewed by GW
July 2018




4318 California Street
San Francisco

TEL: 415-386-100

OPEN DAILY 12pm to 10pm


The casually-dressed server

Mushroom Soup

Potato Dumplings with Mushroom sauce


Beef Stroganoff with German Egg Noodles

A good Veal Schnitzel

Cherry Pierogies


Having seen a movie with a Germanic theme on a summer Sunday evening, we booked a table for two at a little place in the Richmond District out on California Street.  We arrived a bit early for our 6:30 table and found the smallish dining room to have but three of maybe 8 or 9 tables occupied.
We were shown to a two top and our dining companion typically prefers a more spacious table.  This caused the fellow running the dining room a bit of trouble, as he is banking on parties of three or four coming to dinner.

He asked that we take a four-top near a couple in the front window who had a baby carriage and that we'd sit side-by-side so as not to disturb others.
Fortunately the new parents were wrapping up their early dinner and we were able to sit across from each other.

The fellow who takes the responsibilities of hosting and waiting tables was quite casually dressed in shorts, tennis shoes and an untucked shirt. 
Adding to the casual vibe is the fact that the wooden tables are bare aside from a Spaten beer mug filled with paper napkins.
No place settings, water glasses or wine glasses.

The fellow placed a menu and a drinks list on the table.
They had 13 selections of red, white and bubbly.
In fact, they have about as many beers as they do wines.

There's a lone sparkling wine of the Perlage brand.  $9 by-the-glass (BTG) or $36 for a bottle.
Amongst the white wines, we find a couple of rather old bottlings which would confirm the notion that this place is not a haven for wine lovers.
A 2012 Côtes de Gascogne called Haut Marin is $9.50 BTG and $36 for a bottle.  There's an 8 year old bottle of Stag's Leap Wine Cellars Napa Chardonnay for $55 a bottle.  They list a 2015 Egret brand of Chardonnay coming from Paso Robles at $10.50 BTG and $38/bottle.  There's a 2014 Sancerre of the label Brochard at $68 a bottle.  A 2013 Millot Puligny Montrachet is $83 a bottle.  J. Rickards Sauvignon Blanc is from the 2016 vintage and costs $9.75 BTG and $36/bottle.
Two of the seven red wines are offered by-the-glass, but in a place where wine sales may be a rarity, a customer risks being served wine that's been open for several days and is past its prime.
Forefront Cabernet from the 2014 vintage is $12.50 BTG and $44/bottle.  A Malbec of a brand called Red Diamond is available at $9.50 BTG and $34/bottle.   A Gerard Seguin Chambolle-Musigny 2012 is $95/bottle while a Juliette Avril 2013 Châteauneuf-du-Pape is $74/bottle.
One might expect something tabbed as a "Desert Wine" might be dry as can be, but in fact it's apparently a sweet "dessert wine."  This is from Sonoma's Bonneau winery and it's a 2010 vintage .  This is $5.75/BTG and $35 for a bottle.

Some nearby customers requested a wine of some sort and were informed it was out of good luck here in terms of wine.  Clearly bringing your own is the best option unless you're content with a beer.

There are 5 beers on tap including Stiegl Pils from Austria at $5.50 for a small and $7.50 for a large.  The actual size, though, is not indicated.
The same prices will get you the Polish brew called Okocim or the German Hofbrau Dunkel if you prefer something darker.  Stiegl Weisse is $6 for a small and $8 for a large while the Belgian Grimbergen Abbey Ale is $7.50.

We inquired as to the corkage fee and this is $15.
We pulled a bottle of a dry, crisp Rosé from our cellar bag and the fellow brought a couple of clunky, large Libbey stems to the table.

There are 8 Appetizers on the menu and a similar number of soups and salads.
Mushroom Crepes are $8.50 while Beef Crepes are $8.75. Pierogies come in four formats:  Potatoes or Cabbage & Mushrooms are $9.50 a serving.  Chicken is $11 while Beef goes for $11.50.
Marinated Herring is $7.75.  Silesian Potato Dumplings with Mushroom Sauce is $8.75.
They claim to have the best Red Borsch in town...$4.75 for a cup and $6.75 for a bowl. A Dill Cucumber Soup is similarly priced, while a Mushroom Soup is $5.75 for a cup and $7.75 for a bowl.  They offer a "Mizeria" Cucumber Salad at $8.50 while a House Salad is $7.75.  A Beet Salad is $8.50 as is a Raw Sauerkraut Salad.

They have 8 Main plates on the menu, though the Kielbasa sausage ($16.50) was crossed off on our visit.  Hungarian Goulash is $16.50, while Beef Stroganoff is $18.75.  A Cabbage Roll, listed at the "Best in Town" is  $16.50, while the "Best in Town" Pork Schnitzel is $19.50.  A Chicken Schnitzel is $17.50 while Norwegian Salmon is $19.50.
A Veal Schnitzel is $24.50.

Sides include Mashed Potatoes ($3.75) or "Homemade Potatoes" at the same price.  Might we surmise, then, that the Mashed Potatoes are not made in the Cafe Europa kitchen?
Sauerkraut is $4.75 as are German Egg Noodles. Spätzle are served with eggs and onions and go for $5.75.

My friend started with a cup of Mushroom soup after asking about the Mushroom Crepes.  "We only have Beef Crepes tonight.  No Mushroom Crepes."  This seems curious, no?  They have all sorts of Mushroom sauces and soups and they can offer Beef Crepes.  We wondered if there was simply a mushroom shortage or if these are perhaps pre-made/frozen and reheated?

 I asked about the Potato Dumplings and was told those were "made with mashed potatoes and are sort of like Italian gnocchi."  I went with those.
My friend, after consuming the soup asked if they didn't serve bread and the fellow brought three half slices of a packaged German brown bread.
The Dumplings were not much akin to Gnocchi and they didn't seem to be made of normal Mashed Potatoes, but perhaps came out of a box?   The Mushroom "sauce" or soup was nice, while there was a slightly metallic taste to the rubbery little dumplings.
I was brought a knife and fork for this despite the dumplings swimming in a mushroom soup and had to request a soup spoon.

The fellow brought the main plates and cleared the starters. 
He did bring proper utensils for the main plates.
My friend ordered the  Beef Stroganoff which came with German Egg Noodles and a Mushroom Sauce.  The noodles were close to room temperature and not hot, so naturally they went back to the kitchen.

My main plate was the Veal Schnitzel.  This was quite good, though the potatoes seemed a bit tired and the accompanying vegetables, Broccoli and Cauliflower, were close to room temperature and steamed or boiled to "al dente" status.

We opted for the Pierogies with Cherries at $8.75.  Desserts, they claim, are homemade.  A Poppy Seed Roll is $6.50 and there are Blintzes with Farmers cheese:  $8.75 for 2 or $5.50 for one.
The Cherry Pierogies were  okay...accompanied by sour cream and some whipped cream.

We heard some tunes sporadically, didn't we?  There's a phonograph and some records in one of the front windows.  Our server was not the most cheery fellow, but perhaps we caught him on a bad day.  He did smile occasionally but I can't say he's the most engaging or friendly server we've encountered.

 The bill tallied to about $86 with the corkage and sales tax.

This is a a little neighborhood place and it's casual and modestly-priced.  People around us seemed to sit down, have a single plate and dash...A number of parties arrived after we did and departed well before we left.
If you're in the neighborhood and have a hankering for a good Schnitzel, this isn't a bad stop.

Reviewed by GW
June 2018



2161 Larkin Street
San Francisco

TEL: 415-447-0441

FRI-SAT 5:30-10:30

A small offering of bread...accompanied by a little bowl of olive oil (and to their credit, no vinegar!)




Gnocco Fritto and assorted salumi
This was the highlight of the evening.

A nice image of the afternoon sun illuminating those wine glasses.

Salmone alla Capocaccia

Linguine allo Scoglio

Salame al Ciocolatto

On a Sunday evening following a movie in The City, we booked a table for two at Amarena.  It has two dining rooms which seemed about half to two-thirds full when we arrived.

The table setting includes wine glasses and we were presented a wine list along with the menu.

The wine list is a two page document.

There are three sparklers listed as "dry" and two as "fruity."
Riva dei Frati Prosecco is $11.50 by-the-glass (BTG) and $42 for a bottle.  They do not indicate, though, whether this is the Brut bottling (at 10-12 grams of sugar) or the Extra Dry (at 15-16 grams of sugar).  They offer Veuve Clicquot Champagne at $95 and Carpene Malvolti Rosé at $46.
Under the "Fruity" Sparkling wine heading there's Terre Verdiane Lambrusco at $34/bottle, but they do not indicate if it's the regular bottling at 20 grams of sugar or the "Amabile" which is even sweeter at 45 grams of sugar.
For a Moscato d'Asti Amarena offers Stella Rosa at  $10/BTG and $38/bottle.  This is a wine that can be found from those fine wine merchants at Walmart. It's not a particularly savvy choice for a Moscato.

They have 11 white wines with 7 of them being offered by-the-glass.
The "House White" is $10  BTG but with no indication of what that wine might be...California? Italian?  No vintage date is provided, either, allowing them to offer whatever is available at a good price or what's being closed out at a reduced price by some distributor.
There's "Pinot Grigio San-Micheal Eppan Trentino" (sic) at $12.50 BTG or $45/bottle.  The wine, though, is not from Trentino but farther north in Italy's Alto Adige.
A 2016 Vermentino from Sardegna's Argiolas winery is also $12.50/BTG and $46/bottle.  Matchbook California Chardonnay goes for $10.50 BTG and $38/bottle and for the same price you can have "Riesling Kabinett Germany."  They do not give customers any indication as to the name of the winery so we might know something of its reputation.  Is it a wine from the Mosel?  Rheingau?  Rheinhessen?  

They offer about 29 reds with 9 being available by-the-glass.
There's an anonymous House Red at $10/BTG.
There's a Castellani brand Vino Nobile for $13.50/BTG and $52/bottle, along with the Kendall-Jackson family's Chianti, Tenuta di Arceno from the 2014 vintage at $14/BTG and $54/bottle.
Monte Zovo's Valpolicella Ripasso is $16/BTG and $62/bottle but a Villa Carlotti Amarone goes for $17/BTG and $65/bottle.  
They have a wine sold by someone in Sonoma called Georgos...a wine called "Corfu" and it's listed as a Cab Franc/Super Cab "Corfu" Sonoma at $17/BTG and $65/bottle.  The wine seems to be partly from Greece and partly from Sonoma being comprised as some blend with Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Malbec.
Amarena offers a 2012 "Sangiovese-Montecucco Riserva" for $68 but we have no clue as to who made that wine.
Two California Pinot Noirs are available, Byron from Santa Barbara at $12.50/BTG and $46/bottle or Hartford Court's 2015 at $68/bottle.
Other California brands include something called "Wine Spot"  (a Napa Cab/Merlot blend) at $65 or Zinfandelic Amador Zinfandel at $44.
There are two Brunello wines available.  Innocenti 2013 is $115/bottle and Citille di Sopra 2010 "Poggio Ronconi" at $135.
The Pasetti family's Tenuta Rossa Montepulciano d'Abruzzo is $65 for a bottle...we have that one in the shop for $27.
Ornellaia, a stellar Super Tuscan, is offered in the modest 2014 vintage for $325, roughly double its wholesale price.

The wine list can certainly be described as eclectic, but many of its selections are likely made out of a good relationship with a few below-the-radar importers.

The corkage fee is a healthy $25.

We ordered the Pecorari Sauvignon Blanc from Friuli at $12.50/glass. 
The wine is poured at their little bar (no spirits in this place, by the way) and brought to the table.
Stemware is fairly heavy-duty and not terribly elegant, but serviceable.
It was probably a 5 or 6 ounce pour.

Now here's one reason why we routinely lobby for restaurants to bring the bottle to the table and pour the wine in front of the customer:  We noticed a server pouring a glass of Argiolas Vermentino.  He emptied the bottle.  For some reason, perhaps they had no more or they didn't want to open a fresh bottle, the fellow topped up that glass with wine of some other type!  This was quite a shock, to say the least.

The menu offers three salads.  One is "Insalata di Lipari" ($11.50) featuring spicy cucumbers with organic tomatoes, red onions and basil with a Balsamic Vinegar Dressing.  There's an Arugula Salad with fresh pears and Pecorino Romano at $11.95.  A Beet, Spinach and Orange salad is $12.95.

There are eleven "Small Plates."  Polpette di Carne, Meatballs in a Tomato Sauce, goes for $13.95.  A mixed plate of Fried Calamari, Prawns and Zucchini is $15.95, while Bruschetta is $11.95.  Sautéed Mussels is $14.95.
There's "Sufflé di Polenta Consada" ($14.95) which I gather is some sort of polenta soufflé with mushrooms, cream, sage and Parmigiano-Reggiano.
They have an Eggplant Tortino with with Smoked  Mozzarella and Parmigiano-Reggiano at $15.95.

They have 11 "Primi Piatti," ten being pastas and one risotto.
Some of the pasta is said to be homemade:  Pappardelle, Orecchiette and Tagliolini, along with Gnocchi and a Ravioli creation.  There's Orecchiette with Broccoli Rabe and Sausage for $18.95.  The homemade Tagliolini are with Mushrooms and a Truffle Sauce at $22.95. Pappardelle with a Wild Boar sauce is $23.95, while Homemade Potato Gnocchi with fresh Radicchio and a Gorgonzola sauce is $18.95.

Five "secondi" were on the menu this particular evening.  A Seafood Stew is $29.95, a half of a Rotisserie Chicken is $22.95, Veal Scaloppine goes for $28.95 and a Rack of Lamb with Blueberry Sauce is $32.95.

To go with our glass of the somewhat weak Sauvignon Blanc, my dining companion opted for Carpaccio ($14.95) and requested it be served without cheese.  She did not care for all the arugula that comes scattered on top, but then she bitches about most things.
I chose a plate you never see:  Gnocco Frito con Affettati ($18.95).
This comes with Prosciutto, Speak (sic), Mortadella and Soppressata Piccante.  Their on-line menu indicates the Prosciutto is from Parma but the menu on our visit does not.  I'm thinking "not" is the correct answer.
But the Gnocco Frito were marvelous small pillows of fried bread dough and the Mortadella was pretty good.

We brought out a nice bottle of white and chose to pay the corkage fee.  We waved off new wine glasses as the Sauvignon had less aromatics than the Garganega in our cellar bag.  We offered a taste to one of the staff members.

They brought an ice bucket for our white wine which was moderately chilled to start with.  This was appreciated as the restaurant catches the late afternoon sun and it was a rather warm place.

Main plates arrived shortly after they cleared the starters.

My friend ordered Salmone alla Capocaccia ($28.95).  Capo Caccia is a seaside venue on the west coast of Sardegna.  It comes with "Organic Cherry Tomatoes,  Calamata Olives, Capers, Raw Red Onions in a Light Extra Virgin Olive Oil Sauce with a side of Sauté Green Beans."
The salmon bit that I tasted was a tad over-cooked.  My friend claimed the green beans were over-cooked, but the one I tasted was al dente. 

I chose their Linguine allo Scoglio (linguine with seafood).  Prawns, Mussels, Manila Clams, Calamari in a lightly spicy tomato sauce.
The seafood was okay...the prawns were overcooked.  Calamari was about right...shellfish was standard.  

My friend, who routinely takes home a doggy bag, wanted something chocolate for dessert.
Amarena offers "Amarena Mousse Tiramisu," "Crema Catalana," "Gelato all'Amarena" and "Salame al Ciocolatto."  All are $9.
Dessert wines are listed on the menu, too.
There's "Moscato" for $10/glass.  It's not listed as "Moscato d'Asti" and there is no indication as to the maker of this wine, or where it comes from.
There's a "Porto Fonseca" at $9.50 and this doesn't indicate what bottling it might be.  We would expect it to be the entry-level bottling called Bin 27.
There's "Vin Santo" at $9.50 with no indication as to its origins or the winery which produced it.  The last entry on the dessert page is "Vin Santo and Biscotti" for $12.50.

My friend ordered the Salame al Ciocolatto and this was a slice of a dense chocolate confection accompanied by a scoop of a rather bland vanilla ice cream.


The bill tallied to $148 (before the tip) as the dessert was comped by the staffer (or maybe co-owner) with whom we shared a glass of our wine.

The restaurant did have some music on its sound system, but it was not especially audible.  

Perhaps the owners are simply tired or they're content with offering modest quality cooking.  With a bit more energy and attention to detail, this could be a really nice, charming dining spot.

Having witnessed that server topping up a glass of Vermentino with some other bottle of white wine, we'll likely not make a return visit.

Reviewed by GW
June 2018



708 Clement Street
San Francisco

TEL: 415-386-2200

OPEN DAILY 3pm til Midnight
Weekend Brunch 11am-3pm


Salmon Poke and Avocado Toast

The Spring Salad...


Mesquite Grilled Steak

Pan Roasted Salmon

Water and Wine Glass

Strawberry and Rhubarb Cake



We found this place on OpenTable and booked a two-top after a Sunday afternoon film not far from this Clement Street neighborhood.  

It's a "restaurant and bar," so cocktails and beer seem to be their focus.

The place was maybe 50% occupied when we arrived around 7pm.  We found a parking space a block away and ambled across the street.

We took a table for four, so we had plenty of room for wine and food.

No wine glasses are on the table to give guests the idea to drink wine.

The menu is on one side of a page and the wine list on the other, along with about 13 beers in bottle or can format and half a dozen beers "on tap."

One nice feature of Heritage is that all the wines and sparklers are offered by-the-glass (BTG) and by the bottle.

For Sparkling and Champagne we find Caposaldo Brut at $11 BTG and $44 for a bottle.  It's not indicated that this is a Prosecco. At $13 and $52 we fine a wine called Clementine Rose from Provence.  It retails for about $18-$20.
Taittinger Brut Champagne is $18 BTG and a fairly reasonable $72 for a bottle.

If your taste runs to pink wines, they offer Rabble Rosé from Paso Robles.  It's a wine made of Syrah, though this is not indicated on the list.

Heritage offers half a dozen white wines. Mount Beautiful Riesling comes from New Zealand and it's $12 BTG and $48 for a bottle.  Tiamo, a modest quality label of Italian wines, has a Pinot Grigio for $10 BTG and $40 by the bottle.  The Wagner family's Conundrum white wine is listed as being of the Caymus brand and coming from Napa, but it is its own brand and carries a California appellation.  Heritage lists it as a Sauvignon Blanc, but that's incorrect, too.  It's $12 BTG and $48 for a thanks!
Pascal Jolivet's Sancerre is $16 BTG and $64 for a bottle.  Taft Street Chardonnay is correctly listed as a Russian River Valley wine and it's $13 BTG and $52 for a bottle, while the Hook & Ladder Chardonnay is $17 BTG and $68.  
You'll have your choice of 8 reds.  Patz & Hall's Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir goes for $18 BTG and $72, while Dry Creek Vineyards Heritage Zinfandel goes for $14 and $56.  
Tuck Beckstoffer, a brand to which we are allergic, has a Seventy Five Wine Company Cabernet Sauvignon listed as "Oakville," a prestigious area in Napa.  This is $15 BTG and $60 for a bottle.  The winery web site tells us the fruit comes from Mendocino and Lake Counties, not the prestigious Napa Valley.
Austin Hope Cabernet from Paso Robles is $18 BTG and $72 for a bottle.
How about being brave enough to order a Syrah/Grenache blend called "Lipstick on a Pig"?  That's $14 BTG and $56 by the bottle.

From a wine fancier's perspective, there are but a few wines worth considering on this list, but then again, perhaps they are hoping you'll order a cocktail or a $7 beer.

We asked about their corkage fee and were surprised to be told they ask $30.  The place doesn't have table cloth-covered tables and their wine program is rather meager and fairly mainstream.

The menu offers five "First Bites."  
Spicy Salmon Poke and Avocado Toast is $16, while Guava Glazed Free Range Chicken Wings are $15.  Sopressata (sic) with Foraged House Cured Olives is $14.  There's House Cured Scottish Salmon for $15 and a Leafy Spring Green Salad is $12.
If you want bread, it's $4 and comes from the Scambria Bakery in Napa.  

Main plates on the ever-changing menu featured difficult choices.  Pan Roasted Scottish Salmon is $24, the same price as the Honey-Tea Brined Roasted Sonoma Chicken.  Sautéed Wild Rice Cakes are $18 and House Tagliatelle Carbonara is $22.  Mesquite Grilled Prime Beef New York Strip Loin is $32.

The menu is certainly more ambitious than the wine list.

My movie-going friend asked for a Tanqueray Martini ($13) which took a while to prepare.  I thought about the $18 pour of Taittinger, but decided against it since they nail guests for $30 as the corkage fee.
To their credit, though, they waive the corkage fee if you buy a bottle of something from their list.  Too bad they don't offer a more interesting level of wines.

For starters, she went for the Leafy Spring Green Salad and I chose the Spicy Salmon Poke and Avocado Toast.  These arrived in a timely manner, though my friend did ask about bread, not realizing this cost and extra $4.
As she was halfway through her salad course, she asked about the bread and the fellow told us "It's fresh and takes six minutes to prepare."
This is a bit confusing, no?
She told him to skip the bread (and I can only imagine the blood pressure of someone in the kitchen who had placed this in the oven!).

The Salmon Poke dish comes with four nicely-seasoned pieces of bread and a half of an avocado that's been encrusted with blackened Sesame Seeds.  There's a modest amount of flavorful salmon "cubes" and you can spread the avocado on the well-seasoned bread.

We placed a bottle of Pinot Noir on the table and the server brought some nice-sized stems.  These were a bit heavy and clunky, but they use those to minimize breakage.  Still, that $30 corkage fee might allow for more elegant stems.

Our main plates arrived in a timely manner.  The server had cleared the silverware from the starters, yet brought the main plates before the table had been reset with new utensils.

My friend had the Pan Roasted Salmon and this was delicious and beautifully presented with "confit tomatoes, sautéed haricot vert and yellow wax beans, zucchini basil puree, fennel bell pepper sauce."  Very nice work!

I went for the Grilled New York Strip loin and this came with "sauteed broccolini,  white corn puree, grilled nectarines, Oregon sea salt, herb brown butter and plum wine jus."  I asked them to skip the butter.
The steak was presented in pieces.  Can't say I needed the nectarines, but it was a nicely done plate and worked beautifully with the Pinot Noir.  I didn't detect much influence of the Mesquite grilling.

Our friend, who always takes home a doggy bag, was craving something sweet, so she ordered one of their three desserts (all priced at $10).  Strawberry Rhubarb Cake with Green yogurt vanilla, Meringue and Basil Caviar.
We couldn't find but a few bits of strawberry and couldn't taste the Rhubarb.  Not sure about the Basil Caviar, either.  I wouldn't order this again.

The bill, with sales tax and the San Francisco health surcharge tallied to $154 before the tip.

This is a nice neighborhood dining spot and we'll likely return for the food and a six-buck beer.

Reviewed by GW
June 2018



3750 Geary Boulevard
San Francisco

TEL: 415-668-2221

OPEN SUN-Thurs  5-9:30
Fri & SAT 5-10


A few pieces of bread


Carciofi con Gamberetti and our half bottle of 2015 St. Michael Eppan 
Pinot Grigio.




Gamberoni Mescolanza


Following a Sunday cinema-fest, we found a table at a place called Mescolanza on Geary Boulevard at Second Avenue (near Arguello).  We arrived a bit early for our 6:15 reservation and found the place was perhaps 25% occupied.

We were shown to a table for two and presented the menu and the specials for the week.  A wine list was on the backside of the menu.  No wine glasses are on the table.  They don't serve cocktails, by the way.

Mescolanza had been on Clement Street for 16 years under the ownership of the Macedo family.  They relocated at this Geary Boulevard site a few years ago.

The wine list is devoid of vintage dates out of convenience, apparently.  They also do not list the appellations of the wines on the list, apart from those whose type of wine is a geographical name such as Chianti.

There are ten wines by the glass (BTG).  
We find three white wines, one pink wine, 5 reds and a lone sparkler.

For bubbles there's a Prosecco from Carpenè Malvolti at $9.95.  Sauvignon Blanc from a Napa brand called Sempre Vive is $10.95 as is the San Simeon Chardonnay.
Cesari Pinot Grigio from the Veneto region in Italy goes for $9.75 a glass, as does the Cesari Merlot.  Villa Claudia Chianti is the same price. Bogle Cabernet and Bogle Petite Sirah are $9.95 BTG.

Under the heading of "Champagne" we find no offerings from that appellation in France.  There are no California sparklers.  You will find that Carpenè Malvolti Prosecco for $35/bottle.

Under the heading of white wines, we find a Chardonnay from Husic Vineyards at $52 a bottle.    San Simeon Chardonnay is $37 while Sonoma Cutrer (presumably the Russian River Ranches, though there is no indication) is $51 for a bottle and $28 for a half bottle.  Santa Margherita Pinot Grigio is $48 for a bottle while the Cesari is $34.  Mescolanza offers a Vermentino from the Dolianova winery in Sardegna (though it's listed only by its proprietary name 'Naeli') at $40/bottle.  St. Michael Eppan Pinot Grigio from Italy's Alto Adige is $39 for a 750ml bottle and $28 for a half bottle.  Sempre Vive Sauvignon Blanc is $39 while their pick for a Rosé is from the Conundrum brand and that is priced at $35.

They offer 13 Italian reds and 9 from California.  Antinori's famous Tignanello, a Super-Tuscan, is priced at $154, the most costly wine on the list.  There's a Brunello from Canalicchio at $99, while Cesari Amarone is $65.  Stefano Farina Barolo is $59.  There are three Chianti Classico offerings, Ruffino's Riserva Ducale being priced at $54, Antinori's Peppoli is $52 while Macchiavelli Riserva is $49.  Toscolo Chianti is $35 as is Cesari's Merlot from the Veneto.
Jordan Cabernet Sauvignon goes for $85 while Schug's Pinot Noir is $54 for a full bottle and $32 for a half.  Steele's Pacini Vineyard Zinfandel is $42 for a full bottle, but half bottles go for a mere $18.  J. Lohr Cabernet is $41 for a full bottle and $28 for a half.  Bogle's Cabernet and Petite Sirah wines are $35 while there's Ravenswood Zinfandel and Merlot for $34. 
From their weekly specials menu there's Bogle's Phantom red wine at $10.25 BTG and $39 for a bottle.

No vintage dates are listed, as patrons are asked to request this information so it need not be printed on the wine list.

It's apparent that wine is not a priority in this restaurant.  The selections are of rather standard quality and seemingly purchased out of convenience.  Further, taking a look at the menu, one sees they don't have very many dishes to pair with many of those red wines.  

For starters there's Bruschetta at $10.95, while Carpaccio is $12.50. Grilled Eggplant with a house dressing is $10.95 as is Grilled Polenta with Seasonal Mushrooms.  Under the heading of Salads, we find 7 offerings with Radicchio & Gorgonzola going for $10.50, as does the Insalata di Cesare and the Insalata Caprese.  

The menu offers 7 pizzette including one called a Pizzetta Toscana, which comes with Mozzarella, Tomato Sauce and Fresh Basil ($16.95).  This sounds a bit like other's Pizza Margherita to some degree.  There's a pizzetta with Toscano Salami and Wild Oregano at $16.95.  Pizzetta Pere Bianche ($17.50) comes with Mozzarella, Goat Cheese, Sliced Pears, Walnuts and Prosciutto.  

Of the nine pasta offerings, two are listed as Pasta Fresca, but they don't claim to be made on the premises.  
From the specials page, there's a Spinach  Pasta Fresca with cream, Gorgonzola, Parmesan Cheese and Pine Nuts ($17.95).  The regular menu also has a Fresh Spinach Pasta, Tomatoes, Extra Virgin Olive Oil and Goat Cheese ($17.50). Linguine al Limone ($17.50)  is described as having  Cream, Parmigiano, butter and Fresh Lemon Juice.  Curious that this is said to have Parmigiano while another pasta dish has Parmesan, a more generic term for a cheese similar to Parmigiano.
Linguine alle Vongole Veraci ($19.50) is your choice of a Tomato, Cream or "clear" sauce with clams and garlic.
They have two Gnocchi offerings and these both claim to be homemade.  A Potato Gnocchi dish comes with a meat sauce which the Spinach Gnocchi  has a creamy tomato sauce.  Both are $15.95.

Main plates are listed as Piatti Forti and here we have Pollo alla Cacciatora ($19.95) and this is described as a "Chicken Breast Sautéed with Garlic, Roasted Bell Pepper, Marinated Tomatoes, Butter (!) and White Wine."  The Petto di Pollo alla Parmigiana ($19.95) is a "Chicken Breast with Tomato Sauce, Béchamel Sauce, Mozzarella Cheese and Parmesan Cheese."
Pollo Saltimbocca ($20.50) is a "Chicken Breast, Fontina Cheese and Prosciutto."  They don't offer a Veal Saltimbocca, but do have Vitello Piccata and Vitello Marsala at $23.95.  The weekly menu has Vitello Foresta ($24.95) which is "Veal, garlic, White Wine, Porcini Mushrooms, Chopped Tomatoes and a bit of Cream."  There's a Calamari Steak Meuniere ($19.95) or Gamberoni Mescolanza ($23.95) which are prawns, lemon, shallots and cream.  The "Pesce del Giorno," fish of the day is also $23.95.

The Antinori Tignanello is a French oak aged blend of Sangiovese and Cabernet, but it's not clear that much of the menu at Mescolanza would pair handsomely with such a wine.  The Brunello doesn't seem to match up exceptionally well to these dishes.
No Lamb.  No Beef.  No Pork.

We perused the wines by the glass and opted for a half bottle of the St. Michael Eppan Pinot Grigio at $28.  The server brought two large, clunky, Libbey glasses of maybe 14 to16 ounce capacity.  He opened the half bottle of 2015 vintage and poured a small taste into the glass.  The wine was fine and he knew to not over-pour.

Our dining companion chose the Carpaccio ($12.50) while I was torn between the Polenta ai Funghi ($10.95) or the Carciofi con Gamberetti ($11.50).  I asked the server if the artichoke bottom was fresh and he assured me it is.  I expected a single artichoke bottom with some Bay Shrimp scattered around but what came out was a plate covered in a few lettuce leaves and four small artichoke bottoms mounded with Bay Shrimp and some sort of green sauce on top.  My friend said the Carpaccio was "excellent."  I thought the Artichoke and Shrimp dish was pretty good, though I wasn't completely sold on those artichoke bottoms being absolutely fresh.

 We asked about the corkage fee...$20.
And so we placed a nice bottle on the table about halfway through the starters.  They cleared away the starter dishes and brought the main plates before opening our bottle of red.
In fact, the fellow asked if we wanted to open the bottle.
Uh, hello...yes!

He brought two more large Libbeys and opened the bottle.  He correctly poured a small amount and the bottle was fine.  We invited him to have a taste but I don't recall him bringing a glass.

My friend chose the Gamberoni Mescolanza ($23.95) and asked for it without cream.  She said this was quite a good plate.
I had hoped for something along the lines of Pork or Lamb, but as they didn't offer any of those, I chose a dish that was so special it was not even on the weekly specials page.  It was a Pasta con fruitti di mare ($25.95)and it came with clams, maybe a sea scallop and a couple of prawns and possibly a morsel of fish all bathed in a tomato sauce.
Curiously the Italian waiter asked if I wanted cheese.
I inquired as to whether or not he's ever put cheese on such a dish in Italy and he said "Well, no...but this is America."
The pasta was cooked perfectly and the clams and other bits of seafood were good.

There are a half a dozen, or so dessert offerings and at least a couple of dessert wines.  They have a "Vintage Port" for around $9, but don't inform guests as to the winery or the year.  There's also a Vin Santo from the Villa Artimino winery at about $9.

My friend wanted to split a dessert so we opted for something they call "Bambino di Cioccolata" ($9.50) which is a three tier mold of chocolate mousse (white, milk and dark chocolates) which was quite acceptable, but I'll be surprised if this was homemade.

We asked for the check and the bill tallied to about $121 as we were not charged the $20 corkage fee.  The server did not mention waiving the charge, so perhaps he simply forgot to include it?

The ambience was pleasant and they had some pop music playing in the background.

It's a nice neighborhood restaurant and the price of a meal is perfectly okay.  

We'll probably make a return visit following another movie run in The City.

Reviewed by GW
June 2018



4063 24th Street
San Francisco

TEL: 415-757-0947

Open Lunch: Tues-Sunday
Dinner Tues-Sunday from 5pm

Soup du Jour--Potato on this day




Stemware...perfectly serviceable.

A Salmon Filet


Tarte aux Pommes

Our friend's dessert choice...some sort of Strawberry and Banana Crepe.





On a Memorial Day weekend, we booked a Sunday evening table for two at this little Provençal-styled bistro on 24th Street in Noe Valley.
It had been the site of Le Zinc and Chez Marius opened in 2016.  There's a parking lot right next to the restaurant and we found a spot there.

They offer outdoor dining and it's pet friendly if you don't mind a breezy table outside.  We chose a table inside across from the kitchen.  There are some high, bar tables near the entrance, too.

No wine glasses are on the table as part of the place settings.  A wine list and menu are presented as guests are seated.

Under the heading of Champagne, we find 6 actual Champagnes and one sparkling wine.  None of the Champagnes is offered By-The-Glass (BTG), while the one outlier is available for BTG service.

They list a Piper-Heidsick (sic) Champagne for $49 and below that on the page is a Michel Devin  Blanc de Noirs for $50 in a half bottle.  Jacquart's Brut is $89, while a 2008 Colin Champagne is $150.

Under the heading of "White" we find 14 selections, six being available by the glass.  
There's a French Sauvignon Blanc called Le Petit Berticot from the Southwest...$11 BTG and $40 per bottle.  A Sancerre is listed by the name of the particular bottling, Les Boursicottes, rather than with the domaine name (Domaine Serge Laporte).  It's $13 BTG and $48 by the bottle.
A Bordeaux Blanc by Château de Brague is $14 BTG and $52 for a bottle.  You'll find an un-named Pinot Grigio from Italy for $10 BTG and $37 for a bottle.  Their California Chardonnay selections are Muddy Boot from Clarksburg & Lodi at $10 BTG & $32 for a bottle or Blacksmith Cellars Carneros bottling for $10 BTG and $33 for a bottle.
Hugel Gewürztraminer from the 2012 vintage is $49 for a bottle while their most spendy bottle of white is listed as La Fermade Lirac from the 2013 vintage.  Again the winery is not noted on the list (it's Domaine Maby).
They have 3 Rose wines, all French.  There's one listed as "1749 Rosé Valley" which may seem a bit old to most people.  In fact, the winery is Pierre Chainier's Rosé de France.  $10 BTG and $38 for a bottle yet this wine wholesales for $9 if they don't buy intelligently and $5.33 if they buy 36 bottles at a time.  A Château de Rouët half bottle from Provence is $37.  (In our shop we have a Rouët Reserve in full bottle format for $15.99.)
A 2016 Bandol Rosé from Le Galantin is $'s a $20 retail bottle.

The red wine selections feature both California and French selections.
You'll find five of the 18 reds available by the glass.  The most costly wine is a Vacqueyras at $85, while another obscure estate's Crozes-Hermitage is $65. There are a few wines on the list at prices which take advantage of the customer.  For example, there's a Carmenet California Merlot at $54.  This is a wine wholesaling for $6.  They offer a "Mont Pellier" (sic) California Cabernet Sauvignon is $40 a bottle.  This wholesales for $4.  
There's a nice Bordeaux from Château Haut-Bana at $46 and a light Pinot Noir from the Alsace estate of Allimant Laugner at $47.

The wine list is not ambitious, for sure.  Nor is it the work of a wine-savvy buyer.  On the one hand, though, they've avoided a lot of big, well-known brands, but on the other, the selections don't suggest the buyer is terribly interested in researching wines that are top-notch and well-priced.

The corkage fee is $25 which might be worth its cost if you bring a nice bottle of wine.

The restaurant's menu offers 8 starters.  Oysters are $2.25 each.  Steamed mussels costs $19 and comes with fries.  Onion Soup is $8, while the Soup du Jour is $9. A beet Salad with Goat Cheese is $9, as is a Caesar Salad.

There are 8 main plates, including a Cheese Burger at $16 and Steak et Frites at $32.  A Filet of Mahi Mahi is $24, while Crevettes et grits is $23.

My dining companion opted for the Soup du Jour, a sort of Potato Soup which was quite good.  They brought a small basket of industrial French Bread and some butter.  My starter was their Escargots de Bourgogne ($12) with Garlic Parsley Butter.  There were six snails, out of the shell, in a special escargot dish.  I noticed a lot of chopped garlic in the dish, but can't say the garlic was especially pungent or flavorful.  

We had started with a flute of Allimant Laugner's Cremant d'Alsace Rosé ($11).  Having finished this with our starters, we had placed a nice bottle of red on the table which was admired by our server.  He looked at the bottle but didn't seem to be in a hurry to bring glasses or open the bottle.
In fact, we opened it.
He did, though, finally bring some decent, slightly clunky red wine stemware.  We invited him to have a taste and he brought a pitiful, tiny glass.  We waved that off and insisted he bring a proper glass and he did have a taste.

For a main plate, my friend ordered the Filet de Saumon ($25) with Ratatouille.  The salmon was nicely prepared and well-presented on a bed of vegetables which were classically seasoned. 
My main dish was Cassoulet de Canard ($29) which white beans and small pieces of Andouille sausage.   This was quite good.

They offer an assortment of Cheeses at $9.25 and have seven desserts, all priced at $8.
There's a Vanilla Crème Brûlée as well as a Flan. Poire Belle Helene or Pain Perdu.
To their credit, there's a nice list of dessert wines.  You'll find some Sherries, but nothing in a Cream Sherry.   Fonseca Ruby Port is $9 a glass, while Graham's is $10.  A Croft Ten Year Tawny Port is $14 and Smith Woodhouse's fine Late Bottled Vintage Porto is $15 a glass.  Chapoutier Bandol is $17 by the glass.  There are several other selections including Château Grillon Sauternes for $12 BTG and $58 for a half-bottle.

I opted for the Tarte aux Pommes with a scoop of Vanilla Ice Cream.  Our friend opted for a dessert special, a Banana and Strawberry Crepe which she enjoyed.

The bill tallied to $147 with the $25 corkage fee and tax, but before the tip.

The ambience of the place is pleasant...the sound system had some jazz tunes but was not loud enough to intrude on the conversation.

We'll certainly return to this comfortable, homey dining spot.

Reviewed by GW
May 2018



451 Gough Street
San Francisco

TEL 415-403-2233

Open Sun-Thurs 5:30pm-10:30
Fri & Sat 5:30-Midnight
Weekend Brunch 11-2:30

White wine "by the glass"


Escargot Bordelaise

Steamed Razor Clams
Served chilled and on ice

Steak Frites with Pommes Purée instead at the request of our dining companion.

Duck Confit

Side of Frites







We've driven by this place hundreds of times and had never dined at Monsieur Benjamin.  One wine industry colleague had given the place a lukewarm review.

We booked a 7 o'clock table for two following a Sunday afternoon movie.  They don't have a parking valet, but we found a spot along Hayes Street two blocks away.

Arriving early, the hostess guided us to a corner table in the window.  No wine glasses are on the table as part of the place-setting, but we did have a small wine list along with the daily menu.

The wine list features "Vins Petillants" with 8 sparklers being offered, three of them By-The-Glass (BTG).  Val de Mer Brut from a Chablis producer is $16 BTG or $64 for a bottle, while Lanson Black Label Brut Champagne is $25 BTG or $100 for a bottle.  Simonnet-Febvre Brut Rose is $15 BTG and $60 for a bottle.
There's a Lasalle Blanc de Blancs 2006 for $192 a bottle along with Demiere-Ansiot Grand Cru Brut for $125.  Apart from Lanson, no "big names" on the bubbles list.

There are 20 white wines on the wine list, all but one being French.  Five white wines are offered by-the-glass.  The list has two Muscadet wines, the Chateau de Chasseloir 2013 costing $12 BTG and $52 for a bottle.  Daulny 2016 Sancerre is $15 BTG and $64 for a bottle.  Vocoret Chablis is $16 BTG and $68 for a bottle, while Meyer-Fonne Pinot Blanc goes for $15 BTG and $64 for a bottle.  The lone California wine, Hartford Court Chardonnay (from the Kendall-Jackson family) is $16 BTG and $68 by the bottle. 
Other white wines of interest would by JB Ponsot's Rully "Montpalais" at $78 or the Marcel Deiss Pinot d'Alsace at $62.  The most spendy bottle of white goes for $178 and is by Rudolph Demougeout.

Twenty-nine red wines are available by the bottle with six being offered by-the-glass. Four California reds are on this list.  Domaine de Colette Morgon is $12 and $52, while Cep Pinot Noir from California is $16 and $68.  Charles Jouguet Chinon goes for  $13 and $56.  There's a Côtes du Rhône Villages labeled Les Cassagnes de la Nerthe for $14 and $60.
There's a Château Les Graves de Levaud 2014 Lalande de Pomerol for $17 BTG and $74 for a bottle.  Wolf Family Napa Cabernet is $20 BTG and $86 for a bottle.
Other wines by the bottle of interest would be Domaine Piaugier's Sablet at $42 for a bottle or the Château du Hureau Saumur-Champigny at $42.
Overall, it's a nicely-selected list featuring good selections at sensible prices and is devoid of trophy wines and Sommelier favorites which say "Look at me!  Look what wines we have!"

And speaking of sommeliers, there was no wine steward or sommelier working the floor.

My dining companion ordered a Lillet Blanc ($8) for an aperitif and I opted for a glass of Meyer-Fonne's Pinot Blanc ($15).

The wine by-the-glass is brought poured at the bar, not poured at the table.  It was approximately a 5 or 6 ounce pour.  Nice stemware with maybe 10-12 ounce capacity.

Their corkage fee is $30.

We perused the menu, having seen their menu posted on the restaurant website as well as on Open Table.  Both listed Gooseneck Barnacles which we have never seen locally, but enjoyed these immensely in Portugal.
Sadly, this item was not on the menu on this occasion.

Oysters go for $4.50 apiece.  Poached Shrimp, Court Bouillon is $16 and the menu indicates you'll be served four.  Gulf Blue Crab Remoulade is $17.50 and a grand seafood platter is $84.
"Small Plates" offers Oeufs Mayonnaise at $2.50 each.  Trout Roe Tartlet is $7.50 while a serving of Bayonne Ham is $8.50.  Potato & Leek Croquettes are $8.50, while Crispy Frog Legs go for $14.50 and Epoisses Toast is $13.50.
They also offer Hors d'oeuvres such as a Butter Lettuce Salad at $15.50 or an Endive & Apple Salad at $18.  Foie Gras Confit is $24.  A Chicken Liver terrine is $18, while Steak Tartare is $22.  A Seafood Sausage is $ $20 and Veal Sweetbreads are $22.

"Plats de Resistance" were also quite interesting.  Gulf Flounder Gratinée with Shrimp Cream is $36.   Arctic Char Amandine  with Haricots Verts and a Sunchoke is $38, while a Braised Rabbit Leg that comes with a Saucisse Chipolata is $32. Quail a la Chasseur comes with Mushrooms and Cabbage goes for $38 and there's a Hamburger "Fully Dressed" that comes with Frites for $22.

For starters, my friend chose Escargots Bordelaise with Mushroom Duxelles at $20 and I chose the "Steamed Razor Clams with Celery and Espelette Peppers at $18.

The Escargot are presented in a small iron snail dish smothered in parsley and mushrooms...quite hot...not in their shells which is convenient.
Now perhaps most people might expect the Steamed Razor Clams to be a hot dish, but these are served chilled on a little bowl of crushed ice.
It's a rather small serving, but was delicious and I used their wonderful sourdough bread to sop up the sauce.

My dining companion chose the Steak Frites which is a 12 ounce Ribeye at $54 while I went for the Duck Confit with Vegetables Écrasés at $34.

She substituted Mashed Potatoes for the Frites and the steak was quite good.  The duck confit was also very good, perches atop a bed of diced vegetables.  I asked for a side of Frites $8, one of five different "garnitures."   Other side dishes include Asparagus with Hollandaise Sauce at $12.50 or Grilled Gem Lettuces with a Sauce Ravigote at $9.  Roasted Mushrooms with a Foie Gras Vinaigrette goes for $9.50.and the Pommes Purée is $8.50.

We put a bottle of what turned out to be a nice Bordeaux on the table and the server asked about opening this.  He brought two proper Bordeaux stems and we invited him to bring one for himself...his was a bit smaller and we poured him a nice taste which he appreciated.

The ambience is comfortable...bistro style, not terribly formal.  The crowd was fairly young and dressed casually.  My senior citizen dining companion wondered how these young people who look like they may drive a truck can afford such a place.  She's quite unaware of young hipsters who are paid handsomely by local tech companies.  The place was quite busy by 8pm and we probably were out of there after an hour and a half or two hours.

We skipped desserts, though these looked mighty tempting. Île Flottante is $13.50, while a Gateau Marjolaine is $15.50.  Tarte au Chocolat with Mint  Sherbet is $14.50.
They had a number of good dessert wines by the glass, too.  A Clos Guirouilh Jurançon is $12 BTG, while a 2013 Château Doisy-Védrines Sauternes is $18.  Chapoutier's Banyuls is $13, while Graham's 20 Year Tawny Port goes for $18.

The restaurant automatically adds a 20% tip to each and every item and says the tips are shared by the entire staff, so the dishwashers and kitchen crew also get a piece of the action.

The server brought the bill with a couple of thimbles-full of some sort of interesting herbal digestif and he announced he waived the $30 corkage.  Our bill tallied to about $204.
I paid with a credit card and have noticed a number of places that add a gratuity to the bill present an invoice with a tip line.  Monsieur Benjamin does not ask for a further tip which we found rather civilized.

We will certainly make a return visit to this place.

Reviewed By GW
May 2018



3000 20th Street
San Francisco

TEL: 415-826-7004

Dinner Daily from 5:30pm

Duck Mortadella


Fry Bread

Roasted Garlic


Smoked Salmon Rillettes

Pappardelle with Braised Pork Belly and a Nettle Salsa Verde

Pork Loin with Marble Potato, Charred Calcot Onions and Chicharrones.

Charred Asparagus with a Grilled Blood Orange, 
Almonds and Nasturtiums

Meyer Lemon and Strawberry Sorbets










I was hosting a friend from Frankfurt and wanted to try something new , so we reserved a table at 7pm on 20th Street in San Francisco at Central Kitchen.

We circled the block a couple of times and found parking fairly close to the restaurant.

There's a big metal box of wood in the entry-way.  Inside the front door there's a fountain of sorts with a large pipe dumping water into a large tub.  The reception desk is a few more steps inside.  We arrived early and at 6:30, or so, the place was perhaps 35% occupied.

The hostess guided us to a two-top table where I had a modest view of the open kitchen in the next room.  No wine glasses are on the table as part of the place settings.  We were presented menus and a small clipboard with several pages of a wine list.  Some "Wines By The Glass" are on the back of the menu, along with some cocktail suggestions.  

The wine list is compact and devoid of trophy wines.  Selections are interesting and well-priced.  What a concept!

They offer 16 "By the Glass" (BTG) selections for dinner service and four post-dinner selections.  Two sparkling wines are offered along with a French cider.  Val de Mer Brut Nature Rose comes from a Chablis producer and it's $13 BTG.  Casa Coste Piane, a Prosecco that's "col fondo" (with the yeast sediment) is $14.
There's one pink wine BTG, a Carignane Rose from the Subject to Change winery.  That's $14.  I don't make up the names of the wineries.

You'll find six white wines by the glass.  There's a Greek white from the Sigalas winery that features the Assyrtiko grape.  $13.  Similarly priced is the Pedralonga Albariño.  Massican Sauvignon Blanc from Napa is $14.  Edmunds St. John's Grenache Blanc is $15.
For reds BTG, we find a Foillard Beaujolais at $15 BTG, while Mount Eden's "Domaine Eden" Pinot Noir is $16.  A Rosso di Montalcino by Donatella Colombini is $17.

The wine list offers 12 Sparkling wines and that French cider.
There's a tiny production California sparkler made of Carignan going for $105 if you're a gambler.   Caraccioli 2010 Brut from Monterey is $95.  I'd go for the Pierre Moncuit Brut Champagne at $110 if I was spending that kind of money, though.    

If you're interested in pink wine, be prepared to shell out $55 to $90 a bottle.  Robert Sinskey's Vin Gris is $80.

White wines are categorized as "Refreshing, Mineral, Crisp" or "Textured, Floral, Bright" or "Rich, Waxy, Aromatic."
The white wines go from $45 for a bottle of a French Macabeu from the Roussillon to $195 for a Jobard St. Aubin 1er Cru.  
Wine aficionados will recognize names such as Venica, Ostertag, Verzier, Ryme and Arnaud Ente (not sure I'd spend $150 for Ente's Aligoté, though).
The average bear will likely need some help.
We did not test the server's wine knowledge, but should note there did not seem to be a wine director or sommelier patrolling the floor.

Red wines are categorized as "Elegant, Floral, Light" or "Silky, Herbal, Structured" or "Robust, Bold, Spiced."
There were 31 selections of reds when we visited.  The least expensive red is $45 and there's a Folk Machine Valdiguie or a Gries Bauries Côtes-du-Rhône for that price. 
A Morey Saint Denis from Hubert Lignier is $235 a bottle and Corison 2014 Napa Cabernet is $225.  
Montevertine's 2014 Rosso from Tuscany is $135 a bottle, while Sean Thackrey's Sangiovese blend called Pleiades is $65.  

The corkage fee here is $25 and I'd have put a bottle on the table, but my dining companion had a palate for Ginger Beer or Root Beer, so I opted for some of their "BTG" selections.  These are brought to the table in a glass, so guests do not see the bottle and label of the wine they've ordered.

Casa Coste Piane makes a terrific Prosecco and that was $14 for a flute.  I also ordered a Côtes-du-Rhône of Alain Ignace at $14.  A Bedrock Zinfandel from Sonoma is also $14.

Overall the wine list offers a nice range of wines from off-the-beaten path producers.  The restaurant doesn't have selections from the big liquor distributors which usually leads to industrial wines that are on a quota list for sales reps.  The mark-up is about 350%, sadly a bit standard these days thanks to high operation costs here in the Wild, Wild West.

The menu is interesting and indicates the plates are intended for sharing.  We began with a Duck Mortadella ($10) with a Nectarine Tapenade, Kumquats and Pistachios.  I can't say the Mortadella had intense flavors but the other items on the plate certainly did.   It comes with some crispy, brittle cracker bread that's likely made in house.

We also ordered their Smoked Salmon Rillettes ($12) which has Meyer Lemon and Horseradish in the mix, topped with Salmon Roe.  This was a bit more soupy than I expected and I can't say I detected any smoky notes.  Again this came with their crackers, but we also ordered what they called "Fry Bread" ($6) and a side of their Roasted Garlic ($3).  The Fry Bread arrived with two puffy "rolls" with some Green Onion Powder on them.  The garlic was a whole head of garlic, sliced in half.
We also ordered the Josey Sourdough ($6)...four beautiful wedges of fresh country bread.

For a mid-plate, we chose a pasta as the reputation of the place is based, in part, on their pastas.  (They offer pasta-making classes, by the way.)  Pappardelle with Braised Pork Belly and a Nettle Salsa Verde ($19).  It comes in a smallish bowl and you might find it satisfactory as a small course, but you'd likely be expecting a bigger portion were you to order it for your main plate.  The pasta was al dente to where it really could have used another 30 to 60 seconds in boiling water or a minute or two in the sauce pan.  The little bits of pork were tasty and the dish was nicely seasoned.

We then had the Pork Loin, Marble Potato,  Charred Calcot Onion and Chicharrones ($26).  The pork was a bit bland, frankly, but the potatoes were nicely crispy on the outside and soft on the inside.   The Chicharrones were good.  The serving size here was fine, though the pork did have a modest amount of fat which we left off to the side.

We also had a side dish of Charred Asparagus with Almond, Grilled Blood Orange and Nasturtiums ($12).  This was a nice-sized serving and the Asparagus were mildly charred and quite crisp.

I should note they have two interesting main plates which I'd be interested to try on the next visit here.  One is a Roasted Chicken ($48 for a whole one, but available in a half) and the other is a Bone-In 24 ounce Ribeye ($72). 
They also had Beef Cheeks as a main plate or Grilled King Salmon, both priced at $28.

Three desserts were on the menu and we opted for the simple Meyer Lemon and Strawberry Sorbets ($8).
We missed, then, the Chocolate Custard, Chocolate Crumble with Coffee Ice Cream ($10) and the Mint Ice Cream in a Chocolate Shell ($8).
The Meyer Lemon Sorbet was a bit icy, while the berry sorbet was smoother and silkier.

The music system played some nice jazzy tunes and this helped moderate the noise of the animated conversations taking place.  I likely brought the average age of their dinner guests up to 35 or 40 years.  It's a young, hip crowd to be sure.

The bill tallied to just shy of $170 before the tip.

This is a nice dining spot in a somewhat out-of-the-way part of The City.  We'll likely return and try a few more of their interesting menu offerings.

Reviewed by GW
May 2018



300 Precita Avenue
San Francisco

TEL: 415-285-6005

Open Mon, Wed, Thurs, Fri from 6pm
Sat 10-2 and 6pm-11pm
Sun 10-2 and 5pm to 9pm





Duck Liver Mousse

Octopus Carpaccio






Chicken Pot Pie


Grilled Pork Chop








Apple Tart with Vanilla Ice Cream


TCHO Chocolate & Orange Custard with
Toasted Flax Seeds, Cocoa Nibs and Sea Salt




We had attended a trade wine-tasting event at this place in 2017 and they were listed on Open Table so we made same-day reservations around 7pm on a Sunday evening in February.

Parking is not easy in this neighborhood.  They're on the corner of Folsom and Precita, just off Cesar Chavez Boulevard.  We dropped off our dining companion and were lucky to find a parking space along Precita as someone was just pulling out of a tight spot near the restaurant.

The Hillside Supper Club has maybe 40 to 50 seats on the main level with some additional tables on a small balcony in the back.

No wine glasses are on the tables with the place setting.  They are proud of their wine list and this is presented with the menu.
Wines By the Glass (BTG) are on the menu, while the wine card encompasses both sides of the wine page.  There may be another wine list of rarities, as well.

The wines by the glass featured a sparkling wine from France's Loire Valley and a few reds and whites.  For some reason, I neglected to record those selections, but we did begin with a pour of the Domaine L'Ecu sparkling wine called La Divina ($13 BTG, $52/bottle) and this was presented in a modest-sized stem.  
They do not pour it at the table, however.
It's listed as being made of Folle Blanche, but the winery web site indicates there's also 30% Chardonnay, 20% Melon de Bourgogne and 20% Cabernet (both Sauvignon and Franc).

We perused the wine addition to the L'Ecu bubbly, there are two other Loire Valley sparklers.  A California bubbly from the Scribe winery is $90.  Philipponat (sic) Brut Rose Champagne is $108, while the same company's single vineyard "Clos des Goisses" is $280.  Two currently fashionable grower Champagnes are offered, Ulysse Collin's "Les Maillons" is $198 while the Bereche "Reflet d'Antan" is $184.

There are three rosé wines.  Raft Wines Grenache 2016 is $30, while a Loire Valley pink wine from Frantz Saumon is $35.  There's also Clos Saron 2014 at $44.

Amongst the whites we find Tatomer "Vandenberg" Riesling from the 2009 vintage at $71, a wine that is just hitting its prime.  There are four, count 'em, four Huet demi-sec Vouvray selections: Clos du Bourg 2016 is $90 while the 2014 is $80.  Le Mont Demi Sec is $98 for a 2006 and $137 for a 2000 vintage.
Other whites include a Chardonnay from the Sandhi winery at $60 or one from the Domaine de la Pinte in France's Arbois at $49.  There's a PYCM Saint Aubin at $98 which is well-priced and top quality, but I wonder how many customers know Pierre Yves Colin-Morey as PYCM?
There are two Austrian whites on the list and, no, they're not Grüner Veltliner but a Chardonnay from Prager and there's a half liter of Traminer from Knoll at $101.  Prager's Chardonnay is from the 1999 vintage, the last one made before they pulled out the vines.  $99 for that.
If you have enough people to share a magnum, they offer a Benoit Courault 2015 Les Guinechiens at $150.  There's a wine called Le Vendangeur Masque which is made of Chardonnay (French) and it's $140 a magnum.  From the Jura there's a Ganevat "Cuvée Oregane" (Chardonnay/Savagnin blend) for $191 per magnum.

A few whites are available under two other categories:  "Wines We Are Super Into Right Now" (I don't make up these things) and "The Rare Finds."
There are three Bourgogne Blancs from the Boisson-Vadot family ranging from $90 for a Pierre Boison (sic) 2015 to a $93 bottle of Bernard Boisson-Vadot 2014 while a 2007 from Bernard is $102.
Domaine du Collier wines from France's Saumur appellation are offered from $99 to $135 a bottle.
They also feature some Chenin Blanc wines from Thibaud Boudignon.  There are three bottlings ranging from $85 to $148.  There are two more Chenin Blancs from the Loire under the Rare Finds heading, along with a German Riesling from Egon Müller at $105.  The lone Sancerre is from François Cotat at $120.  Gonon's St. Joseph Blanc is $108 while a Benetiere Condrieu is $185.  There's a Dauvissat Chablis at $100 and two Mikulski Meursaults at $146 and $230 a bottle.

There are a few reds at $45 including a Carbonic Carignane of the brand "Subject to Change Wine Company (I don't make up these things) and two Beaujolais wines, one from Jean Foillard and the other of Clotaire Michal.  A cru Beaujolais from Sunier, a Regnie, is $58 while a Ganevat Gamay from the Jura is $80.
But wait!  There's more: two other Beaujolais appear on the Rare Finds page, one at $91 and one at $139.

A Chinon from Marc Plouzeau is $52 while a Château Pradeaux 2000 Bandol is reasonably-priced at $100.
There are five Italian reds, including Foradori Teroldego at $59 and Vajra's Nebbiolo Langhe at $51.  Giuseppe Rinaldi's Nebbiolo is $155.
In the Rare Finds category we see five red Burgundies, all from the Côtes de Nuits ranging from $178 for a Domaine Fourrier Vosne-Romanée Aux Reas to a 2009 Roumier Morey-Saint Denis Clos de la Bussiére at $339.  There are 7 Northern Rhône Syrahs ranging from $90 to $306 dollars a bottle.
Yes, there are some nice wines on this list, but it seems to lack a bit of variety what with so many wines made of Chenin Blanc, Gamay and Syrah.
No Spanish wines.  Nothing from Oregon or Washington.  Bordeaux?  Nope. Alsace?  Nope.
Tuscany?  Nope.  I think there was one Napa wine on the list.
But plenty of French Gamay and Chenin Blanc.
The list seems a bit unbalanced in its selections.

They are proud of sourcing so many foods from "local purveyors to ensure stellar ingredients."  Yet they clearly prefer Old World wines (which is fine).

You can find some nice red wines in the $50 range, but the main list doesn't have that many whites for that price.  Perhaps I missed a few of these on the By The Glass listings?

We asked the wine guru about the cost of corkage and he informed us it's $30.
But we'd seen their web site that morning and found this:

We perused the menu and saw this:

Sunday "Pre-Fixe" (sic) $40.

Good...My dining companion opted for Liberty Farms Duck Liver Mousse ($11) while I chose the Octopus Carpaccio ($13).
The Mousse comes in a glass jar topped with "Huckleberry gelée."  She shared a taste and it struck me as a bit strange, seemingly having a cheese element.  We inquired if there was, in fact, cheese in this.
We suggested the kitchen crew have a taste and they said it was fine.  We were told it does have cream and egg yolks, but no cheese.
Maybe it was a shade past its prime?  
It was very odd for my sensitive palate.
The Octopus Carpaccio was some sort of interesting and tasty preparation where they make a sort of salame-shaped thing and then thinly slice it.  Nice!
And it went well with the glass of bubbly.

We opened our cellar bag and put a nice Chapelle Chambertin on the table.  The wine specialist came back with two good Burgundy glasses and we invited him to bring one of his own to join us in tasting this.  He did and we poured him more than a splash.  The server was curious so we invited her to bring a glass.

The Chicken Pot Pie ($27) my friend ordered arrived in a small skillet with a puff pastry top. It comes with Baby Carrots, Pearl Onions and bits of Yams.  She enjoyed it.  
My Pork Chop nearly covered the plate.  It was set on a bunch of little bits of Brussels Sprouts, Pearl Onions and Potatoes.
There was a modest amount of fat to this and slicing it into bite-sized pieces when it sits atop those vegetables was a bit curious, as cutting the chop on top of these marble-sized vegetables was an unusual dynamic.
Overall it was good, but perhaps not in the same league as we find in a number of other City restaurants.

We then ordered desserts to complete the three course menu, a TCHO Chocolate & Orange Custard dish that someone from a neighboring table raved about at $10 and an Apple Tart at $9.
I had an espresso and my friend got a pour of a Muscat de Beaumes de Venise ($9).
I wasn't wowed by either dessert, but they certainly were fine.

Now things go off the rails.
The chef/owner came out and we exchanged pleasantries.  A few moments later the bill arrives and the server announces "We didn't charge you corkage."
But then we see each item was billed "a la carte" and not the $40 for their Sunday night special.
We ask the chef to come back and have a look and he inquired if we had asked the server for the $40 Sunday night Pre-Fixed meal.
We had not.
Why would we?
Wouldn't it be sensible to expect the $40 for three items to be honored without question?

Now the server did not mention the $40 price-fixed offer and the menu, as seen above, does not impose any restrictions.

So the owner then says "But we did not charge you corkage!  We did not charge you corkage!!" as though this was a good reason for us to pay the a la carte pricing.
After a bit more arm-wrestling, they took back the bill and it dropped from $151 to $131.  No corkage on either, thank you.

Needless to say, this episode was a bit uncomfortable.
We left $160 and hope that was sufficient.

Reviewed by GW
February 2018



We've been dining out a bit to start the new year, but some of the restaurants are not exactly wine hot-spots.  And we've been back to some old haunts.  Here are some notes:

One new place that's been delightful is DUMPLING TIME in San Francisco. Went there on a Saturday night around 6:30....very videos being played which is a bit distracting and adds to the chaotic ambience.  But the "dumplings" are excellent!  It's Dim Sum at lunch and Dim Sum at dinner.  We had beer on my Saturday night visit.  I returned the following weekend on a Sunday as they were opening.  Much more tranquil and people were waiting for the doors to open.  I had a nice range of Dim Sum and brought some wine.  They have a limited wine list, but the $15 corkage fee is certainly reasonable.  They don't have proper stemware, though.  

They brought out some stemless wine vessels...given how crowded the table is with all your items arriving in short order, probably it's better to not have expensive stemware.    
We had a good meal on both occasions.  They do offer some nice beers, too, by the way.


We enjoyed a nice lunch and dinner at South San Francisco's Basque Cultural Center.  It's not fancy, but it's good value and solid quality.  I bring my own stemware typically, but theirs are "okay."  Corkage is modest.


Dinner at San Mateo's Espetus on a Sunday evening was good.  The wine list has some famous brands on it and some obscure wines, as well.  I bring my own bottle and we paid $30 for corkage.  The food is good and some of the meat offerings are excellent.


A Monday night at Burlingame's Sakae was excellent in terms of food.  I was hosting a friend and her son who was returning from a jaunt to Europe.  The sixteen year old has a voracious appetite and Sakae offers lots of interesting sushi.  After quite a few dishes I was still a bit hungry and I asked the young fellow if he was still hungry.  "How hungry are you?" I inquired.  "How much sushi can you afford?" was his response.  
I brought a nice bottle of Portuguese Alvarinho and we sent a glass back to the kitchen to the chef/owner.  He sent out a couple of glasses of Sake.  Very nice.  Despite bringing my own stemware, as theirs is sub-par, the corkage fee was $35.  Yikes!


We tried a new Chinese place in San Francisco's Embarcadero Center.  Crystal Jade.  We had trouble finding the place.  The directory showed the place on the ground floor.  When we went up one level, the directory indicated we should take the escalator downstairs.  It's on the second level though.  It's a fancy place.  On a Sunday night, the bar was empty, but the dining room was well-occupied.  The food was good and the place is a bit upscale.  They have a wine list which is a mix of well-known wines and some mass-market bottles.  I'd return when in the neighborhood, but it wouldn't be my first choice in The City.


We enjoyed a lovely Monday night dinner at Belmont's Divino.  The place was rather busy at our 7:30 arrival.  The meal was very good...homemade breads and a green dipping sauce.  Grilled Calamari and Cannellini beans...Octopus Salad...Fedelini pasta with Clams (excellent!)...We were hoping to a grilled pork chop but they'd sold out.  There was some special cut of beef on the menu which Chef Vincenzo told us was something the butchers usually save for themselves.  His simple preparation of this was outstanding and perfect with our obscure Italian red.  


In mid-December we enjoyed dinner at San Francisco's La Ciccia. I dined there with a local winemaker friend and we order everything!  Their choice of Prosciutto was exceptional.  The Octopus and Calamari "stew" in Squid Ink was a delight.  The Pasta with Bottarga is a killer and we paired it with Silvio Carta's Vernaccia di Oristano, a remarkable combination.  The Lamb was excellent paired with a 10+ year old bottle of Nebbiolo from Italy's Valtellina.  If you've yet to dine at La Ciccia, you're missing out.


Watch this space!



63 Ellis Street
San Francisco

Tel: 415-986-3274

Open Mon-Sat  11am-10pm
Sunday 12pm-10pm


Bread and Butter

A Glass of Sauvignon Blanc by Voss.


Clam Chowder

Prawns Dijonnaise


John's Rib-Eye Steak



We've driven by this San Francisco landmark numerous times and know of its notoriety in connection with Dashiell Hammet's "The Maltese Falcon."

On a Sunday evening we arrived about 20 minutes late for our 7:30 reservation.  We were told they'd have a table for us shortly and were directed to the back of the room to have a drink at the bar.  We stood by the reception desk and others came in saying they had reservations.  All were told to head back to the bar and they'd be called when a table was ready.
It didn't seem as though the reservation system, Open Table, was especially important.  We, in fact, received a message the following morning from Open Table politely asking why we missed our dinner reservation at John's Grill.
Of course, many dining spots routinely shuffle customers to the bar in an effort to squeeze more revenue from patrons.

We were seated within maybe ten minutes of our arrival.  The ground floor tables were fully occupied, but we understand they have additional seating upstairs.

The host placed menus and a wine list on the table.  No wine glasses were part of the table setting.

There were two bubblies by the glass (BTG).  One is a simple French Brut sparkling wine from François Montand at $12 for a 187ml bottle, while Moet & Chandon Brut Champagne is $18 for a 187ml, quarter bottle.
They offer a nebulous selection called "House White at ten bucks a glass, while Beringer's White Zinfandel is $9 BTG and $32 for a bottle.
Riverbench Santa Maria Chardonnay is $15 BTG and $58 for a bottle, while Stewart Cellars Sonoma Chardonnay is $16 BTG and $62 for a bottle.  Long Meadow Ranch Sauvignon Blanc is $13 and $49.  We presume "Riesling, Santa Barbara, Santa Rita Hills, 2015" is from the Santa Barbara Winery.  It's $11 BTG and $42 for a bottle. Claiborne & Churchill 2016 Pinot Gris is $12 BTG and $46 by the bottle.
House Red is $10 and not sold by the bottle, so we suspect these are wines from a "bag in box."  Perhaps they're a selection of a wine "on tap" from a keg?  In any event, these are not identified.
Nine other reds are offered by the glass.  A second label wine made by Clos La Chance called "Hayes Valley" goes for $12 BTG and $46 by the bottle.  The wholesales for around eight bucks a bottle.  There's a Carneros Pinot Noir called Annabella at $13 BTG and $50 for a bottle.  Cleary Ranch Russian River Pinot Noir from 2011 is $15 BTG and $60 for a bottle. A John's Grill private label Cabernet of no identified appellation is $11 BTG and $42 for a bottle.  Ancient Peaks Paso Robles Cabernet is $13 and $50, while a Sonoma Cabernet from Newton is $15 and $58.  Dashe Dry Creek Zinfandel is $16 and $60.

There were nine half bottle selections on the wine list.  Simi Chardonnay is $26, Macrostie is $28 and Hess Collection Cabernet is $34.  Cline Zinfandel goes for $25 and Benton Lane Pinot Noir is $27...Perfectly serviceable if a bit unexciting.  If you need to spend a lot of money, a half bottle of Opus One from the 2014 is well-priced at $158.

Four sparkling wines are available by the bottle.  Gloria Ferrer's Sonoma Brut is $54 and Dom Perignon is well-priced at $192.
There are five imported white wine selections.  None are from France or Germany.  Allan Scott is the New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc selection at $42, while Terlano's Pinot Grigio from Italy's Alto Adige is $45.  There's a Chardonnay from Friuli's Vie di Romans at $71.

Eighteen domestic whites are available, but your choices are solely Chardonnay or Sauvignon Blanc.  Robert Mondavi's Fume Blanc is $41 and Ferrari Carano's costs $43.  A Sonoma-Cutrer Chardonnay is $50, but the bottling is not identified, so we must presume it's the entry-level Russian River Ranches.  Thomas Fogarty's Santa Cruz Mtns. Chardonnay is $52.
They list a ZD Estate Napa Chardonnay but the winery makes a California regional blend and a Carneros Reserve, so we'll presume it's ZD's regular blend at the $60 price level.
Shafer's "Red Shoulder" Chardonnay is $81 and Kistler's "Les Noisetiers" is $98.
Nine imported red wines are offered, with Damilano's Barbera d'Asti going for $45, Produttori del Barbaresco's 2013 Barbaresco is $68 and a curious little red from Bordeaux called "Exem" is $51 (this wholesales for less than ten bucks).  There's a Zenato Amarone on the list for $112 and they inform customers it received a score of 93 points from The Wine Spectator...woohoo!
They offer six California Pinot Noirs.  Thomas Fogarty's is $56 and Kistler is $112.  Seven Merlots are available, but they're not exactly from blue-chip producers...Sterling is $47, while Coppola's is $46.  Rubissow is $66.  No Duckhorn or Frog's Leap, though.  Three Syrahs are offered...Shafer's "Relentless" from Napa is $112.  They have a couple of Zinfandels, with Mettler from Lodi going for $42 and Folie a Deux costing $48.  No Ridge Zins?
Twenty-one Cabernets are available, with Opus One costing $315 a bottle and their house label priced at $42.  Round Pond's "Kith & Kin" Cabernet is $65 while Montelena's Napa bottling is $97.  Frog's Leap is $112 and Phelps costs $131.
The list doesn't offer much ground-breaking or adventuresome wine, but given this place caters to tourists, the list is about what one might expect.
The margins are far more inflated for the lower-priced bottles than they are for the higher-ticket wines.  Consumers do better on the mid-priced to higher-priced bottles which are relatively good values by comparison.

The corkage fee is $25.

My dining companion ordered a serving of Moet Chandon Champagne...$18 for a quarter bottle...I opted for a glass of Voss Sauvignon Blanc ($12).  This is brought to the table already poured, but we're fairly certain it was the Voss wine.

We both chose John's Clam Chowder to start.  $10.95.  It comes in what appears to be a generous-sized bowl, but this is very shallow so it appears more generous than it really is.  And in such a shallow dish, the soup cools off more quickly.  The French Bread accompaniment is an industrial sourdough bread.

They do offer quite a range of items for starters, though.  A Crab Cocktail is $19.95, as are mussels.  A Caesar Salad is $11.95 while Jack Lalanne's Favorite Salad is $28.95 and serves two people.  (Lalanne was a famous TV personality here in the Bay Area, doing calisthenics.)
You can order Cioppino ($34.95) here or have  Oysters Wellington ($28.95).  Petrale is $27.95 and Broiled Salmon is $30.95.
Half a dozen steak options are available, along with Sam Spade's Lamb Chops ($36.95).  

My friend ordered Jumbo Prawns Dijonnaise ($28.95) and I had a $34.95 Rib-eye steak.
The Prawns were of good quality and the rib-eye was also good, if a bit thin and slightly over-cooked more than the requested medium-rare.

Stemware was a bit clunky...heavy duty glasses from the 1980s...the sound system featured guitar music with a seemingly Hawaiian styling...

We skipped dessert and the bill tallied to $158 with tax and the SF Health surcharge, before the tip.

We can now say we've dined at John's Grill.  It's a perfectly decent place and they crank guests through in an efficient manor.

Reviewed by GW
December 2017



300 El Camino Real

Tel: 650-596-9000

Open Daily 11-9


Wine Spectator Awards for the wine list...


Sabzi, a mix of fresh herbs, radishes, walnuts and cheese.







Mirza Ghasemi


Lentil Soup "Adasi"






Shalizaar Shishlik

We've heard from Persian customers about the good food at Belmont's Shalizaar restaurant and we finally went there on a Sunday evening.  It's a popular place and the parking lot was full when we arrived for dinner. 

The restaurant was quite busy and we were offered a table near the reception desk.  As you walk in there are certificates from The Wine Spectator noting the place has an "Award of Excellence" for its wine selections.  There are nearly 3600 award winning restaurants and these dining establishments actually pay $350-$400 for the "honor."  This is solely for a wine list and the publication does not visit the restaurants on its list (and cautions the award is only for the list, not for its cuisine).

We were guided to a table for two.  No wine glasses are on the table and we were surprised that they did not present a wine list, given they're so proud of the award they have essentially purchased.

The menu does offer a number of wines by the glass (BTG) and so we were interested to see what sort of selections a Wine Spectator Award winner offers.
For sparkling wine they have 4 choices, all likely coming in 187ml, quarter bottle format, not poured from a regular 750ml bottle.  Enrico Prosecco and Rotari Talento are $8, while Mumm Napa is $10.  There's Pommery Extra Dry Champagne for $20.  We might not be enthusiastic for the selections, but the pricing is certainly consumer-friendly.
The table wine selections offered by-the-glass are also rather ordinary and mainstream.
Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand is $11 BTG, while Chateau Ste. Michelle Chardonnay from Washington is $9.  C.K. Mondavi Chardonnay is $8 and Estancia goes for $10.  Chateau St. Jean Fumé Blanc is $9.
For red wines, there's Bogle "Old Vine" Zinfandel for $9 BTG, Hogue or Columbia Crest Merlots at $9, D'Arenberg Shiraz at $11 and Beringer's Knights Valley Cabernet at $14.

We were able to have a look at this award-winning wine list and found half a dozen Champagnes.  Gosset is $75, while Dom Perignon is $360.  Laurent Perrier's Grand Siecle is $200.  Under the heading of sparkling wines there's Mumm Napa at $40 and Gloria Ferrer Sonoma Brut at $30...certainly favorably-priced.

Within the category of Chardonnay we found 16 selections, with the youngest wines being from the 2013 vintage.  It might be risky to order a 2009 Beringer Reserve Chardonnay ($50) or a 2008 Stag's Leap Wine Cellars ($65).
At this writing Chateau St Jean is selling a 2016 vintage bottling of Sauvignon Blanc, while Shalizaar has the 2012 on its list at $30.  Matanzas Creek 2012 Sauvignon Blanc is $40.  
"Other Whites" features a 2008 Trimbach Riesling from France's Alsace region at $45 and this is a wine which does well with some bottle aging. There's a 2005 Louis Latour Corton-Charlemagne at $250 along with a Chateau Doisy-Daene 1995 "Barasac" (sic, it should be Barsac) at $75.  We wonder if customers would know this is a seriously sweet wine and perhaps best suited to dessert service.
They have more than two dozen Cabernets, with a Columbia Crest going for $35 and Chateau Ste. Michelle at $55.  Other names such as Rodney Strong. Beringer and Caymus are available.  A 2005 Opus One is $330 while the 2004 vintage Opus goes for $350.
There's a section on the list for "Blends" and here you'll find Spring Valley's "Uriah" from the 2006 vintage at $70.  The 2006 Le Mistral, a label once owned by Joseph Phelps, is offered for $70.  Tablas Creek's "Espirit de Beaucastel" from the 2007 vintage is $100.  A 2005 Phelps Insignia is $320 a bottle.  
There are nearly a dozen Merlot selections, with more than half coming from Washington State.  Waterbrook, Chateau Ste. Michelle, Hogue and Columbia Crest are available, the oldest being a 2005 vintage.  Shafer's 2007 from Napa is $120 a bottle.
There are 9 Zinfandels to choose from in 750ml format, including a 2006 Terra d'Oro from Amador at $45, a 2001 Frank Family from Napa at $70 and a 2009 single vineyard bottling from Hartford Court at $115.
Thirteen Pinot Noir selections range from Erath at $35 to Donum Estate 2006 at $130.  Fourteen Australian Shiraz wines are featured, with Jim Barry at $45, Molly Dooker's 2013 "Blue Eyed Boy" at $90 and Penfolds 2005 "St Henri" at $160.
Under "Syrahs" there's Andezon 2011 Cotes du Rhon (sic, it should be Rhone) is $35, while a 2009 Owen Roe from the Columbia Valley is $70. 
Six Malbecs from Argentina are on the list, Catena's 2011 is at $40, while a 2009 single vineyard from Trapiche is $75.
You'll find nearly a dozen French Reds, including a Château Cruzeau Pessac-Léognan for $90 and a Château Gloria Saint-Julien 2005 for $120. A Châteauneuf-du-Pape from Chapoutier from the 2009 vintage is $140, while a Louis Latour Château Corton-Grancey from 2002 is $145.

They have more than two dozen half bottle selections.  I wonder how the 2008 Bernardus Chardonnay ($25) is holding up?  The 2013 Qupe Chardonnay ($25) is like a more safe selection.   Kenwood Sauvignon Blanc from the 2013 vintage is $20, while a 2011 Hugel Gewürztraminer is $30.  Darioush 2007 Cabernet is $90 in half bottle format, while a 2008 Phelps Insignia is $160.  Rutherford Hill 2009 Merlot is $28, while Sanford 2012 Pinot Noir goes for $45.  Rombauer's 2012 Zinfandel is listed as having a Napa appellation, but that wine is likely their California blend at $30 for a 375ml bottle.  They have a Cline Zinfandel from 2013 listed as "Lodi, Central Coast" at $20.  This is likely from Lodi and not a Central Coast wine.

There's a page headed as "Best of the Best," featuring only red wines and it's simply their most expensive selections.  If you want to try Gaja's 2000 "Sori San Lorenzo," it goes for $700 and will pair well with your $25-$30 main plate.

There's an additional page of reds, whites and bubblies that have been cited by the Wine Spectator as a Top 100 wine from various years.  You can get an A-to-Z Wineworks 2011 Oregon Pinot Noir for $40 or a Vitticio Chianti Classico Riserva from 2007 for $70.

It seems wine isn't a big item here apart from possibly impressing people who don't know much about it.  The list is bigger than it needs to be given they don't do much to sell it.  Further, when you see so many older vintages, you might wonder about their storage over the years.
The list, by the way, is dominated by one of the big liquor distribution companies and this explains so many of the less-than-adventuresome offerings.  

The corkage fee is $15, by the way.

My dinner guest was craving something bubbly, so we did not open a bottle from my cellar bag, instead ordering a bottle of Gloria Ferrer Sonoma Brut ($30).  Someone brought two chilled flute glasses and wrestled the cork out of the bottle in an effort to serve the wine.

We had asked for an order of "Dolmehs" ($5.95), grape leaves stuffed with rice, onions and some herbs.  These were quite good and certainly fresh.

They also bring a little basket of some sort of warm flatbread and there's a box of fresh herbs, chilled walnuts, radishes and some sort of cheese.  Sabzi they call it. 

For a starter my friend chose something called Mirza Ghasemi ($8.95) and this is Grilled Eggplant, Tomatoes, Eggs and Garlic, sautéed in olive oil. I am by no means well-versed in Persian cuisine, but can say what they call "grilled" was, to me, more akin to burnt.  It had a more-than-charred sort of character, but my friend polished off the entire dish and had no complaints.
I started with a Lentil Soup called "Adasi" ($6.95) and this was nicely done, coming with a side container of olive oil.

For a main plate we ordered "Shalizaar Shishlik ($52.95).  The starter plates needed to be cleared and so there was a bit of chaos in removing those and placing the large platter in the center of the table.
This featured more than a taste of several items.  There were two stewed tomatoes and a few pieces of somewhat dried out chicken.  A couple of long pieces of what seemed like ground beef were tasty.  Four lamb chops were included with this, though they seemed to have little in the way of seasoning and were in the medium to medium-well range of being cooked.
Each of us was presented with a large plate of rice and we served ourselves from the large platter in the middle of the table.

As noted earlier in this posting, I'm not well-versed in the food of the Middle East, but this meal was unexciting and none of the items we ordered was something you'd get excited about.

We skipped dessert.  The bill tallied to $114 before the tip.

The ambiance of this place is nice and the staff is certainly friendly.  The wine prices are also favorable, though the selection is hardly exciting.

Reviewed by GW
December 2017



1300 Howard Avenue

Tel: 650-567-6080

Lunch:  Daily 11:30-2:30

Dinner: Sun-Thurs  5-9:30
Fri-Sat 5-10






Steak Tartare


Red Wine Braised/Grilled Octopus







Grilled Bone-In Rib-Eye Steak


Australian Lamb Chops







Key Lime "Pie"

We noticed this corner restaurant site has changed ownership and theme once again, so we booked a Sunday evening table in late November.  This location has changed numerous times over the past 24 months.

It's a lovely ambience and they've closed off the back part of the dining room, so there are perhaps 40-50 seats as you walk in. There's additional seating in the back. We understand there's a private dining room upstairs as well.

The restaurant was perhaps 40% occupied when we arrived a few minutes before 7pm.

The owner, we gather, showed us to a small table close to the reception lectern.  There were no wine glasses as part of the table setting and we were not presented with a wine list.  This was a bit odd, since they are proud of their ostentatious wine selections.

The menu is a one page card and the flip-side has a few wines which are offered By-The-Glass (BTG) and by the bottle.
They have a "Brut Champagne" for $12 by the glass, but the producer is not identified and, frankly, we'd be (pleasantly) surprised if it's actually a Champagne from the French region of that name.
There's a Prosecco called Riva costing $13 BTG.

Nine white wines are offered BTG.  Voltaire Pinot Grigio from California is a really modestly-priced wine and it's $10 BTG or $40 by the bottle.  Ghost Block Napa Sauvignon Blanc is $14 BTG and $56 by the bottle, while Twomey Sauvignon Blanc is $15 BTG and $60.  Dr. L Riesling from Germany is $11 BTG ($44), while a wine listed as "Fabre, Rose, France" is $12 BTG and $48 for a bottle.  Four Chardonnays are available.  Louis Latour's Grand Ardeche is $12 BTG ($48).  They show the Mer Soleil Chardonnay Reserve as being a 2016 vintage and coming from Santa Barbara.  It's $14 BTG and $56 for a bottle, but the distributor shows 2015 as being the current release, not 2016.  Further, the Mer Soleil wine is from the Santa Lucia Highlands in Monterey County, not Santa Barbara.  Curious.  They offer Orin Swift "Mannequin" Chardonnay at $15 BTG ($60), while Rombauer's Chardonnay is $18 BTG and $72 for a bottle.  We had been disappointed in the Louis Latour wine and the other Chardonnay selections are mass-market wines with either low acidity, caramel/candy flavors or a boatload of oak and fruit juice flavors. 

There are 8 red wines by the glass and here one might fare a bit better.  Spicerack Syrah is $12 BTG ($48), while Frog's Leap Zinfandel is $15 BTG ($60).  Belle Glos (listed as "by Caymus, as is the Mer Soleil Chardonnay) Pinot Noir is $18 BTG ($72), while Justin's Paso Robles Cabernet is $15 BTG ($60).
There is a nice range of half bottles, though. 
Merry Edwards Sauvignon Blanc is $34, while Ridge Geyserville is $36.  Goldeneye Pinot Noir is $46, while Merry Edwards Pinot goes for $48.  Quintessa's Cabernet-based red is $175 for a half bottle.
The real wine list, which we had to request (twice), is presented on an I-Pad tablet.  Here one can click on a particular selection and read tasting notes and see the blend of a wine, along with some pairing selections.
This "Silent Sommelier" features an astonishing number of ambitiously-priced wines.
Within each category the wines are listed in descending order of price.

Six bubblies appear under the "Champagne and Sparkling" heading.  Roederer Cristal is $480, while Dom Perignon is $320 as is a 1996 La Grande Dame by Clicquot.  The Clicquot Rose is $120 while the Yellow Label is $110.  The lone California bubbly is Scharffenberger at $52, listed as an Anderson Valley appellation.  In fact, it carries a Mendocino County appellation.

There are 30 Chardonnays on the list, from Aubert's CIX Vineyard at $280 a bottle, down to  Duckhorn's Decoy label at $44.  For a restaurant that has just opened, it's curious to see 2010 Far Niente on the list ($110 a bottle) and Rombauer's 2014 ($72) as Far Niente's current release is 2015 while Rombauer has been selling the 2016 since late summer.
Pahlmeyer Chardonnay is $158, while the Jayson label is $98.  A 2012 Shafer Red Shoulder Ranch is $108, though the current bottling is 2015.

One might wonder, then, where have these older wines been previously?

Seven Sauvignon Blanc wines are offered, with Duckhorn's 2015 at $56 a bottle.
There are just a few French whites, including an obscure Sancerre at $56 and and an even more obscure Chablis at $48.  There's one Italian white selection, Santa Margherita's Pinot Grigio goes for $54.

Highlighting the Italian reds is the Sassicaia 2011...$480, a wine which is a few years from the current release and it retailed for less than $200 a bottle.
The other Italian selections are not especially noteworthy, although we find the Charmes de Kirwan from Bordeaux!

Under the heading of "French Reds" we find a few very minor Bordeaux, a couple of Southern Rhones and a lone red Burgundy.

They have a category of "Cabernet Sauvignon" and these are listed starting with the most expensive to the least.
The top two wines posted on the on-line list are not under "French Reds" and here we see a 1974 Chateau Lafite (not listed as Chateau Lafite Rothschild, but we presume that is the correct wine) at a mere $2400 and a 2000 vintage of Chateau Latour at $1600.  We recall tasting the 1974 Lafite Rothschild when it was a young wine and it was a very modest quality wine then and we'd be surprised if the wine was showing much vitality today.  If they want to showcase some trophy bottles of Bordeaux, surely the Latour would be a good call, but the 1974 Lafite Rothschild is a risky bet.

They then have all sorts of California trophy wines; bottlings which cost hundreds of dollars, often under the guise of the wine being of premium quality.  Many times the price reflects its scarcity more than it does its quality.
The list seems to feature brands which have received high numerical scores from Robert Parker's Wine Advocate or the Wine Spectator.  You can find wines such as Maybach 2009 at $560, Bryant's DB4 at $380, Ghost Horse at $330 or Husic at $220.  Dunn's 2012 Howell Mountain is looking like a bargain at $200.
Of the nearly 100+ Cabernets there are about two dozen selections costing less than a hundred bucks and here we find a range of brands.  Chappellet's Mountain Cuvee blend is one of the best buys at $62.  The currently fashionable red blend called "The Prisoner" is $90 and it's listed under Cabernet Sauvignon despite being based on Zinfandel with a little bit of Cabernet.

If you're a fan of Turley Zinfandels, there are 8 selections, all from the 2015 vintage.  Ridge "Three Valleys" Zinfandel is $44 and the Frog's Leap 2015 is $60, two of the "best buys" on this list.
We recall seeing some trophy wines made of Pinot Noir, but our snapshots are not focused so we cannot comment on those.
They have a number of Merlot selections and a few Syrahs and one lone Petite Sirah.

This is a list intended to convey to customers "look at us! We have expensive wines!!"
It's a list aimed at wine drinkers who are impressed by "points" and possibly willing to pay for scarcity.
This wine list is not the work of a savvy, wine-knowledgeable buyer, frankly.
We would be more impressed by a smaller list of well-chosen wines offering both quality and value.

The menu features quite a range of starters, from Oysters ($16 for half a dozen, $30 for a dozen) to five kinds of salad (don't worry: there's the obligatory Kale Salad at $12).  Meatballs and Lamb Riblets are $12 as starters.  There's a Cheese Board and a Charcuterie Board as well.

They have about 18 main plate options.  Seared Scallops goes for $32 as does Short-Ribs.  Coq au Vin is $26 and Baby Back Ribs costs the same.  They have four pasta dishes going for $22 to $25, while a Burger is priced at $16 before add-ons such as Bacon, Mushrooms or Avocado.
An Oven-Roasted Branzino is $34.  There's an 18-ounce Bone-In Ribeye for $40 and this comes with "Crab Mashed Potato" and Grilled Asparagus.  Grilled Salmon is $30, while Sesame-Crusted Seared Ahi Tuna is $32.
The menu is quite varied.

My dining companion started with the Steak Tartare at $17.  This comes with some truffle oil which was quite intense.  I had a taste and this was very good.  My starter was the Red Wine Braised Grilled Octopus with a Fresh Oregano-Lemon Dressing ($17).
I expected the Octopus would be dark from the red wine, but it was not.  We were told they first braise the octopus and then grill it.  They used a thin slice of zucchini to surround the mix of octopus, red onions, celery and arugula. It's a nicely artistic presentation. 
The portions for these starters was quite generous and my friend said "Oh my, don't have room for the next course!"

We placed a bottle of wine on the table after the server (who is an affable fellow and the owner) told us the corkage fee is $20.

He was mildly curious about this bottle, so we offered him a taste.  It was a Rhone varietal blend from El Dorado County in the Sierra Foothills.  

My friend opted for the Rib-Eye at $40 and was able to have some sort of Potato croquettes of a sort.  Both the steak and those potatoes were quite good and I suspect she had dinner covered for maybe two additional nights.
The Grilled Australian Lamb Chops ($38) were suggested by the owner and this came with "Roasted Potato, Swiss Chard and Fresh Oregano & Lemon Dressing."
The roasted potato were some potato wedges, but I don't think they were roasted...maybe baked?  The Swiss Chard was a ball of greens, sort of spinach-like with the same dressing I had with the octopus, so this was a bit redundant.  The Lamb Chops were beautifully grilled and nicely seasoned...a perfect choice for the red wine.

The server/owner enjoyed tasting our wine but didn't seem to take note of the winery as it was apparently not much of a trophy.  

My friend, the one without an appetite, ordered Key Lime Cheesecake ($8) which she said was alright, but not exceptional.

The stemware at Park & Howard is good quality and the ambience is quite pleasant.
The menu and wine list are ambitious so most people will find something enjoyable on both counts.

With our $12 aperitifs (a Martini and an Aperol Spritzer), the bill came to $156 before the tip.  The fellow comped the $20 corkage fee.

This is a good neighborhood dining spot and we will likely return.

Reviewed by GW
November 2017



2500 Washington Street
San Francisco

Tel: 415-359-0075

Lunch: Mon-Fri 11:30-3
Brunch Sat-Sun 10-3
Dinner Daily 5:30-10




All-purpose, heavy duty stemware.




French Onion Soup








Boeuf Bourguignon

Poulet Roti aux Truffes



We were going to see a bit of French cinema on a Sunday afternoon, so we wanted to dine at a French place.  We booked a 7pm table at this little neighborhood restaurant on the corner of Washington and Fillmore in San Francisco.

We found parking across the street and the 30-40 seat dining room was a little less than half occupied on a night when a World Series game was in progress.  They have outdoor seating, too and there was one table of the dozen, or so, occupied.

We were guided to a little two-top in the back corner of the restaurant.  There were wine glasses as part of the table setting and the server presented menus and a wine list.

We ordered a glass for each of us of the French aperitif called Lillet ($10).  The server brought two wine glasses with little bits of ice floating in the wine which helped water down the Lillet.  It seems they didn't have a bottle in the refrigerator, so adding small chunks of ice was their way of remedying this.  Our friend sent her glass back saying this was unsatisfactory and she mentioned how much different Lillet tastes when it's served properly, like at Chez Panisse for example.

We perused the wine list...they have a category called "Limited Run" and on this page there were six offerings.  From the Cave de Ribeauville there is a Cremant d'Alsace sparkling wine for $12 by-the-glass (BTG) or $56 for a bottle.
They have a Puligny-Montrachet in a half bottle for $60 with a flowery description ("The most perfect expression of the Chardonnay grape. Very delicate and lacey, white flowers and lemony with an exceedingly long finish.  A fantastic find in a half bottle.") But the brand name or the name of the producer of this alleged gem is missing from the list!
An Italian wine called Belloro Orvieto Classico is listed solely as being made from the Trebbiano grape...they're selling the wine short as it's a blend based on a sort of Trebbiano called Procanico and includes Grechetto, Drupeggio, Verdello and something called Chardonnay.  It's $10 BTG and $40 by the bottle. 
A 2014 Morgon is $11 BTG and $42 by the bottle.  All we know is it's dubbed "Les Charmes" as they do not identify the brand or winery. It could be Louis Latour, Mommessin or it might be from a small grower.  Who knows? 
A second tier wine from Château Boyd Cantenac is from the 2009 vintage.  That's $90 a bottle.  If you're interested in Château d'Yquem, the top, top estate in Sauternes, they offer half bottles for $550 or $25 per ounce.  Let's see: a half bottle is 12.7 ounces times $25...Do the math...

These Limited Run offerings "are special wines we chanced upon and won't be around for too long."  Really?  A co-op winery doesn't have ample supply??

Under "Vins Blancs" there is a category called "Champagnes," yet of the three selections, only one is actually from Champagne, a Monthuy's Pere & Fils at $15 BTG and $75 by the bottle.  There's a heading of "Just Chardonnay" and there we find a Canyon Road label from Modesto at $9 BTG and $36 for a bottle.  The other California selection is actually a reasonably good wine from J. Fritz at $13 BTG and $48 by the bottle.  They have Bouchard "Macon Village" (sic) at $10 BTG and $38 for a bottle, while Bouchard's Pouilly-Fuisse is $13 and $48.  J. Moreau Chablis is also $13 a glass, but $50 for a bottle.  Someone's 2013 Chassagne-Montrachet "Morgeot" is $118 by the bottle, though we have no clue as to whose wine it is.
There's a heading of "Sauvignon & Semillon," yet all three selections are from the Loire Valley, meaning there is no Semillon in any of the three wines.
"Friendly Whites" include a Loriella brand Pinot Grigio for $11 BTG and $42 by the bottle.  There's a J. Lohr Riesling and Domaine Gaudron Vouvray at the same price.
Seven Pinot Noirs are offered, five of them coming from France's Burgundy.  Twomey's Anderson Valley Pinot Noir from California is $98.  
Five wines come under the heading of Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot.  There's a wine of the brand Georgos listed as a Bordeaux Blend with a Sonoma County appellation at $13 BTG and $48 by the bottle.  We found the Georgos brand to be wines from Greece which may be bottled in Sonoma.  The web site of this company is unclear as to the precise origins of its wines.
You've likely heard of Silver Oak and their Napa Cabernet from the 2010 vintage is $170 on this list.  
Under "Grenache/Syrah/Mourvedre" we find nine selections.  There's a Côtes du Rhône from the Rasteau cru but the producer is not identified.  $22 for a half bottle of that.
There's a Côte Rôtie identified as "La Germine" going for $130 per bottle and an Hermitage with the name "Les Dionnieres" at $160 per bottle.  Why not identify the winery associated with these products?
They have two "Friendly Red" selections.  One is a J. Fritz Dry Creek Zinfandel at $13 BTG and $48 by the bottle.  A Priorat wine from Spain called Maius is listed at a blend of "Cabernet and Grenacha" (sic) at $12 BTG and $46 for a bottle.  That winery makes two bottlings and we don't know if it's their "Classic" or "Assemblage" wine (both having 20 to 30% Carignane in the blend).
As we see, the wine list is not the focus of this restaurant and it's seems more like an after-thought.

For starters, the dinner menu has a Smoked Trout Salad ($15) and French Onion Soup ($11).
A Charcuterie plate ($15) comes with "Smoked Duck, Proscuitto (sic), French salami, spanich (sic) chorizo and croutons."  
A House-made Foie Gras Terrine is $20, while Escargot are $13.
There's an Oyster offering with two prices, $15 and $29...might the former be for six and the latter for a dozen?  The menu does not indicate this information, nor do we know what type of oysters they are serving.
There are ten main plates, ranging from a Halibut Filet ($28) to Rack of Lamb ($28) to Saumon a la Parisienne ($26).  But how is that salmon prepared?  Is it with Saffron?  It comes with a wild mushroom risotto.  "Canard Confit" is $28 and comes with chimichurri sauce and couscous. Steak Frites is $29 while a Filet de Boeuf is $32.

My dining companion ordered French Onion Soup and said it was exceptional.  I opted for the Escargot and while the plate was visually attractive, I missed the fragrance and flavor of garlic.  Oh, you could see there was garlic on the plate but it was not fresh, fragrant, pungent garlic for some reason.
They had brought us a small offering of an industrial baguette to sop up the sauce, but there simply wasn't any of the typical character of garlic butter on the plate.

We had placed a nice bottle of red wine on the table and this remained there, unopened, until our main plates arrived.  The server was a bit unobservant of this, so finally we asked if she would please open the bottle.
She brought two of their standard, clunky, heavy-duty stems.  Then she inserted the point of the corkscrew and rotated the bottle to start the process of removing the cork.  With the cork removed, she poured a small sample and the wine was fine.
Corkage at Chouquet's is $20.

Our friend felt her Boeuf Bourguignon ($25) was a bit over-cooked.  I had a taste and the beef was satisfactorily-cooked to my taste.  The flavor of the sauce that permeated the meat seemed as though there was an element of vinegar in it.  Had they added a splash of vinegar or was the wine used for making this course slightly sour?  The dish was fine, though as this was a very slight hint of vinegar and our friend was not sensitive to it.
My main plate was Poulet Roti aux Truffes ($25), a dish of Roasted Chicken with Black Truffles Sauce and Mashed Potatoes.  There were two sizeable pieces of roasted chicken set on a bed of mashed potatoes and French green beans.  The chicken was likely cooked previously and heated as it was a bit hard and seemingly dried out. The haricots verts were cooked nicely, while the mashed potatoes were lacking in flavor.  My friend had a taste and suggested this must have been made from a mix, not freshly, in-house mashed potatoes.  I can't say, as I've never made mashed potatoes using some powdered mix out of a box.  All I can say is this was fairly bland.  I saw a few flecks of black truffles, but these didn't seem to add much to the fragrance or flavor of this dish.

We skipped desserts.

The bill tallied to $124 with tax and before the tip.

Chouquet's is a perfectly standard neighborhood restaurant that presents itself as a French bistro.  Maybe at one point the owner or manager had more energy?
Or did we catch them on an off night?

The wine list, as it often does, reflects the level of interest the restaurateur has in providing a good dining experience.

Reviewed by GW
October 2017





199 Gough Street
San Francisco

Tel: 415-355-9085

OPEN DAILY 5-10:30

Biscuit & Caviar

Octopus and Shaved Hearts of Palm

Beef Tartare on Sushi Rice with Nori


Tajarin with Burgundy Truffles



A Ribeye Steak with Chanterelles

Pork Chop al Pastor



Poached Apple with Piecrust and Ice Cream

A Monday night in October found this Hayes Valley hot-spot buzzing and packed.  We've driven past numerous times during daylight hours and never noticed the place. From the outside, the restaurant seemed dark and dimly-lit, but once inside we found the lighting to be quite sufficient.  We had an 8pm reservation and were immediately shown to our table.

There are no wine glasses as part of the table setting, but we were presented a menu which had some beers, cocktails and wines-by-the-glass.  A separate 20+ page wine list was also presented.

We perused the list, considering sparkling wine by-the-glass or perhaps in half bottle format.
There's an Umbrian Sangiovese Rosato (Pet-Nat) at $16, while a Cremant de Loire from the Château de Passavant is $17. The J. LaSalle Brut Champagne is $22.
Amongst white wines by-the-glass, there are five offerings.  A Lieu-Dit Sauvignon Blanc is $13, while a Salomon Undhof Riesling from Austria is $14. Ryme Cellars Vermentino is $14 as is a Lioco Chardonnay.  Benoit Ente's 2015 Aligoté is $16.  
Six reds grace the BTG list, including Isole e Olena's 2014 Chianti Classico at $15, while a Cristia Châteauneuf-du-Pape is $16. Three reds go for $17 BTG, including a Zinfandel/Syrah blend from Alysian, a Cabernet Franc from the Languedoc and a Cruse Wine Company red blend from California called "Monkey Jacket."

They offer a small selection of half bottles, including two Champagnes (Delamotte is $90) two whites (a Chablis for $26 and an Albariño at $37), two pink wines (Pibarnon's Bandol Rosé is $36 while a half-liter of a Monterey Rosé is $52).  Three reds are on the half bottle list, including Thivin's Côte de Brouilly at $33, a Gigondas at $45 and Antinori's Super Tuscan called Tignanello (listed as a Sangiovese/Chianti Classico, but it's actually a Tuscan IGT and has Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon) at $129 for a half bottle.

You'll find ten Champagnes on the list, ranging from $84 to $306 a bottle.  None of these is from big, well-known producers, but wines recognized by aficionados such as Guy Larmandier ($135), George Laval ($170) and Selosse ($306) are offered.  I can't say these would be my picks, though.

Other interesting bubbles range from $54 to $96 a bottle.

There are five California Sauvignon Blancs ($48-$89) and nine Chardonnays ($56-$141). Rochioli's $89 bottle is perhaps the best known of the Sauvignon Blanc selections,   All but the most avid wine geeks will likely find the Chardonnays to be unfamiliar bottlings.  Wineries such as Partaga, Salinia, Kutch, Ceritas and Reuling are amongst the choices.

Under the heading of "Various & Unique" we find a Tatomer Riesling at $65, a good choice.  
They offer 16 White Burgundy wines, categorized under the headings of Chablis and Côte d'Or.  (They have a lone Macon miscategorized then.)
We did notice a landmine under this category, though.  That Macon wholesales for close to the same price as Olivier Leflaive's Bourgogne Blanc.  The Macon is on the list for $56 while Monsieur Leflaive's Bourgogne is $133!  (We're hoping it's simply a typo and the $133 wine is something more deluxe such as a Chassagne-Montrachet or Meursault.)
There are five white wines from the Rhône Valley, yet just two from the Loire.  And the Loire selections are both Chenin Sauvignon Blanc, curiously.  

They have ten Italian whites and five from Germany.  There are five Austrian whites, one from Spain, one from New Zealand (and it's a Riesling, not a Sauvignon Blanc) and one from Australia (another Riesling).
Rich Table's wine list shows 6 Rosé wines, all from the most recent vintage. These range from $40 to $87 (Domaine Tempier's Bandol Rosé).
You'll find 11 domestic Pinot Noirs and half a dozen Cabernets on the list.  Two California Syrahs are offered and four Zinfandels.
They offer 12 selections from the Côtes de Nuits (sic) and 1 from the Côte de Beaune (but two of the former are actually from the latter area).
Bruno Colin's Bourgogne Rouge is $59, while Dujac's 2014 Bonnes Mares is $742.
Three Beaujolais are available and three reds from the Northern Rhône, but not a single Côte-Rotie.  There's an Irancy listed as its own category (perhaps this should be included with the Burgundy selections?) and that goes for $138.
There are four reds from the Loire Valley, but just two from Bordeaux.  Piemonte is nicely represented with a Vietti Barbera at $94 and eleven Nebbiolo selections (E. Pira's 2011 Barolo "Mosconi is $248 a bottle and that's the oldest vintage of Nebbiolo on the list--nice, but still some years away from blossoming).
There are 8 reds from Tuscany.  Isole e Olena's 2014 Chianti is $64 while their 2014 Cepparello is $162.
If you're hosting a large group, there are 8 red wines offered in magnum format.
Finally, there's a list of dessert wines.
Overall the list is quite good and designed to introduce guests to wines which are likely to be unfamiliar.  Or force them to order...

The corkage fee is $35 and the stemware is good.

We ordered a bottle of Venica & Venica Sauvignon Blanc from Italy's Friuli region at $62 (I think).  The server said it was their last bottle and in looking at their on-line wine list two days following our meal, the list has been updated and this no longer appears.  Kudos to Rich Table for posting a fresh daily menu and updating the wine list regularly.

To start we asked for their Douglas Fir Levain ($2.50) and a Buttermilk Biscuit with Tsar Nicoulai Caviar ($14).
The bread is house made and you can taste the piney notes as they dry and pulverize pine needles to obtain this subtle and unique character.
My friend described the caviar and Crème Fraîche as "nearly a dessert."
Next came a plate of Octopus, Sesame Oil and Shaved (Hawaiian) Hearts of Palm ($19).  This was delicious and the thinly sliced hearts of palm added an interesting twist.  Very fine.
Also as a starter we had their Beef Tartare ($16) which is set upon sushi rice and presented with Nori.  The idea is you make your own "wraps."
It's a delicious and creative take on steak tartare...another winner.

We were interested in trying their "Tajarin, Burgundy Black Truffles and Aged Parmesan" ($24).  The pasta is made in house and it was cooked perfectly.  The truffle notes are rather subtle, but it was a tasty mid-plate.

We brought out a nicely-aged bottle of Bordeaux and the server took the bottle to a place where it could be opened using an Ah-So-type cork-puller.  The corkage fee is $35.

Our main plates friend ordered the Pork Chop Al Pastor ($34) which comes with slices of Asian Pears, Tomatillo and Salsa Roja.  Very good.
With the Bordeaux, I opted for the Dry Aged Ribeye ($36) which is covered in Chanterelles and Dry Aged garlic with a White Miso sauce.
The steak was perfectly cooked and one of the best quality pieces of meat one can have.  (The server said this is supplied by the French butcher shop in town called Olivier's.)  The sauce was a bit perplexing as every so often there was a flavor reminiscent of maple syrup, but not sweet.
They offer a few desserts and cheeses for after the meal.  We selected the Poached Apple which is presented on a mound of bits of crumbled pie crust and topped with Vanilla Bean Ice Cream ($11).  This was good, but not quite as great as the earlier courses.
We accompanied this with a couple of pours of Elvio Tintero's Moscato d'Asti ($8).

The restaurant is a bit noisy and they have a nice selection of rather peppy tunes on their sound system.

Rich Table offers a wonderful dining experience in a casual setting.  The food is exceptional and the service is professional and polished.

We look forward to returning soon!

Reviewed by GW
October 2017




423 University Avenue
Palo Alto

TEL: 650-323-6888

Lunch Wed-Sun 11:30am-3pm
Dinner Daily:   5pm-10pm

The rather flat bubbles...first pour.
Second pour from a freshly-opened bottle was good.




Calamari with beans and arugula.










Salmon with grilled asparagus and corn risotto


Seafood Paella

We had noticed this relatively new French restaurant while driving on Palo Alto's University Avenue and booked a table on a Sunday evening following a movie.

There are a few tables "outside" by the sidewalk and, of course, in their dining room.  As the outdoor tables were reasonably private, we opted for a table there.
No wine glasses are on the outdoor tables, but they are part of the table-setting inside.

The hostess turned out to be our server and she presented menus and a one page wine list as we were seated.

There are 9 white wines on the list, all available By-The-Glass (BTG).   There are two wines from Gascony with the Mont Gravet label.  You'll find these retailing for less than $10 per bottle.  Both the Rosé and White wine are $12 BTG and $45 for a bottle.  William Fèvre Chablis is $15 BTG and $55 for a bottle, a much more costly wine than the two from Gascony, yet close in price on the wine list.
Jean-Maurice Raffault's white wine from Chinon is also $15 BTG and $55, as is the somewhat sweet white California blend called Conundrum.  There's a Chardonnay from the south of France called Monte Vallon and this is $14 BTG and $54 for a bottle.  Flowers Chardonnay from Sonoma is $25 BTG and $90 for a bottle.
The brief list has no Loire Valley Sauvignon Blanc, for example and not a single white from Bordeaux.
There is a Sparkling wine on the list and it's made of Sauvignon Blanc.  The wine is from the California winery called Bodkin.  This is $13 BTG and $45 for a bottle, a buck a pour higher than other $45 bottles on the list.
There are 18 reds on the list, all but the six triple-digit priced wines being offered by the glass.
And it's here you can really get into trouble with the pricing of some wine.
Caymus Napa Cabernet is $150 per bottle, a bit more than double normal retail.   This has been a somewhat standard mark-up.  Costing about the same price at the wholesale level is the Silver Oak "Sonoma" bottling.  (It's actually specifically designated as Alexander Valley.)  But the Silver Oak is on the list for $290 per bottle!
All I could imagine is they did not buy the Silver Oak from the winery and paid a retail price just to have the wine on their list...
Groth's Napa Cabernet, a $60 retail bottle, is $140 on the list while Groth's Reserve, wholesaling for about $100, is $350 on the list.
While the white wine selections are predominantly French, the reds are heavily weighted to California.
They have no red wines from Burgundy, Bordeaux or the Rhône. 
There's a "Columbia" Merlot from Washington at $13  BTG and $50 by the it Columbia Winery or Columbia Crest?
Flowers Pinot Noir is $25 BTG and $90 by the bottle.  The least costly reds are a Rive Sud Pinot from the south of France and a Maggio Cabernet from Lodi, both costing $12 BTG and $46 for a bottle.
The corkage fee is $18 and this may be the way to go.

We began with a pour of the Bodkin Sparkling Sauvignon.  Her glass was full-throttle bubbly, while mine was a bit flat.
I asked the server if she finished pouring the wine from an already-opened bottle and then popped the cork on a fresh bottle.
She graciously brought an empty glass and poured from that newer, freshly-opened bottle.
This is the risk when ordering wines by the never knows how long the bottle has been opened and few places pour the wine at the table to show you the wine they are pouring is the wine you ordered.

We inquired as to any particular dishes which are somewhat of a signature for the restaurant.  The server suggested the Calamari starter and said the Paella was good and popular.

The menu has 14 starters.  You can have either an Artichoke or Corn soup.  There's an Oyster plate ($16), a Dungeness Crab Salad ($18) or a Duck Breast Salad ($15). Grilled Octopus is $15, while Tuna Tartare is $17.

They presented a little plate of bread and butter...some sort of soft baguette.  Sweet, not sourdough.

My friend started with Prince Edward Island Mussels ($17), a nice serving of sweet, fresh mussels with a couple of slices of grilled bread.
I went with the server's suggestion of Honey Grilled Calamari ($13).  This was an artistic presentation with small white beans, arugula and lemon zest.  I was afraid it might be too sweet, but while the honey was noticeable, it was not dominating the squid.
We were off to a good start!

There are 14 main courses including, curiously, Foie Gras ($29).  Most are $26 to $28, so the food here is not off the charts as is some of the wine.
Braised Short Ribs are $26, while Rack of Lamb is $28.  Loch Duarte Salmon is $26, while a Rocky Jr. Chicken is $25.  Duck Breast is $27.

My friend ordered the Loch Duarte Salmon ($26) which came with a Corn Risotto and Grilled Asparagus.  She thoroughly enjoyed this...
My main plate was their Paella ($28), a Saffron rice with Sea Scallops, Clams, Mussels, Prawns and Peas in a Lobster Broth...very nicely done, though it had been either finished in a hot oven or placed below a heat lamp for a bit.

We brought a bottle of red wine out of our cellar bag and the server brought two nice stems for this.  The cork, as noted earlier, is $18.

Dessert was tempting, but we passed on that.

The bill tallied to $140 before the tip.

They had some nice music on their sound system...French tunes and French pop.  

We look forward to a return visit.

Reviewed by GW
August 2017



1550 Church Street
San Francisco

Sun-Thurs 5-10
Fri-Sat 5-11

Brunch Weekends 11-3

Tel: 415-829-2264

Chips and a dipping sauce


Caldo Verde Soup


Cod Fritters


Carne de Porco À Alentejana




Olive Oil-Citrus Cake

A Weimax regular (customer) had sent me a note asking for a selection, or two, from the wine list at this new Portuguese-themed San Francisco restaurant.

The list featured nearly all Portuguese wines  and, encouraged by that, we booked a table on Sunday evening.

The restaurant is in Noe Valley, situated in the old Incanto spot.  We found parking about a block away on 28th Street.  The restaurant, at 6:30, was nearly full.  We were led to a two-top table along the north wall.

No wine glasses are on the table, but we did receive a wine list and menu.

We perused the By-The-Glass (BTG) list for a suitable wine to start with.  There are four Portuguese Sparkling wines, ranging from $10-$12 per glass.
Half a dozen white wines are offered, $9-$15, while there are two Roses.  Seven reds are on the list, ranging from $10-$13.

On the list of wines by the bottle, there are 6 bubblies, costing $36 to $88.  Eighteen white wines are available.  You'll find 5 Vinho Verde bottlings, along with selections from the Douro, Dão and Lisboa.  Four pink wine selections are offered, costing $40-$48.  I'm not familiar with their selections, but with a preference for young, fresh Rose, I can tell you only one of the four is from the most recent vintage, one from the previous year and two are two years old.
They have 26 reds, starting around $40 for a 750ml bottle and going up to $650 if you want to splurge for a 2008 vintage Barca Velha, Portugal's Sassicaia, Vega Sicilia, Grange or Opus One, if you will.
The Quinta de Roriz "Post Scriptum" is a good choice and it's $60.  From the "Wine & Soul" winery is the Pintas Character (Douro Valley) red at $112, a big, robust Portuguese fruit-bomb.  
The list is attractive and the mark-up is generally 300-400%.

The corkage fee is $20.  The stemware is good, as they use "Chef&Sommelier" glassware.  They use the same format of a glass for both red and white wine.

We asked for a couple of glasses of Soalheiro's excellent Alvarinho at $15 a pour.  About five minutes after placing our order with the server, he returned to the table to inquire if we'd like something to drink.
The fellow, though, had quite a few tables to attend to and the place is quite noisy, so it's easy to be distracted.
He immediately brought two glasses of white wine, though.

To start, my dining companion ordered Caldo Verde, a soup featuring Potatoes, Linguiça and Collard Greens ($10).  I opted for Pasteis de Bacalhau ($10), Cod Fritters.  They have a smallish display of oysters ($3.50 each) at the entrance, by the way.  Also for starters you'll find Shrimp Turnovers ($9), Grilled Monterey Sardines ($14), Prato Petiscos ($24, a charcuterie plate essentially), Bread ($6 with two kinds of butter), a couple of salads and more.
A Seafood Salad is $15, while Poached Gulf Shrimp goes for $12.
There are five "small plates," with items such as Char-Grilled Chicken Wings going for $13 or Pan-Seared Octopus at $18.
There were 6 main plates.
These included a Baked Salt Cod Casserole ($24), Grilled Chicken ($25) and a Braised Beef Short-Rib ($28).
My friend ordered the "Caldeirada" ($28), a seafood stew with Shrimp, Mussels, Clams, Halibut and Potatoes in a Saffron-Tomato Broth.  
I opted for the Carne de Porco À Alentejana ($24), a bowl with Pork cubes, Potatoes and Fresh Clams in a Tomato-Wine Sauce.

The meal starts out with a bowl of freshly-fried Potato Chips and a spicy reddish sauce...salty and delicious.

The Caldo Verde soup was very hot and very flavorful...Thumbs Up.
The Cod Fritter presentation is on a rectangular plate slathered with some sort of mayonnaise and four nice-sized golden fritters.  This was excellent, as well.

We put a bottle of Portuguese red on the table.  The corkage fee is $20.  Our server brought two new glasses to the table and opened the bottle.

They'll bring you a carafe and water glasses, but the water is at room temperature, so we asked for ice.  The fellow brought two highball glasses filled with ice.

For a main plate, my friend's Caldeirada looked exceptional.  And it was delicious, seasoned additionally with freshly chopped Cilantro.
My main plate, the Pork & Clams, was delicious, too.  Each came with  grilled bread to sop up the broth.  Very good!  And they bring a bowl for the shells, as well as a soup spoon.

The server brought a dessert card which comes with a selection of Portuguese dessert wines...everything from Port, Madeiras and Setúbal (a famous Moscatel from south of Lisboa).  These range from $9 to $26.
There were six choices for dessert and we chose the Olive Oil-Citrus Cake ($10).  This comes with a Vanilla Bean Cream, some berries, Pistachios and a Rose Syrup.  Quite good.
My friend wanted a sip of Port, so we ordered a pour of Churchill's LBV Port ($11).

The server didn't charge us for the Corkage Fee ($20) or the Dessert, so the bill tallied to $130.  We left a nice tip, of course.

The place, by the way, is really noisy and loud.  They even have music, I think, playing in the background, but we could only hear the periodic drum beat, but not the actual music.  Bring your cell phone so you can text your dining partners.

We will certainly return to this lovely little Portuguese dining spot.

Reviewed by GW
July 2017



400 Main Street
Los Altos

Tel: 650-948-0400

Lunch: Mon-Fri  11-2
Dinner Daily: 5-9:30

The Airy Dining Room




Crab Cakes








Simply Grilled Salmon

An Allen Brothers NY Steak with some
cloves of Garlic

Grilled Asparagus



We were fans of the Half Moon Bay dining destination called Cetrella and know that it's essentially closed (and has been for years).  We saw they opened a place in Los Altos, so after a Sunday afternoon bit of cinema, we drove to Los Altos.

It's in some sort of office building complex on Main Street in Los Altos.  This is about a mile and a half south (sort of west if you consider El Camino running north and south) of El Camino.

On a Sunday evening at 7pm, there was plenty of parking on the street near the restaurant.
It's a spacious and airy venue with seating for perhaps 150-200 people.

We were escorted to a nice table in the center of the dining room and the host gave us each a menu and left a multi-page wine list on the table.  There are wine glasses as part of the table setting.

There were 7 sparkling wines available "by the glass" (BTG), including three from Champagne. Michel Dervin Brut Rosé and Gosset Brut are both $22 BTG, while Taittinger is $18.
Eight wines wines are available, ranging from $11 to $25 a glass.  Paul Doucet Sancerre is $15 BTG, while DuMol Chardonnay goes for $25.
Seven reds are offered in glass pours.  These range from $13 to $16.  Guigal's Côtes-du-Rhône is $13 BTG, about the price you'd pay for a bottle in a retail shop.  Seghesio Zinfandel is $15 BTG.
Six whites and seven reds are offered in half bottle format.  Sonoma Cutrer's Russian River Chardonnay is $22 in a 375ml bottle, while Lail's Blueprint Cabernet goes for $70.
That Taittinger Brut is $70 for a full bottle, so it's nice to see they pass along the special pricing restaurants get for that Champagne.  Dom Perignon Champagne from the 2003 vintage is priced at $300.

Eleven American Chardonnays are on the Cetrella wine list.  Cakebread's is $70, Flowers is $90 and the splendid Pahlmeyer is $140.  Curiously the DuMol that's offered by-the-glass does not appear on the wine list under the Chardonnay heading.
Under the heading of Sauvignon Blanc we see two from New Zealand, one from Oregon and two from California.  The best they can find from California are Cakebread ($65) and Roth ($35).
Under "New World Rhone Varietals Viognier" we find Darioush at $90, Treana's Marsanne/Viognier blend ($40) and Miner's Viognier ($44).
It seems as though many of the domestic wines are sourced from the big liquor distributors.  We see they get some of their European wines from a couple of smaller import specialists.
There's a good value in Michel Gros Hautes Côtes de Nuits Blancs at $65.  There's an Henri Bourgeois Sancerre for $60.  They have but two white wines from Alsace, Trimbach's Riesling ($39) being the best of the pair.
Four German white wines and one from Austria are available. Five Italian white selections, all perfectly standard and nothing really off-the-beaten path.
There are 18 West Coast Pinot Noirs with Hahn at the low end ($54) and Occidental on the high ($125).  The red Burgundy alternatives are a bit young (2011 to 2014) with a Gevrey Chambertin from Denis Mortet ($190) being the best of that bunch.
There are six "New World Cabernet Sauvignons" and 10 "Premiere California Cabernet Sauvignons."  Silver Oak Alexander Valley is in the former category at $150 a bottle, along with Burgess at $65.
Caymus 2006 Special Selection is in the latter category at $500 a bottle as is 2000 Harlan Estate at $950.  The 2005 Ridge Monte Bello is $500.
Under the heading of Merlot and Cabernet Franc we find Candor Merlot ($40), Peju Merlot  ($65) and Vinoce Cabernet Franc ($120).
The selections from Bordeaux are rather weak and there are but 5 offerings.
Under New World Rhône Varietals there's a 2011 Bonny Doon "Le Cigare Volant" listed as a Syrah at $88 per bottle.  This vintage has but 20% Syrah, though.  There's a D'Arenberg "Laughing Magpie" red at $60. Aside from Bonny Doon, though, no Qupe, Edmunds St. John, Ojai Vineyard, Alban or other "leading lights."
From France there's Guigal's Côtes-du-Rhône at $45 per bottle.  Alain Graillot's Crozes Hermitage from 2014 is $60 along with a 2013 Domaine du Pegau Châteauneuf-du-Pape at $155.
There's a page of Italian selections.
Under Valpolicella there are three wines listed, all being the robust, high-octane Amarone wine.  The one from Roccolo Grassi is a great buy at $73, but I suspect they've made a mistake and that wine is, in fact, a basic Valpolicella.
From Piedmont we see a 2015 Dolcetto d'Alba from Andrea Oberto for $34.  There's a Beni di Batasido (it should be Batasiolo) Barbaresco for $150.  That wine typically retails for $50, so the $150 price tag is more of a ransom note.
They offer a Vietti Barbera d'Asti at $36, a reasonably-priced bottle, as is Vietti's entry level Barolo, tabbed "Castiglione."  This goes for $98 and they claim to have the 2014 vintage which, at this writing, has not been released.
Six Tuscan reds are offered.  Antinori's 1998 Tignanello is $350, while Isole e Olena's Cepparello from the 2011 vintage is $140.  A Rosso di Montalcino from Silvio Nardi is ambitiously priced at $100 (it's a 2010 vintage and retails for about $30).  Then there's a Vino Nobile for $35 on the list...Torcalvano which retails for $27-$30.  Go figure.
Three Iberian Peninsula wines are offered, but nothing terribly interesting in my view.
There's a category of "New World Zinfandel and Sangiovese."  Porter Bass Zin is $76, while Seghesio's Sonoma Zin is $55, as is a Turley "Juvenile" bottling.  Seghesio Sangiovese goes for $59.

The corkage fee is $25.

We ordered two pours of the Mirabelle Brut, a second label from Schramsberg.  This is $13 and the wine is not poured at the table, so we must take it on faith that they brought the correct wine.  It was a fairly simple and rather anonymous glass of fizz, so we suspect it was the right wine.

The menu offers a nice range of starters.  Three salads, a "Dairy-less" Carrot & Ginger Bisque ($11), a Fritto Misto ($14) with rock shrimp and assorted veggies, Steamed Mussels ($16), Grilled Marinated Spanish Octopus ($18) and Foie Gras ($24) amongst other things.  They have a pizza oven and there were two offerings there:  Vegetarian Greek Pizza ($18) or House Smoked Ora King Salmon Pizza ($21).
They have one Risotto and four pasta offerings ranging from $21 to $26.
There are seven main plates which come with side dishes or 5 "simply grilled" offerings.

My dining companion ordered the "Snake River Farms American Kobe Beef Carpaccio" ($16) which came with a mound of Arugula on top.  She asked for more capers and they brought a nice little container of those.
I started with "Chesapeake Bay Blue Crab Cakes" ($19) and there were two crab cakes and a nice bit of Arugula, Fennel and a couple of grapefruit sections on the side...very good.  And you could tell it was not Dungeness Crab.  

For main plates, my friend ordered the Ora King Salmon, Marlborough Sounds, NZ at $26 while I went for the Prime New York Strip, Allen Brothers, Chicago ($34).  The salmon was was the steak!  If you want side dishes, and we did, those must be ordered separately.  She ordered Grilled Asparagus and I asked for the Hand Cut Kennebec Fries.  Sides are $8.

We put a bottle of a Bordeaux on the table and the server brought some nice Cabernet stems.  He opened the bottle and poured the "say" before proceeding.  We offered his a taste and he came back with a glass.

The ambiance was comfortable.  The ceiling is quite high and the room was rather tranquil.  They had some non-descript music in the background.

The bill, with the $25 corkage fee, tallied to $176 with the tax and before the tip.

We were pleasantly surprised by Cetrella and look forward to another visit.

Reviewed by GW
June 2017



1701 Octavia Street
San Francisco

Tel: 415-408-7507

Octavia offers many wines by the glass or in a 500ml carafe (as well as by the bottle).


Squid Ink Noodles with Bottarga

Chilled Bay Shrimp




Sarah's House-Baked Levain with Butter




Cauliflower Soup with Grilled Trout Belly

Grilled Calamari







Spicy Cookies



A wine friend had wanted to dine at Octavia in The City and she booked a Monday night table at 8pm.  Parking was available on the street within a block of the restaurant.

Octavia is the work of Melissa Perello, the talented chef who's got the famous Frances restaurant in San Francisco as well.

My friend had arrived a minute before I did and was seated at a window table in a corner.  Wine glasses are part of the table setting and there were menus and a small book-of-a-wine-list on the table.

Opening this book to the first page and you'll see a listing of 8 vermouths, including Carpano's Antica Formula, Quady's VYA, Ransom, Bordiga and Imbue to name a few.
They offer two "House Wine" Selections which are produced specifically for Octavia.  On this occasion there were Cuvée No 6 by Skinner Vineyards in the Sierra Foothills.  It's a blend of Roussanne, Viognier and Marsanne costing $15 by-the-glass (BTG), $45 for a 500ml pour and $60 for a 750ml pour.  The House red is Cuvée No. 9, a Pinot Noir from the Gros Ventre winery and it's made by the same guy who makes wine for Skinner.
Flip the page and there are more By-The-Glass selections.  Three under the heading of Sherry, including the magnificent El Maestro Sierra 15 year Oloroso at $11.
Three Sparklers are offered by the glass including a Cava Rose from Pere Mata at $14, a Furmint by Kreinbacher ($15) and a Brut Champagne by Aubry listed as a "Pinot Menuier (sic) Blend" at $21.
Eight whites by the glass or in a 500ml carafe.  These include a Kruger Rumpf Riesling at $13 BTG ($39/500ml), Goisot's Sauvignon St. Bris at $14 and $42, Champelou (sic) (should be Champalou) Vouvray at $13 and $39 as well as a Louis Michel Chablis at $18 and $54.
Eight reds can be ordered by the glass or half-liter carafe, including Ruet's Morgon ($14/$42), Decendants de Palcios (sic) Mencia at $15/$45 (it should be Decendientes de J. Palacios) or Francesco Rinaldi's 2008 Barolo Cannubbio at $42 BTG or $126 for a half-liter.
If you're looking for hipster Champagnes, you can order the Selosse Brut Originale at $389 or Béréche et Fils "Reflet d'Antan" at $185.  I'd go for the Agrapart 7 Crus at $89.
Loire/Bordeaux White Varieties sees a few California wines including Matthiasson's Sauvignon/Ribolla/Semillon/Tocai blend.  It's $40 at the winery and $70 here.  The lovely little $15 retail-priced Sainte-Marie Entre-Deux-Mers is $45 on the wine list.  
The list is quite lengthy with categories such as "Italian White Varieties" (Matteo Correggia Arneis at $47/btl and two Kerners from the Alto Adige and four wines from Friuli), "Spain/Portugal Whites (Benito Santos Albariño at $40, but no serious white Rioja or easy-drinking Rueda Blanco or a Portuguese Alvarinho), and Greece/Hungary White Varieties (one of each).  There's a heading of Alsace/Austrian/German Whites.  Boxler Reserve Riesling is $99, while a Weinbach Schlossberg Riesling is $89.  A Geyerhof Grüner Veltliner is $64, while a young 2014 Dönnhoff GG Felsenberg Riesling is $119.  All these Riesling selections are quite young, so you won't find a nicely-aged and developed bottling.
They have 18 French White Burgundies ranging from $65 on up, mostly up.  Twelve of them go for north of $100, with one costing $599.  There are thirteen California Chardonnays and two from Oregon.  $56 gets you a bottle of Calera, while $140 will bring a bottle of Sandhi's "Sanford & Benedict Vineyard" Chardonnay.
There are three "Jura White Varieties," but all three selections are Chardonnays.  You'll find five Rhône white varieties and eight pink wines. 
Eight Gamay wines make the cut here, ranging from $56 to $99, with 4 of the 6 Beaujolais wines being from the Morgon cru.  No Moulin-a-Vent or Fleurie, though.
Seven Loire Valley reds, with six being Cabernet Franc and one being Grolleau.  No Pineau D'Aunis, Gamay, Côt (Malbec) or Pinot Noir.
Nineteen red Burgundy selections range from $49 for an Irancy to $489 for an Armand Rousseau Charmes Chambertin from the 2012 vintage.
Five Oregon Pinots are available going from $80 to $122, while they have 14 California Pinots.  Some hipster producers such as Arnot Roberts ($159) and Cobb ($119) are offered along with Mount Eden at $125.
For Syrah wines we find 8 from the Northern Rhône, but not a single Côte Rôtie!  Alain Graillot's Crozes Hermitage is $64 while a 1995 Clape Cornas is $320.
An Ojai Vineyard Syrah from Santa Barbara is $80.  Eight Southern Rhône reds are available along with a handful of California options.  Australia and New Zealand haven't registered in this category and neither have South Africa or South America, come to think of it.
Under the heading of Zinfandel/Others we find five Zinfandels.  Green & Red is a good choice at $56, as is Outpost from Howell Mountian (sic) at $105.
Austria/Switzerland/Greece is another heading and there is one selection from each place.
Under "Spain Red Varieties" is one of the best buys on the wine list, a 2004 Lopez Heredia Viña Tondonia at $89.
Twenty-two Italian Red Varieties grace the list with eight Nebbiolo wines and half a dozen Sangioveses.  No Dolcetto or Barbera, nor will you find a Lagrein or Teroldego.
Twelve "Old World" Red Bordeaux varieties are offered and eleven from the New World.  The New World, though, is strictly California.  Nothing from Washington State where you can find some exciting wines, nor South American, Australia or South Africa.
If you're hosting a large group, there are two dozen+ magnums to be had.  These include a California Albariño for $144, a 2011 Romorantin for $155, a 2014 Clape Cornas at $320 or a Scribe Cabernet from Atlas Peak at $275.  
It's a marvelous list overall and shy on names which are comfortable to the wannabe wine "experts."  The wine guru here is allergic to names such as Far Niente, Cakebread and Silver Oak;  wines which are the height of sophistication in many circles.

We began with a Rosé de Loire from Thibaud Boudignon which wholesales for $16.  It's $15 BTG and $45 for a half liter pour (two-thirds of a bottle).   By the bottle it's $60.  
We ordered a couple of small plates to share with this nice little pink wine. 
Chilled Squid Ink Noodles with Cortez Bottarga, Fennel and Lemon Agrumato is $7.  This was a small swirl of noddles...nicely salty from the Bottarga and citrusy from the lemon/olive oil agrumato.
Chilled Bay Shrimp, Brokaw Avocado, Pluot, Crisp Quinoa, Yuzu and Purslane ($13) was a wonderful mix of flavors and textures.  It enhanced the Rosé nicely.  
We were now ready for another wine and we chose a half-liter pour of a Saint-Aubin by Pierre Yves Colin-Morey at $81.  This arrived nicely chilled and it was only with warming and aeration that this wine really was exceptional.
For "mid plates," my friend ordered Cauliflower Soup ($14) which includes "grilled Trout Belly, fresh Coriander, Coconut & Kaffir Lime."
The soup was intensely aromatic...I could smell its lovely fragrances across the table.  It tasted good, too!
I had the "Grilled Local Calamari" ($13) with "Bacon, Green Farro, Shishito, Kimchi, Cilantro and Mint."  This was exceptional, though the little chunks of bacon were excessively smoky and struck a bit of a discordant note.  

We had asked for some of their bread, "Sarah's House Baked Levain" ($2) and this arrives in a bowl with 4 slices of great bread and some butter slathered on the inside of the bowl...We devoured this and asked for an encore.

In perusing the wine list we opted for a 2007 Ghemme from Cantalupo, their Breclemae bottling.  This is $99.  Good, though showing its warm vintage elements...and quite nice with the lamb we both ordered.

Watson Farms Spring Lamb, Charred Eggplant, Pecorino, Taggiasche Olive and Saba ($37).  I asked for mine without the Pecorino.  Both dishes were brought to the table and the runner knew which one to place in front of me and which one to place in front of she...Bravo.
They pointed out that "this evening the lamb is a shoulder cut and the sausage is a Merguez sausage..."
We dug in with gusto and were full in short order.  We finished the bottle of Ghemme without anyone hurrying us to close down the restaurant.  There were still guests in the place at 11:15 and we were out the door around 11:30 after imbibing a nice espresso.
We did not order dessert, but they brought a couple of nicely spicy, peppery chocolate cookies to finish off our meal.
The dessert list features Toasted Angel Food Cake ($10), a Warm Chocolate Soufflé Tart ($11) and Strawberry Profiteroles ($10).

The bill tallied to about $360 before the tax and tip, so this place is a bit of a splurge.  But it is really a delicious dining experience, so I look forward to a return visit.

Reviewed by GW
June 2017




518 Bryant Street
Palo Alto

TEL: 650-838-0353

Mon-Fri  11:30-2:00

Daily from 5pm


Seafood Pot Stickers

Duck Bao

Traditional Rolls with Cauliflower Bisque

The Server Opening our bottle of wine.
$25 corkage

Mango Beef

Prawns with Garlic Noodles

It was Father's  Day and after a Sunday afternoon movie, we went to downtown Palo Alto to have dinner at Three Seasons, a Vietnamese/Asian-themed dining spot.

We parked in the big parking structure at Bryant & Hamilton near Palo Alto's City Hall.
Finding this place is a challenge.  The address is 518 Bryant and we passed a few stores looking for Three Seasons...we arrived at University Avenue and turned back around to search once more.  This place is off the street and in an alley, hidden from street view on Bryant.

It was a very hot day and even hotter inside the restaurant, so we opted for an outdoor table.
The host provided a menu and drinks list.  Silverware wrapped in a cloth napkin was on the table, but wine glasses are not part of the table setting.

We perused the wine list and found 8 sparkling wines, two being offered by-the-glass (BTG).  There's a Stellina di Notte Prosecco at $8 BTG and $32 by the bottle.  Roederer Estate Brut is $11 BTG and $43 for a bottle.  You can have Clicquot's Yellow Label at $110 or Billecart Salmon Brut Rose for $149.  Laurent Perrier's excellent Brut Rosé is $159.
There are 24 white or pink selections, seven of which can be had by the glass.
From the newish producer called Kieu Hoang there's a 2014 Rosé at $10 BTG (36).  It's a winery owned by a Vietnamese fellow and their pricing is a bit odd.  On their web site, for example, this Rose retails for $28.  Three Seasons offers Kieu Hoang's Sauvignon Blanc, a $30 bottle on the winery web site and yet it's $10 BTG and $36 by the bottle.  (We tasted the range of wines from this producer and were not impressed.)
Erath Pinot Gris from Oregon is $10 BTG and $39 for a bottle.  The $10 BTG Loosen Dr. L Riesling is $34 by the bottle (we have this in the shop at $11), while ESK Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand, at $12 BTG is $39 for a bottle.  Most restaurants would have some sort of standard formula for by-the-glass pricing correlating to a by-the-bottle price.
The white wine selections are a mix of standard wines from the big liquor distributors (Kenwood -$36- and Cakebread -$49- Sauvignon Blanc, Mer Soleil Monterey Chardonnay -$12 BTG- and $41 by the bottle, Sonoma Cutrer Russian River Ranches Chardonnay at $44) and wines from smaller importers (Kermit Lynch's Chotard Sancerre at $54 or Loosen Brother's Loosen Erdener Treppchen Riesling Spätlese at $57).
Of the 45 red wine selections, six can be had by the glass.
Francis Coppola Sonoma Cabernet is $13 BTG and $49 for a bottle.  Frank Family Zinfandel (listed as Frank's Family on the wine list) is also $13 BTG but a bottle is a buck cheaper than the Coppola Cabernet.  A Miura 2015 Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir is $14 BTG and $56 for a bottle.
Altamura Cabernet from the 2012 vintage is $127 a bottle, while a 2010 Opus One is $380.
Chappellet's Mountain Cuvée is $49 a bottle, while Flowers Pinot Noir is $99.
There are nine half bottle selections and there we find Laurent Perrier Champagne at $29, while the more famous Clicquot is $59.  That's not a difficult choice: go for the LP!
They have a half bottle of DuMol Chardonnay at $65 and the DuMol Pinot Noir at $75.  These are not offered in full bottle format.  (DuMol is a winery which picks and chooses its customers.  Weimax is not eligible to buy their wines, for example.)
Three Seasons' list features wines from but a few sources.  The two big liquor houses are prominently featured and have some "quota" items on the list.  There's a good, smaller distributor with some nice products and Kermit Lynch imports. 
Corkage fee is $25 per bottle with a two bottle limit or $40 for a magnum and there's a limit of one of those.

I ordered a pour of the Roederer Estate Brut at $11 and my friend had a Martini which came without an olive or an onion.  The server went back to the bar for a couple of olives...

We ordered a trio of starters. 

Seafood Pot Stickers ($13.50) are described as "Steamed Spinach Pot Stickers with Sea Scallop, Shrimp, Corn, Scallion and Soy Vinaigrette.  There were five on the little platter and they were mighty tasty.
We had Duck Bao (buns) ($13.25 on the menu we were presented, but $14.50 on the bill!) which were four steamed buns with roasted Duck, Cucumber, Scallion, Hoisin and Sriracha Sauce. These came in a steaming basket and were also excellent.  
We also enjoyed their "Fresh Spring Rolls" option of "Traditional Rolls," (Pork, Shrimp, Jicama, Spring Mix and Hoisin Sauce ($12.95 on the menu but $12 on our bill!).  This was maybe two or three rolls cut into six pieces...very good.

Having drained our drinks, I placed a bottle of a nice Sancerre on the table.  $25 corkage.  The young server brought two standard quality stems.  These are not the most elegant and light-weight, but they will withstand the hands of a clumsy dishwasher.
She wrestled with extracting the cork, breaking it into two or three pieces.  Hoping we wouldn't notice, she pocketed these.  We didn't quite finish the bottle, but we didn't ask for a cork to take home the remaining wine.

I neglected to snap a photo of the other half of the menu, but Mango Beef on the restaurant's web site as of today is $26.75, though we were charged $25.75.  I ordered  Grilled Prawns and Garlic Noodles ($28.95) which are described as having "Crispy Shallot and Parmesan Cheese."  I'm allergic to cheese, partly as a real allergy and partly as not having a palate for cheese, so I asked for that dish to be "cheese-free."  The server said they can do that.

The Mango Beef arrived with a small bowl of Jasmine Rice.  This wasn't quite as aromatic and flavorful as what we know to be Jasmine rice, but it was in the direction anyway.
The beef was a standard hodge-podge of beef slices, mango bits, green and red peppers and little bits of snow peas.  Some of the mango pieces were nice and sweet, which others were quite unripe.  C'est la vie.
The Shrimp dish was a dramatic presentation of 5 or 6 prawns, butterflied and grilled.  They sat atop some typical Chinese-styled "chow mein" noodles.  I didn't like this at all and asked my dining companion to taste and see if she detected the cheesy element I was noticing.  The server came by and I told her this dish was not at all to my liking as I'd specified "cheese free."  She took it away and one of the owners or a manager came by to tell me it had no cheese.  Instead, she said, they use Garlic Butter and typically sprinkle Parmesan on top.  Well, okay then...maybe I was wrong.  The dairy element of this dish overpowered the garlic and it coated my palate.
They politely deleted that item from the bill.

We skipped dessert.

The bill, with two drinks, corkage, three starters and one mail plate tallied to $125 before the tip.
We left $25 and thanked them...

I'd certainly go back, but I'll not be ordering Garlic Noodles any time soon!  The other dishes were pretty good, especially the starters.

But do have a look at the menu prices and check them on the bill.

Reviewed by GW
June 2017



3853 Piedmont Avenue

TEL:  510-879-7953

Lunch Mon-Fri:  11:30-2:30
Dinner: Sun-Wed 5-9
Thurs-Sat 5-10

Bread available upon request

Octopus with grilled Romano Beans

Steak Tartare

Soft-Shell Crab with assorted seafood and Bouillabaisse.


Duck Breast

Pork Loin

Brioche Doughnuts

Baked Alaska


Having been big fans of Bay Wolf restaurant, we were interested in seeing how the new owners are doing at the same location on Oakland's Piedmont Avenue.

We booked a Monday night table around 8, or so, and slogged through traffic on the Bay Bridge.  There was street parking a couple of blocks from the restaurant and we wondered how street conditions would be should the local NBA basketball juggernaut win what would be the final game of their championship series.

My dining companion was already seated at a four-top table near the bar.  They have seating outside on a now-enclosed deck, too.

Menus are presented with a one page wine list and wine glasses are part of the table setting.

Three sparkling wines are offered, two of them By-The-Glass (BTG).  Roederer Estate Rosé is $12 BTG and $60 for a bottle, while Voirin Jumel's Brut Tradition is $14 BTG and $70 for a bottle.  Laherte Frères Blanc de Noir 2012 is  $95 by the bottle.

There are 6 whites/pinks offered by-the-glass.  Cave de Tain's 2015 Crozes-Hermitage Blanc is $11 BTG and $44 for a bottle.  Talley's 2014 Chardonnay is $13 BTG ($52), while an Old Vines bottling of Viré-Clessé is $15 BTG ($60). Jean Paul Mollet's Pouilly Fumé is $9.50 BTG ($38), while Bollig-Lehnert's Piesporter Goldtröpfchen Spätlese is $11 BTG ($44). Ameztoi's Txakolina Rosado is $11 BTG ($44).
There's a nice range of by-the-bottle selections.  Château Simone's Palette Blanc from Provence  is $90, Kuentz-Bas 2014 Pinot Blanc is $34, while Franz Pichler's Grüner Veltliner Bachgarten (Federspiel) is $58.  

Six reds are available by the glass.  Dominique Piron's Morgon is $9.50 BTG ($36), Gianfranco Bovio's Dolcetto is $9.50 BTG ($38), while an Alma Fria Pinot Noir from the Sonoma Coast is $13 BTG ($52).  Torremorón Tempranillo from Spain's Ribera del Duero is $8.50 BTG ($34), Renard's Kick Ranch Syrah is $11 BTG ($44) and Wolf Family Napa Cabernet is $16 BTG ($64).  
The Ojai Vineyard Syrah is well-priced at $44 by the bottle.  You'll find interesting selections from Greece, Australia, France, Italy and Spain.  Prices are very reasonable and the selections are interesting and good quality.

We began with a flute of Voirin Jumel's Brut ($14) and the server brought some smallish stems filled close to capacity.  

The menu changes frequently.  There were six starters available on our visit.  Oysters are $3 each and they have a $22 serving of Foie Gras.  Fried Brussels Sprouts are $9.  We began with Spanish Octopus (with grilled Romano Beans, white bean hummus, Fresno Chili Relish and Marash Peppers) $16.  A small plate arrived with some sort of tempura-styled morsels of Octopus...very nice.  The Steak Tartare ($15) comes with red onions, capers, chives, Hollandaise sauce and Crostini.  The onions and capers were a bit "quiet" in this dish, but we enjoyed it.
We also ordered a couple of pours of Ameztoi's Txakolina Rosado ($11) and a nice, fresh, dry and mildly fizzy pink wine hit the spot!

We also shared a "mid-plate" of Soft Shell Crab  ($23), a soupy presentation accompanied by Manila Clams, PEI Mussels and Prawns in a Bouillabaisse broth with some aioli.  Very nice.  If you ask for bread, they'll bring some hunks of Acme bread, perfect for sopping up the broth.

We put a bottle of a nice Bordeaux on the table and the server came back with some good quality, large stems.  He opened out bottle and we invited him to bring a glass to have a taste with us.

Five main plates were available that evening.  Northern Halibut is $29, while a Flat-Iron steak is $30.  A Summer Squash Risotto is $19.  I opted for the Maple Leaf Duck Breast ($33) with a cherry and white bean ragout, pine nuts, green almond, mâche, white balsamic and a port wine sauce.  My dining companion ordered the Grilled Niman Ranch Pork Loin ($27) which comes with rosemary grits, maple-glazed carrots, radish and a Marsala sauce. 
Both plates were nicely done and we enjoyed them.

With a dessert card, we were presented a beverage menu for dessert, featuring a Roûmieu Lacoste Sauternes for $12 a glass.  Graham's Six Grapes Porto is $8, while their 20 Year Tawny Port is $20.  Cossart Gordon's 5 year Bual Madeira is $9 and the 10 year is $14.  They also offer 5 different Amaro's and a handful of brandies.

Five desserts are available.  Make that eight if you include their three "house churned"  ice creams.
Brioche Doughnuts ($9) comes with lemon-thyme roasted peaches and Crème Anglaise.  You don't see Baked Alaska ($9) much these days so we ordered that, too.
Both desserts were quite enjoyable and we accompanied them with a pour of the Sauternes and the basic Porto.

The basketball game was in the second half when we arrived and the people seated around the U-shaped bar were all watching it on a video screen.  This created a succession of cheers and jeers during the meal, coming to a satisfying conclusion with the Golden State Warriors winning the Championship.  Fortunately Piedmont Avenue was not a hotbed of NBA fandom and the street was quiet when we departed.

The bill tallied to $197 as our server didn't nail us for the $20 corkage as we had ordered nearly a bottle of wine from their list.  So, if you order a bottle of white, they don't charge you corkage on your bottle of red.  Very civilized.
We left a nice tip, too.

The evening was quite enjoyable and it was a different vibe than we'd experienced at Bay Wolf.  The crowd seemed younger, though this is hard to accurately gauge based on one Monday night visit.  The food was good, though let's say it was not quite as "lusty" as we've had at Bay Wolf.  It should be different, though.  It's got new management and a new kitchen crew.

We look forward to returning.

Reviewed by GW
June 2017



4109 24th Street
San Francisco

Tel: 415-282-5872

Dinner Mon-Sat 5:30-10:00
Sunday 5:00-9:00


8 or 10 ounce wine glasses from the 1970s?

Warm bread and some fruity olive oil

Carpaccio with Arugula and Capers...

Mussels & Clams

$20 corkage



Duck in a Marsala Sauce with Grilled Asparagus, Green Beans and Farro




Torta di Cioccolato

It was Memorial Day and we were seeing an Italian movie, so we booked a table at this small Romanesque trattoria in San Francisco's Noe Valley.

We arrived early for our first-seating table and were escorted to a small two top in their main dining area not far from the kitchen.  No wine glasses are on the table and the wine list is on the back page of their menu book.
They don't serve hard alcohol, so it's a bit curious that they don't give their guests a subliminal nudge to order some wine.

The wine list is one page, all Italian.  Despite promoting itself as a Roman-styled dining spot, there is not a single wine from the Lazio region.  No Frascati.  No Est! Est!! Est!!! and no Cesanese.

There are ten white wines on the list, four of which can be ordered by-the-glass (BTG).  (By-the-bottle = BTB)  
Cantina Andrian's Pinot Grigio is $9.75 BTG as is the Feudi di San Gregorio Falanghina.  Both are $36 by the bottle.
Battaglino's Roero Arneis is $10 BTG and $38 for a bottle, while Aia Vecchia's Vermentino goes for $10.50 and $39.
There's a lone Rosé from Costaripa, but it's only available by the bottle at $36.
They have two sparkling wines: neither is offered by the glass, though.  Bormioli Prosecco is $37 and Santome's Sparkling Rosé, made from Pinot Noir grown in the Grave di Papadopoli region of the Veneto, is $36.
There are 32 red wines, six of them being offered by-the-glass.
There's a red listed simply as "Falcorosso"  ($11.75BTG/$44) which is missing the name of the winery making this wine, Loacker.  There's a Montepulciano d'Abruzzo called "Valle D'Oro" at $10.50 BTG, $40 by-the-bottle, but the winery name, Tollo, is missing from the list.  It wholesales for about $7, by the way.
There's a Marchesi di Barolo Barbera for $11  BTG, $42 BTB.  This wholesales for $11 to $12 a bottle.
There's a Primitivo called "Il Trullo," a wine made for a local Bay Area wine importer.  It's $10.75 BTG and $40 BTB. Poggio al Casone Chianti Riserva is $11.75 BTG and $44 BTB.  Nicolis' Valpolicella is $11.265 BTG and $42 BTB.
There's a wine listed simply as "Burchino" and that it's "85% Sang, 10% Cab, 5% Merlot" at $50 by the bottle.  The Tenuta di Burchino, an estate near Pisa in Tuscany, makes a blend of these grapes, but they list it as 50% Sangiovese, 30% Cabernet and 20% Merlot.
There's a wine listed as "Montepulciano Scarpone" at $46, but someone might be confused into thinking it's a Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, while it's, in fact, a Montepulciano d'Abruzzo.  "Barolo" Arione is a mere $60...there is a winery called Arione which is a bit industrial, while there's a special vineyard site in Barolo's Serralunga Valley called "Arione," too.
There's a Barbera d'Asti listed as "Moliss," at $44, but the winery name, Agostino Pavia, is missing from the list.
Shardana Santadi is $51 by the bottle, but customers probably have no clue that this is a Carignano blended with a bit of Syrah and that it comes from Sardegna.  
The Barbera d'Asti "Bric Rocche" is $51 but few would know this comes from a winery called La Luna del Rospo, as once again, the name of the producer is missing.  
This is a chronic problem with the wine list at Lupa.
The price range of the bottles goes from $40 on the low end to $110 at the upper end of the scale.
The quality of the wines is in the "good" range, but you won't find upper echelon wines, nor will you find well-aged bottles of red.
If you bring your own bottle, the corkage fee is $20.
Stemware at Lupa is rather modest quality.  We had a bottle of red in our cellar bag and asked the server if they had a larger glass than the 7 or 8 ounce stem they used for the white wines we ordered by the glass.
We were informed the restaurant uses these "old fashioned" glasses because that's what they do in Rome.
Well, in really modest places you'd find a water tumbler being used for the wine, but they'd be serving a very simply bulk wine...a vino della casa and it would cost maybe 10 Euros for a 750ml bottle.  These days most well-run osterie or trattorie take pride in using a decent glass.
In the case of Lupa, they have wines which would be enhanced by being served in a good quality, larger (say 12 to 16 ounce) glass.
I should have gone to the car and brought in some of the wine glasses I now routinely have packed in the trunk!
We offered our server a sip of our wine, a Piemontese Barbera made from 100+ year old vines, a real rarity.  He had no interest in tasting this, possibly indicative of the lack of interest in a serious wine program.
Too bad, as the food is of good quality and we had a pleasant dining experience.

We ordered two glasses of white wine, the Battaglino Arneis ($10) and the Aia Vecchia  Vermentino ($10.50).  As noted, the stemware is not ideal for really enjoying these and the glasses are filled about 80% full, giving the customer about 6 ounces of wine.

They brought a basket of nicely warmed bread and a small plate filled with a good, fruity olive oil.  Thankfully they didn't mess this up with the cheap excuse for Balsamic vinegar that you are served in places that don't know any better.

There's the main menu and a one page sheet with "tonight's specials," though it is not dated.

In addition to the six starters and three salads, they offered a Lentil Soup ($8.50) and Insalata Belga (Endive Salad $12.50) and Fettunta (Roman Bruschetta $12.50).   They have 8 pasta dishes on the main menu plus two more on the nightly specials list.  None are offered as a small portion, though and these range from $14.50 to $18.  Curiously, the most iconic pastas of Rome are Spaghetti alla Carbonara nor Cacio e Pepe.  There is Bucatini Amatriciana ($17) though.

My friend ordered "Carpaccio di Carne," described as "Beef carpaccio with arugola, capers and shaved parmiggiano (sic) ($13).  The thin slices of the Carpaccio were fanned around the plate, mostly obscured by the large quantity of arugula.  This was topped with two thin rectangular slices of Parmigiano.  Overall, good.
My starter was what they call "Intingolo di Cozze e Vongole" ($13).  This is described as "Prince Edward Island Mussels and Manila Clams sautéed in a lightly spicy tomato broth." With my limited command of Italian, I know intingolo to be a sauce or gravy.  A nice bowl with a small mound of shellfish arrived, along with a side plate to discard the shells.
The tomato broth did have a bit of spice to it and the mussels were "good" and the clams were better and seemingly fresher.

We had placed a bottle of a special Barbera on the table and the server brought two new stems which were a bit disappointing as noted earlier in the review.  Too small.  He opened our bottle and poured the wine.

A few moments later our main courses arrived.  We had both ordered Anatra al Marsala ($23.50),  "pan roasted duck breast in a Marsala sauce, farro and grilled asparagus."
There were 8 or 9 slices of the duck breast in a mildly sweet sauce.  The farro was nicely done, certainly al dente. The "grilled asparagus" was a bit odd.  Actually, it had been substituted with some sautéed green beans.

We were still a bit hungry and split a dessert, Torta di Cioccolato ($8), a "Flourless Chocolate Almond Tart with Vanilla Gelato and Raspberry Coulis."  This took a bit of time as it arrived nicely hot.  We liked it quite a bit.  Their dessert menu shows only coffee and tea, so apparently the idea of selling a glass of Moscato d'Asti, Vin Santo or some sort of Passito has not dawned on these people.

The ambience is pleasant...Italian pop music plays in the background.  The place was filled up during their first hour of being open, so reserving a table is a good idea.

The bill tallied to $132 before the tip.

I'd be more enthusiastic about returning to Lupa were they to take wine a bit more seriously.  If you're in the vicinity, it's a nice little neighborhood dining spot.  
It's not a destination restaurant, though.

Reviewed by GW
May 2017



1015 Alameda de las Pulgas

Tel: 650-622-4642

Lunch:  Mon-Fri: 11:30-2:30
Sat-Sun: 11:00-2:30

Mid-day Menu Daily
at the bar

Dinner: Mon-Thurs: 5:00-9:00
Fri-Sat:  5:00-10:00
Sun: 5:00-8:00


Field Greens without the goat cheese




Fried Calamari






Porketta, Grits and Duck Fat Fries






Atlantic Salmon and Grilled Asparagus

We had noticed this newish spot on Open Table and made a reservation for Sunday evening dining on Memorial Day weekend (2017).

It's in a shopping center in Belmont at Ralston and The Alameda.  You'll walk into the entry  and see a bar just behind the reception area with some elevated bar tables by the front door.  We were led down some steps where they have normal dining tables.  There's a large curtain to make the dining area seem less enormous.  Out a side-door, there's a stairway to outdoor seating below by a creek.

We were each presented a clipboard with a list of drinks and a menu.  No wine glasses are part of the table setting.

There are several pages of options.  The first page offers a menu of cocktails, for the most part, with coffee and soft drinks, too.
The second page is a beer and cider list, with lots of interesting beers, most of them locally brewed.  But you'll find Coors Light, Ballast Point and Hoegaarden amongst the "foreign" selections.

The next page is their wine list.  Each selection is offered By-The-Glass (BTG) and By-the-Bottle.
There are two sparkling wine selections, one from Italy's Veneto made of Pinot Noir ($13 BTG/$52 by the bottle) and the other from Spain ($10 BTG/$40).  You've not likely heard of Merotto or Capita Vidal.
Amongst the 8 white wine selections, there's a modest quality South African Chenin Blanc from Indaba ($9/$36) and a Grenache Blanc from the South of France.  It's listed as Domaine Magellan's "La Grenache de Magellan" at $12 BTG and $47 by the bottle.  The winery web site does list a "Le Grenache" but this is a red and they make two Grenache Blanc-based whites, one blended with Muscat and the other with Roussanne.
Charles Smith's Kung Fun Girl Riesling is $9 BTG and $36 for a bottle.  Tinel-Blondelet's Sancerre is $13/$52, while a Royal Tokaji Dry Furmint is $10/$40...sure, it's a quirky and off-beat choice, but why not?  
They offer two Chardonnay selections, one from William Fevre, but not from France's Chablis region where the company is home-based, but from its Chilean outpost.  This goes for $12.50 and $50.  A small California brand called Artisan has a "Sunshine Chardonnay" and this is $13.50 BTG and $54 by the bottle.
They have two Rosé wines, both young, fresh 2016 offerings and there are 10 reds.
Most interesting are the La Rioja Alta Viña Alberdi ($13 BTG/$52) and the Waxwing Pinot Noir from the Sonoma Coast ($12.50/$48) which is produced by a local winemaker.
There are some below-the-radar choices:  Stage Left Cellars "Globetrotter" Red at $13 BTG and $52 or "Vinoblends" Cabernet Franc at $12 BTG and $48 for a bottle.
Branham "Resolution" Cabernet from Napa is $14.50 and $57 by the bottle.

The menu features a variety of interesting choices.  For starters they offer Deviled Eggs ($4.50) or a Pound of Buffalo Chicken Wings ($12).  A Charcuterie Plate is $18, while Salt & Pepper Calamari is $12.  There are 6 salads or an option to pick 3 salads to create an "entree-sized" salad.
All but one comes in a large or small size.
There's a Caesar Salad ($7/$12), a Kale & Arugula ($7/$11), a Wedge Salad ($7/$12), Smashed Red Potato Salad or Field Greens, both at $7 or $10.
Main Plates included a Mount Lassen Almond-Crusted Trout ($26), Grilled New York Steak ($32), Pan-Roasted Atlantic Salmon ($26), Meatloaf ($20), Bone-In Fried Chicken ($22) and Roasted American-Style Porketta (sic) at $28.  There are a couple of Burgers as well.

We asked about their corkage fee and the server had to go ask.  $15.
We put a bottle of wine on the table and we were brought some stemless glasses, sort of tumblers.
She took the bottle away but returned a moment later and opened it, pouring both glasses without offering just a sniff in case there was something wrong with the bottle.

We wanted to start with the Fried Calamari and my dining companion ordered a Thai Salad ($13) available in just the one size.  I went for a Field Greens Salad ($7)m without the goat cheese.  
For a main plate, my friend ordered the Atlantic Salmon and I choose the "Porketta."
You get a choice of one of their side dishes (Brussels Sprouts, Asparagus, Duck Fat Fries, etc.).  I should have realized something was likely to go wrong when the server did not ask my friend for a selection of an accompanying side dish.

A short while later they brought the Fried Calamari and the Field Greens Salad.  We wondered what happened to the Thai Salad.
Well, the server knows the Thai Salad to be a main course and she missed the order for the Atlantic Salmon.  This caused all kinds of confusion apparently.
A manager came by saying she wanted to "make things right" and she did.
Soon a Thai Salad's not huge, but it's larger than a simple, little starter.
I had finished the salad...perfectly fine...and they took away the utensils as they should.
The server brought a serious steak knife for the Porketta which was a good idea, but was not paying attention to the notion of bringing a fork.
The main plates arrived and the runner had no clue as to which plate went where...this is not "fine dining," after all.
Once that was straightened out, we waited a moment for the server to pass by.  We flagged her down and asked for a fork.
It seems these only come wrapped in a cloth napkin, which seems wasteful for the restaurant...
The salmon was nicely done...a good plate, in fact.  My friend chose the grilled asparagus as a side...also quite good.
I made the mistake of getting a side of "Duck Fat Fries."  Maybe I'm wrong in thinking the potatoes are not peeled and cut in the Waterdog kitchen.  The fries were okay, but not great.  There is also a bed of grits under the Porketta...I was not enthralled with this.
I could have used a digestif after the fatty calamari, Porketta and fries.

We were seated near the side door and every time this opened, a blast of air rushed in, moving the curtain separating us from the neighboring dining room and nearby table.

The manager continued to "make it right" by shining the $15 corkage fee and not charging for the Thai Salad.

The bill tallied to $60 as a result and we left a generous tip, leaving a $100 bill.

This was a nice place for an informal meal and we certainly will return for another "neighborhood" dining experience.


Reviewed by GW
May 2017



209 Park Road

Tel: 650-340-7272

Lunch: Daily 11:30-2:30

Dinner: Sun-Thurs 5:00-9:30
Fri-Sat 5:00-10

With a poorly-chosen wine list and a $35 corkage fee, we ordered a $7 Hoegaarden beer.

Bombay "Sliders"

Chutney Prawns

Glazed Lamb Ribs

Black + White Calamari

Chettinadu Lamb Curry

Halibut Pollichathu

Highlighted in the Michelin Guide with a star, we've also heard good things from friends and customers about this Indian-themed dining spot near Burlingame Avenue.

A wine+food-savvy friend from San Francisco suggested we dine there and so we booked a mid-week table around 8pm.

The place was nearly fully-occupied when we arrived and we were led to a table in their upstairs dining area.  The host presented both menus and a wine list as we took our seats.  No wine glasses are on the table and we soon discovered wine is not a very important part of the program at Rasa.

They offer two sparkling wines, Mumm Napa being available in a 187ml bottle for $12, while Piper Sonoma is $11 By-The-Glass (BTG) or $42 for a bottle.

They offer but one pink wine and it's listed solely by its proprietary name, Calafuria, not by the name of the wine which makes it, Tormaresca.  We don't know how old or young the wine is as this Michelin-starred restaurant doesn't inform customers of the vintage date!  
In fact, there are no vintage dates on the wine list, another feature making it convenient for the house to not have to change the list regularly, but not helpful for the customer.
I'd be more inclined to order a recent and fresh vintage of this rather than an aged bottle.  It costs $12 BTG or $46 for a bottle, roughly a 350% mark-up.

Nine of their ten white wine offerings can be ordered by-the-glass.  Only a Sonoma Cutrer Chardonnay is sold solely by the bottle ($52) and we do not know precisely which wine it is, but suspect it's the Russian River Ranches bottling.
Mossback and Wild Horse are the other two Chardonnay selections and both are $11 BTG or $42 by the bottle.  These are rather weak, frankly.
For Sauvignon Blanc you have your choice of the (Kendall) Jackson family's Matanzas Creek at $14 BTG or $54 by the bottle, while Charles Krug goes for $11 BTG and $42 for a bottle.
There is a Pinot Grigio from the marketing company called The Wine Group.  Labeled as "Chloe," it's $10 BTG and $38 for a bottle.
Franciscan's "Equilibrium" white wine, a blend of Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay and Muscat, is $12 BTG and $46 by the bottle.  Michael David's Lodi white made of the Symphony grape is similarly priced.
A Darcie Kent Grüner Veltliner from Livermore and Alexander Valley Vineyards Gewürztraminer are both $10 BTG and $38 by the bottle.
The red wine selection is equally inspired.  Of all the wines from France's Bordeaux region, the generic plonk called Mouton-Cadet is the best they can offer?  That's an embarrassment.  $10 BTG and $38 by the bottle for a wine wholesaling for about $8.
We are unsure of the name of the winery for their "Malbec, Mendoza, Argentina" offering which is $16 BTG and $62 by the bottle.
A Napa Cabernet from the Hall winery is $115 per bottle, while The Prisoner red blend is $85.  Perhaps you'll be impressed by Michael David's "Seven Deadly Zins" at $12 per glass and $46 per bottle.

I would never identify a Michelin-starred restaurant with such a modest quality, commercial wine list!
What's even more astonishing is the corkage fee.   If a restaurant has a big investment in a serious wine program and employs a wine director, with a list of carefully chosen wines, we expect a corkage fee of $25 per bottle or higher.  When a wine list is seemingly chosen by someone perusing the wine aisle in a large grocery store, you might be shocked by the $35 per bottle fee.

We looked at the menu and chose 4 "small plates" as starters and then we each ordered a main plate.
For starters we had:
Bombay "Sliders" ($12) made with potato fritters instead of meat.  There were two on the plate and a nicely oily take on sliders.
Chutney Prawns ($13), spiced prawns with "grandma's chutney."  But there were five of them, not four and not six so we flipped a coin to see who got that last, odd prawn.  Tasty, though.
Glazed Lamb Ribs ($16) features two large, slow-cooked ribs with a tamarind glaze.  Also quite good to my taste, but my City friend was less impressed.
These had all been brought one at a time as they should be.
They cleared our plates and brought new ones and new silverware after the first three.  But it seems they forgot we had one more small plate coming.
Black + White Calamari ($13) were described as "salt and pepper calamari, onions and curry leaves with house made chili-tamarind ketchup."  When they finally arrived, we had a basket of what resembled fried onion rings.  These were much larger than normal fried calamari and they were a bit bland.

I should mention my friend was shocked by the corkage fee and the poorly-selected wine list.  He was not interested in opening the bottles we had brought along, so we opted for a $7 glass of Hoegaarden beer on tap.  This was certainly a good option and it matched the food nicely.
We looked around the dining area and did not see even one table with a bottle of wine on it.  People seem to order just a glass and we noticed a few patrons departed without finishing their wine.
They don't have a liquor license but they do make Sake-based cocktails and they offer three different Sakes by the glass or by the bottle.

My friend opted for the Chettinadu Lamb Curry ($29) and I was advised by the server to try their Halibut Pollichathu ($36).
The lamb comes in a bowl accompanied by a bowl of coconut rice.  It was a mildly-seasoned lamb dish.
The halibut, said to be "sustainably caught," is perhaps a 6 or 7 ounce serving presented in a banana leaf with some coconut rice and green beans "foogath."  The flavors were good all the way around and the presentation of this dish was a bit fancy, as were a few of the starters.

With two beers for each of us and no dessert, we were out of there for $160.  We'd have hit the $200 mark had we opened a couple of bottles of wine.
My San Francisco friend was not thrilled with the meal.  I thought the place was good, but was most disappointed with their attempt at a wine list.  Clearly they are not much interested in pairing good wine with their food.  Refilling water glasses is also not their forté.  

I am certainly not an expert when it comes to Indian cuisine.  I appreciated the creativity that went into the seasoning and presentation of most of the dishes.  
I would certainly return, but I'd leave my cellar bag at home and go intending to drink beer.


Reviewed by GW
May 2017



299 Bayshore Boulevard
San Francisco

Tel: 415-826-4880

Open Daily 11:30am-10pm






"Whole Clam" Clam Chowder





A 99-Cent Loaf of Warm Bread




"Golden Gate" Clam Chowder




"Clam Bake Cioppino"


We booked a Sunday night table at this venerable San Francisco institution.  I've driven by the place a million times and wondered how a restaurant that's rather isolated from any sort of residential population can survive.

We arrived a bit earlier than our reservation time and an older gentleman went to see where they could park us.  He returned and guided us through a small maze of tables into a dining room in what was probably an outdoor patio at one point in time.  (This place has been there since the 1860s.)

No wine glasses are on the table and the wine list, such as it is, you'll find printed on the menu.

They have 4 levels of pricing and the list is simple.
For $24.99 you can enjoy a bottle of either Beringer's White Zinfandel or Ste. Michelle's Riesling.  These are $7.99 by the glass or $14.99 for a half bottle that's been decanted from a full one.
Then, at $29.99 for a bottle, $17.99 for a decanted half-bottle or $9.99 for a glass you can have Avissi "Sparkling Prosecco," Antinori's Santa Cristina Pinot Grigio, Honig Sauvignon Blanc (at least there's one nice wine and it's well-priced), Bargetto Chardonnay, Meiomi Pinot Noir, Bargetto Merlot, Hess Select Cabernet, Trapiche Malbec or Coppola's "Director's Cut" Zinfandel.
If you're a big spender, $39.99 will get you a bottle of Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc ('s often $50-$80 on most wine lists), Stuhlmuller Chardonnay or Kenwood's Jack London Cabernet.
Jordan's Cabernet and Clicquot Brut Champagne are $69.99.
That's the entire wine list.

But the best news is:  No Corkage fee!

The place was buzzing when we got there, but not packed with people waiting.
There's parking on Bayshore but we tucked into a sketchy alley just behind the restaurant and found a spot amongst some old rust buckets.

We perused the menu and our server stopped by and took an order for a lone cocktail, while I pulled a bottle of wine out of my cellar bag.  She then went to find wine glasses and brought a couple of 16 ounce (or close to it) Libbey stems to the table.  One of these was unpolished and had a cloudy water stain, so we asked for another.
She brought a clean glass immediately and then was quite busy, having the entire room and close to 35 people to attend to.

The menu features all sorts of seafood items.  They have "Iron Skillet Roasted" Mussels, Shrimp or a combination of the two.  Or you can add Crab to the mix.
They offer "Golden Gate Clam Chowder," ($7.99 by the cup or $10.99 in a "bread bowl."  There's "Whole Clam" Chowder ($11.99) with clams in their shells.  Oysters are $2.99 each.  "Clams Escargot" is $14.99.  A Crab Cocktail is $15.99, while Crab Cakes are $16.99.
They have a few salads, too, and a number of Sandwiches.
Several sizes of a Crab Feast are available.  A two pound crab is $39.99, but you can get a half order for $29.99 or go for a $65, $75 or $120-sized order.
Under the heading of "Fisherman's Catch," you'll find Sand Dabs, Basa (a sort of catfish), Salmon or Sea Bass.  They offer 5 different preparations, so you can select how you'd like it cooked.
Steamed Clams are $25, $45 or $70 depending on the serving size.  Fish & Chips goes for $20, while "Clams Paella Italiano" is $25.
They offer Clams with pasta or a mixed seafood pasta, as well.
There's an "Original" Old Clam House Clam Bake Cioppino at $30 for a single serving, $50 for a large and $90 if you're feeding an army.

We each ordered a Chowder, my friend opting for a cup of the "Original Golden Gate Clam Chowder" ($7.99), while I chose the "Whole Clam" Chowder at $11.99.  We decided to split a large Clam Bake Cioppino ($49.99).
At this point the server cautioned us about the service, indicating everything might come out of the kitchen at the same time.
We requested the soups first and the Cioppino when we finished the soup.

Ten minutes later the Whole Clam Chowder arrived and maybe 5 minutes after that the cup of Golden Gate Chowder showed up.  No cocktail at this point and the bottle of wine remained unopened.
I finally opened the bottle of wine and a few minutes later a runner came with the cocktail.

We ordered their "Kettle Bread" (99-cents) and a nicely warmed small round loaf was brought to the table...perfect for dipping into the soup or Cioppino.

A busser cleared the soup plates and about 5 or 10 minutes after that the Cioppino arrived.  This is served in a medium-sized iron pot and it's quite hot.  We had to flag down the server again to request plates and utensils.  She brought some small bowls and each of us had a glass containing a paper bib, a moist towelette, a small fork and device for cracking the crab shells.
The seafood stew is sort of a combination of a Clam Bake and Cioppino. You'll find hunks of potatoes in this pot along with slices of corn-on-the-cob.  The seafood that's easy to see includes some crab, mussels and clams.  There may be some sort of fish filet in there and maybe some calamari.
The Cioppino sauce was quite hot in terms of temperature, but not intensely flavored.  It was a bland sort of tomato sauce or broth with not much seafood character or herbs, garlic or onions.  They do have a small bottle of hot sauce on the table, though.

The room we were in was quite hot and finally someone opened a window, but this didn't help very much.  They have a sound system which played upbeat, jazzy tunes from the 1940s and 1950s.

We requested a glass of water each and these never were refilled.

The menu cover asks "Have you had your clam juice today?"  We noticed they brought small "shot glasses" to most of the tables nearby and we surmise these were clam juice.  With all the chaos in the room, we were not offered a glass.

This is a family-friendly dining spot that's reasonably economical.  If you can deal with the chaotic service, perhaps a visit to The Old Clam House is in order.  Unless you're drinking Honig or Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc, bring your own bottle.
Reviewed by GW
May 2017



1177 California Street
San Francisco

Tel: 415-771-6776

Open Daily 5pm-10pm


Kettle Bread

Mussels & Shrimp

Italian Pot Stickers

A Porterhouse with the Filet and the New York Steak cooked individually

Crispy Potatoes and Sautéed Mushrooms






Sunday night in late April of 2017...we booked a table for 2 at this newish steakhouse.

We arrived a bit early for our 7:15 reservation and the hostess escorted us to a booth.  A wine list was presented, along with menus.  Wine glasses were part of the table settings, too.

We perused the wine list.

They offer wines by-the-glass (BTG) or a half bottle "decanted."  For sparkling wines, there are three options.  The excellent Prosecco from Sorelle Bronca is $12 ($23 for a half bottle "pour"), while Schramsberg's is $16 BTG ($34 for the half bottle decanted).  A Laurent Perrier Brut Champagne is offered in a 187ml bottles for $22.

Five white wines are offered BTG and in a half-bottle pour.  If you're a fan of Beringer White Zinfandel, you're in luck!  $9 for a glass and $16 for the half bottle pour.  Honig's Napa Sauvignon Blanc is $12 BTG and $23 for the half bottle serving, while Etude Pinot Gris and Stulhlmuller Chardonnay are $15 (and $28).  Rombauer Chardonnay is $18 for a glass and $34 for a half bottle pour.

Six red wines are offered By The Glass and in a half bottle pour along with five red wines in half bottle format.  Amongst the BTG red selections we find Alexander Valley Vineyards Syrah at $12 & $23.  Duckhorn's Merlot is $22 and $42, while  Groth Cabernet is $24 and $46.  
Half bottles include Storybook Napa Zinfandel at $39 along with Guigal's Chateauneuf-du-Pape at $49 and La Crema Pinot Noir at $29.

Their wine list offers a handful of sparkling wines.  The Sorelle Bronca Prosecco is $39, while Roederer Estate Brut from Mendocino is $49.  Clicquot's Non-Vintage Brut is $99 while Dom Perignon goes for $299.

Thirteen Chardonnays are offered, with the least costly selections ($39) being a bit old.  A brand called Epilogue is available in the 2010 vintage while a New Zealand wine from Man O'War is in stock from the 2009 vintage.  Trefethen's 2013 is $59 while Montelena's is $89.  Far Niente 2014 is $99 as is the 2015 Kistler.  A Bonneau du Martray Corton Charlemagne from 2004 is 239.

Under "Other Whites" we find a Chardonnay from Chablis made by William Fevre from the Grand Cru site of Valmur.  $229 for that.
Santa Margherita Pinot Grigio is $49 per bottle, while a Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand is similarly priced.  The white Bordeaux from Smith Haut Lafitte is from the 2010 vintage and goes for $269 a bottle.

As it's a steakhouse, one might expect to find some good Cabernet Sauvignon wines and they have nearly three dozen selections within that category.   There are few surprises and the selections range from chain-store brands such as $49 bottle offerings from Hess and B.R. Cohn (Silver label) to Jordan 2012 ($99) and 2012 Silver Oak Alexander Valley at $119.   Caymus 2014 is $139 while Corison's 2013 is $119.  Plumpjack and Darioush are $179 for recent vintages and Montelena's Estate Bottled Cabernet from the 2012 vintage is $209 a bottle.  Dunn Howell Mountain from 2012 is $239 a bottle.

Nine Merlots (Pahlmeyer 2013 is $139) and seven Syrahs (Ojai's entry level bottling is $59) are offered.
You'll find a dozen Zinfandels including a Dashe "Dry Creek Valley" that's listed as coming from Napa and Sonoma (!)...$49.
Twenty-five Pinot Noirs are on the Osso list, including $59 bottles from brands such as Morgan, Charles Krug and Hendry Estate.  Sixty-nine bucks gets you Gary Farrell, Ancien or Stubbs (from Marin).  Walter Hansel, Fort Ross and a Camus-Bruchon Savigny-Les-Beaune are $79 a bottle. A Louis Latour "Carton Grancey" (sic...I guess that's the Irish spelling of Corton) is nearly $200 a bottle, while a Louis Latour Romanee-St.-Vivant is $599 per bottle.

Of course, you can't have a steak house without offering Opus One and the 2012 vintage is $349.  Pahlmeyer's red blend is $239, while Cain Five 2012 is $199 per bottle.
Eleven Bordeaux are on the list, including a 2006 Chateau Petrus for $2899, along with a 2006 Lafite-Rothschild for $1599.  If you're slumming it, there's 2006 Mouton-Rothschild or Chateau Latour for $1299.
A 2011 Castello di Verduno Barbaresco "Rabaja" is $99, while Isole e Olena's Cepparello from 2008 is $109.  A 2013 Tignanello is $169.

Overall, the list provides a broad spectrum of selections and it should be navigated comfortably by neophyte wine drinkers.  There was no sommelier or wine steward on our visit.

The corkage fee on Nob Hill is a most pleasant surprise:  $10!

We ordered a glass of Honig Napa Sauvignon Blanc at $12 and our friend sipped on some sort of cocktail at close to a similar price.
The server, who was very professional and of the old-school generation, brought a glass of white wine from the bar.  Sadly they don't pour the wine at the table.

Our server asked if we wanted bread and, as most people would say, we replied with a "Yes."
This adds all of 95-cents to the bill as they bring a sourdough round loaf, warm, tucked inside what they call a "kettle."

We perused the menu and my friend started with "Italian Pot Stickers" at $15.95 and I ordered their medium-sized platter of Shrimp and Mussels at $19.95.
The seafood came on a sizzling hot iron skillet, but curiously the pot stickers were delayed and did not arrive until 4 or 5 minutes later.
The seafood was nicely presented but the kitchen wasn't working with the best raw material.  The mussels lacked flavor and were likely frozen and the little prawns/shrimp were only marginally better.
The Pot Stickers were not cooked properly and these were quite "al dente" as the dough was a bit raw.

We produced a bottle of a nice, youthful Bordeaux from our cellar bag.  The server promptly evaluated this development and ran off, returning a few moments later with two nice Bordeaux stems.  He opened the bottle professionally and poured the 'say.'
Then, getting a nod of approval, he poured both glasses to a proper one-third full level.

We ordered a Porterhouse steak which is listed at 28 ounces of beef.  This is a New York steak, bone-in, along with a filet.  They say the cook these separately, but they're presented on the same plate.
Side dishes are ten bucks apiece and we ordered their sautéed mushrooms and crispy roasted potatoes.

The place also offers a number of seafood dishes if you're not looking for a steak.  They have several offerings of roasted crab, from a single serving to a Crab Feast ($129), said to be able to serve 4 people.
They also offer Sea Bass, Abalone, Salmon and Scallops.
Additional side dishes include Mac & Cheese, Creamed Spinach, Creamed Corn, Fried Pearl Onions, Asparagus, a Twice-Baked Potato and Brussels Sprout Chips.

We asked for the beef to be served Medium-Rare and this was how the Porterhouse arrived.
The beef was of good quality, so no complaints there.  I can't say the Roasted Potatoes or Mushrooms were exceptional...the potatoes may have been boiled first and then roasted, finished with a fairly high level of salt.  The mushrooms were drowned in some sort of sauce and were rather limp from this bath of sorts.

We had no interest in dessert, but they do bring a dessert list, just in case.

The place has an elegant ambiance and the service exceeded the quality of the cuisine.

Our bill tallied to about $201 with tax and the health mandate service charge and before the tip.  I think our server neglected to include the $10 corkage fee.

I wouldn't say no to a return visit, but Osso would not be my first choice if looking for a steak dinner in The City.

Reviewed by GW  April 2017



919 Cortland Avenue
San Francisco

TEL: 415-814-370

Open for Dinner
Tues-Sat 5:30-10

Foie Gras

Hamachi Crudo

Grilled Octopus

Wine by the glass is poured at the table.

Sea Scallop and Pork Belly

Venison Loin

Pork Chop


We booked a Thursday night table at this new little dining spot on Cortland, a bit off the beaten path for restaurants.  They required a credit card and you can cancel, without charge, 48 hours ahead of your booking.

It's largely a residential neighborhood, so parking at 8pm was slightly challenging, though there were a couple of spots a block north on Eugenia Avenue.

I arrived ahead of my dining companion and was seated at a table just inside the door behind the receptionist's stand. The place is smallish with maybe 35 or 40 seats, if that.  A menu was presented along with a single page wine list.  No wine glasses were on the table.

The list features four sparkling wines, two Champagnes and two other French sparklers.  The Champagnes are "grower" Champagnes, not big, famous, industrial brands.  A Premier Cru wine from Colin is $79, while Stephane Coquillette's Brut is $81.  A Cremant de Bourgogne is $16 by-the-glass (BTG) and $64 by the bottle.  A Cremant de Limoux is $13 BTG and $52 by the bottle.  
We ordered two pours of the Cremant de's a fairly standard example and was nice.

There are twelve white wines offered with three available by the glass.
These range from $44 by the bottle (A dry white from France's Bergerac or an Alsatian Sylvaner) to $120 for a Premier Cru Mersault (sic).  
There's a single Rosé from Provence.
Fourteen red wines are available, with six offered by the glass.
These range from $48 (A Sonoma Rhône-styled Blend from the Front Porch winery) to $140 (A Morey-Saint-Denis from the 2013 vintage).  Six of the red wines are in the triple-digit range.

We asked our server to stage four appetizer selections for us and then we each ordered a main plate.  No problem.

A Foie Gras special, not on the menu, was $27 and a healthy-sized portion of seared Foie on some sort of spiced bread...very fine!

We selected a Crudo next...Hamachi with celery root, pears, "cranbanero sauce" with a furikake tuile and black garlic...another well-constructed plate...

By this time we'd ordered a couple of glasses of white wine:  The Allimant Laugner Sylvaner ($12) and a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc of the Tablelands label (also $12).  These were poured tableside, by the way, a service we appreciated.

At this stage we produced a bottle of Bordeaux from our cellar bag and the server brought large stemware appropriate for this wine.  He opened the bottle tableside and poured the "say."  We invited him to bring a glass to join us in tasting the wine, a 2006 La Lagune (showing remarkably well, by the way).

Next was a Grilled Octopus with Beets, Rucola, Romanesco and a Sultana-Caper emulsion...this was another delicious plate and the octopus was tender and mildly smoky.

The final appetizer was a Scallop & Pork Belly dish with Kohlrabi, Kumquats, Black vinegar and Tarragon.  The vinegar was not especially strong so this worked nicely with the two white wines.
(After finishing our meal, the chef came out to thank us and we asked about the inspiration for this dish...he explained that since Scallops are often wrapped in bacon, why not pair them with Pork Belly?  Good call!)

My dining companion could not resist ordering the Venison Loin with Kung Pao Sprouted Legumes, Savoy Cabbage and Tamarind ($34).  I opted for the Grilled Pork Chop with Celery Root Purée and Bacon-Braised Red Cabbage ($29).  Both dishes were quite good and the wine certainly enhanced these.
Other options were a Skate Wing ($32) and a Short Rib and Bavette Steak with soft Polenta, Kale, Black Trumpets and Cippolini ($34).  

We had no room for dessert, but they brought out a couple of Chocolate Truffles.  

The bill tallied to about $206 and they didn't charge us their corkage fee (I think $20 or $25?).  This was a wonderful meal with good service.
Their sound system had some eclectic tunes but it was not bothersome. 
The service was professional and courteous and we were not rushed out despite being about the last table.

We looked forward to a return visit (and the place is about a 25 minute ride from Burlingame unless you're in traffic).

Reviewed by
February 2017



5403 College Avenue

Tel: 510-788-7890

Mon, Wed, Thurs: 11:30am-10pm
Fri: 11:30am-11pm
Sat: 10am-11pm
Sun 10am-9pm


Battuta, Carne Cruda

Olive oil and Bread


Vitello Tonnato


We split the pasta courses...this is half an order of the Pappardelle...very good!






Brasato...beef braised for 5 hours.



A number of wine industry friends have been very positive in reporting about their dining experiences at this newish Italian trattoria (named after its chef, Michele Belotti) in Oakland on College Avenue.
My friend booked a table on a Monday night, accounting for my driving from Burlingame and so she selected a 9pm time slot.

The restaurant is a few blocks from the Rockridge BART station.  Parking on the street within a block from Belotti was rather easy at 8pm, as we arrived early thanks to the smooth traffic flow.

We were seated at a table in the window and were presented a drinks list, a wine list and a menu.  There was a nice, large wine glass on the table as part of the place setting.
Somewhat bothersome, though, was the smell of chlorine bleach as we entered the place.  Apparently their dishwasher doesn't have hot water to sanitize glassware, silverware, plates, etc., so they are obliged to use a chlorine bleach rinse.  Unfortunately, its smell permeated the restaurant.

The wine list is nearly all Italian.  They have four sparkling wines, three of which can be ordered by-the-glass (BTG).  Jejo Brut Rose is $9 BTG and $35 by the bottle, as is La Maschera Prosecco.  La Quercia is listed as an organic Prosecco and it's $11 BTG and $45 for a bottle.
A Pierpaolo Pecorari Rose from 2014 is $12.50 BTG and $49 for a bottle.
Seven white wines are offered by the glass.  Ronco Blanchis' Pinot Grigio is $11.50 BTG and $41 by the bottle. A Capichera Vermentino is $15.50 BTG and $60 by the bottle.  There were 8 reds by the glass, plus a special offer for a Sandrone 2011 Barolo at $30 BTG.  Other reds on the regular list included a Braida Barbera ($15 BTG & $58 for a bottle), a 2011 Damilano Barolo ($15.50 BTG, $60 by the bottle) and a Copain red called Tous Ensemble Syrah for $10.50 BTG and $38 for a bottle.
We found 15 white wines on the list of bottles.  A Francesco Rinaldi Gavi is $40, while a 2013 Kuenhof Sylvaner is $38. Ciavolich Passerina is $42, while a Raina Trebbiano goes for $41.
The California wines all comes from one distributor, that being one owned by the Kendall Jackson family.
You'll find the Italian reds categorized as coming from Piemonte, Toscana and "other regions."
There are 13 Barolo or Barbaresco wines on the list, mostly wines too young to be strutting their stuff.  Roberto Voerzio has three 2011 bottlings and these are expensive bottles right from the start.  They cost $305, $310 and $315 a bottle and are ten years away from being worth opening.  A 2007 Produttori del Barbaresco "Rio Sordo" is a better option for immediate drinking and it's $105 a bottle.  The best buy is Elvio Cogno's 2004 Barolo at $140 if you're spending that kind of money.
Domenico Clerico's Barbera is $49 for those who don't have the company credit card.
Of the Tuscan selections there are three Chianti offerings.  Kendall-Jackson's Arceno Riserva 2011 is $47.  There's a Nozzole 2004 Riserva costing around $ with the older Cogno Barolo you might wonder where these venerable bottles came from since the restaurant opened its doors in early 2016.
Argiano's 2010 Brunello is $120, while their special Super Tuscan Solengo 2013 is just $85 and a smart buy if you're having some sort of red meat (it's Cabernet, Syrah, Merlot, etc.).
Scarpone Montepulciano d'Abruzzo is $54, while Niedrist's Pinot Nero is $63.
The list is compact and fairly sensibly-priced (apart from those Voerzio wines and that's because Voerzio thinks his wines are amongst the elite).

We ordered a glass each of the La Maschera Prosecco ($9 BTG) and asked the server for an order of their Batutta ($15) which is described as "Hand cut certified Piedmontese ribeye dry aged beef tartare, carasau bread, parmigiano reggiano, micro arugula, aged balsamic, truffle caviar, quail egg yolk."  We asked if they could prepare this without the cheese (I can't recall ever having it adorned with cheese in Piemonte, but I'm a bit allergic).
The glass of Prosecco was nice and mildly fragrant.
We also asked for an order of Vitello Tonnato ($14) described on the menu thusly: "Slow roasted certified Piedmontese veal eye of round, Sicilian tuna sauce, capers essence and lemon zests."  

We wanted this followed by two of their pasta dishes, Pappardelle ($16.50) which is "Long wide pasta, organic hen of woods mushrooms, beef reduction. parsley and Grana Padano."  We wanted it without the cheese.

The next dish on our list was the Agnolotti di Lidia ($13.50) which is "Traditional Piedmontese style stuffed pasta with beef shank, flat iron, pork loin, sausage, escarole, spinach, parmigiano and a beef reduction."

The waiter looked dismayed by our request to have these dishes staged, so everything did not arrive simultaneously.
It seems he was more interested in having us eat & run, while we were hoping to have a nice dining experience.

We ordered two glasses of wine, as well, tasting their Abbazia di Novacella Kerner from the Alto Adige ($12) and the Ca' Rossa Arneis "Merica" for $12.50.
The Kerner was typically floral and fruity while the Arneis was a more subdued, quiet dry white...The server brought the two bottles and quickly poured these at the table, a protocol we endorse.

If you want bread, you have to ask for it.  They do not volunteer this.  We asked and it came with a nice, mildly 

The Battuta was quite good...and a lovely presentation of Piemonte's Carne Cruda. The Vitello Tonnato was also appealing to the eye and delicious.  The tuna sauce was a bit thicker than we've usually enjoyed in Piemonte.

Next they brought the Pappardelle which was cooked perfectly.  The mushrooms and sauce was a lovely little soulful symphony.
The Agnolotti were good, but possibly not quite cooked to al dente as the pasta dough seemed a bit chewier than the puffy little pillows we enjoy in Piemonte.  But these were still pretty good.

We had placed a bottle of a nice Sangiovese on the table by this stage and the server brought more stemware to the table.  They use the fairly large "Bordeaux/Cabernet" glass...might these have been Stölzle like the sparkling wine flutes?  In any case, they use good stemware.
We invited our server to bring a glass for himself and he did.
At about this point in the meal, somewhere between 9:45 and 10pm, we got another blast of some sort of industrial cleaning product.  Were they washing the floors with something hugely aromatic, we wondered.  My friend got up from the table and pushed their front door open in hopes of eliminating this distraction.

The restaurant was emptying out and as we finished our main courses, we were the last guests.
The Brasato ($27.50) is a "5-hour braised flat iron, Italian polenta, organic hen of woods mushrooms with a Nebbiolo reduction."  This was delicious and the polenta was especially good.  My friend opted for the Maialino ($28.50), described on the menu thusly:  "a 13-hour slow cooked Stone Valley Farm suckling pig, caramelized apple, corn, green onions, balsamic."  I had a bite and it, too, was very good.

We were enjoying the main plates and at some point the server stopped by and we mentioned the chlorine and other cleaning product.

We were politely scolded by this fellow who told us that Belotti is a simple, neighborhood trattoria.  We were advised that if we wanted to have a multi-course meal, booking  an earlier table would be a better option.

He and the kitchen crew we more intent on closing the doors and going home than they were in sticking around much after closing time and serving customers.  

The day after we dined there, I checked on Open Table to see what the latest reservations they offered on a Monday night (since they're closed Tuesdays).  Here's what we found:

Tables are available, in case you can read the small print, at 9:30, 9:45 and 10pm!

We wrapped up dinner around 10:25 and paid the bill.
I don't recall if they offered us desserts...I don't think so.  Their on-line menu shows Panna Cotta and Tiramisu at $8 each.

The fellow brought us a small glass and poured a nice little Amaro from the Sibona distillery, a nice gesture.

The bill tallied $167 with the $20 corkage fee and tax.  The server may have forgotten to charge us for the two glasses of white wine as those were not on the bill.  But he neglected to say he had comped those pours.

My friend was not enthusiastic to leave the fellow a generous tip and, having booked a table in the coming weeks, was having second thoughts about returning.  

Though Belotti is getting good reviews from many people, if it's going to be a "destination" restaurant, they'll need to be more hospitable to their customers who arrive in their final hours of dinner service.
Otherwise, they will be merely a "neighborhood" restaurant with probably a limited future.

Reviewed by GW
October 2016



888 Brannan Street
San Francisco

TEL: 415-430-6580

Lunch Mon-Fri 11:30-2:30
Dinner: Mon-Sat from 5:30pm

A display of Jamón Iberico

Jamón Iberico with toasted bread and tomate fresco

Pan with tomate fresco

The Amejas with curiously empty clam shells and a pickled, vinegary assortment of clams, potato bits and onions.

The Musicians

Decanting our 1997 bottle of Alion

The divided Paella Pan.

The Soccarat, properly crusty...

We had attended a trade wine tasting at this new restaurant and it looked promising, so we ventured there early in the week in September of 2016.
We found parking on the street about a block away in a sketchy zone of a homeless encampment.

My dining companion selected the date, but she neglected to reserve a table, so we were seated at a sort of elevated table near the bar. It's quite popular presently and so booking ahead is advised.  A menu and wine list had been presented.

The wine list is entirely Spanish, so if you're looking for a California Zinfandel or Chardonnay, you are out of luck.  The wine list is beautifully designed to pair with the food and it offers a good range of pricing, too.

We found two sparkling wines, 7 white wines and 6 reds available by-the-glass (BTG).  There are 22 Sherry selections by the glass and a few more by the bottle.

There are about 40 white wines available by the bottle.  A bottle of Vevi Verdejo from the Rueda region is $28, while a Gran Reserva from Lopez Heredia, their Tondonia, is $1800 for a 1973 vintage.  Albariños range from $34 a bottle to $96.  But $30-$75 will get you a good bottle of Spanish white and there are numerous offerings costing north of $100.
With about 4 dozen red selections, prices range from $30 for a Tinto Joven from the Rioja upwards to $3180 for a 1961 Lopez Heredia Tondonia Gran Reserva.
You can drink well for $40 to $100, though.

Prices are roughly twice retail, which used to be fairly standard, but these days it seems to be rare in favor of 400% mark-ups.

The place was quite busy and some musicians were tuning up nearby.  This was a bit distracting and adding to the cacophony.  I wondered what was in store musically, but it turns out these guys played beautifully!   We were treated to upbeat Flamenco/Gypsy tunes.  Some of the people were dancing, adding to the frantic dining scene.

It was unclear who was the server for our table, but finally a fellow stopped by and we ordered two glasses of Lustau Fino Sherry "Obregon" ($12).  It took more than a few minutes, but finally we were brought two glasses of a rather dark colored Sherry.  I asked to see the bottle and a while later the fellow brought Lustau's Almacenista "Fino del Puerto" Obregon Sherry to the table.  This could not have been what we were served though...and when we paid the bill, we were charged not $12 but $16 for the Amontillado Sherry.

We ordered a few starters.  Pan ($5) is toasted Spanish styled bread with tomate fresco, garlic and olive oil.  It's a small container of puréed tomatoes and delicious on the fantastic, chewy bread.   Bellota, $30, is about an ounce and a half of thinly-sliced Iberico's a bit extravagant, but was outstanding.  It, too, comes with the tomate sauce.
They have 5 "mar y montaña" offerings.  Individual-sized servings are $11 and you can choose from oysters, clams, sablefish, octopus or beef.  
We opted for one described thusly:  Almeja--poached seasonal clam with pimenton, potato, cippolini.  This comes in a jar or glass nestled in ice and some clam shells and parsley on the side.  Some thinly sliced bread accompanies this.  We were both shocked to find the potatoes and onions, etc., to be pickled.  The level of vinegar here was a bit of a surprise.
Also surprising were the two clam shells in the ice.  These were empty!  Luckily they forgot to adorn the dish with potato peelings and onion skins.

Perusing the wine list, we ordered a half liter carafe of Lopez Heredia's 2006 Gravonia, a lovely dry white wine. It's $15 BTG, $40 for a half liter and $60 for a bottle.
This they got right.

There are five paellas on the menu, ranging in price from $36 to $45.  If you want to have them make a divided pan with two different types of paella, that's $55.
Well, we wanted to try two so we splurged on the "upcharge" for the divided paella.  One side was called Pluma with acorn-fed Iberico pork shoulder, Jamón Iberico, saffron, garbanzo and squash.  The other was called Fideua and is a paella of rice & noodle, "the S.F. treat," gulf shrimp, scallop, green bean, squid & ink.
It takes about 30 to 40 minutes for this and the paellas were very good.
I can't say I detected the use of saffron, though.
They were nicely crusty with the soccarat sort of burnt onto the bottom of pan. A friend had said he'd dined here and the only problem was the burnt rice.  I explained that's typical and not viewed as a flaw.

We had a nicely aged bottle of Tempranillo in the cellar bag and a fellow stopped by to decant the bottle.  He did a fine job and we offered him a taste.  There were suitable, larger stems brought out for this.  The corkage fee is $30, by the way and there's a two bottle maximum.

We were joined after dinner by a friend who works late and we had more of the Bellota.  We ordered a bottle of Conde de Hervias "Torre" Rioja from the 2010 vintage.  That was $92 and it's excellent.  It retails for $45-$50.

Our late-arriving guest wanted some sort of sweet Sherry afterwards.  But while their main wine list and menu have all sorts of Sherries, none are sweet or after-dinner Sherry.
Again we flagged down a Bellota staffer and they DO have a number of good selections on the dessert card.

The bill for the two of us tallied to $204 before the tip and they kindly comped the corkage fee.
The additional Bellota, Rioja, Sherries and desserts must have tallied to another $210, or so.

The place is new and quite busy.  To reserve a table, go directly to their web site and they are linked to Open Table.  But if you go to Open Table's web site, Bellota does not seem to come up.

Overall this was a good meal with a couple of hiccups.  We look forward to returning, though.

Reviewed by GW
September 2016


We have not posted many new reviews this Summer, but it's not because we have not been dining out.
We've actually had visitors from overseas and have taken them to some of our favorite haunts (La Ciccia, NOPA, Blue Plate and Marlowe) in San Francisco.
Even Italian visitors, who cringe when they dine in most restaurants trying to replicate Cucina Italiana, find the food at La Ciccia to be sublime.  
Visitors have been unanimous in their admiration for the food at NOPA, Marlowe and Blue Plate.  

We've been to Yank Sing for Dim Sum a number of times.  Hard to beat, even if it is a bit pricey.

We are fans of San Mateo's 31st Union and out-of-towners and locals alike have enjoyed both lunch and dinner there.  

If you've not had lunch at Johnston's Saltbox in San Carlos, go treat yourself there...we're fans of their marvelous Ribeye Burger.

We've enjoyed stops at Tartine Bakery on the way to winery visits up north...they make the best Croissant in the world...any French bakery would be proud of such artistry.  If you don't know the Marla Bakery out on Balboa in The City, that place does a good job, too.
A Sunday morning stop at The Mill on Divisadero in The City was good, but certainly expensive. It's a shared space with Four Barrel Coffee and Josey Baker's breads, plus Neighbor Bakehouse items and Anthony's Cookies.

We had a fabulous dinner at Burlingame's Sakae restaurant.  It's a Japanese-themed place which pays attention to detail from everything from sourcing good, fresh food to a beautiful presentation and great service.  It's not much of a venue for wine at the moment, so we have not posted a review.  We had very good sushi, for one thing.  But other dishes were exceptional including Artichoke Tempura (made with FRESH artichokes and featuring halved artichoke bottoms done as Tempura and arranged on perfectly steam, succulent artichoke leaves).  We also had wonderful grilled lamb chops that had been marinated in miso and sake.  

GW August 2016



100 Grand Avenue

Tel: 510-907-7555

Lunch Tues-Fri 11:30-2:30
Dinner: Closed Mondays with
Seasonal Hours


A Popper

Soft Shell Crab

Marrow Bones






An East Bay foodie friend had mentioned AlaMar and we booked a Thursday evening table on an early August evening.
The drive from Burlingame was impacted by late commute-hour traffic and we were close to on time for our 8:00 reservation.  There is a parking structure close to the restaurant but I found on-street parking about a block away.

The restaurant was hopping when I arrived and my friend was already enjoying a glass of wine.
I don't believe wine glasses are part of the table setting at AlaMar and the wine  program at this place is simple.
All the wines cost $12 for a glass and $46 for a bottle.
The menu is predominantly seafood.
There are 2 sparkling wines, one from Argentina and one from Spain.

Bueyes is a Brut Rosé from Argentina which retails for around $19-$20.  The Spanish Cava of Avinyo retails for $17-$18.

We found six white wines to choose from.  Garenne Sancerre retails for $25 and there are descriptions for each wine to help guide guests.  The Sancerre is described as having "Flavors of bright melon, warm pineapple, notes of eucalyptus and green tea."
Aphros Vino (sic) Verde Loureiro Ten, which retails for $17, is described as "Flavors of kefir (sic) lime and orange peel, notes of chalk and green grass."
There's a nice Godello from A. Coroa, along with Filipe (sic) Pato Vinho Branco 2013, a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc called Middle Earth and a Chardonnay listed as "Chloine Vineyard" from California.  I wondered if that might be Chalone?  An internet search for "Chloine" brings up a bunch of links to sites with the word "chlorine."

They have half a dozen red selections and these are not especially ground-breaking selections in my view.  There was a Hearst Ranch California Cabernet from Paso Robles, a Barbera from the Urban Legend winery (a winery located in Oakland), Luca Pinot Noir from Argentina, a Viamonte Malbec from Argentina, Hahn's GSM (Grenache/Syrah and Mourvèdre) and a Project Paso "Lonely Oak Red Blend."  

My friend was sipping on the Aphros Vinho Verde when I arrived...a nice, mildly stony dry white.  I ordered a glass of the Godello and this was similarly styled.

We ordered their Blue Crab Poppers to start ($10) and these are made with Crab from Maine and they incorporate Shishito Peppers and Black Radishes.  It's accompanied by a Shishito Pepper Aioli.  Quite good.

There was a soft shell crab special that evening and we ordered that...served on an arugula salad with sliced peaches.

We couldn't resist trying the Roasted Bone Marrow ($16) which were three large bones accompanied by Moroccan Chermoula, Sourdough Crostini made with Spanish Anchovies on a bed of Arugula...outstanding!

By this time we needed a bit more wine so I placed a bottle of Wirsching's Scheurebe on the table.  This worked beautifully with the cuisine and we actually polished off the bottle rather quickly.

Manila Clams with Chorizo and Habañero Spiced Eureka Lemon Pepper ($22) or Mussels with Saffron, Prime Smoked Bacon Lardons, Orange Bitters, Ancho Chili, Thai Basil and Toy Box Tomatoes ($20) was a difficult call, but we thought the Mussels sounded more interesting.
And it was a delicious bowl of shellfish!
You can understand how the wine disappeared so quickly.

AlaMar offered a Whole Chili Crab at "market price."  This is described as having Sambal, Rosemary-Infused Madras Curry, Coconut Cream and Organic Zucchini. But on this evening they had sold out the crab and so we had to make do with Lobster!
It was around $50, if I recall correctly.
 Before this came to the table, the Chef strolled over to us to present a little "extra," a beautiful Coconut Sorbet as a palate cleanser...very nice and quite flavorful.

The Lobster was beautiful and delicious.  It's a bit messy to deal with but we had a hot cloth to clean up afterwards.


At this stage dessert was not necessary but we did look at the menu offerings.  There's a Sorbet of the Week ($5), Green Apple Flan ($8), A Dark Chocolate Mousse Cake ($8) or Malasadas (Portuguese doughnuts).  Several dessert wines are available, including Eberle Muscat ($5) or Dashe Late Harvest Zinfandel ($10).

We departed after 2+ hours of a memorable meal and they did not hustle us out the door despite our being there past the closing hour.

The bill tallied to about $189 before the tip.

We look forward to a return visit to AlaMar (and my dining companion told me she has already been back!).

Reviewed By GW
August 2016



531 Jackson Street
San Francisco

TEL: 415-772-0922

Open Mon-Thurs 5:30-10:30
Fri-Sat 5:30-11
Sun 5:30-10

Smoked Salmon Salad

Tomato Soup with Burrata

Firebrand Bread...served only upon request


Corn Risotto

Beef Short Rib

Crispy-Skinned Striped Bass

Devil's Food Cake with Vanilla Ice Cream and Peanut Butter Mousse

Chèvre Cheesecake with Strawberries

Some friends were so delighted with dinner at this little San Francisco restaurant, they booked a Sunday night table for us.
It's on the corner of Columbus and Jackson Streets.  There's a garage a few doors from the restaurant, but as it was closing at 11pm and we had a 9:15 reservation, we looked for parking on the street...and found a spot across Columbus, just east of Trestle.

The restaurant seats perhaps 48-50 people and on a holiday weekend, the place was packed.  We were seated a few minutes after our reservation time as they don't hustle people out the door.

We were shown to a 4-top along the east wall.  No wine glasses are on the table as a place setting.  The wine list is part of the board on which you will find the menu.

They have a nice list of wines and beers.  They do not serve cocktails, as they do not have a liquor license.

We perused the list and found a well-conceived spectrum of wines.
There is one bubbly by-the-glass (BTG), a Jacquère from France's Savoie region at $14 BTG and $56 for a bottle.  Four white wines are available and one Rosé are offered.  Five reds are available BTG, including a Beaujolais from the village of Chènas at $13 BTG and $52 for a bottle.  A Mencía from Spain is $10 BTG and $40 for a bottle, while a Lacrima di Morro d'Alba is $13 and $52 for a bottle.
The bottle list is deeper and features good selections and some of the currently fashionable wines aimed at the "hipster" market.
There is a German Riesling from Julien Haart, a quite obscure producer of good quality ($48).  There's an Aligoté from Cruchandeau at $38, while a Breton Vouvray is $40.  Amongst the reds, we find Failla Pinot Noir at $50, along with a Produttori del Barbaresco "Nebbiolo Langhe" at $40. Storybook Mountain Napa Zinfandel is $49, while Ramey Claret goes for $50.
Under the heading of "Refined and Splurge Worthy" we find Albert Boxler's Grand Cru Brand Pinot Gris at $90.  A 2007 Corton-Charlemagne from Bonneau du Martray is well-priced at $170, while a too-young-too-drink 2012 Vietti Barolo is well-priced at $75.  A Michel Gros Vosne-Romanée "Clos des Reas" is $134.
Corkage is a sensible $20 fee.

The beer list here is remarkable...all sorts of connoisseur-quality selections.  A neighboring table ordered a beer and the server presented it much like the proper presentation of a wine.  

We ordered a glass of two different white wines.  One is a Rioja Blanco made of a white clone of Tempranillo ($10) and the other is a Bonny Doon Picpoul at $9 a pour.  The glasses were presented without us seeing the bottles, as they brought two large "Cabernet"-styled glasses.  The wines were served at a very low temperature and the Tempranillo did not show as well as I've experienced it in the past.  Even as it warmed, it was a bit dull.  The Picpoul, on the other hand, was surprisingly good!

The menu is very limited and it changes daily.  It's a $35 menu with a $10 supplement if you want an additional course.  
For a starter, we had the choice of a Smoked Salmon Salad with a Tzatziki dressing (this is made of yogurt) or a Tomato Soup with Burrata.
Another friend with whom I dine had mentioned Trestle as a possible dining spot, but each time I'd viewed the menu, it seemed to always feature cheese/yogurt-themed dishes and I'm simply not a fan of those.

On our visit, the options for an additional course were a Corn Risotto with Truffles and Grana Padano or a Pappardelle with Chinese Cauliflower,  Prosciutto and a Poached Egg.
We asked if they could prepare those options without cheese, but the server said they both were prepared ahead and they each had cheese.

What's curious, though, is when you place your order, they ask if anyone has any food allergies.  I wonder why, since they were unable to navigate around my food phobias!

They did make a Salmon Salad without the yogurt sauce.  The salmon was a bit bland for being smoked or, possibly, the pickled vegetables in the mix overpowered the salmon.
This also had some shaved fennel, which is a good match, but a tiny criticism would be the mandolin was set a smidge too thick making the fennel a bit tough.  It's a minor complaint, to be sure.
I did stick a fork in each of my friend's mid-plates.  The Pappardelle did not seem to have a noticeable level of cheese in it and the pasta was perfectly silky and delicious.  The Risotto was also very good with the corn providing an intense flavor...

We produced a bottle of red from our cellar bag. and the server brought three large stems and these were identical to those used for the white wines.  He grabbed the bottle of Cabernet and opened it, pouring the say as is proper protocol.  

The main plates were excellent.  I had a taste of the Crispy Skinned Striped Bass with Couscous and this was as described and delicious.  The Braised Beef Short-Rib with Yukon Gold Potatoes and Chanterelles was also quite good.  The portions are perhaps a bit small unless you've ordered the risotto or pasta.

We also asked for a serving of bread, Firebrand, which is only served by request.  We received one slice for each and it was buttered and served hot off the grill.

We had pretty much finished the main plates when three glasses of Marenco's Moscato d'Asti were presented, on the house, to say "thanks for waiting for your table."  This is a very nice gesture, of course.
One person ordered the Chèvre Cheesecake with Candied Pistachios, Strawberries and Rose Streusel.  I had the Chocolate Devil's Food with mint powder, vanilla ice cream and Peanut Butter Mousse (which I suspect had cream cheese as its base).

The place is busy and a bit cramped.  The music was sometimes noticeable and sometimes merely covering the din of the crowd.

I'd consider a return visit, but would be much more enthusiastic if they could accommodate the cheese/yogurt phobia I have.
In terms of value, this place is a winner.

Reviewed by GW
July 2016



344 El Camino Real
San Carlos

Tel: 650-654-0882


Lunch Tues-Fri: 11:30-2:30
Dinner Tues-Sun 5-9pm

Corn Muffin




Shrimp Etouffee


French Silk Pie


Post-cinema dining on a Sunday, we booked a table for two at this venerable restaurant on El Camino near the San Carlos/Belmont border.

The restaurant was about half-full at 7pm and it has seating for perhaps 50, or so, guests.  We were shown to a window table for two.  The menu is a two-sided document with the wine list, if you want to call it that, occupying a small portion of a page.
No wine glasses are on the table as part of the place-settings.

The wine list is short and sweet.  Nine offerings.  Take it or leave it!

There's Dibon's Cava from Spain at $9 by-the-glass (BTG) or $36 for a bottle.  This is a ten buck retail bottle, typically.
There's a little Spanish white made of the Palomino grape, Barbadillo's Fina...It's $8 BTG and $30 by the bottle.
They offer a 2013 Losen-Bockstanz Riesling at $8 BTG and $30 for a bottle.  Listel Rosé from France, a big production wine, is also $8 BTG and $30.  Franciscan Napa Chardonnay is $11 BTG and $38 while a Sanford Chardonnay is $40 per bottle.
They have but three red wine choices for you...a Pinot Noir from Oregon made by Joseph Wagner, the fellow who founded the Meiomi brand (and sold it for $315 Million!!!), called Elouan is $12 BTG and $42 for a bottle.  There's a terrific Rioja called Solar de Libano for $9 BTG and $30/bottle, while "Benzinger" (sic) Cabernet is $12 BTG and $42 by the bottle.
That's it. Wine is clearly not a priority here.  
We I organizing the selections, I'd offer some crisp, tangy Sauvignon Blancs on this list, a similarly youthful, snappy, more serious Rosé, some fresh, berryish Zinfandel, Grenache and Syrah...chillable reds to pair with the cuisine.
The corkage fee is nicely gentle at $15, so bring your own!

The menu features all sorts of Louisiana specialties, short of alligator dishes.  There are seven appetizers, two soups and a salad.  
Main plate selections number 9 or 10.  These can all be ordered a la carte.
They have a 3 course set menu called "Monday's Feast" which is available every day.  It starts with soup or salad, then Red Beans & Rice, followed by dessert.
The real deal is the $35 prix-fixe menu...a choice of an appetizer, followed by soup or salad, a main plate and dessert.

We began with a $9 glass of bubbly, presented in a flute stem.  This was good and a terrific start to our evening.  The server brought a small bowl with hot cornbread, another fine welcome.
I chose the Crayfish Hushpuppies to begin, while my guest had an Beef Empanada.
We both had the Seafood Gumbo, a modest-sized serving of delicious brown soup with little bits of Shrimp and Andouille Sausage.  The menu indicates it has crab, but I don't recall encountering that.
Her main dish was the Shrimp & Crawfish Etouffee with Jasmine Rice.  As we were finishing our Gumbo, the server came by saying they were out of the prawns that comprise that dish.  They punted, though, at her request, and made this with smaller-sized shrimp.  This tasted fine to me, but I can see it would have been better with the originally-intended prawns.
My main plate was their version of Jambalaya.  This was like Louisiana "paella" or New Orleans "Fried Rice."  It's a hefty serving of rice with bits of Tasso Ham, Andouille Sausage and a modest-sized piece of nicely-spiced roasted chicken.
We had produced a bottle of wine from our cellar bag and the server brought an ice bucket to further chill the Sauvignon Blanc.  He brought two good stems, as well.
The main plates had us a the "full" stage, but we soldiered on with dessert.  Probably should have tried the Beignets, but was enchanted by the French Silk Pie, described as Light Chocolate Mousse and a Vanilla Wafer Crust.
I expected something like a slice of pie...

Instead they brought a smallish, single-serving disk topped with a mass of whipped cream...still pretty good, though.

We skipped coffees or after-dinner drinks.
The bill tallied to $93 before the tip.

This was a wonderful meal with good vittles and nice service.

We'll definitely be heading back to try some of their other dishes such as the Buttermilk Brined Fried Chicken or the Cornmeal Crusted Catfish.

Reviewed by GW
June 2016




180 El Camino Real
Palo Alto
(on the Sand Hill Road side of the
Stanford Shopping Center)

Open Mon-Sat 11am-9pm
Sunday 11am-8pm




Pork Buns



Har Gow



Siu Mai




Asparagus with Shallots & Garlic




Chow Fun with Angus Rib-Eye



Roasted Duck "off the bone"...





Combine a Sunday with Father's Day and a Golden State Warriors' championship basketball game and you might expect difficulty in reserving a table.  But this was not the case for this Chinese dining spot located in Palo Alto's Stanford Shopping Center.

At 7pm we were given the choice of an outdoor table on a warm evening or indoor seating.  The hostess suggested indoors, as it was virtually empty.  That may have been good news except there was an agitated and loud toddler in the neighboring booth for the first 20 minutes were were there.

Wine glasses are part of the table setting and we were presented a menu and wine list.

The list offers 5 sparkling wines ranging from $9 to $20.  Lamberti Prosecco is $9 By-the-Glass (BTG), while a 187ml bottle of Segura Viudas Spanish Cava is similarly priced.
There are short descriptions of each BTG selection.  Cleto Chiarli's Brut de Noir Rosé Lambrusco ($11) is described as "Brilliant pale rose color with a palate of bright strawberry and luscious minerality. Italy's oldest and finest Lambrusco.  Awarded the Tre Bicchiere (sic)."
Well, Cleto Chiarli did win a Tre Bicchieri award in the 2016 Gambero Rosso wine guide, but not for this wine, but for its Fondatore Lambrusco di Sorbara.  Oops.
Charles de Cazanove Premier Cru Brut Champagne is $20 BTG.  They have two Rosés by the glass and 11 White Wines.  A sweet Moscato d'Asti, a wine we might know as a dessert wine, is the first selection on the white wine page and they even suggest it as an after dinner selection.  A Leitz "Dragonstone" Riesling ($12) is "Bright and juicy with a hint of sweetness that lingers on the palate with minerality drenched in flavors of stone fruit, candied orange, pineapple and spice.  The acidity is luscious! A real palate pleaser!"
Each wine is described in a tantalizing fashion and they build up one's expectations to a level greater than most of the wines can deliver.
They offer ten red wines by-the-glass.  Ridge "Three Valleys" Zinfandel from Sonoma is $16, while Eberle's Paso Robles Syrah is $15.
From their offerings by the bottle, there are six sparkling wines.  Segura Viudas Cava is $28, while a Lanson Brut Champagne is $85.
There are three Rosés, including a 2010 vintage from a California producer which is likely past its prime.  There are four Sauvignon Blancs, including a 2014 Preston from Sonoma at $39 and a 2011 Petroni (likely a bit old) from Sonoma at $45.
Under the heading of "Intriguing White and Aromatics," we again find the Moscato d'Asti at $39.  It's listed as a 2011 vintage which is rather old for Moscato.  There's a 2011 Grenache Blanc from Stark at $68 (the winery currently offers a 2014 vintage).  There are four Chardonnays with a price range of $45 to $51.  Why not offer a few wines of higher price and greater complexity?
They have 7 Pinot Noirs, most of which are a few vintages behind the currently available wines.  This suggests the restaurant doesn't move a lot of wine.
In fact, under the Cabernet and Bordeaux Varieties heading, we find Erba Napa Cabernet from the 2005 vintage at $63.  There's a Swanson Merlot from 2008 at $54.
They have a 2007 Petroni Rosso ($54) under the Syrah and Rhone Varietals category.  There's a 2008 Calstar Zinfandel  ($41) and a Stark 2011 Primitivo for $88.
Under the heading of "Exceptional Wines" we find a Chateau Montelena Calistoga Cabernet from 2010 at $90.  Caymus 2011 is $150 and a Silver Oak 2009 Alexander Valley Cabernet is $130.
We ordered a glass of a Vinho Verde made of Arinto ($9) and a glass of white wine appeared shortly after.  We have ranted about this routinely...the customer almost never sees the bottle of wine and it's taken on faith they've poured you the wine you ordered.

Corkage fee is $25 per bottle and there's a two bottle maximum per table.
I placed a bottle of a good Sauvignon Blanc on the table and the server asked if we wanted an ice bucket for it.  We did not.
"Should I bring glasses?"
Yes, please.
He looked at the bottle and seemed unsure of the next step.
We wanted him to open it.
"Could you find an opener and take the cork out of this bottle?" we asked.
He retrieved a corkscrew and finally opened it, but hesitated to pour the wine.
Clearly this fellow is not a very experienced waiter.

From there we ordered a few starters...they offer some items at dinner time which you'd normally encounter only at lunch: dim sum.  
Har Gow ($9) and Steamed Pork Buns ($8) were both delicious.  To preclude everything arriving at the table simultaneously, as it's routinely an issue in Chinese restaurants, we delayed ordering Siu Mai ($9) until after the first two items hit the table.
After ordering those, we asked for Sautéed Asparagus with Minced Garlic and Shallots ($10), Angus Rib-Eye Chow Fun ($19) and the Roast Duck Platter ($28 and $5 extra for soft Flour Buns).  The duck is described as "A generous portion of our Slow-Roasted Duck with the skin on and the bones out."
The Asparagus was cooked perfectly and quite good.  The Chow Fun noodles were nicely presented with some slices of beef (not sure if these were actually rib-eye) draped on top.  The Duck was mostly boneless, but there were two duck legs on the plate: one was devoid of meat and I thought my dining companion had eaten it.  But in looking at the snapshot of the plate as it was delivered, the leg was on the plate with 95% of the meat missing!

As the Asparagus arrived at the table, the server asked if we wanted anything else, like dessert!
I indicated we would see if we we still hungry in a bit, but he then informed me the kitchen was closing (7:40 on a Sunday night!).
No wonder the restaurant was not busy at 7pm.  Apparently most people know they close early. I missed the memo on that.

My friend wanted a clean plate after using the small one on the table for the dim sum.  A bus-person removed the plate and silverware.  We waited, as the food was sitting on the table.  One minute...two minutes...three minutes...finally I got up and swiped a place-setting from the neighboring table.  That busser never did return to our table!

The food was good.  If you like the music of Kenny G, the ambiance is good.  Stemware is good.

We noticed a few staffers were involved in closing procedures at this point in our visit.  They cleared our plates away and we were ready to depart.  Of course, since the kitchen had closed, dessert (which we rarely order anyway) was out of the question.  So was coffee.

You might think a crew so anxious to shut down the operation would be reasonably speedy about presenting the bill, but this did not happen either.  We waited a few minutes and finally stood up and ambled to the reception desk.  A fellow doing some janitorial work in the bar asked if he could help and we asked for the check.  The server immediately presented the tab and we paid the bill ($144 before the tip).

This was a nice place to dine after a movie, but if you're not here a couple of hours before closing, you might look for another dinner restaurant.  As Sunday cinema tends to offer a 4 to 5pm start time, that usually equates to a 6:30-7pm restaurant arrival hour.
You can guess we're not returning on a Sunday for dinner to Yucca de Lac, but it would be a perfectly acceptable option on any other day of the week if you arrive during that time frame...and you can deal with unpolished service.

Review by GW
June 2016



280 East Campbell Avenue

TEL: 408-374-5000

Open Daily at 4pm
Til 10 Sun-Wed
Til 11 Thurs-Sat



French Onion Soup


Caesar Salad with Sun-dried tomatoes and a sourdough "crouton"



New York Strip with Golden Onion Strings




House Cut Fries without their Parmesan and with Spicy Ketchup and their Lemon Aioli

The "naked" New York Strip

A friend of ours who lives in San Jose often posts on her Facebook page that she's dining at this little restaurant in downtown Campbell.

East Campbell Avenue seems to be a hotbed of culinary activity...there's a wonderful Austrian place (Naschmarkt) a block away and a couple of dining establishments next door to this place.

We booked a table on Memorial Day and arrived at 6:30 to find the place about two-thirds full with many people ensconced in the TV monitors showing the Sharks playing in for the NHL's Stanley Cup and the Golden State Warriors playing for their lives in the NBA division championship.

We found parking on a side street just a few steps from the restaurant.

The host escorted us to a nice four top (we were just two) and presented a one page menu.  The wine list and fancy cocktails and beer are listed on the reverse side of the document.  No wine glasses are on the table as they make a much higher percentage on mixed drinks than they do on the wine.
Of course, they may bank more dollars on a bottle of wine than on a couple of cocktails.

There are five sparkling wines on the list and each is available by-the-glass (BTG) or by the bottle.
Domaine Carneros Brut is $15 BTG or $38 by the bottle.  There seems to be a curious disparity, though: Veuve Clicquot, which wholesales typically, for much more than the Domaine Carneros, is $18 BTG and yet a bottle costs $88!
That's odd.

Eleven white wines are offered By The Glass and there are two other white choices available only by the bottle.  Yet four of those white wines are not available by the bottle, so I suspect these are poured from a keg.
Tieffenbruner (sic) Pinot Grigio is $10 BTG and $26 by the bottle.  Stags Leap (we don't know if it's Stags' Leap or Stag's Leap) Chardonnay, which wholesales for more than the Tiefenbrunner, is $9 BTG yet it's $35 for a bottle!
Miner Chardonnay is $15 BTG, while Rombauer's goes for $18.
Willard Hicks offers ten Pinot Noirs, with 6 of them available by-the-glass. Belcreme de Lys, a label from the Treasury Wine Estates company is $9 BTG and $24 for a bottle.  Decoy is $14 and $40 a bottle, while the same company's Goldeneye is $25 BTG and $85 by the bottle.  Two of the three Merlots on the list can be ordered BTG, while there's one Zinfandel available BTG.  Rombauer Merlot is $15 BTG or $56 by the bottle.  Predator Zinfandel from Lodi is $12 BTG and $35 a bottle.  There's a Seghesio Sonoma Zinfandel for $40, while Rombauer Zinfandel, if you have a sweet tooth, is $55.  Curiously they do not support Ridge Vineyards, a benchmark producer of Zinfandel whose winery is nearby in Cupertino.
Thirteen Cabernets are offered, with 5 being sold By The Glass. Ever heard of a brand called Notes? It's $8 a glass.  Smith & Hook is $12 BTG as is a brand called Uppercut.  Silver Oak's Alexander Valley Cabernet is $25 BTG and $92 per bottle.  BV Tapestry is $105 for a bottle and Opus One goes for $375.  
One odd thing is that the glass price doesn't often correspond to the bottle pricing.  A wine costing $10 for a glass goes for $26 a bottle, while a $9 glass pour is sold for $35 a bottle. A $15 glass pour is $55 by the bottle, but a $16 pour is $48 for a bottle.  
The list doesn't have many surprises.  They have their own private label called Christeni and there's a Cabernet Sauvignon, a blended red, a Pinot Noir and a Sauvignon Blanc.

They don't charge a corkage fee on a single bottle of wine, with a $15 charge for additional bottles.

Stemware is of good quality.

My friend ordered a Tanqueray Martini and said it was properly made.  I opted for a $12 glass of their Christeni Sauvignon Blanc.  It was well-made, but of ordinary quality...nothing special with a hint of varietal character.  We take it on faith that the wine ordered by the customer is the wine they bring.  That is, they do not bring the bottle to show the consumer...of course, for wines dispensed from a keg, how could they bring you the bottle?

The menu offers a dozen "Starters," 5 salads and two soups.  Starters includes Fried Green Tomatoes ($9), a Spicy Tuna Roll ($12), Crab Cakes ($14) and Coconut Crusted Shrimp ($16).  Salads go from $11 to $18 (more if you add Chicken, Beef or Prawns).
The menu indicates the salads are big enough to share.

Bread basket, perhaps?
Willard Hicks serves no bread, so don't plan on having this while you're waiting.

My dining companion has a weakness for French Onion Soup ($9) and she said it was excellent.  I started with their "The Caesar" $11 which has a red chipotle dressing.  It's artistically presented but with something like 6 or 8 hearts of Romaine leaves, I'm not sure it's THAT large to split it.  The salad, though, was good.

With a couple of sporting events on their flat-screen monitors, there were periodic cheers and jeers as the local teams were battling in their respective playoff series.  Otherwise, there's a nice ambience to this place...there are a few tables outside along the sidewalk, if you're so inclined.

I placed a bottle of a red wine on the table as we were having our starters and the server came by and asked if we wanted him to open it...Yes!  He brought a couple of nice stems and set about opening the bottle.  He asked if he should serve it immediately or "if we should let it breathe?"
I inquired what that would do and he was, in fact, a bit lost on the subject apart from knowing it is sometimes part of the mystical ritual of wine drinking.
He poured, finally, the "say" and I took a sniff to see if it was was not.  Then he poured the wine...I had to get him to stop pouring, as I felt a glass one-third full was sufficient and he was going for the half-way mark or more.

We each ordered a steak, since the menu says they use a wood fire.  They must have been out chopping up a tree (or something) because the time between them clearing the starters and bringing the main plates was long.  The place wasn't that busy, but we figured perhaps the kitchen crew was watching the games, too.

After about 15 to 20 minutes the steaks arrived.  Hers was their "Signature Peppercorn New York Strip (Black Angus), doused in a brandy and peppercorn "glace," topped with Golden Onion Strings" ($34).  She ordered it without the peppercorns.  The waiter suggested she get the regular New York strip, but she wanted the Golden Onion Strings.  Then she bitched that the onion strings were not hot...
Sometimes you can't win.

I ordered their regular 14 ounce New York Strip ($32) which comes with a choice of a side dish.  I went with the House Cut Fries.  Most of the sides include cheese or are sweet (Maple Sweet Potato Mash, for example).
The steak arrived "naked" on a plate.   Just the steak.  Not anything else like a garnish of parsley or a lettuce leaf or something...just a lonely New York strip.
It was quite good, though and well-priced for the quality.  The "fries" were log-shaped potato pieces stacked like, well, Lincoln Logs!  Perfectly okay, but I had hoped for more normal Fries.

The bill tallied to $117 with the tax and before the tip.

We enjoyed the meal, though and that little section of Campbell is a cool business district.

We will certainly make a return visit to this dining spot, especially if we're taking in a movie in the South Bay.

Reviewed by GW
May 2016




615 Balboa Street
San Francisco

TEL: 415-379-8988

Open Tues-Thurs 6-9
Fri-Sat 6-9:30


Amuse Bouche 1...Asparagus in a Caesar Vinaigrette


Amuse Bouche 2...a Crab "cake" in a creamy soup.




Roasted Beet and Cardamom Carrot Salad with Laura Chenel Goat Cheese in a Phyllo triangle


Shrimp Fritter & Chip


Seared Foie Gras


Salmon topped with a Corn & Brioche "custard" and festooned with arugula.

Braised Short Rib with a Maine Diver Scallop



 A customer at Weimax had mentioned this place to me one day, so I took a peek at their web site and it looked interesting.

We finally made a reservation and had dinner there on a Thursday night in May.  It's on Balboa in San Francisco, maybe 5 or 6 blocks east of Park Presidio Boulevard.  The neighborhood is mostly residential and the restaurant seems to occupy three former retail storefronts.  There's a laundromat next door.  Otherwise, there are apartments in this area.  Good luck finding parking!

We entered and there's a small bar by the entrance with a display of interesting bottles of wine.  We heard the owner telling his wife they could only accommodate those with walk-ins at this point in time (it was 8pm).  And, in fact, we saw them turn away some people who had not reserved a table.

This seemed a bit strange, but there's a method to their madness and unlike so many dining spots, these folks are not greedy and looking to fleece the customer.

Here's a quote from their web site:
The Richmond is a small family owned restaurant.   Our goal is to deliver upscale food with personalized service.  With this mission in mind, my wife and I are only taking limited nightly reservations.  The focus at The Richmond Restaurant is on “individual diners”, not volume.  We are trying to create an environment in which it’s like coming to our house for a dinner party.  Please be our special guests. 

We were shown to a table in one of the front alcoves with a view of the street, but curtained off from the rest of the restaurant.  In fact, there are seven little dining areas, each one being curtained off from the rest of the place.  This is part of their idea of providing a calm, pleasant and personalized meal.

With the menu, there's a little wine list of several pages.
We found six red and six white wines by-the-glass (BTG). No sparkling wine is offered by the glass, though.
Amongst the whites, there's a California Chenin Blanc called Blue Plate from Clarksburg-area fruit.  That's $7 BTG, while Gallo's "William Hill" Chardonnay is $8.  Dr. Loosen's "L" Riesling from Germany's Mosel region is $9.  A Yorkville Cellars Sauvignon Blanc is $10 and Palmina's Arneis from California is $12.
Red selections are somewhat more interesting, with an Easton Zinfandel costing $12 and Wilfrid Rousse's delightful Chinon being the same price.  A La Follette Pinot is $12.  Gallo's Don Miguel Gascon Malbec is $9.
The list of bottles of sparkling wines features some worthy selections.  Gruet's Brut sparkler from New Mexico is $25.  And that's a full bottle, not a half!  Roederer Estate Brut is $39.  Louis Roederer's Brut Premier Champagne is $82, while Krug's Grande Cuvée is $295.  The current vintage of Dom Perignon is $275 and Roederer's Cristal is $450.
You'll find 15 Chardonnay selections.  Au Bon Climat's basic Chardonnay is just $32 and Drouhin's basic Chablis is just $35.  Mount Eden's Santa Cruz Mountains Chardonnay is $89 and Ramey's Platt Vineyard is $95.  Littorai is $110 and Aubert, another winery which is allergic to selling its precious wines to retail shops is $130.
They have a handful of Rieslings from dry to slightly sweet.  Trimbach's is $37.  
Does any restaurant in the Bay Area offer a decent bottle of Sauvignon Blanc for $19?  None except The Richmond!  Pomelo, a wine made by Randy Mason, is a mere $19.  Raptor Ridge Pinot Gris is gently-priced at $27.  Peter Michael's Sauvignon Blanc is $79.
Fourteen Pinot Noirs are offered, with Rhys "San Mateo County" costing $79, while Chehalem's Three Vineyards is $49.  There are 16 Cabernets or Bordeaux-styled blends.  Chappellet's Signature Cabernet is $95, Ramey Claret is $52 and a 2011 Outpost from Howell Mountain is $120.
You can select some Merlot or Cabernet Franc wines, as well as some Rhone-styled blends. Monardiere's Vacqueyras is $37.  Green & Red Zinfandel is also $37.  

The corkage fee is $20, by the way and the stemware is of good quality.

We ordered a bottle of Maximin Grünhauser 2014 Qba Riesling Trocken ($34).  It was a good choice and sufficiently versatile to pair with the tasting menu we ordered.

There's a Three Course menu for $36 and a Five Course "Tasting" menu for $67.50.  Everyone at the table, though, must sign up for one or the other.  The three course option allows each person to select from the menu.  The Five Course is a more "set" menu.  Though they note "no substitutions" for this, I informed them of a food allergy (cheese) and they tweaked the couple of courses which included cheese.

And, of course, the various menu items may be ordered "a la carte."

A few minutes after ordering, the fellow returned to the table with an Amuse Bouche of Asparagus Spears adorned with a bit of Prosciutto, little croutons and capers.  Mine came without the Piave cheese.  A nice start!

A second Amuse Bouche was presented...a sort of Crab Fritter in a pool of a velvety soup...Also quite good and the Riesling paired well.

The Richmond's bread plate includes three butter options, two flavored and one plain.

The show then got rolling with the first course, a Roasted Beet and Cardamom Carrot Salad with some Laura Chenel Goat Cheese in a Phyllo Triangle.  But to get around the cheese issue, they brought me a Shrimp Fritter with a Shrimp Chip instead.  

Kicking it into high gear, the next course was a generous slice of Seared Foie Gras on pain perdu and accompanied by some roasted apples cut into tiny dice.  Oh my!  This was wonderful!


This was followed by a small piece of beautifully cooked Salmon, topped with a Corn & Brioche custard and adorned with arugula in an herbed vinaigrette.  


We were still enjoying the Riesling, but put our bottle of 20 year old Bordeaux on the table.  By this time we were fully introduced to our chef/server/owner, John Owyang.  He managed to extract the cork from our bottle and brought fresh, larger stemware for the red wine.


The salmon was followed by a Red Wine-Braised Short-rib topped with a Maine Diver Scallop.  This is served on a bed of a creamy polenta which has cheese in it, so my plate arrived with mashed potatoes instead.
Thank you! 
Very good, too, by the way.



We had a bit of wine and we lingered over that for a bit before dessert hit the table.  This was "Coffee Semifreddo."  A coffee cup was filled with Coffee Ice Cream and Coffee Granita and sprinkled with little bits of Almond Brittle and anointed with cream.



Mr. Owyang was apologetic for their service, but we found no fault on that score.  Apparently they were a bit out of sorts when one party arrived significantly late for their reservation and another group came earlier-than-expected.
Apparently the restaurant prefers to book each reservation about 30 minutes apart to be able to prepare each table's orders in a well-paced and comfortable fashion.

This place is serious in offering guests a memorable dining experience.  Unlike so many San Francisco Bay Area restaurants which have tables crammed together and where they hustle you in and hustle you out, The Richmond is totally different!

The ambiance is comfortable and, as noted earlier in this review, tables are curtained off from one another, for the most part.  We appreciated the music being played, too...mildly jazzy along with some classic pop tunes.  

The bill tallied to $184 as they did not charge us the corkage fee.

We left a nice tip, of course and look forward to returning to this wonderful culinary oasis in The Richmond!

Reviewed by GW
May 2016



565 Bryant Street
Palo Alto

Tel: 650-521-0651

Dinner Tues-Thurs 5-9
Fri-Sat 5-10

The wine list is on a computer and each wine has its own description, with a tasting note composed by owner/sommelier Guillaume Bienaime.

Pâté de Campagne


We ordered the steak and the kitchen was savvy enough to serve this plated individually.
Very fine and thoroughly delicious.


Salade de Fruits Rouge
and a glass of Moscato d'Asti

Downtown Palo Alto, even on a Tuesday night, is bustling with activity.  Fortunately, there's a parking garage a half a block away from this restaurant.

We arrived around 7pm and the restaurant was about half occupied.  The hostess escorted us to a two-top and presented a one-sheet menu and a wine list.  There were no wine glasses as part of the table setting and the place does not offer cocktails.

This is Silicon Valley country, the land of high tech, so it should not be surprising the wine list is on a computer tablet!
I'm sure they offer wines "by the glass," but in perusing their wine list, I missed these.  There are no indications of by-the-glass offerings as a sub-heading or category on the computerized list, nor did I note these on their dinner menu.

The list is quite good, though, with excellent selections and sufficient range to complement the cuisine.
There are a few major categories: Top Picks being owner Guillaume Bienaime's favorite offerings.  There's "The List" and there's a search option.
Below those you'll find Sparkling, White, Rose and Red categories.
Delamotte's Champagne is $84 on the list, while Pouillon's Extra Brut is $108 per bottle.  J. Lasalle's Special Club is $125, while a half bottle of Geoffroy's Rosé is $62.
Francois Crochet's Sancerre is $66, while Dagueneau's Blanc Fumé is $116.  De Villaine's Aligoté is $62 while a Weinbach Riesling is $66.
Au Bon Climat's Sanford & Benedict Vineyard Chardonnay is $62, while Mount Eden's Estate Chardonnay is $95.  There are well more than a dozen selections of French White Burgundies, too.
You'll find 6 Rosé selections.
Amongst the red wine selections, producers such as Littorai, Rhys, Ant Hill Farms, Failla and Big Basin have Pinot Noirs on the list.  These range from $59 to $165. Burgundies from Esmonin, Pousse d'Or, Mongeard-Mugneret and Huedlot-Noëllat are offered and you might spend as much as $595 for a bottle of Grand Cru level wine.
Three Cabernet Francs grace the wine list, all from France's Loire Valley.  There's a heading of Cabernet Sauvignon & Merlot.  There you'll find a 1995 Dunn Howell Mountain for $295.   Elementary Cellars Napa Cabernet is $105.  The Bordeaux selections don't match those from Burgundy, though...the most major wine is Haut-Bergey 2010 at $92.   Chateau Musar 2007, a major league red from Lebanon is $105.
Most of the Syrah wines are fairly young and the French ones are, with the exception of the 2006 Lionnet Cornas ($92) undeveloped.  Two Bandols are similarly young and these are accompanied by two vintages of Tablas Creek's Espirit de Beaucastel.  Tempier's "La Tourtine" is $105, while a 2003 Espirit de Beaucastel is $145.
Two older vintages of Beaucastel are on this list, with the 1998 costing $195 and the 1999 going for $175 (nicely priced, actually).
A Sang des Cailloux Vacqueyras is $64, whereas a Les Palliéres Gigondas is $74.
Two Zinfandels make the list...a Turley from Contra Costa fruit is $62 while a nicely-aged bottle of 2007 Ridge Geyserville is $78.

Corkage is $25, unless you bring in a nicely-aged bottle.  Wines ten years and older have a corkage fee of $10.
If you order a bottle from the wine list, they waive the corkage fee entirely.
For the third bottle (or more), the corkage fee is $50.

We ordered a half bottle of Pierre Peters Brut Champagne at $56.  The flute-shaped stemware they brought was changed out for a couple of white wine glasses...these allow the Champagne to get a bit of air and disperse a bit of CO2.
I ordered their Terrine de Campagne ($9) which is a nice little slab of pâté accompanied by some nice toasted slices of bread, some pickled mushrooms (enoki, perhaps?) and a quince mustard.  This was delicious and the Champagne was a good match.

We ordered two Appetizers to share and they brought these one at a time, allowing us to dine leisurely.
The first was a half a dozen Escargot ($16).  These are served in a fancy little escargot dish, out of their shells, with a bread crumb topping.  I can't tell you precisely what was in there other than some little morsels of diced carrots.  It was not the classic garlic butter and parsley preparation and, in fact, was very good.
We also ordered a Tuna Crudo dish and we dove into that before taking a snapshot!
It was more like a seared tuna though and the tuna itself was rather bland until you lathered the Yellow-fin with the tapenade which accompanied it.
The bottle of Chablis we ordered, Pattes Loup ($64) was also a good match for the starters.

I brought out a bottle of a 2000 vintage Bordeaux and owner/somm Guillaume took the foil off the bottle and opened it tableside.  He then properly asked if it would be permissible to decant it away from the table (the tables are small and a bit close together).  He then returned a few minutes later with a nicely decanted bottle of Claret.
They have good stemware for the Bordeaux, too, by the way.

The server spoke about some special dishes which were not on the printed menu.  The Escargot were a special dish...and they had a 16 ounce steak with some sort of "fried" mashed potatoes.  These turned out to be some sort of Potato Croquette and were delicious.
The steak was of excellent quality and cooked beautifully to medium-rare.
Further, the kitchen actually split the entree so we did not have to serve ourselves from a family style plate.

I neglected to mention they brought a nice little basket of excellent French bread.  And they kept our water glasses topped up, too.

My friend was not much interested in dessert, but I asked for their Salade de Fruits Rouge ($6), a smallish bowl of strawberries, blueberries and blackberries.
 We accompanied this with a couple of sips of a Moscato d'Asti which was fresh, fruity and mildly fizzy.  We also appreciated the low alcohol level of this option, since we'd imbibed parts of two+ other bottles.

Overall, this was a very satisfying dining experience and the ambience is comfortable, as is the service.  The quality of the food was very good and it's a great alternative to upper level San Francisco restaurants featuring French cuisine.

The tab tallied to around $225, but in examining the bill it should have been a few bucks higher...the Moscato was not added to the check.  With such good service, though, we left a nice tip.

We look forward to a return visit...and sooner rather than later!

Reviewed by GW
May 2016



1614 Alum Rock Avenue
San Jose

TEL: 408-926-9275

Open Wednesday-Sunday
Lunch: 11:30-2:30
Dinner 5:30-9:30

If you order a glass of wine, they bring stemware and show you the bottle/label and then pour you the wine.

Some sliced bread and olives are brought to the table...the "dip" or salsa (I think) is made of Lupini beans and is called Hummus de tremoços.

Tábua de Enchidos...a Charcuterie or Salumi plate with some little toasted bread slices resembling crackers, a sprig of fresh rosemary and some sort of Port wine reduction.

Caldo Verde

Three little Codfish 'cakes' with lovely mixed greens and a slice of a dehydrated tomato.

Arroz de Marisco

Arroz de "fried rice" with some slices of duck breast...and a nice little Portuguese red wine served in a proper glass.

Wines ordered "by the glass" are brought in bottle to the table and poured in full view of the customer.

Mousse de Chocolate

A Portuguese fellow who had been importing wine told me he was changing jobs and going to open a restaurant in San Jose featuring the cuisine of his homeland.

Carlos Carreira's dream was to have a place with not only good food, but a fantastic list of Portugal's best wines.  The dream became more easy to realize when his daughter returned from Portugal where she polished her culinary skills after studying gastronomy in Los Angeles.  Her boyfriend, David Costa, was born in Portugal and he worked in a variety of top restaurants there.
The couple moved to California and at the end of 2015, Adega opened its doors.

We booked a table online and dined there on a Sunday night in early May of 2016.  They offer free valet parking during Friday's dinner service and all day Saturday and Sunday.
We pulled in and a fellow parked our car in a lot adjacent to the restaurant.

The dining rooms were about 80% occupied when we ambled in around 7pm on a Sunday.  We had made a reservation using Open-Table.

The hostess took us to a table in the main dining room to the left of the entrance, a bit away from a glass display room of wine bottles and the kitchen.
We were offered a one page menu and a nice little book containing their voluminous wine offerings. There were wine glasses on the table as part of the place setting.

On the back of the menu there are some Wines By-The-Glass (BTG).  It's all Portuguese, too, by the way, so if you're looking for Rombauer Chardonnay to pair with your Cod Fish Cakes or Silver Oak Cabernet for the Rib-eye Steak, you are out of luck.

We had a choice of two sparkling wines, Luis Pato's "Maria Gomes" at $13 or Vertice's Brut Rose for $15.
They have six white wines BTG, three of them being Vinho Verde selections.  Quinta de Azevedo is $8, while Anselmo Mendes' Passaros is $9.  Two whites by Dirk Niepoort are available BTG.  One is Redoma ($11) and the other is the wine marketed under the name "Twisted" ($9).
Reds BTG range from $8 to $16.  There's Duas Quintas from Ramos Pinto at $10, while Esporão Reserva is $16.

As for wines by the bottle, you can find really economical (and drinkable) wines.  For example, they offer the Quinta da Aveleda Vinho Verde for just $18 a bottle.  Dirk Niepoort's "Dócil," a Vinho Verde made of Loureiro, is $35 (it's a $15 retail bottle).  Soalheiro, a dynamite Vinho Verde made of Alvarinho, is $45 ($25 retail) and the "old vines" bottling is $49.  
There are 8 whites from the Alentejo and 13 from the Douro.  That Esporão White Reserva is $45.  An Arinto (that's the grape) from the Chocapalha winery near Lisbon is $44.

The list of reds is even more voluminous.  There are 22 reds from the Alentejo, ranging in price from $19 to $199.  Five Beiras reds range from $44 to $280.
Four Dão red range from $29 to $150 and there's a boat-load of Douro reds, as you might expect. Here you can spend a few serious dollars.  The 2004 Barca Velha is listed as "coming soon" and for that, $500 bucks comes out of your wallet.  Good names such as Wine & Soul's Pintas are $99 for one bottling and $199 for another.  They have a number of Quinta do Crasto wines starting at $29 a bottle and topping out at $250.  Quinta do Passadouro reds are $79 a bottle.  They also offer some nice reds from Van Zeller.
From other regions, there's the Quinta da Mimosa for just $27 a bottle.
You can drink well in various price levels here.

We told the server we were fans of the Soalheiro wines and she suggested the Quinta da Lixa Pouco Comum Alvarinho which we could order by-the-glass for $10.  She claimed this is superior to the Soalheiro wine.  It was perfectly nice, but not nearly as complex as Soalheiro's in my view.
But they have a very fine aspect to service of wine-by-the-glass:  they bring an empty glass and the bottle.  The bottle is then presented and they pour a small taste so you can give it the okay.  We did and she poured.  Bravo!
This is how all wine-by-the-glass should be presented.

We ordered a charcuterie plate to start.  It's called a Tábua de Enchidos ($16) and it features a very artistically-presented array of meats including Iberico Ham, Paio Sausage, Chouriçao and Duck Breast.  They augment the plate with drops of concentrated Port wine, but I can't say I found this to be an enhancement from a taste perspective.  How can you improve Presunto Iberico (ham)?

My dining companion ordered their Caldo Verde ($8), a potato soup with Kale and chouriço and this was quite good.  I had their Pasteis de Bacalhau ($9) which was three football-shaped cod cakes, deep fried and served with beautifully-dressed salad greens.  Impressive.

We perused the wine list and the server suggested a red called Papa Figos from the Casa Ferreirinha winery.  It's $34 on the wine list and typically retails for about $15.  This was a nice choice...not too heavy and not too oaky.

For main plates, my friend ordered Arroz de Marisco ($29), a seafood rice dish with lobster, scallops, shrimp, clams, mussels and oysters.  It's beautifully presented with a dome covering the plate as it's brought to the table.
There's less fanfare for the Arroz de Pato ($24) that I ordered.  This is a sort of Duck Fried Rice dish with shredded duck in the rice and it's topped with a few tasty slices of duck breast.

Mousse de Chocolate ($8) was shared for dessert and we each had a 2 ounce pour of Niepoort's Ruby Porto ($5).  Again they bring some small wine glasses to the table and present the bottle before serving the Port.
And the dessert wine list must be the most impressive in the Bay Area!  It has 5 Ruby Ports, 3 Tawnies, 4 Late Bottled Vintage Portos and 7 Vintage Portos.  If you want older Tawny Port, they have 7 10-Year Tawnies and 8 20-Year offerings.  There are 4 30-Year Tawnies and 3 40-Year selections.  There are numerous single vintage Colheitas, as well.  And they have three White Ports, too.
You can enjoy a simple dessert wine for $4 or spend as much as $70 for a glass of Port.
But wait!
If you're wondering about Madeira, they have 18 selections of those by the glass.  $5 gets you a pour of Justinos 5-Year Reserva or you can drop $280 for a two ounce pour of Blandy's 1920 Boal.
They also offer a couple of great Moscatels...Setúbal.  One is from Casa Ermelinda Freitas ($5), while José Maria da Fonseca's is $6.

We had a nice meal here and quite a good experience.
We departed and handed our valet parking ticket to the fellow...and we were surprised and delighted the parking was gratis.  We handed the fellow a nice tip, though.

It will be a pleasure to dine here again and explore some of their other dishes.  

Reviewed by GW
May 2016



1906 Van Ness Avenue
San Francisco

TEL: 415-885-4605

Open Daily for Dinner
Until 10pm









Some friends were interested to dine at one of San Francisco's most venerable restaurants and so they booked a 9pm Friday night table at The House of Prime Rib.  
The place has been there for more than 60 years and yet getting a table requires a bit of planning or late night dining.

We arrived on time and circled the block twice before finally simply leaving the car with their valet.  $11.

There are not many people waiting for a table at the entrance of this busy place, as most customers are not walk-ins and have reserved a table ahead of time.  We waited all of a minute and a half before being escorted to our table.  The host provided menus and a wine list.  Wine glasses are part of the table setting.

This is a restaurant providing no surprises.
They do Prime Rib and Prime Rib only.  
(There is a "fish of the day" notation on the menu, but otherwise, it's Prime Rib.)

Being that this place is a bit of a throwback to the 1950s and 1960s, they offer all sorts of classic cocktails.  But there are plenty of wines-by-the-glass (BTG), too.
There are nine white wines by-the-glass, including Sutter Home White Zinfandel ($6), Rombauer Chardonnay ($16), Conundrum by Caymus ($8) and La Crema Chardonnay ($10).

There were 19 reds offered by the glass.  Clos du Bois Pinot Noir is $9, while Duckhorn's Goldeneye is $16.   Merlots from both those producers go for the same price.  Cabernet, an ideal accompaniment to prime rib, sees just 4 selections, Clos du Bois ($10), Conn Creek ($12), Hess Collection ($14) and JAX at $16.

The HOPR wine list, as you can see, features all sorts of mainstream, "comfortable" selections.  They have wines that are likely to be recognized by the average bear.  No surprises.

Now of those $16 BTG offerings, Rombauer's Chardonnay retails for $36, while the Goldeneye and Duckhorn retail in the neighborhood of $50.

There are 11 "Bright, Crisp Whites" on the bottle list.  This features brands such as Cakebread, Grgich Hills, Frog's Leap, Stag's Leap Wine Cellars, Trefethen and Chateau St. Jean.
No surprises.

With a Prime Rib-Centric menu, reds should be featured on the list and they are. They have 11 Zinfandels, including Seghesio "Dry Creek" Zinfandel at $62 (but they don't identify it as the Cortina single-vineyard bottling), Robert Biale's Black Chicken Zin ($72) and Rafanelli at $52 for a bottle and $29 for a half bottle.
They have 20 Pinot Noirs on their wine list, with brands such as MacMurray Ranch (a Gallo brand), Saintsbury, Sinskey and Clos du Bois.
There are several pages of Cabernets on the wine list and it's here you can get into real trouble!  Screaming Eagle is $4200 a bottle.  This makes Shafer's Hillside Select, at $575, look like a real bargain.  Staglin's 2009 is $266 a bottle, while Silver Oak's 2011 Alexander Valley is $98.  Dana Estate is $985 a bottle, while Duckhorn is $100.  A 2011 Harlan Estate is $1250, while the same vintage of Heitz Napa is $72 (I'd go for the Heitz, thank you!).
There's a page of "Other Reds" and here you'll find Klinker Brick's Lodi Syrah ($36), The Prisoner Napa Red ($64) and Robert Foley Charbono ($55).
They don't offer much in the way of imports and no Bordeaux curiously.  But they do have Kendall Jackson's Chianti, Tenuta Arceno for $36 a bottle and Tomero Malbec from Argentina at $34.
The Corkage fee is $25 for a bottle or two, while the third bottle is $30.  Magnums cost $50 and double magnums are $100.

The Prime Rib is offered in several formats.  The City Cut is a smaller serving and costs $40.45 for the full meal (salad and side dishes included).  The House of Prime Rib Cut is $43.85 (yeah, what's the deal with the odd cent's pricing?).   The English Cut is the same price, but features several thinner slices instead of one hunk o'meat.  King Henry VIII is a thick cut and guarantees a rib bone.  $46.85 for that.   They do offer a Children's Prime Rib Dinner at $15.85.  
Accompaniments include their "Salad Bowl" as a starter.  Alongside the Prime Rib, you have your choice of Mashed Potatoes or a Baked Potato.  Each comes with your choice of Creamed Corn or Creamed Spinach, too.  They all come with a Yorkshire Pudding that's brought to the table in a small skillet and divided into single servings.

There's a small, warmed Sourdough Bread loaf on a cutting board...slice your own.

We opted for a half bottle of Frog's Leap Sauvignon Blanc at $21.  The server came back a few minutes after we ordered this to say "Oh, I think that's no longer's been discontinued."  It was the only half bottle of white wine on the list.  I was a bit unhappy with this news and the server went off to confirm the wine being unavailable.  Finally a wine steward brought the half bottle and opened it for us.
We wondered, since those half bottles of wine are still available from the winery, was this some sort of method to up-sell us to a full bottle?

A few moments later the server came by with an artistically arranged salad in a bowl, set in another bowl of ice.  The server then gives the salad bowl a spin and deftly drizzles their slightly sweet dressing onto the salad...lettuce, beets, chopped eggs, etc.

We placed an aged bottle of Bordeaux on the table and the server saw this as he brought more wine glasses.  They don't have larger red wine stemware, apparently.  A while later the wine steward came over, picked up the bottle, saw it was a bit older (1989) and whisked it away to open it.  On one hand, they ought to open it at the table, but the corridor is rather chaotic with servers and bussers running about.  Adding to the chaos is the blimp-like silver trolley with the prime rib being wheeled to and fro.
We believe he also took this away to open the bottle with the double-pronged Ah-So cork puller.
He did not offer to decant the bottle, though.
We had stood the bottle upright a week ahead of time, so the sediment was nicely compacted and, in fact, we were able to pour it damned near to the bottom without the wine becoming cloudy.
We offered the wine guy a glass.  He declined.
Really?  A 25+ year old Bordeaux from a First Growth?
The waiter also declined our offer of a pour.  Apparently, we suspect, it's against company policy.

The Prime Rib was spectacular.  Wow...that was a good hunk of beef.  The Creamed Spinach and Creamed Corn were quite good, too. The Mashed Potatoes were fine and the Yorkshire Pudding was good.

We skipped dessert.

The bill tallied to right around $205 before the tip.

Overall this was a terrific surprises on the menu or wine list and the restaurant runs like a well-oiled machine.

We'll be back!

Reviewed by GW
May 2016



11 Glenwood Ave
Daly City

Tel: 650-755-7400

Sun-Thurs: 11am-11pm
Fri-Sat: 11am-Midnight



Joe's Caesar Salad


Joe's Burger with Cheese

Baked Lasagna

Steak ala Bruno



After being closed for a couple of years for remodeling and renovation, the old "Westlake Joe's" opened its doors in February of 2016.
As with many newly-opened dining spots, the place is flooded with people satisfying their curiosity to see if the restaurant is one they will frequent or say "been there, done that."

With a great review from San Francisco Chronicle restaurant critic Michael Bauer, in late April of 2016, the place is packed.  They do not presently accept reservations, so unless you're going for dinner in the late afternoon or, say, after 9pm, be prepared to wait for a table in this 300 seat restaurant.

We rolled in on a Thursday night at 8:30, or so, and waited maybe 15-20 minutes for a booth for the three of us.

We were escorted to a table in the dining room with the open kitchen and the host provided menus, but no wine list.  Wine glasses were not part of the table settings, either, so you might get the impression that wine is not a priority here.  There is not a sommelier helping nudge diners in the direction of a wine selection and our server did not ask us at the outset if we wanted wine.  They are, it seems, more of an old-school, throwback place where cocktails are more of a priority.

We did have a chance to peruse the wine list, though.
They offer three "House White" wine selections and four reds.  These are offered "by the glass" (BTG) or in "half carafe" or "carafe" format and it's not stated as to the size of the latter two servings.
There's a Coppola "Napa Valley" Pinot Grigio for $6/glass ($18 and $30 for half carafe and carafe servings).  But the wine carries a "California" appellation, not Napa and one winery document indicates the Pinot Grigio comes from Monterey County vineyards while a "tech sheet" does not provide a clue as to the wine's place of origin apart from "California."  There's a fledgling brand of Sauvignon Blanc called "Pushback" with a Napa appellation (the winery has a San Francisco address, though).  It's $8 BTG and $24 & 36 for larger servings.  Chalk Hill's Sonoma Chardonnay is $10 BTG.
The "House Reds" are a bit curious, but we see some irrational marketing policies on the part of some wineries.  There's a "Bohemian" Pinot Noir on the wine list for $10 a glass and yet the winery web site offers this wine for $50 a bottle.  This illustrates that someone wholesales this wine for pennies on the dollar if the restaurant can pour it for ten bucks a glass!  Similarly, a Sciandri Napa Cabernet, typically retailing for $58 on that winery's web site, is also just ten bucks a glass.
We should point out that numerous California wineries have special "restaurant pricing" for dining establishments, allowing restaurateurs to take 300%-500% mark-ups and offer these products at prices slightly higher than normal retail pricing.  For example, a well-known Napa Cabernet producer puts a $50 retail price on its Cabernet (normally, then, wholesaling at $33.33 to a store), but is willing to offer it to a restaurant for just $20 a bottle.  A 300% mark-up makes it $60 in a restaurant, just a small price higher than retail.
It is possible, too, by the way, that some of the BTG wines are poured from a keg, not from a bottle.  No notation on the wine list is made, though, as to wines offered "on tap."
Under the heading of "Premium Wines by The Glass," there's Whitehall Lane Sauvignon Blanc is $12, while Frank Family Chardonnay is $14.  David Bruce Pinot Noir is $16 BTG.   Gloria Ferrer's Sonoma Brut Sparkling wine is $10 BTG.
There are, then, a few good, well-priced options for by-the-glass or less-than-a-bottle pour.

There are 8 California Chardonnays offered by the bottle.  Robert Mondavi's Napa is $32, while Kistler's is $105.  Honig Sauvignon Blanc is $34 by the bottle.
There's a modest range of Pinot Noirs, with Thomas Fogarty's costing $62 and a Papapietro Perry going for $100.  Amongst the Cabernet selections, there are some very modest little wines such as "Humble Pie" ($30) and "Highway 12" ($34).  The higher-priced bottles are of some better-known names (Sebastiani at $56, Silverado at $70 and Hall at $80), but I'm not hugely enamored with any of those.  Phelps Cabernet is $115 a bottle, while Paradigm is $120.
A number of the Italian selections come from one particular importer, it seems.  We've not been impressed with many of their selections and the prices are routinely inflated.
The corkage fee is $15 and we brought a nice bottle of Piemontese red wine to pair with dinner.  The server provided some nice, large stemware for this and we were soon off and running.
A basket of bread (and butter) was brought to the table...commercial sourdough and this was warmed, so we dove in.

The menu is classic, old-time Joe's.  Caesar Salad, Crab Louie, Cobb Salad, Fried Calamari, Minestrone or Clam Chowder, Garlic Bread and more.
For main dishes, there's a range of various pastas, veal and chicken dishes in various incarnations (Parmigiana, Marsala, Piccata, etc.), Prime Rib ($32.95), Steaks and Chops.  They have "specialties" such as Baked Lasagna ($18.95). Pot Roast ($16.95) or Eggplant Parmigiana ($18.95).  They also have a few seafood offerings, such as Calamari Steak Doré ($21.95), Filet of Sole Piccata ($21.95) or Char-Broiled Salmon ($24.95).  These main plates are accompanied by either Spaghetti, Ravioli, French Fries, Vegetables of Mashed Potatoes.

We began with their Caesar Salad ($8.95) and this was impressive!  It's presented in a medium-sized bowl with beautifully dressed Romaine Lettuce that's quite refreshingly cold.  It's adorned with some croutons and anchovy filets and the dressing does have the requisite amount of garlic!  Bravo!!

My friends finished their salad well before I finished mine, so I was curious to see if the main plates would arrive on the kitchen's schedule or on the dinner guest's timetable.
Happily it was the latter.
Bravo, again.

One dining companion opted for the Joe's Famous Hamburger Sandwich ($13.95) which comes with fries.  She added cheese ($2) and this think was enough to feed a couple of people!  Her husband chose the Baked Lasagna ($18.95) and he was happy with this selection.
I was torn by the multitude of options...should I try the Lamb Chops ($34.95), the 16 oz. Rib eye ($38.95), the Breaded Veal Cutlet ($25.95) or the Prime Rib ($32.95)?  I was curious about one of their signature dishes, Steak a la Bruno ($23.95).  I'm not sure what cut of beef this is, but someone mentioned it might be something of a neck slice...?  I gather it's marinated in an effort to tenderize it.  This was quite good, though, but not as "noble" as a New York strip or a Rib Eye.  I had their side dish of American take on pasta, for sure.

We split a dessert:  Bombolini ($8) which was one of seven selections, apart from gelato ($5).  They brought out three little "doughnuts" or beignets with a small ramekin of a raspberry dipping sauce and one of some sort of chocolate or Nutella-like sauce.  Excellent!

They do offer a number of dessert wines, too...Fonseca's Bin 27 Port is $8, while their 10 Year Tawny is $12.  Taylor's 20 Year Tawny is $16.  They also offer a Vin Santo and Moscato d'Asti by the glass and a couple of grappas and a Lemoncello.

The ambience was very pleasant and very retro.  Tunes by artists such as The Andrews Sisters and Sinatra are played at a level loud enough to buffer the babel of the crowd in the dining room, but not so loud as to intrude on your conversation at the dinner table.

The bill, with the $15 corkage and a cocktail for one of the guests, tallied to $115 with the tax and before the tip.  But it would be easy to have had a much more spendy meal here, too.

We will definitely be returning to Joe's.

Written by GW
April 2016

I went back one night at 9:30, returning home from The City in May of 2016.  No problem with having to wait for a seat or table.  The food was good...Caesar Salad was fine and I ordered their Hamburger Steak ($20) and this was a large "slab" of hamburger, grilled properly and presented on a plate with a couple of pickled peppers and black olives.  



499 9th Street

Tel: 510-663-9000

Mon-Thurs 11:30-9:30
Fri: 11:30-10
Sat: 3-10
Sun: 3-9

Bread and Tapenade, with a flute of Prosecco


The Piatto della Casa comes with some mixed greens and Mostarda.


Grilled Calamari and Cannellini Beans




The server decanting our bottle of Barolo...


Tagliatelle Bolognese



Tagliatta with roasted potatoes and arugula



My friend booked a table at this upscale Italian place in Oakland and requested a "quiet table."  I managed to find parking half a block from the place and was actually on time for our 7:30 reservation.
The quiet table was easy to find as the place, on a Wednesday night, with maybe 40% of the roughly 50 seat restaurant being occupied.  The building has apparently been home to several other Italianesque restaurants.  The place is the second restaurant owned by chef Donato Scotti, who owns Enoteca Donato in Redwood City.

We had a four top along the wall across from the front door.  I had a good view of the area where they have numerous opened wine bottles, the pizza oven and a bar or counter in front of the kitchen.

Wine glasses are part of the table setting and the wine list was presented with the menu.

The list has several columns, with many wines being offered by-the-glass (BTG) and by the bottle.  A number of the opened wines are also offered by "1/3" and "2/3s" of a bottle.
They also have a few selections in half-bottle format.

Six sparkling wines are available, with four of them offered BTG.  Apart from a Moscato d'Asti (Elio Perrone, $9 BTG and $20 for a half bottle), there's Drusian's Brut Prosecco at $9 BTG and $40 by the bottle, Veuve Fourny Champagne ($18 BTG, $45 for a half bottle and $85 for a full bottle) and Cleto Chiarli Lambrusco at $8 BTG and $38 by the bottle.  The Lambrusco retails for $11 to $12, while the Drusian Prosecco retails for about $16.
They offer one Rosato from Piemonte's Ca' Rossa winery...$12 BTG, $19 for a third of a bottle, $37 for 2/3s of a bottle and $55 for a bottle.
There are six opened white wines, with Alois' Falanghina from Campania costing $8 BTG and $37 for a bottle.  Luisa Sauvignon Blanc, Bucci's Verdicchio and Terlano's Pinot Bianco are all $10 BTG and $46 for a bottle.  The Valle Isarco co-op's Kerner is $11 BTG and Zuani's Collio Bianco from Friuli is $12 BTG and $55 by the bottle.
There are nine other white wines available by the bottle.  A Calabrian Greco is $35, Montenidoli's Vernaccia from San Gimignano is $38, while Peter Dipoli's Sauvignon from the Alto Adige is $62.  Those are some nice selections!
There's a heading one doesn't usually see on a wine list:  Caveat Emptor and it's a wine from the Damijan winery in Friuli.  This is a blended white, fermented on the skins and then aged nearly two years in wood and bottled, unfiltered and with sediment.  That risk-of-a-bottle is $85.
Caveat Emptor, indeed!
Nine red wines are available by the glass, carafe and bottle.  These include a modest Sangiovese from the Marche region at $8 BTG and $37 by the bottle.  They have a Nebbiolo from Sandro Fay in Italy's Valtellina at $15 BTG and $70 by the bottle.  Vietti's 2011 Barolo "Castiglione"  $18 BTG and $85 by the bottle.  Too young, though.
Venturini's excellent 2010 vintage Amarone is  $22 BTG and $98 for a bottle.
The wines-by-the-bottle are categorized not by region or appellation, but by price range.
The categories are $30-$40, $50-$60 and $70-$90.
Coltibuono Chianti "RS" (I think it's called RS with the initials of the winemaker, not because it has residual sugar) is $35 and this retails for about $16.  Gulfi's Nero d'Avola is $40 a bottle.  Bartolo Mascarello's Dolcetto is $58, while a Barbaresco from Albino Rocca is $82.  A 2008 Barbaresco from Cantina del Pino is $87 while a Castello di Verduno Barbaresco from the Rabajà cru is $95 for the 2009 vintage.  
There are 4 high-priced selections, if you're a big spender.  $225 will get you a 2001 vintage Brunello from Poggio di Sotto.
The mark-up is higher on the lower-priced bottles, so it makes the more costly wines a bit more attractive in terms of value.  And the wine selections are good and clearly the work of a savvy wine director.

Corkage is $20 on the first two bottles and $30 for each additional bottle.  Given the wine selections, this seems imminently fair.

We began with a glass of Drusian's Brut Prosecco ($9) and their Piatto della Casa ($13) which featured three slices each of a smoked duck breast, "porchetta" and rabbit terrine.  They brought a small paper bag which had a few slices of fresh bread and it was accompanied by a small ramekin of tapenade.  This beats the hell out of the awful offering, found at so many sketchy Italianesque places, of cheap oil and even cheaper vinegar (which really kills your palate for wine).
We explained to the server that we wanted "to dine," not merely "eat."  He understood and staged the order.

We also asked for a third-of-a-bottle pour of Terlano's Pinot Bianco at $16. 

Our second plate was "Monterey Bay Fresh Calamari grilled with Cannellini Beans" ($12).  There was quite a lag time between the salumi platter and the Calamari...we wondered if the chef was out trying to catch these?  A bowl with loads of beautifully cooked white beans came with some lettuce leaves and perfectly grilled Calamari...very good!

With a Bolognese-sauced pasta on the horizon, we pulled a nicely mature Barolo from our cellar bag and the server brought a carafe and took good care of decanting the 20 year old Barolo.  We shared a glass with the fellow and he was delighted to taste such a mature Italian red.

The server suggested we consider putting in an order for main plates as it was closing in on 9pm.  There are but three choices, apart from the various pasta and risotto dishes (which we suppose some people view as 'main plates') and the 9 pizza offerings.
There's a roasted chicken dish at $23, a Branzino for $22 and the "Tagliata," grilled New York Steak at $26.
We might have tried a pizza, but it seemed like time was of the essence, so we each ordered a main plate.  My friend chose the Branzino as her main course and I went for the Tagliatta.

These each arrived around 9:10-9:15 and as we were just getting started, the server stopped by to ask if we were going to want dessert "because the kitchen is closing."

We enjoyed both main plates...good quality food which is prepared with skill.

We finished the mains around 9:35, or so and lingered over the Barolo.  There were perhaps a dozen people scattered around the restaurant at this stage and we departed a few minutes before 10pm, having been a bit rushed out of the place.

My friend said she really enjoyed the food, but would not come back after having been hurried to order, pay and depart.
I can't imagine anyone showing up at 9:15 and hoping to have more than one quick plate.
Their Open Table app allows patrons to book a table as late as 30 minutes before their posted closing time.  Good luck on that!

The bill tallied to about $150 with the corkage fee of $20 and tax before the tip.

The stemware is list is is good.  But we might ask that they plan on actually getting out of the restaurant 2 hours after the closing time to allow guests to enjoy their culinary efforts.

Reviewed by GW
February 2016



2704 24th Street
San Francisco

Tel: 415-874-9831

Dinner 5:30-10

The $2 Bread Plate


Bacon-Wrapped Dates with Cheese


Warm Marinated Olives


Fuji Apple and Brussels Sprouts Salad


Pan Crisped Gnocchi with Mushrooms


Brussels Sprouts with Shallots and Bacon Lardons


Seared Black Cod


Slow Seared Duck Breast




We were discussing possible dinner venues on a Tuesday morning and our friend suggested this relatively new place on 24th Street near Potrero in The City.
We had a look at their French-themed menu on the restaurant's web site and decided to see about booking a table.  The web site has only an e-mail address for reservations, but it turns out they are accessible on Open Table.

It's a fairly quick drive from Burlingame and, in fact, finding a parking space took more time than the drive up the freeway.  I finally found a spot close by, though.

On a Tuesday night at 8pm the place was sparsely populated.  My dining companions had taken a taxi and were already at the bar when I arrived.  We were escorted to a table close to their open kitchen.

The menus were presented and the rather small wine list is printed on the page, alongside the food offerings. Wine glasses are a part of the table setting.

They offer 5 sparkling wines, two being available by-the-glass (BTG).  There's a simple French sparkler claiming to be made of grapes grown in the Jura region (really?  Ugni Blanc and Colombard?  Sounds more like Gascony to me!) that's $10 BTG or $40 for a bottle.  Sous Beurre offers a Spanish Cava at $11 BTG and $44 by the bottle.  Duval Leroy Brut Champagne, a $40-$45 retail is $84 by the bottle while a grower's Champagne, which wholesales for roughly the same price, is $135 on the wine list!
There are six white wines on the list.  A simple little white from France's Gascogne region is $9 BTG and $36 for a bottle.  This wine wholesales for $6.50.  A modest Sancerre that retails for $20-$23 is $13 BTG and $52 by the bottle.
For a place that features Provençal-themed dishes, it's curious that none of the white wine selections come from Provence.
They do have three Rosé wines, though, from Provence.  Those will set you back $40 or $44 for a bottle.
Of the six red wine selections, one comes from close to Provence, a Costières de Nîmes wine from Mas des Bressades ($9 BTG/$36 for a bottle).  The other offerings include an entry level red Burgundy at $12 BTG/$48 by the bottle, a nice Fronton red which retails for about $16, but costs $11 BTG and $44 for a bottle.
There's also a Cabernet Franc from the Loire for the same costs, while a ($15 retail) Minervois is $10 by the glass and $40 a bottle.

The wines are sort of "bistro level"-simple, but they could surely do a better job of selecting wines which would better match the cuisine and the theme of the restaurant.  The Bay Area has a number of importers who have good portfolios of well-priced wines and wines from Provence, for that matter.

We opted for a bottle of the Duval Leroy Champagne and the server brought some nice flutes.  We asked, though, to have the wine in their all-purpose wine glasses that were already on the table.
Another Sous Beurre staffer brought the bottle after maybe 5-10 minutes and opened it.  It's unclear why there was a bit of a delay in serving the bubbly, as the place was not especially busy.

We ordered a few "bites" to have with the Champagne.  "Levain Bread & House Cultured Butter" is $2.  They brought a small plate with 4 partially-sliced pieces of bread which was sort of toasted, so it was a bit dried out.  I could be wrong, but this made it seem as though it was not exactly fresh, but maybe from the day before?
"Marinated Olives" ($4) was a nice assortment of different sized olives...perfectly fine.
I wasn't much interested in the "Bacon-Wrapped Dates & Fromage Blanc" ($5)...three dates which my friends enjoyed.

There are five starters on the menu, along with several kinds of oysters.  "Duck Heart & Liver Pâté" is $8 or $9.  There was a Celeriac & Turnip Soup for $8.  Steak Tartare is $13.  My friends ordered the "Fuji Apple & Brussels Sprouts Salad" at $9 while I opted for the "Pan Crisped Gnocchi" ($14).
They enjoyed the salad...the Gnocchi were exceptional and came with Maitake and Shitake Mushrooms and enhanced by a drop or two of truffle oil.  Very fine!

I had a bottle of an older Rioja in my cellar bag and the server opened and decanted this (at the table, no less!) nicely.  We shared a taste with him, by the way.

One of our party ordered the Seared Black Cod for a main plate.  It costs $29 and says it comes with "foie," but our friend said she didn't note the plate as having foie gras unless it was disguised at a stripe-of-a-sauce on the plate.
Our other dinner companion and I both ordered the "Slow Seared Duck Breast" ($28) which comes with Brussels Sprouts, Cauliflowers, Baby Carrots and Preserved Lemon.  The vegetables were all smallish and artistically presented around the plate which featured three small slices of duck.  There may have been 4 to 6 ounces of duck on the's a rather meager portion if you've got a healthy appetite.

We also ordered a side dish of Brussels Sprouts ($7) which is offered on the menu as coming with "shallots and bacon lardons."
The side dish of Brussels Sprouts, by the way, were properly cooked.
Nice flavors with the lardons.
The Brussels Sprouts on on the plate with the duck were rather "al dente" to be polite or simply well undercooked to be blunt.

We shared a pour of our well-cellared Rioja with the server.  The corkage fee, by the way, is $20 and they have a two bottle maximum.
The stemware is nice, though our wine might have benefited by being poured into a larger red wine stem.

For dessert we had something called "Insta-Graham" ($10) and this is described as "blondie, chocolate ice cream, marshmallow fluff & chocolate covered peanuts."
This was an artistic plate, but the "Graham Cracker" was a bit bland (though, technically, this is actually how they're supposed to be!).

My friends grabbed the check, which would have been around $250 before the tax and, if they add a health insurance surcharge.  Add the tip on top of that (though this place used to include a tip as part of the final bill, but abandoned this as economically unfeasible).

I'm a bit on the fence about going back...the quality of the food was pretty good, but the lack of an interesting wine list with price-worthy, good quality selections offsets that to some degree.  Add to the mix the difficulty in finding parking...

Reviewed by GW
February 2016

This place closed in the late Spring or early Summer of 2016



SOME DINING NOTES:  (February 2016)
Our lack of postings is not an indication we've not been dining fact, we've had a number of VIP visitors in town the past couple of months and we've been dining at some favorite "haunts."

We had a fantastic meal at La Ciccia with exceptional food.  We had a lovely bottle of Vermentino, but made the mistake of not selecting our own choice of wines and left it to a sommelier. Most cost $40-$60, but the one we were served cost $133.  Live and learn.

A couple of visits to Marlowe yielded good meals, good wine service and fine hospitality.  We were able to make a reservation on Open Table following a sporting event and got there in time for our 10:45 reservation...and no rush to get us in and out so the server and staff could go home!

Blue Plate has proven to be a great place to take out-of-towners and it really impressed visitors from Italy on several occasions.  Most recently the Open Table reservation did not actually get made, so we had to wait a while.  But the servers and kitchen crew took good care of us.

We attended a Bordeaux tasting in Santa Monica and were treated to dinner at a lovely restaurant called Scopa in Venice (So Cal).  The food was delightful, though I was a bit shocked to find the wine prices be about three times normal retail.  This means a bottle wholesaling for $17, for example, was $75 on the wine list.  A wine I'd have ordered were it $100 (a Nebbiolo from Piemonte) was on their list for $150.  This means their mark-up is about 400%-450%.  The place was packed though and it's a bit of a hang-out, apparently, for Hollywood celebrities.

A few Asian dining experiences have been good, too.  We're fans of Daly City's Koi Palace and Millbrae's Hong Kong Flower Lounge.  We bring not only our own wines, but our own stemware.  

A visit down the coast has taken us twice to Duarte's in Pescadero.  This is another place we bring our own wine glasses.  The Cioppino is hard to beat and the same goes for the Artichoke Soup and Ollalieberry Pie!

We were pressed for time to take a European guest back to SFO and were able to try the relatively new Millbrae Hunan restaurant called "wonderful."  And, aptly so!  While it's not a wine venue as most of their dishes are rather spicy, we did have a nice range of plates and each was quite good.  Don't miss the Green Onion's unlike those greasy disks served at most places.  Wonderful's came out multi-layered, steaming hot and oh-so-delicious!  

GW  February 2016



1165 Merrill Street
Menlo Park

Tel: 650-494-4342

Tues-Thurs 11:30-9:00
Fri-Sat  11:30-10:00
Sun 10:30-9:00

A pour of a California Sauvignon Blanc for $10.

Shrimp and Corn Fritters


Bradley's Caesar Salad


A nice stem for our bottle of red wine.


The Steak & Potatoes

Overcooked Pork, Undercooked Potatoes...
Statistically Perfect!


At the turn of the new year, 2016, we booked a Sunday table following a movie at the nearby Guild (Youth, with Michael Caine and Harvey Keitel was entertaining and very appealing visually, by the way).

This place is near the Menlo Park train station and was the home of Gambardella's in its last incarnation.  Bradley is the famous chef, Bradley Ogden, of Lark Creek fame.
Parking was easy and the restaurant was sparsely populated.

We were escorted to a four-top table in a sort of booth.  I was facing the bar which had a large screen TV monitor showing a football game...this was a bit distracting.  The sound system was piping in Beatles and Rolling Stones tunes at a slightly loud level.

We were each given a menu and the binder containing the drinks and wine list was presented.  Wine glasses are not part of the table setting, as they might prefer patrons to order a beer or cocktail which provide somewhat heftier percentages (but usually fewer dollars).

There is one sparkling wine offered by-the-glass (BTG) and that's Chandon's California Brut.  You can find this in chain stores for about $15 a bottle and the restaurant asks $14 for a glass.
This is sold by one of the big liquor distributors and I wonder why, of all the available bubblies from California, have they chosen this?
Six reds and six whites are available by-the-glass.  Au Bon Climat Chardonnay is $14, while the same producer's Pinot Noir is $15. Qupe Syrah is $13. But then it's downhill from there.  Luna Pinot Grigio is ten bucks, while a Terra d'Oro Rose that's 2 vintages old is $8.  
They offer a "Sonoma Valley" Cabernet from the Cannonball winery at $13, but the wine is labeled with a generic "California" appellation.

The bottle list offers three sparkling wines, Chandon Brut ($42), Roederer Estate Brut ($48) and Billicart (sic) Reserve Brut Champagne at $126.
They offer 7 Chardonnays including a Lynmar "Russian River, Santa Maria Valley" bottling at $66.  There's a Foxen "Bien NaciCoast" (sic) Chardonnay at $67.  Kistler's Chardonnay is $140 a bottle.
Three Sauvignon Blanc wines are available in full bottle format, with Sebastiani at $36 and a Margerum from Santa Barbara going for $42.  There are two Pinot Gris wines, a Joel Gott Riesling from Washington at $32 and a Paso Robles white wine from Clos Solene at $105.
You'll find five Pinot Noirs, including Kistler at $120 a bottle.  Two Syrah wines are offered, both from Paso Robles and both triple-digit priced.  Pride Mountain Merlot is available in half bottle format at $60 or you can get a full bottle of Joel Gott Merlot from Washington State at $33.  Seven Cabernets are available, Cannonball being $38 a bottle.  Robert Craig's Cabernet is $100 a bottle, while there are three other producer's wines for $175 per bottle and a Revana Cabernet at $200.  Mayacamas (Mayacamus on the wine list) is available in half bottle format at $98.
Why this place doesn't have a broader priced spectrum of Cabernets is a can get an unremarkable wine for the $38 price or else you need some serious cash for the other bottles.  Ramey's Claret, a Cabernet blend, is $70.

It's a curious list with a few interesting wines, but it doesn't appear to be the work of a wine-savvy buyer.  (And with a number of typos, we more easily understand some of the wine selections.)  If it's a "diner" or even a "fine diner," why not have a more serious wine list?  It doesn't have to be a larger list, but one with more expertly chosen bottlings instead of the "this will do" or "this is good enough" list.

The corkage fee is $15.

My dining companion ordered her usual Martini and I opted for Sebastiani's Sauvignon Blanc at $10.  This was a very ordinary glass of plonk and apparently it's available to restaurants for well under ten bucks a bottle.

The stemware is certainly reasonable in terms of quality.  The wine, though, is not poured table-side, so customers take it on good faith they've poured the wine that's been ordered.

The menu offers seven "Starters," including Crispy Zucchini ($7), Hummus ($11) and Fried Chicken Sliders ($9).
Bradley's Caesar Salad is $8, Butternut Squash Soup is $6 and there's a Rustic Clam Chowder at $15.
They have a few burgers, the Wood Fired Chuck Burger going for $16 or you might opt for the Quinoa Burger at $15.
Fish & Chips is $19, half of a roasted chicken is $26 and there's Mom's Meatloaf for $19.

The Old Bat began with the Caesar Salad ($8) and I did not taste this...she often kvetches that it lacks garlic or anchovies and I did not hear a peep out of her.
I began with the Shrimp & Corn Fritters ($11) which has a celery root slaw underneath a handful of tasty little fried morsels.

I ordered the $27 Pork Chop with Gizdish (sic) Farms apple, bacon crumble, brussels sprouts and poached red bliss potatoes.
The server asked if cooking it to medium rare-to-medium was acceptable and I said that was fine.
I thought, though, he was asking about the Pork Chop.  It turns out the meat was close to well-done, while the potatoes were "medium-rare" and rather starchy-tastings.  The Brussels Sprouts were quite "al dente," too, but within the realm of edible.
The Old Bat ordered their $39 plate of "Steak and Potatoes" described as "angus ribeye, arugula, PRO (what do you suppose that is?), roasted mushroom, crispy red bliss potatoes, balsamic reduction."
I had a bite of the steak and it was quite good and properly cooked.  She was quite enthusiastic about her meal, but I was not much enthralled with my main plate.
The server never asked if the food was acceptable...on this occasion I might have said something.

He did come by and topped up the wine glasses, as I had brought a bottle of a Rioja to evaluate.  That was as disappointing as the Pork Chop, though.  We offered the fellow a taste and we heard something about his abstaining from alcohol for some reason.

We skipped dessert.

The bill tallied to $129 including tax, but not the tip.

This place needs someone who knows the wine & food business to take the reigns and make a go of it.  As it's currently running, I'd predict they'll be there solely for a short run.

Reviewed by GW
January 2016



1525 Fillmore Street
San Francisco

TEL: 415-673-1294

Dinner Daily from 5:30

Chicken Karaage

Not Lioco Chardonnay!
The wine arrived after the first little plate of food.




Shiitakes with a Crispy Rice 'cracker'

Oysters with seaweed

California Sturgeon Caviar topped with a "potato cloud"

Steak Tartare with the toasted Quinoa...

...Mixed at the table by our server


Decanting our bottle of Bordeaux


Grilled Pork with pig ear strips

Devil's Gulch Rabbit

Harissa Lamb with Merguez Sausages


Cocoa Chiffon Cake with Huckleberries



A table at The Progress is a hot ticket presently and we used Open Table to reserve a two-top for a Monday evening in late November (2015).

We booked an 8pm table and motored up Fillmore Street looking for the restaurant.  If you can't see the street numbers (and they're not easily visible) and are looking for a sign for The Progress, good luck!
Both The Progress and its hot-shot sibling restaurant next door, State Bird Provisions, are both too cool (apparently) to have signage helping guests from out of the neighborhood find the place.
There's a parking lot a block, or so, away at the Kabuki Theater building in nearby Japan-town.  I found a spot a block away near a softball or soccer field.

Arriving a few minutes early and before my friend, I was asked to wait in the bar.  Once she showed up a couple of minutes later we were escorted upstairs to a second-level dining area and we had a spacious table for four.

Wine glasses are not part of the table setting and the wine list with which we were presented had a bunch of cocktails, as those are a feature at The Progress.

The menu is eclectic and features familiar ingredients and flavors but sometimes in unfamiliar combinations.  The wine list is lengthy and features a wide range of off-the-beaten path selections.

The food menu offers five little "nibbles" to start and the portions are tailored to the number of people at the table.  On the night we visited, there were there five items:





The Bahri dates are quite sweet and possibly better suited to service as a dessert.  All that sugar can kill your appetite.  I wasn't excited about the tofu offering, but did like the fried chicken karaage and the shiitakes with the crispy rice "chips".
A big part of the presentation is the "show business" aspect of the dining experience here.  Either the server or someone from the kitchen (I gather) presents each dish and then gives you an explanation as to what they've served.

On their "By the Glass" list, we found two sparkling wines, two roses and 6 whites and 6 reds.

There's a Cremant Rose from the Loire for $16 a glass or Alfred Gratien Champagne at $24 a pour.
They have a Franken Riesling for $14, a French dry white made of Rolle from Provence for $16, a Vermentino from Liguria for $18, a Chablis for $17, a Lioco Chardonnay from the Russian River for $18 and a Portuguese white made of Arinto from the Bucelas appellation at $15.  Each of these white wines are offered in half bottle format, too.
They have a Vesper Rose from San Diego County at $14 a pour.  (The crew here in the shop tasted the wines made by this producer and no staff member was especially thrilled by the wines, but your mileage may vary.)
Reds include Michel Guignier's Morgon  for $14, a Pinot Noir of the Edaphos label from Sonoma for $19, Helda Rabaut's Chinon for  $16, a Nebbiolo by Carlo Giacosa at $18, Broc Cellars Carignan for $15 and a Croatian Refosk of the Piquentum label at $15 (we had one vintage of this in the shop, but a succeeding bottling was vinegary and reminiscent of pickle brine!).
Yes, these are not household names, so you'd better be as adventuresome about the wines as The Progress is about the culinary combinations.

Fifteen Champagnes are offered by the bottle, ranging from $90 for Jeauneux-Robin bubbly to a 1990 Dom Perignon at $390.
In the page offering US white wines, we find a Chenin Blanc from Clarksburg at $55 a bottle (St. Rey is the winery), while Ojai's Riesling is $64 a bottle.  You can try a Washington State Gewurztraminer of the Analemma winery at $62 or a Liquid Farms Chardonnay for $90.  Mount Eden's Estate Chardonnay from the Santa Cruz Mountains is $130.  There is a sub-section of "skin fermented" wines which has Ryme Cellars Ribolla Gialla at $90 or Dirty & Rowdy Semillon for $75.
The range of imported white wines is impressive.  How many lists offer one Chasselas, let alone two? Romorantin from the Loire is $55 a bottle and there's a hundred buck bottle of Verdicchio!  There's a Muscadet for $110 and, yes, it is a magnum.
They have eleven Chenin Blanc wines from France's Loire Valley, ranging from $50, or so, to $180.  Really, eleven?
Hamilton Russell Chardonnay is $75 and one of the better values on this voluminous wine list.  Still, that's well more than twice its retail price.

The red wine selections are equally eclectic.  There's a $70 of Gamay, not from Beaujolais, but from the Rhone Valley!  How about a Gamay blended with Persan from the Savoie for $90?  Or a Persan/Mondeuse blend from the same domaine in the Savoie at $160 a bottle?  A Pineau d'Aunis from the Loire is $70, but since you can never have enough Pineau d'Aunis, it's also offered in magnum at $130!  Foradori's lovely Teroldego is $55 a bottle and one of the better values on this remarkable list.
There is also a page of "Cellar Selections" at prices which make the rest of the list seem like bargains.
The main wines on the list are varied, as noted and you'll find a dearth of Cabernet Sauvignon and Bordeaux.  Perhaps they view these as passé?  Or perhaps they don't think Cabernet matches well with their cuisine.  

Frankly, it's the sort of wine list which impresses the hell out of wine geeks and publications such as The Wine Spectator.  One one hand, the range of wines is impressive, but it's almost one of those "look-at-me" wine lists, designed to befuddle 90% of those dining in the restaurant.
No sommelier or wine steward approached our table to offer advice in pairing wines to the varied menu.  And yet the prices they're asking for these bottles should cover the expense of having a knowledgeable wine specialist on the floor, even on a Monday night.

We ordered a pour of their Cremant Rose from the Loire, a $16 glass.  Also, we asked for a glass of the Morgado de Santa Catherina from the Bucelas appellation, a $15 glass of a white wine made of the Arinto grape.  The server returned to the table with a couple of glasses and a bottle of the sparkling wine.  She poured a small taste and got the "okay" from my friend.  Then she poured the glass of bubbly and said she'd return with the Lioco wine.
We had not ordered the Lioco Chardonnay, but the Portuguese white wine.
She brought the correct wine several minutes later and poured a sip, which I gave the nod to pour it.
By then, the little morsels of Fried Chicken had arrived...quite good.  The tofu dish was okay, but not my favorite sort of vittles.  The crudités were fine, a couple of little carrots and a radish and some other root vegetable with a lump of Crescenza cheese.  I liked the Shiitake mushrooms with a crispy, toasted rice "plank."  My dining companion was not so thrilled.

We augmented the starters with half a dozen oysters ($3.50 each) and a serving of Caviar at ten bucks.  The oysters had a little bit of seaweed on top of them and this, I believe, is where some sort of smoky, foreign element came from.  My friend ate one and was not enthralled.   I found them interesting, but a fresh oyster doesn't need but a glass of Champagne or Muscadet for an enhancement.
A little saucer arrived with a dome-like white element on top of a bit of caviar.  I thought this was a good little "nibble," but my more fussy friend did not.

By this time I had a bottle of a 1978 Bordeaux on the table and the server passed by a handful of times without saying a word.  Finally she asked if we wanted her to open this.  I inquired if they had an "Ah So" cork-puller in the house, as a regular corkscrew would bust the cork on such a venerable bottle.  She said they did and whisked the bottle off the table and she headed up the little staircase.
The Steak Tartare with Nasturtium-Caper Aioli, Shaved Kohlrabi and Crispy Quinoa had arrived and we waited for the wine to return to our table.
We waited some more.
After perhaps five minutes, or so, she returned from downstairs (!) with our bottle and a cork which had proven difficult to extract.  The cork was in two pieces, but was fully out of the bottle.  She asked about decanting the wine and we thought that was a good idea.  This required a bit of time, as well, so I gingerly poured each of us a small taste in the Bordeaux stems which had been brought by the server.

We offered the lady a taste of the wine and she laughed, but did not decline the offer.  
She decanted the remaining wine for us and did so at the table.
We ended up finishing the bottle after asking her again to bring a glass.  Oh well.  Apparently she was not interested.  

The Steak Tartare dish was friend would have preferred a bit of toast to accompany this, but The Progress provides the sort of granulated, toasty Quinoa instead.  I found it to be an interesting and good combination.  But as with many dishes here, the chef seems to want to take you out of your comfort zone.

Going slightly out of order (we were told the main plates are listed on the menu from "lightest" to "heaviest"), the Grilled Pork dish arrived next. This came with "crushed broccoli, dried chili oil & tomatillo salsa."  This came with thinly sliced strips of pig ears and, we were told, was topped with Fiscalini Cheese. This was curious, since the server inquired about any food allergies or preferences we might have.  I mentioned dairy products and cheese in particular.  I didn't detect the use of much cheese and only thought I got a little hint of it at the end.
 This was another interesting dish with the chili being detectable, while not overwhelming the pork.

They then brought the Devil's Gulch Rabbit with Riesling-Braised Kraut, Fuyu Persimmons & Mustard Butter Toast.  The Kraut was very mild, so it didn't have quite the intensity I was expecting.

As we finished this plate, the server came by and collected the dinner plates and silverware.  We figured this was in preparation for the Harissa Lamb from Don Watson with Charred Pepper Vinaigrette and Chickpeas.
She asked if we'd like to see the dessert menu and we were a bit perplexed.  We asked about the lamb and she may have been contemplating returning the soiled plates to the table, but thought better of it and replaced them with clean ones and new silverware.

The Lamb dish was not described fully, as there were slices of Merguez sausages on the plate with a few pieces of roasted lamb.  This was a very flavorful dish and, happily, not overwhelming spicy, though you could taste the harissa.

We finished the bottle of Bordeaux and then the server presented a small dessert card.  They offered a Cheddar Cheese plate, an Elderflower "Floating Island," Gingersnap Ice Cream or a Cocoa Chiffon Cake at ten bucks.
We opted for the Chiffon Cake.
This was a small wedge of a cake dappled with huckleberries.  Nice.

The bill arrived and we were charged for the Lioco Chardonnay, a few bucks higher than the Arinto we had requested and were poured.
I don't think the $2.80 billing per person for the mandated SF Employee Health Care was surcharged on the check.
We paid the $240 tab and left a reasonable tip, too.

I can now say I've "been there/done that" in terms of dining at The Progress.  I found the experience to be interesting, but wouldn't have this place high on my list of San Francisco dining experiences.
I wonder if they don't have a series of dart boards in the kitchen with menu ingredients on them, tossing a bunch of darts to assemble each night's array of menu offerings.

When I arrived at home, I had a small glass of eau-de-vie, as a bit of a digestif was required after such a meal.

Reviewed by GW
November 2015




1355 Market Street
San Francisco

Tel: 415-802-1700

Open Mon-Fri 11:30am-10pm
Saturday 4pm-10pm
Closed Sundays


Seafood platter...the small one.

A piece of bread...

Brandade de Morue


Steak Tartare

Terrific bread for the Steak Tartare.

Duck au Poivre

Steak Frites



We booked an 8:30pm table for two on  a Monday evening in October at this new restaurant in the Twitter Building on Market at 10th Street.
At that hour I was able to find parking about a block away and had a short walk to the restaurant.

There's a grocery store close to the restaurant and there's some sort of florist business that you'll encounter when you enter Bon Marche.  They have a bar along the Market Street entrance and the restaurant is behind all the flowers.
There's an open kitchen area to the right and tables to the left.

We were escorted to a two-top with my friend sitting on a banquette and I was in one of their free-standing chairs (which was a tad low for my taste).

There were wine glasses on the table and the hostess brought a wine list and "drinks" list for us to peruse.

They have many nice selections by-the-glass (BTG).  For bubbles they had a sparkling Pacory pear cider for $10.  Navaran Cava from Spain is $11, while there's an Italian bubbly associated with Colorado sommelier Bobby Stuckey at $12 a pour.  They have an unidentified "Rotating House Champagne" that's described as Pinot Meunier-dominant for $16 or, for an extra buck, you can have the "popcorn salt rim."  Huh?  You've lost me there.
Seven whites are offered BTG.  Each has a brief description: "Alpine White" for a Roussette from the Savoie ($11) or "Tad Sweet German Riesling" for a $13 glass of Peter Lauer's "Barrel X".  Seven reds are on the list, including a "Traditional Old Barrel Rioja Reserva 2006" by La Antigua ($16) or "Cool Climate Syrah by County Line" ($14) or "Volcanic Nerello Mascalese Cala Cala" at $12. 
Flip a page in the binder-of-a-wine-list and you see they offer "Wine By Style."
"Big on Sparkling" features a range of bubblies, including "Champagne made in oak 'Classique' by Alfred Gratien at $82 or "Vintage Champagne "Blanc des Blancs" 2005 by Pierre Moncuit at $100.
"White Wines-Creamy or Savory" has a listing of Austrian Grüner Veltliners and French Chablis.   There's a listing of "White Wines--Oxidative in a Good Way, Nutty or Honeyed."  There we find 5 Chenin Blanc wines, two from South Africa and three from Loire Valley appellations, but not the common Vouvray or Montlouis, but Jasnières, Savennières and Anjou. Guigal's Hermitage Blanc is listed as a Marsanne (it does usually have 5% Roussanne, by the way) and goes for $100.
"White Wines-Big on Aromatics and Texture" finds Guigal's Hermitage listed again ($100) as it was previously.  There's a 1994 Vouvray from Cruchet at $60 and a $120 bottle of Keller's Kirchspiel Riesling from 2007.  There's a 1995 Kalin Cellars Chardonnay for $65 and it's listed again below in the "White Wines-A Little Age" section.  Four pink wines are listed as "Highly Gulpable Still Rosé Wines," but none of the four have the vintage dates listed.
"Red Wines-Red Fruits Soft Tannins" finds a number of Burgundies and West Coast Pinot Noirs, along with several Rioja wines from Spain.  $85 gets you a Peay Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir while $80 gets you La Rioja Alta's Viña Ardanza (we sell that for $29.99 and it lists for $35 at retail).  
"Red Wines-Dried Fruits, Very Dry Wines" sees seven Italian wine offerings.  "Barbaresco Single Site 'Ronchi' 2010 by Rocca From Piedmont" goes for a mere $66 (though the list doesn't tip you off that it's Albino Rocca and not Bruno).  There's "Barolo Single Site 'Monprivato' 2010 by G. Mascarello From Piedmont" for $220 (and they do tip you off to it being Giuseppe and not Bartolo Mascarello).
"Red Wines-Red and Dark Fruits, Equally Savory" sees a number of Rhone reds and California wines made of Rhone varieties.  There's a Clusel-Roch Côte-Rôtie for $100 but the vintage date is omitted.  A Sang de Cailloux Vacqueyras ($65) and a Châteauneuf-du-Pape by Feraud-Brunel ($77) don't have vintage dates and both are listed under "Red and Dark Fruits, Equally Savory" and "Sweeter Fruits, Bigger Wines."  The 2009 Mayacamas Cabernet, retailing at $80-$90 for a 750ml bottle is $97 on this list, while Dunn's 2000 Howell Mountain Cabernet is $150...a couple of relative bargains.
The list continues with numerous categories...
In a hand-writing font there's "Wine for Food" and directly below is a category called "Perfect for Nothing But Conversation."  Huh?  And then we have listed many of the wines we've already seen under the sparkling wine category or the Rose category.  "For Oysters-More Briny and Crisp"  we see a few Champagnes, Chablis and a half bottle of Sancerre.  Then there's "For Oysters-More Creamy and Sweet."  These include some dry Rieslings and Loire Valley Chenin Blancs.
There's a section of "For Cold Salads and Tartare" and one of "For Charcuterie-White Wines" and one for Reds.  "For Things With Shells-Whites and Reds" sees many of the wines already listed in previous categories.
There are other pages with categories such as "France," "Italy," "Germany," "Austria," "Spain" and "California."   Then we have "50 and Under" and "$51-$99"...and "$100 and Rising."
It's an interesting way to take some of the mystery out of the wine list.  No sommelier was working the floor when we visited, so perhaps this excessive categorization of the list is in lieu of a somm?
Our server was a young lady and she had a bit of a challenge in opening the Champalou sparkling Vouvray ($50) we ordered to start.
She brought nice, Zalto-styled glasses for the bubbly, poured the "say" and we were off and running.  The server asked if she should leave the bottle on the table or keep it on ice.  We chose the latter, providing she kept the glasses with bubbly...she had more tables than she could comfortably cover, so this was a challenge.  She'd pour wine into an empty glass, but, curiously, not top up the other glass.
We ordered a small seafood platter ($36) and this was placed on one of those large stands that sits at close to eye level and is filled with crushed ice...there were half a dozen oysters, three or four chilled prawns and perhaps a half a dozen clams on the plate.
At a certain point, a piece of bread would have been nice and, after a few minutes, a fellow carrying a basket and tongs placed part of a Pain d'Epi on the bread plate...perfectly okay, but it would have been nicer had it been fresher or warm.  (My French friend said this sort of bread can become stale more quickly than other types of bread...)
We'd ordered their Brandade, as well ($7).  This came out well after the seafood platter had been removed from the table.  There were some pieces of a toasted baguette on the plate with the Brandade.  Served warm, it was a bit soupy and less thick than virtually every other serving of Brandade I've's usually the consistency of mashed potatoes.
The flavor was mildly reminiscent of cod, though.

Since we were both quite hungry (missed lunch as it was a busy day in the shop), I ordered one of their $15 appetizers, Escargot Persillade, while she ordered the $18 Steak Tartare.  (Other appetizers included Sweetbreads, Bone Marrow, Mussels, a Foie Gras Terrine and more...classic bistro fare.)
The Escargot come on a square of puff pastry and topped with ribbon-like strips of carrots and some other vegetable (zucchini, perhaps?).  Quite a good plate and the escargot were plump and toothsome.  The Steak Tartare is accompanied by some small greens and it's got a tiny egg swimming on top of the beef.  This is accompanied by a couple of outstanding slices of a Pain au Levain that had been toasted perfectly.  The tartare was good, maybe leaning a bit much on the mustard and/or capers.  They had a few little thick cut 'logs' of potato on this plate...but these were not fully cooked and a bit odd.

From the "Plate de Resistance" ($29) section of the menu, she ordered the Steak Frites (with watercress, Roquefort and Cognac Jus), while I chose the Duck au Poivre (with Preserved Brook Cherries and Wax Beans).
We produced a bottle of a nice Bordeaux from our cellar bag and the server opened the bottle.  The larger Zalto-styled glasses that were on the table as part of the place-setting were now in play.  We offered the server a taste and she brought a glass and walked back to the kitchen with a healthy pour (as in many restaurants, servers are not permitted to have a sip in the dining room).
The duck was quite good and the accompaniments paired well.  My friend enjoyed the steak and the frites.

Dessert was out of the question, given all the starters we had.  

Corkage is a whopping $35 as they clearly want to discourage guests from bringing their own wine.  They allow two bottles at $35 and succeeding bottles are taxed at $55!

With the SF Heath 'tax' and sales tax, the bill tallied to $243.

This was a nice dining experience and the ambience was open and airy.  The sound system was playing music in the background that dove-tailed nicely without intruding.

We had a pleasant dining experience and I'd certainly go back for another meal.

Reviewed by GW
October 2010


Cafe Brioche

445 South California Avenue
Palo Alto

Tel: 650-326-8640

Mon-Thurs: Lunch 11am-3pm, Dinner 5pm-9.30pm

Fri: Breakfast 9am-11am, Lunch 11am-3pm, Dinner 5pm-9.30pm

Sat: Brunch 9am-3pm, Dinner 5pm-9.30pm

Sun: Brunch 9am-3pm, Dinner 5pm-9:00pm

Wine "By The Glass"

Caesar Salad






We booked a table at this Palo Alto dining spot on a Sunday evening during the summer...there were a number of table on the sidewalk in front of the restaurant as people enjoyed the setting sun and the warm weather.

We took a table inside, where there is seating for perhaps 40 people.

It's a lovely dining room with French-themed paintings on the wall "advertising" butter and olive oil.

We took a table by the front window and the host gave us menus and a wine list.  Wine glasses are part of the table setting here.

There are 3 "flights" of wines offered, one featuring "Delicious Whites" ($17), another is called "Luscious Reds" ($19) and a Chardonnay flight ($18).  All the wines offered are fairly standard quality and of little interest to serious wine geeks.

There are twelve wines offered in half-bottle format, these ranging from Rombauer's Zinfandel at $32 for a half bottle (it retails for $15, so the markup is a bit more than 3 times) to $50 for a half bottle of Clos de L'Oratoire Chateauneuf-du-Pape.  Merry Edwards Sauvignon Blanc in half-bottle format is listed as a 2011 vintage (a bit old, but probably still okay) at $36.
The wine list claims to have 20 selections available "by the glass" (BTG).
There's J. Roget sparkling wine for $7.50 BTG or $30 a bottle (this wholesales from $3.64 a bottle to $4.27!).
Tiamo Prosecco, another sketchy choice, is $9.50 BTG and not available by-the-bottle.
The one other sparkler BTG is Veuve de Vernay, a $9-$10 retail bottle of French bubbly (not Champagne, but passed off to unsuspecting consumers as possibly being Champagne). This is $11 BTG and $34 by the bottle.
Stags Leap ($15), Wellington ($11) and Tariquet (from Gascony) ($9) are the Chardonnays available BTG.  We do not know if the first one is Stags' Leap Winery or Stag's Leap Wine Cellars, however.
For some reason they post a category of Pouilly-Fuisse wines separated from the Chardonnays.
There are 13 Pinot Noir wines, including two from Lodi (a hot climate area where someone is attempting to grow a cool-climate grape, apparently) at $36 and $40.  Meiomi, a $16 wholesale bottle, is $65. Goldeneye Pinot is $98 and Merry Edwards goes for $90.
They have 8 Merlots, Duckhorn being the leading candidate, though it is $90 a bottle.  
There are five Cotes du Rhone offerings, a $12 retail bottling that's a private label (we suspect) is $40 on the wine list.  More noteworthy is Chapoutier's, a wine wholesaling for $10-$11 and this is $36 on the list.
There are six "Rhone Blend" selections, along with a couple of Beaujolais offerings.
Six Zinfandels are listed, Ridge Three Valleys going for $48, I think.
There's an entry-level red Bordeaux from Chateau Bonnet at $42 with no really savvy selections, though a Pomerol from Franc-Maillet, 2009 vintage, is $150.
In fact, maybe that's the problem with the wine list:  when you have a mark-up of 300%, or more, the wines should be of a quality that customers get some value for their dollar.
Amongst the Cabernet selections,  Silver Oak's Alexander Valley bottling is $120, Caymus' new release is $150 and Jordan is $105 a bottle.
The entry level bottlings are Nightfall from Lodi at $36, Joel Gott at $44 and J. Lohr is $68.
Curiously, they offer not one French Red Burgundy!

Perusing the menu, you'll find all sorts of classic main plate bistro items.  The starters are somewhat more creative.
"Brioche Beignets Frits" ($9.95) are brioche dough balls stuffed with artichoke hearts, shallots, herbs and goat cheese.  They offer "Thon," pepper-crusted Ahi tuna with quinoa, pickled radish and lemon zest ($14.95).  Foie de Volaille ($9.95) is a serving of Chicken Livers in a red wine sauce.
French Onion Soup is $8, a green salad is $7.95 and a Caesar Salad is $8.95.
I'd be fairly certain the "Charcuterie" items are not house-made and probably come with a label where they are spelled correctly.  They got "Coppa" right, but swung and missed on Prosciutto and Finocchiona.
There are 6 cheeses offered under the Fromage heading.

They immediately brought a bread basket filled with a nice pain levain, as we perused the menu.

The Old Bat ordered her customary Tanqueray Martini ($10) and I opted for a pour of a Domäne Wachau Grüner Veltliner ($10).  The wine comes in a small carafe and they poured about half into a nice, large wine glass.  Good!

"Calamar" ($11.95) are fried calamari with a lime chili aioli sauce.  Nicely done.
I went for their attempt at a Caesar Salad, but the garlic and anchovy seemed to be missing, so this was a half a dozen, or so, Romaine Lettuce leaves on a plate.  Bland and boring.

We produced a bottle from our cellar bag, a nice red Bordeaux.  The corkage, we were told, was normally $15, but as The Old Bat was so friendly, they did not charge us.
We invited the owners (we think this Greek couple are the owners, anyway) to have a sip with us and we poured them some of the Bordeaux.

For a main plate, The Old Bat ordered Bouillabaisse ($23.95).  I skipped the tempting Boeuf Bourguignon ($22.95), Steak Frites ($26.95), Coq au Vin ($19.95)  and Magret de Canard ($24.95) in favor of their Cassoulet de Toulouse ($23.95).  We were told they were out of the pork chop for that, but would double up either the sausage or duck confit.  We opted for the latter and this was good, though the sausage was maybe even better.  It was served in a large soup bowl filled with white beans, cooked al dente.  Cassoulet is not a fancy dish and this was very reasonable.
The Old Bat enjoyed the Bouillabaisse, as well.

The service was good here...pleasant and friendly, but attentive.  They kept our water glasses filled, too.

We skipped dessert.  The bill, without the corkage fee, tallied to $96, quite reasonable we felt.

The ambience of the place is nice.  The Old Bat was delighted that it was not noisy and diners can converse without having to yell to be heard.

We will certainly return to this nice neighborhood bistro as we often attend the cinema in Palo Alto.

Why don't we have a nice French place such as this in Burlingame???

 Reviewed by GW
August 2015



535 Ramona Street
Palo Alto

Tel: 650-328-2722

Open Daily for Lunch/Brunch 
and Dinner



NOLA'S Gumbo




Oink and Cluck...with red beans & rice as a side dish.

We booked a Sunday evening table at this place in downtown Palo Alto.  The Old Bat immediately vetoed climbing the stairs to the upper level for a table, so we were guided to one in a small alcove on the main floor.

The hostess brought the menu, which has the wine list on the back.  No wine glasses are part of the place setting, as they seem to be more enthusiastic for customers to order cocktails.

They have about 18 wines available "by the glass" (BTG).  If you're shopping at Safeway or Trader Joe's, you might find the wine list to be a thing of beauty:  Hess Chardonnay is $8 a glass, while Franciscan is $10 and Sonoma Cutrer's Russian River Valley bottling is $14 (or $54 by the bottle for a wine wholesaling for $14.75!).
Trefethen Riesling is $48 a bottle, a wine retailing for $25 at the winery.
A number of their selections are "marketing department" wines, sporting names such as "Gothic Nevermore Pinot Noir" ($50 a bottle), "The Velvet Devil Merlot" ($30), "Fearless Rider Malbec" ($34), "Right Hand Man Syrah" ($34), etc.  A bottle of Silver Oak Cabernet is $90, while Flowers Pinot Noir is $75.  They have two Zinfandels, Artezin ($34) and Bella's Big River Ranch at $60.  No Ridge, though, despite one of California's best Zin estates being just a few miles from the restaurant!
They had two Roses, both 2013 vintage, a year older than we'd typically like in 2015.  
If you like a good, crisp, exuberant Sauvignon Blanc, you're out of luck.  Lange Twins from Lodi is $8 BTG and $30 for a bottle.  Provenance from Napa is $10 for a glass and $38 by the bottle, while Cakebread is $40 for a bottle.

The corkage fee is a modest ten dollars.

The menu features New Orleans' cuisine.

Spicy Jambalaya is $19, but if you want it with two seared scallops, it's $24.  Fried Chicken & Waffles is $22.  On Fridays and Saturdays they offer a "Bayou Crawfish & Shrimp Boil" ($28).  Baby Back Ribs are $28, while Crawfish Hushpuppies are $8 as a starter.
Chicken Andouille Gumbo is $5 for a cup or $9 for a bowl.  Barbecued Shrimp & Grits is $14.

We ordered a cup of Gumbo for each of us.  A while later a fellow came to the table with a bowl of rice and a small pitcher, pouring the soup on top of the rice.  It starts out fairly tame, but by the fourth spoonful, you'll feel the heat.  I thought the soup was pretty good, though the cornbread wedge accompanying it was a bit weak.

The Old Bat ordered her usual Dry Martini with an olive and and onion.  Oops...they were out of onions!
Corkage fee, as mentioned, is $10 and I brought a nicely chilled bottle of Rose out of the cellar bag.  The young lady waiting on his was challenged to open this bottle, but finally prevailed and the cork came out in one piece.
She didn't pour "the say" and I had to give her a sign as to when to stop pouring so she didn't over-fill the glass.

Before the soup dishes had been cleared, our main plates arrived!  It seems the service at this place is less-than-polished and the kids waiting tables may need someone actually supervising the dining room.

The Old Bat ordered the $19 Jambalaya, eschewing the Sea Scallop version.  I had a forkful and this was perfectly okay.
My main plate was called "Cluck & Oink" ($24) and was a piece of Mary's Fried Chicken (boneless) and half a rack of ribs.
The Chicken tasted like some sort of "fast food" protein...It reminded me, a bit, of fried fish!  The ribs had a curiously glossy appearance and the meat literally "fell off the bone" as it had been cooked to a fare-the-well and then some.  The sauce was a touch sweet, despite possibly having a drop of vinegar in it.  I wondered if the ribs were actually cooked on site or brought in pre-cooked.

Yes, it was not a meal with great food or great service.

The bill tallied to $72 before the tip, as we were charged $11 for the Martini and $1.50 for something called the "Healthcare Act."  She forgot to add the $10 corkage fee, but we left the young lady a nice tip that helped cover that omission.

I can't say the quality of the food or service was sufficiently good to warrant another visit.  It's certainly not a wine-centric restaurant, either.

Reviewed by GW
July 2015


Some Notes: (June 2015)

A friend was departing for a work assignment in Vietnam and we wanted to have a little "Bon Voyage" Dinner with some upscale Asian cuisine.  Another friend arranged with the manager of a place for a late seating on the appointed day.
We arrived a bit early and some of our party had a cocktail.  I was introduced to the manager as the owner of a wine shop.  The manager, seeing my bag of bottles pulled our "connection" aside and informed them we would be allowed to open but two bottles.
I had selected wines to pair with their food (a lot of Rieslings) which were made by wineries I'd visited in Europe with the guest of honor.  Some of the bottles were quite special and well-aged.  Another selection was from a winery the guest-of-honor visited with her husband on their honeymoon this earlier this year.
The reservation was for a 9pm table (so we were not hindering the restaurant from turning the table and serving other customers).  We eschewed having a new glass for the second wine.
The GM never came to our table to see how we were doing.  We'd have offered him a sip of our wine had he stopped by.
We were mostly full, with just a bit of hunger remaining, as I noticed people picking over the bones of the whole fish we'd ordered.
As we were unable to enjoy a third bottle (and they had not brought by a wine list), we concluded the evening by asking for the check.
The dining establishment graciously waived the $25 per bottle corkage fee.
The bill tallied to $200, or so, and we left a $50 tip.
We thought this would have been a much more satisfying dining experience had the GM been a tad more hospitable.
<<He could have outlined the ground rules to start, saying "Look, the first two bottles are free, but additional bottles will incur the $25 corkage fee."  Or "Please order a bottle from our list and then we'll open whatever bottles in your bag you'd like to drink." >>
We'd have ordered a bit more food had we been able to open another bottle or two.

Well, a week AFTER the meal, the GM sent an e-mail message to the sales rep who had reserved the table for our group.  He informed her that she is no longer welcome in the restaurant and he will discontinue doing business with the company she works for, citing our bringing our 6 bottle wine bag into the restaurant.

There was no obnoxious and loud behavior on the part of our group.  We were not the last group to depart from the restaurant, as there were perhaps a dozen, or two, other people still either at a table or at the bar when we left.

One would not think it would have been inconvenient for the GM to offer a bit of professional courtesy, but he was bent out of shape for some reason.

We had always been enthusiastic in suggesting this place to friends and customers, but we will no longer do so.

We relayed the story to a prominent Bay Area restaurant critic, who termed the GM's behavior as "outrageous."



468 19th Street

Tel: 510-893-0174

Open Daily Except Tuesdays

Dinner from 5:30
Lunch on Fridays

Quesos Marinados

Calamares Rellenos




Fideua Caldosa

Paella de Carne



Basil Ice Cream


Pluot Crisp


We booked a table at this East Bay Spanish outpost for a Friday night and managed to find parking on the street, a block away.  The restaurant was fairly full at 7:30 and it remained busy throughout the evening.

The menu was presented by the hostess, along with their small wine list.  Wine glasses are not part of the table setting.

Duende has a handful of dry Sherries, if you want to go in that direction to start.  Lustau's "En Rama" Fino is $13, while the fantastic El Maestro 15 Year old Oloroso is $10.
They offer a dry Sherry flight for $19 which is comprised of three wines.

There are three Cavas offered by the glass (BTG) if you want to start with a sip of bubbly.  Mas Candi Brut Nature is $13 for a pour as is Josep Foraster's Rosado Cava.  Per Mata's Gran Reserva is $15.

There were 7 whites BTG, all Spanish and with some variety.  A Talai Berri Txakolina is $13, as is Vina Godeval's Godello.  They have but one Albariño by-the-glass and a mildly fizzy Muscat dispensed from a keg for $10.  They have a Txakolina Rosado ($13) and a California Rose in a keg for $11.
You'll find 8 red wines on the list and you'll have to be a supreme Spanish Wine Geek to recognize the selections.  Giumaro's Mencia is $13 BTG, while a Rioja from Sierra de Toloño is $13. Donkey & Goat 2014 Carignane is poured from a keg and that's $13 a glass.

The wines offered by the bottle include a handful of sparklers and 8 "Lighter Whites."  There's a selection of "Richer Whites, Sometimes Oaked" which includes a Lopez Heredia 1991 Viña Tondonia for $210 a bottle.
Two Rosados are available and both fresh vintages.
There's a section of "Lighter Reds" with the 2005 La Rioja Alta's Viña Ardanza, a $30-$35 bottle at retail, for $88.  They offer "Medium Reds" and "Full Reds," along with a trio of California wines made from Spanish varieties.
Señorio de P. Peciña 2009 Crianza is $42 a bottle, a good choice for a nice Rioja.  Alto Moncayo's "Alto" bottling of Garnacha is $96, while the 2005 Pintia from the Toro region is $120.

The corkage fee is $20.

We ordered a bottle of the Blanco Nieva "Pie Franco" Rueda Blanco ($40) and the server quickly brought some nice all-purpose stemware, opened the bottle and away we went!

We were a party of three and ordered 4 "tapas" to start.  Calamares Rellenos a la Plancha ($14) come stuffed with Morcilla sausage and this was a nice little plate.  Pulpo Aguacate ($17) is spicy octopus served in a half of an avocado smothered with crispy shallots and some arugula.  Also good.  The Dos Tostas a la Plancha ($12) had two slices of bread, one with fresh goat cheese and the other with pork rillettes.  And we had a plate of Quesos Marinados with Tortillas de Patatas ($13) which were enjoyed by my friends.

A terrific bread plate was brought out, accompanied by a beautifully spice, fresh olive oil.

There are three offerings under the heading of "Raciones."  These included a pasta at $19, an Albacore Tuna at $25 and a Rib Eye Steak at $30.
There are two Paellas, one with meat at $40 for a two-person pan or $78 for a 4 person serving.  They have a Vegetable Paella at $36 for a 2-person pan or $70 for a 4 person serving.
Arroz Negra is $40 and $78 and comes with Petrale Sole, Ink, Shaved Fennel, etc.  We had the Paella de Carne ($40) made with Bomba Rice (as are the others), Rabbit, Crayfish, Smoked Pork Belly and Romano Beans.  Very good, though Saffron was not especially prominent here.  Fideua Caldosa ($40) is toasted fideos (a pasta), with chicken, shrimp, olives, peppers and cilantro.  This was also very good.

We brought a nicely mature bottle of Rioja for dinner and the server brought two more wine glasses, being the same format as for the white.  It's curious they don't have a somewhat larger glass for the red wines.  We managed, however.

We offered our server a taste of the 1994 Rioja Gran Reserva and, happily, the corkage fee did not appear on the bill.

We managed to be enticed by their dessert offerings.

The Kid went for the Basil Ice Cream ($8) which he said was very good and intensely herbal.

We also shared a taste of the Affogato ($6) which was a small scoop of ice cream and a nice, fresh shot of Espresso.

The Pluot Crisp was a small masterpiece and quite delicious ($10).

They have some sweet Sherries, too, if you want to include that to accompany your dessert.



The bill tallied to $223 with the tax and before the tip.

The ambiance of Duede varies.  When we arrived, we could see the menu and our table.  By 10pm they'd turned down the lights and it was a bit dark.  The music on the sound system is noticeable and I appreciated hearing Jobim's "Brazil" at one point.  But the music was varied and went off the rails with some loud techno tunes that featured a beat and not much music surrounding it.

The service is nicely polished and professional, from our server to the runners or bussers who cleared plates and silverware and even remembered to replace the utensils!

Having just dined at San Francisco's Coqueta (see below), it was interesting to compare both places.
The San Francisco restaurant is a place to see and be seen (in fact, we were told Santana was there when we paid them a visit).  San Francisco's Coqueta is terrific, but maybe has a stronger California cuisine accent than Duende.

I'd gladly go back to both places.

Reviewed by GW
July 2015




2518 Mission Street
San Francisco

Tel: 415-550-6970

Dinner Nightly from 5:30-10
Open 'til 11 Fri & Sat



The Ceviche Mixto comes with a nice corn 'fritter'

Empanadas de Pollo


Shishito Peppers


The New York Steak with a side of roasted potatoes.  Very good!

The Chuleta, a 15 ounce Pork Chop with a side of Kale.

A nice sized stem for the Cabernet, which they nicely decanted.

A wine biz friend was interested to dine in a hip, new place on short notice and it was booked.  We scouted other options and the menu at this new Argentinean place seemed interesting and they had a table available!

We motored to The City on a Thursday night, despite all kinds of reports of bad traffic.  We thought about taking BART (there's a station three blocks from the restaurant), but threw caution to the wind and stayed in the car.  In fact, the traffic reports were all wrong and we made it to the Mission District in 35 minutes (from Burlingame).

There's a parking garage on 21st Street, a block west of the restaurant.

It's a popular spot and the place was close to capacity when we arrived at 7:30.  They have a bar just past the hostess desk and there's a second one up the staircase towards the back.  I gather there's another bar affiliated with Lolinda that has a bit of a view as it's on the roof.

In fact, we were warned to not dine at this place by a wine sales rep who thought we would be too old (and feeble, curmudgeonly, etc.) for such a cool, hip place filled with tech industry wizards.

I arrived before my friend, so I ambled up the stairs and was by myself at the bar.  I ordered a $9 glass of a Lustau Fino Sherry (quite good and not 'just' the normal bottling, but a special, Almacenista offering).  Within 15 minutes the upstairs bar stools were occupied, but there was still plenty of room.

My buddy arrived and we checked in at the hostess desk, only to be escorted again up the stairs and to a small two-top along the wall.  The place seats perhaps 125 people and it was close to full at this stage.

No wine glasses are on the table, only a candle, and smallish plates with a knife and fork folded into a cloth napkin.

The menu was presented and a small book containing their wine list.

 They have a nice selection of wines "by the glass" (BTG).
Three sparkling wines:  Juve y Camps from Spain is $11 BTG and $44 for a bottle (this is a wine retailing for $16-$18).  A Luis Pato sparkler from Portugal is $12 BTG and $48 for a bottle.  There's a Sparkling Malbec for $13 BTG and $52 by the bottle.
Under the white wine category we found 9 options.  Spain, Chile, Argentina, California and New York wines are available.   They have 11 different reds, but I didn't see anything hugely inviting.

The wine list is appropriately obscure, so most of the selections are not easily recognizable, allowing them to take a healthy margin.

There were three whites from Argentina, starting at $32 for a Torrontes.  Mendel's Semillon is $50, a tempting option.  Three Chilean whites are available, one Portuguese and five Spanish.  We opted for a bottle of Martinsancho Verdejo at $48.
Amongst the bottled red wines, there are two from Portugal and nine from Spain.  These are listed by grape varieties and sometimes the winery name or brand is missing.  There's a "Tempranillo/Garnacha Viña Ardanza Reserva Rioja 2005," as they neglect to cite the winery name (La Rioja Alta).  This is a $35 retail bottle and it's on the list for $68.  There's another attractive Spanish red listed:  "Tempranillo Lopes (sic) de Heredia Viña Tondonia Reserva Rioja 2002" at $94 a bottle.  (It should be listed as Lopez de Heredia.)
A Napa red blend from Ramey, their 2012 Claret, is $85 on the wine list.  Chappellet's 2012 Napa Cabernet is $96.  

Our server brought the bottle of Verdejo and a couple of nice sized, elegant stems.  The say was poured and the wine was okayed.
He eventually brought an ice bucket, which, on a warm evening, was appreciated.

We perused the menu and the server told us the various menu items are meant to be shared and are served "family style."
We ordered three starters and two main plates.  The server informed us the main plates probably would not arrive at the same time.
Huh?  Excuse me?  What?

We began with a Ceviche Mixto ($14) and a couple of Chicken Empanadas ($7). These arrived simultaneously, thank you.
The Ceviche was delicious and the empanadas were also very good.
A while later a bowl of Shishito Peppers ($7) hit the table.
We drained the bottle of Verdejo and before the starter plates had been cleared, the two main courses were arriving.  The runners bringing those are schooled to take soiled silverware from the starter plates and place them back on the table.
We had produced a venerable bottle of Cabernet and this was not opened before the two main dishes arrived, another demerit.

My friend ordered the "Chuleta," a 15 ounce pork chop for $23.  I chose the "Bife de Chorizo," a 13 ounce New York strip for $33.
These come on wooden planks and we had, fortunately, ordered a couple of side dishes to accompany them. There were three side dishes on the menu, each $6.  Dino Kale, Mushrooms and Potatoes.  We opted for the Kale and Potatoes, both quite good.
There's a steak knife tucked under each slab of meat on the plank and both selections were exceptional and tender.
Here was a humble pork chop with the nobility of a New York Steak!  And the steak here was excellent.  Both are grilled over a wood fire, helping offset the couple of service glitches.

The waiter managed to remove the cork in two stages (they insist on using a normal corkscrew, even knowing the bottle is older and might be problematic).  He did a nice job in decanting the wine, though and we offered the server a taste.  He brought a glass over eventually and we gave him a nice, healthy pour, urging him to enjoy it with a bite of the steak.

The place is dark, so if you're not a 20-something year old youngster with good eyesight, bring a flashlight (or smartphone).  It's also quite loud and the music is not geared towards fuddy-duddys such as myself!  This is not a place for quiet, intimate conversation.  

Overall, though, it was a good meal and we'll definitely come back for an encore, especially since the Ceviche and meats were so good (and well-priced).

The corkage fee was $20 and with the tax the bill tallied to $180.

Reviewed by GW
July 2015



(Along the Embarcadero)
San Francisco

Tel: 415-704-8866

Lunch:  Tues-Sun 11:30-3
Dinner: Daily from 5pm

The small Sherry Glasses which reminded us of Grandma's stemware.

The proper copitas.

Chicken & Pea Croquetas


Shrimp with Black Garlic and Chili.



We were successful in booking Coqueta about a month in advance using Open Table.  On a Saturday night close around 8:45 pm, we found parking a block from Pier 5 and walked to the restaurant.  They have a very busy bar scene (it's called Bar 5) and it's a sort of glass house next to the restaurant.
The hostess verified our reservation and said the check had just been presented to the people occupying what would be our table.  About 15 minutes later we were escorted in to the busy, moderately loud restaurant and seated at a tall table which had a couple of elevated chairs facing the open kitchen.

No wine glasses are on the table and the smallish binder containing their wine list was presented along with the menu.

We had the idea of ordering a few tapas to start and a paella for our main plate.

Perusing the wine list we find a lot of wines of the Chiarello label from the Napa Valley.  This shouldn't be a surprise, since chef and owner Michael Chiarello has had a small wine production for many years.

There are four sparkling wines offered "by the glass" (BTG).  Mont Marçal Brut Reserva is $11 BTG and $41 by the bottle, while a Gramona III Lustros 2006 is $19.  Now the Mont Marçal retails for $15 a bottle, while the Gramona goes for $60, so their mark-up on the less costly wine is far greater.
Two Schramsberg bubblies are offered, as well.  Blanc de Noirs is $15 BTG or $72 a bottle.  The Rosé is $18 BTG and perhaps $78 by the bottle.

They have 5 dry Sherries offered in 2 ounce pours BTG.  And, happily these are from some small, artisan bodegas.
Five California whites are on the BTG list.  A Verdelho from California's North Coast (N2 is the brand and it's tapped from a keg or stainless steel cylinder) is $11 for a 250ml (nearly 8.5 ounces).
Frog's Leap Sauvignon Blanc is $14 for a glass or $42 for a bottle, as is Hill Family Albariño from Napa.  Far Niente Chardonnay is $28 BTG or $84 for a bottle.  Once again, we see they take a much smaller margin on costlier bottles, allowing customers to explore more expensive wines without being taken to the cleaners.

Two Rosés are offered BTG, along with four Spanish reds, the latter quartet ranging from $15 per pour to $26.  The California reds start at $22 a pour (Chiarello's own Napa Zinfandel, Duckhorn's Napa Merlot or Rivers-Marie Pinot Noir) to $25 for Chiarello's Napa Cabernet called Bambino.

As you might expect from a Spanish-themed place in San Francisco, the list has a wide range of Spanish offerings, along with a good selection of West Coast wines.

There are several interesting Cava bottlings, with Juve y Camps Brut Nature on the list at $44 a bottle (it's about a $17-$18 bottle at most retail shops).  Three Txakoli wines are all priced in the range of $40 a bottle, with four Verdejos in the range of $32-$46 and several Godello bottlings are available from $40-$67.    Catalonian whites start at $32 and escalate to $145. Albariños range from $52 to $120 a bottle.
Amongst the reds, of course we look to Rioja and there are close to a dozen of those.   La Rioja Alta's Ardanza is $72 ($30-$35 at retail), while Murrieta's 2005 Ygay is $125.
Amongst the domestic reds, there's a lovely Radio Coteau Syrah for $100, but if you're showing off there are two Sine Qua Non bottlings for $375 and $490.  If you want California Zinfandel, Frog's Leap is $52, while Outpost's 2013 is $92, both priced within the realm of reason.
Merlot from Duckhorn is a mere $65 a bottle, just a few bucks over the retail price.  I wouldn't be amused paying $350 for a Merlot called Amuse Bouche.  Kistler Pinot Noir is $125 per bottle, but there are 7 other selections ranging from $66 to $190 (Kosta Brown).    Twelve Cabernets are offered (they have a 32-ounce bone-in rib-eye  for $84) and these, apart from Phelps at $135 or Quintessa at $250, are mostly unknown names for the average consumer.  Chiarello's two bottlings are $75 and $109, while labels such as Taken, Tournesol, Casa Piena, Coup de Foudre and Ad Vivum are offered.  If you're spending a buck, consider Bryant's 2010 at a cool $1000.

We ordered two glasses of Fino Sherry and were waiting for those anxiously as other Sherries were being brought to neighboring tables in proper Sherry "copitas."  Our server brought our two servings (a good 10 minutes after ordering them) in smallish, close to 'thistle-shaped' glasses.  Swirling the wine in these would have been impossible, as a two ounce pour was in perhaps a four ounce glass.
We asked the server for proper copitas and he told us these were 'typical' Fino Sherry glasses.
He finally brought two good copitas and deftly poured from Grandma's old Sherry glass into more appropriate stemware.

We then ordered a "pour" of a nice little Verdejo.  A 250ml serving of Nisia is $13 and since we ordered two pours, it was brought in a classic Spanish decanting glass called a porron.  The glasses for this were stemless.  

We selected three tapas as starters.  Croquetas de Pollo ($9) came first, three little croquettes of a milky, pasty center with some small English peas in a nice little crust.  A morsel of a Cara Cara Orange accompanies these...quite good!
Gambas al Negro ($14) features three head-on prawns with black garlic and an olive oil 'sauce' which had a flavor reminiscent of saffron (though the menu says "Black garlic and Chili Sauce."
Albondigas a la Ferria ($14) are duck and pork meatballs with a "Tart Cherry and Tempranillo Salsa and Crispy Shallots."  These were also quite good.
Each appetizer comes with three little servings.

We placed a bottle of a 1985 Rioja on the table and one of the managers saw this as she walked by.  Offering to decant it for us, the bottle was whisked off someplace and she returned a while later with a decanter full of wine and the empty bottle.  We asked her to bring a couple of extra glasses, one for some friends who were dining and one for herself.

By this time the Paella ($45 and enough for three people) arrived...beautiful!  Quite good, too.

We enjoyed dining here, although when it became less noisy, the music became more audible and it was not Spanish-themed, nor was it comfortable dining music.  When you're an old geezer, you probably would prefer something a bit less techno-sounding.

We skipped dessert, though there was a nice list of dessert wine offerings.  A two-ounce pour of Moscatel is $6, while a Monastrell Dulce is $7.    A PX Gran Reserva is $12.  Infantado's Ruby Port is $7, while a Quinta do Crasto 2000 Vintage Porto is $12 for a small pour.

Our bill tallied to $137 and they didn't charge us for the $25 corkage fee (as we'd generously shared a pour with the manager and our server).

Overall this is a lovely dining spot.  It's also a typically noisy and fairly crowded place.

We look forward to a return visit to try some other Coqueta dishes.

Reviewed by GW
June 2015



333 Fulton Street
San Francisco

Tel: 415-294-8925

Dinner Sun-Mon 5-8:15
Tue-Thurs 5-10:15
Fri-Sat 5-10:30


Glass of Blanc de Noirs and the bag of Plaj Bread...


Onion Soup with Croutons

Potato Dumpling Kumla: onion ragout, lingonberry, lardon, brown butter


Leg of Lamb without the English Peas, ramps, horseradish, crispy garlic, raising jus.

Swedish Meatballs, Potato Purée, Lingonberries and Pickled Cucumber.




After some Sunday cinema, we snagged a parking space directly across the street from the Inn at The Opera, a small hotel and home of Pläj (pronounced 'play,' we're told).

It's a Swedish-themed restaurant.

We were escorted to a small two-top on the left side of the dining room, across from the bar.  The restaurant seemed to be about two-thirds full.  It's an elegant dining spot.

Wine glasses were on the table as the hostess set down menus and a wine list.  The Old Bat snagged a chair, but I was on a sort of couch, propped up by a number of pillows.  This was fine for a moment, but it's not the most comfortable seat for dining.  You're a bit low compared to the table.

We perused the wine list.  The Old Bat asked for a Tanqueray Martini, but they did not have her favorite brand of Gin.  However, she did say the Martini with Hendrick's Gin was "excellent."

The wine list offers two bubblies "by the glass."  
One is Andre Robert's Blanc de Blancs Champagne at $20 a pour.
Other by-the-glass options include a young Elk Cove Pinot Noir Rose ($10), Cooper Mountain Pinot Gris ($10), Peter Franus Sauvignon Blanc ($14) and Neyers Chardonnay ($16).  A Von Nell 1994 Auslese Riesling ($15) is also offered.
Trefethen Cabernet is $18, while a Beauregard Zinfandel is $15.  A Mocali Rosso di Montalcino is $12, while a young Savigny-Les-Beaune from Albert Bichot is $15.

By the bottle you can have a Penner-Ash "Viogner" (sic) for $62. A Premier Cru Chablis from Barat is $72, while a Petite Arvine from Rene Favre is $70.  
The lowest priced red is a Locatelli Cabernet Franc from Friuli at $42 a bottle. Isole e Olena 2012 Chianti is $50.  An Andrew Rich wine is listed as a Grenache Blend, so we suppose that's his Tabula Rasa bottling.  That retails for less than $20 and it's $62 on this wine list.  A Bergstrom Pinot Noir is $110 a bottle and listed as "Salice" (there's an Italian wine called Salice, but this is actually "Silice."
In keeping with the Swedish theme, I was interested to try a Napa Valley Sparkling wine called "Sjoeblom."  It's listed as a 2001 vintage "Reserve" Blanc de Noirs.  $15 a glass.
The server seemed leery of bringing this, cautioning me that it was really dark in color and kind of like a Lambrusco.
The wine, in fact, had a salmon color to it and was far less yeasty and toasty than you might expect of a wine that's apparently been on the spent yeast for 13 years.  It did have a mildly nutty quality, so it did taste a bit aged.

The server brought a little tray with a paper bag on it.  The sack contained a few pieces of a wonderfully chewy, warm bread.  

The Old Bat ordered the Vidalia Onion Soup with garlic croutons and chive Blossoms, asking the server to hold the poached egg.  This was $12 and she enjoyed the soup.
I had their Potato Dumpling Kumla with Onion Ragout, Lingonberries, Lardons and Brown Butter ($15).  This featured two dumplings and small cubes of smoky pork.  I liked it, but The Old Bat described the bite of the dumpling I shared with her as "gummy."

We produced a bottle of red wine and the server brought two nice glasses to the table and deftly opened our bottle.  The corkage fee is $25.

For a main plate The Old Bat opted for "Leg of Lamb" ($26) which comes with English Peas, ramps, Horseradish, Crispy Garlic and Braising Jus.  They brought her a steak knife and she attempted to dive into the lamb.  But this meat was tougher than The Old Bat, it seems.  I tried to slice into it and found this to be a challenge.  The server came by and we sent back the lamb, asking for Swedish Meatballs.
The server said even the chef admitted that lamb was tough.

The Swedish Meatballs (Half Order is $15, while a full order is $18) were nice.  Maybe a tad bland, but the accompanying Mashed Potatoes or as they called it, Potato Purée, was exceptional and silky smooth.  It comes, also, with lingonberries and pickled cucumber.

We skipped dessert...a perfectly okay dining experience...maybe if I'd been to Sweden, I might have found more pleasure in our meal here.

The bill tallied to $128 with the SF Health "tax".  The Hendricks Martini was $12 and there was an additional two bucks on top of that which we might have questioned. we've been there and done that.

Reviewed by GW
May 2015



2323 Birch Street
Palo Alto


Tel: 650-853-9700

Lunch Daily : 11-5

Dinner Daily from 5pm


Flatbread and a dipping sauce.

Falafel and Hummus

There were actually four Dolmas on the plate, but The Old Bat helped herself before I could snap a photo.


Combo Grill Plate

On a mildly warm Sunday evening, we visited the Anatolian Kitchen off California Avenue in Palo Alto.  We found parking in a small lot directly across the street and found the place nearly packed at 7:30 (it was Mother's Day, though).

There were number tables outside on the sidewalk and these were fully occupied.  Inside, the main dining room was fully subscribed and we were escorted to a two top in the next room near the open kitchen.  This, too, was packed.

The hostess set down menus and a drinks and wine list.  No wine glasses were on the table, however.

The Old Bat, having just seen Russell Crowe's "The Water Diviner" movie (the story takes place primarily in Turkey), needed a stiff drink and, as usual, she ordered a Tanqueray Martini.
I opted for their lone Turkish white wine selection, Kavaklidere's "Cankaya," listed as a 2011 vintage.  Ten bucks for a glass or $40 by the bottle.  This retails for about $15 per bottle, by the way.
There are four other white wine selections available by-the-glass, a Muscadet for $8 or $32 by the bottle or a Veramonte Sauvignon Blanc from Chile (same price).  For $9 a pour and $36 by-the-bottle, you might choose Stone Cap Chardonnay from Washington State or Palmina Pinot Grigio from California's Central Coast.  There's also Mulderbosch Rose and an unidentified Prosecco.
Five red wines are offered "by the glass."  There's a Turkish red under the Yakut label at $10 a glass, $40 by-the-bottle.  Seven Deadly Zins from Lodi is the same price.  Tangley Oaks Merlot and Avalon Cabernet are $11 a glass and $44 by the bottle, both wines typically being quota items for liquor distributor sales reps.
Husch Pinot Noir is $12 a glass or $48 for a bottle.

Amongst the white wines, if the list is accurate, we find some old bottles from the 2011 vintage, including Pomelo Sauvignon Blanc ($32 a bottle), a Cazar Rose ($32) and Rombauer Chardonnay ($65).  Bonterra Sauvignon Blanc from 2013 is $34, while Groth 2013 Napa Sauvignon Blanc is $36.  Truchard 2012 Carneros Chardonnay is $48.

Ridge 2012 "Three Valleys" Zinfandel, a wine retailing for $22-$25, is $60 on this list, a bit high, frankly.  Merry Edwards 2011 Pinot Noir is $70, while Jordan 2010 Cabernet is $90.  Green & Red Napa Zinfandel is $46, as is Qupe Central Coast Syrah. 

A few half bottles are offered.  Landmark Chardonnay and Merry Edwards Sauvignon Blanc are both $26 for a 375ml bottle.  Mount Veeder Napa Cabernet is $28, while Stag's Leap Cabernet is $32 (I suspect it's actually Stags Leap Winery, rather than Stag's Leap Wine Cellars at that price).

The list, at least, does afford some nice bottles and these do actually match the cuisine.

The corkage fee is a reasonable $15.

Stemware is of standard quality, if a shade less-than-the-most-elegant.  You'll have a 14 ounce, or so, clunky, dishwasher-safe Libbey-styled wine glass.

We ordered two starters to share, a Falafel plate ($13.50) which comes with a pool of Hummus and a mountain of salad.  There are five, right-out-of-the-fryer Falafel on the plate and these were delicious.  The Dolmas plate ($7.50) comes with four stuffed grape leaves set alongside some iceberg lettuce and a few morsels of unripe, cardboardy tomatoes (admitted, these are for decoration mostly).
The Dolmas, though, were good and had a nice touch of fresh mint.

They brought a little bowl with some soft flatbread and a dipping sauce that had a lot of nice spice to it.

For a main plate, The Old Bat chose Moussaka ($15.95), a classically-presented dish of Eggplant, Beef and Lamb, topped with Tomato Sauce and Béchamel.  She was delighted by this dish, asking "Can we come back?"
I had their Combo Grill Plate ($24.95) which was Ribeye, chicken, doner kebab, kofte marinated on skewers, served with rice and sautéed vegetables. This was a large plate of food, more than enough for a hungry person at dinner.  The meats were a bit bland, for my taste, and the vegetables were cooked to ad dente, or so, and also rather plain and simple.

Our bottle of red wine was good, though, and we shared a taste with the server.

The music being played on their sound system was some sort of "techno" tunes...hardly traditional Turkish music.

We were left relatively unattended after the main plates arrived and had to flag down a staffer to ask for the bill.

The check tallied to $101 before the tip.

The Anatolian Kitchen is a nice little place and offers a pleasant dining experience.

Reviewed by GW
May 2015



737 Diamond Street
San Francisco

Tel: 415-282-4969

Open for Dinner from 5:30 Tues-Sat
From 5 on Sundays


Moscardini...Baby Octopus


'Impepata'--Mussels & Clams


Not "Marco Porello" Arneis!
This was nice, in any case.

Lamb with a Red Pepper Puree.


Braised Short-ribs and Gnocchi


We had just seen an Italian film on a Sunday afternoon and we booked a table at this Italian place in Noe Valley, one block west of Castro.

I arrived a bit later than my two dining companions and there were wine glasses on the table by the time I got there.  The wine list and menu was presented and we immediately perused the list.

Two Italian sparklers are offered by the glass and these are sensibly priced.  Ten bucks gets you as pour of Ruggeri Prosecco, but it you're a big spender, opt for a $12 pour of Ferrari Rose from Trentino.  There's also a Ca' Rossa Rose for $12.

Of the seven white wines by the glass, six are Italian.  There's Ciu Ciu Pecorino for $10 or Valle dell'Acate's Insolia for the same money.
Ten reds are offered by the glass.  For $15 you can have a glass of Travaglini's Gattinara.  Castiglion del Bosco Brunello is $21 for a glass pour, while Castellani Chianti is ten bucks.

A $15 retail bottle of Italian white is on the list for $40, while an $18 retail bottle appears at $48, so you'll see the 400% mark-up is in play here, for the most part.

The list has a number of misspellings, suggesting it's sloppily assembled.  Teroldego is spelled "Toroldego" and their selection comes not from where Teroldego finds its home in Trentino.  This one hails from Toscana and it's blended with 15% Syrah.
"Bianchi in Bottoglia" instead of Bottiglia.
These are certainly minor.  Happily the list is not dominated by the big liquor distributors, though there are some wines from those sources.
You won't find much hugely prestigious, benchmark selections, but for the most part, the wines are of interesting quality.
There's a Prugnolo Gentile 2009 on the list from Montepulciano in Tuscany at $50, but the name of the winery is omitted.
Caprili's 2004 Brunello di Montalcino is worth a look, though it's $155 a bottle (close to a $100 at retail).  Sassotondo's Ciliegiolo from Tuscany is $42 a bottle, a charming, cherryish red. 
They have 3 Nebbiolo wines, a Barbaresco from Rinaldi ($90) and a Barolo from Cogno ($125), but these are too young (2011 and 2009 respectively).  A 2008 Travaglini Gattinara is $60 a certainly a bit more developed and ready to drink.
A 2011 Pallagrello Nero from Terre del Principe is $47.  A couple of Nerello Mascalese wines from Sicilia are on the list, one going for $37, while Graci's Arcuria 2011 is $88 a bottle.
White wine offerings are a bit more limited, but you can still find good wine.  A Vermentino from a co-op cellar in Sardegna is $48, while a 3 year old bottle of Kerner (getting a bit aged) from a good cellar in the Alto Adige is the same price. They have a Gavi from the Barolo producer, Francesco Rinaldi,  at $56.

We ordered a bottle of Marco Porello's 2013 Arneis ($48) and were a bit surprised when the server brought a bottle of the same variety, but from Cascina Ca' Rossa.  We pointed out the discrepancy to the server who was a bit surprised by this.
((We gather the importer's rep of the Porello wine may not have come by the restaurant in a while.  We have the same problem, as it's been more than half a year since a rep came to our shop.))

We accepted the Ca' Rossa Arneis and it's a perfectly serviceable Italian dry white.
Bacco offers good stemware and we were in good shape at this stage.

We ordered appetizers and main plates.  We brought out a bottle of a 10+ year old Barolo and the server brought the decanter we'd requested.  Having an Ah-So, we extracted the cork of the Barolo and immediately decanted it.
Corkage, by the way, is $22 per bottle.

The starters arrived at our table and the ladies were delighted with the "Impepata," a bowl of Clams and Mussels with garlic and tomato in a broth.  The Arneis worked nicely with this.
My starter was a small 'stew' of Moscardini, little baby octopus in a tomato and red wine broth...also quite good!

The server brought larger format stems for the Barolo and soon after that, our main plates arrived.
One of the ladies ordered the same plate as did I:  Braised Short-ribs ($28) with Gnocchi...a very good plate!
The Old Bat had the "Angnello" (sic) ($32), four Lamb Chops with a red pepper sauce and some freshly-sautéed Spinach.  Another winner.

Dessert was out of the question.

The ambiance was comfortable and we enjoyed the service.

The bill tallied to about $210 before the tip.

We will plan another visit to Bacco when we are 'going Italian' in San Francisco.

Reviewed by GW
May 2015




663 Laurel
San Carlos

Tel: 650-622-9830

Dinner: Tue-Sun 5pm-10pm

A serving of Moroccan Sauvignon, presented in a small decanter with a stemless wine glass.


They offer a nice bit of some warmed bread with olive oil for dipping...quite good.

Meat-filled Briwats


A Chicken Bastilla...

Lamb Kebabs with Saffron Rice and a Vegetable "Salad"...

Couscous with Lamb Chops


Laurel Street in San Carlos is dotted with restaurants and we've tried a number of them (if you've been reading this web page).

We booked a table at Le Tajine a newish place seating perhaps 40 people.  It was close to half full when we arrived at 7pm on a warm Sunday evening.  The server directed the two of us to a nice four-top towards the back of the dining room.

No wine glasses are on the table and the water glass doubles as a holder for a cloth napkin.

The menus are presented and there's a "drinks list."  They do not have a full bar, simply a beer and wine license, so The Old Bat could not order her customary dry Martini.  Lillet?  No, they did not have that either.
The wine list offers but 7 different selections, all from the same Moroccan winery:  Ouled Tahleb.
A 2012 Rose and 2011 White Blend and Chardonnay are $9 for a pour and $40 for a bottle.
Your other choices are all $10 for a pour or $45 for a bottle.  These included a 2012 Sauvignon Blanc, a Cabernet/Grenache blend, a Syrah or a Cab/Merlot/Syrah blend.

The corkage fee is $20.

We ordered a couple of pours of Sauvignon Blanc and they bring a small carafe or mini decanter along with a Riedel O Series (stemless) glass.  We appreciate that these glasses are easily washed in their dishwasher (without breaking), but you'll likely wind up with fingerprints all over the glass, in addition to warming up the wine.

They had some, we suppose, Moroccan music on the sound system, but this was drowned out by a real loudmouth at a neighboring table.  Everyone in the restaurant, including the dishwasher running a noisy machine in the back, could hear this fellow.  Once that party of five left the restaurant, the ambience was quite pleasant.

I ordered their Bastilla of Chicken, ($11), which is a phyllo dough pie with almonds, cinnamon and powdered sugar...there's sweet and there's savory and this thing was big enough to split two or three or four's really too much for a one-person appetizer.
The Old Bat ordered Briwats ($11) for a starter and these are four phyllo dough 'turnovers' that are filled with seasoned beef...this was a more than ample starter and pretty much kills your appetite.
The server might have suggested, but did not, that one appetizer for two people is certainly ample.
Both appetizers were delicious, though.

The Sauvignon Blanc was a standard quality, fairly anonymous dry white wine.  It was vinous, but that's about all you could say for it.  It's certainly not a wine with a lot of Sauvignon Blanc varietal character.

The server brought two more of the Riedel stemless glasses for our bottle of red Rhone.

I ordered a couscous dish called Mechoui ($25) and it's four really nice grilled lamb chops from a rack of lamb...beautifully seasoned and cooked just right.  The couscous is good while the accompanying vegetables are fairly bland...zucchini, carrots, etc.  Overall, though, it's a nice dish and, as noted above, too much if you've ordered an appetizer.
They offer a number of Tajines, as you might expect of a place called Le Tajine.
The Old Bat opted for the Lamb Kebabs ($16) which comes with either Saffron Rice or fries.  She went for the rice.
The plate came out with 8 large chunks of lamb (a bit less tender, I'd say, than the chops I had), a serving of a 'salad' of tomato chunks, cucumber, red onion and some spices, along with a mound of rice.
She ended up taking most of this home for the next night's dinner, as she was filled up by the starters.

We enjoyed the food at this place.  It's an elegant and comfortable dining spot.  I'd suggest bringing a good bottle of wine, since the wine list is so limited.

We had no chance of ordering and enjoying a dessert.

The bill tallied to $112 before the tip.

We look forward to return visit and trying some other dishes at this delightful dining spot!

Reviewed by GW
April 2015



800 Taraval Street
San Francisco

TEL: 415-564-0401

Lunch:  Mon-Fri 11:30-2:30

Dinner:  Daily 5pm-10pm
Sundays 4pm-10pm


Snails...a dozen of them.

Garlic Fried South American Prawns


Spaghetti & Clams Bordelaise


Veal Milanese

A Side dish of Rice, Green Beans and Carrots


We found yet another "institution" in The City and booked a table for two at San Francisco's Gold Mirror on Taraval.  We found parking on the street about a block from the restaurant.

The entrance is on the corner of 18th and Taraval.  There's not much of a reception desk, but there's a bar on your right and the dining area, seating approximately 70 people, to the left.
The hostess, attired in something akin to her tall boyfriend's long shirt (The Old Bat made this observation), took us to a corner table to be sequestered near the door.  This was rejected by Her Highness and we then had a four-top in the main dining area.

The hostess, placing the menus on the table, asked if we would want the wine list.
Sadly, no wine glasses were on the table as part of the place-setting.

There are 14 table wines offered "by the glass" and three sparklers.
There's the Pellegrini Family Chardonnay ($8) or Kendall-Jackson's for $9.  Beringer White Zinfandel is $6 and there's an unidentified Lambrusco for $8.  Cirullu's Rosso from Umbria is $9.  None of the wines-by-the-glass have a vintage date posted on the wine list.  Domaine Chandon's Brut sparkler is $9, as is an unidentified Prosecco.  Ferrari's Brut Perle is $15 for a pour.
They offer Suavia's Soave at $8, along with Borgo Conventi's Pinot Grigio.  Frank Family Zinfandel is $11, while a Barbera d'Asti with the proprietary name "La Faia" is $12, though they do not list the winery name (Scagliola).

The Domestic White Wines are listed without vintage dates and they show the winery address, but it's unclear as to the appellation of the wine.  Is that Sterling Sauvignon Blanc the Central Coast bottling or the Napa appellation wine?  It's $29 per bottle.
Contrasting with the sketchy list of California white wines, there's Jermann's famous Vintage Tunina for $85 (actually, it's well-priced, but we do not know the vintage).  A Greco di Tufo from Terredora di Paolo is $40, while a Terlano Pinot Grigio is $43, with Jermann's version going for $46.  Curious that they have chosen some nice Italian whites and yet California whites you might find in most grocery stores!

The wine list has a category of "Sicilian Red Wines" with a couple of Nero d'Avola offerings (Colossi for $34 and Feudi del Pisciotto at $60), an Etna blend that's mostly Merlot ($78) and a Hauner Nero d'Avola blend for $48.
The category of "Italian Red Wines" (since Sicily is not included as part of Italy, apparently), has some odd geographical identifications.  From the Tuscan winery of Rocca delle Macie, there's a Sangiovese listed as coming not from Toscana, but from the Marche.  The Umberto Cesari winery in Emilia-Romagna has a Sangiovese listed as being from Tuscany, not its actual place of origin.  An Amarone della Valpolicella is listed as coming from Piemonte, a Lagrein from the Alto Adige is posted as being from the Trentino area and, apparently the designation of "Montepulciano d'Abruzzo" didn't clue them in as to the wine being from Abruzzo.  It's listed as a Tuscan red.  
And they do list vintage dates for wines of this category!
Italian Reds range from $28 for a Le Corti Chianti Classico to $130 for Antinori's famous Super Tuscan, Tignanello.  The Nebbiolo Langhe from the Produttori del Barbaresco is $45, while the same winery's Barbaresco is $75.
From California, there's a Swanson Merlot from Napa at $56 or Long Meadow Ranch 2009 Napa Cabernet for $78 if you're brave enough to skip wines from Clos du Bois, Beaulieu Vineyards and Robert Mondavi.
It's a quirky wine list.

The Old Bat inquired about the French aperitif Lillet as a cocktail.  Our waiter said "Lillet is no longer imported as I was told by the owner."
We clued him in to the Bay Area distributor for Lillet, though the server did not seem to care.
The Old Bat then ordered her Tanqueray Martini, straight up.  The Martini is on the bill for a modest $7 with an extra charge of 50-cents for the "up" (that is, the cocktail is served without ice in a classic Martini stem).
He did stop at several tables before placing the order with the bartender, so we waited close to ten minutes for the cocktail.

I put a bottle of wine on the table.  The corkage is $15 and the server brought two small, clunky wine glasses (from the 1970s) to the table.  Having seen neighboring tables with 20 ounce stems being used, we gently asked if we could have our wine in those.
The Old Bat said the server was a bit annoyed by the request, though he did whisk away the tiny glasses and returned a few moments later with more suitable stemware.
Our bottle was opened and the fellow, either unclear on service protocol or, possibly, simply still irritated, glug-glug-glugged the wine into the new glasses, without pouring the "say" (so we could determine if the bottle was corked or suitable for service).
He certainly lost a few points for that.

As for the food...The Old Bat ordered Escargot ($8), which are not totally foreign on menus in Italy (where they're listed as "Lumache").
I opted for "Garlic Fried South American Prawns" ($15), known as Gamberi in Italy.
The snails, 12 of them,  were presented out of the shell in a soup bowl...nicely done with garlic and parsley butter.  There were 6 of the Prawns on my plate...also with lots of garlic.  Nice.  So far, so good.

The appetizer plates were picked up by a busser and they did not return with a replacement knife for my main plate.
The Old Bat ordered Spaghetti and Clams Bordelaise ($19) and this featured al dente pasta with numerous fresh Manila clams.  She was disappointed, though, that the pasta seemed "dry."  Not dried out, but dry.  I suspect the sauce lacked the requisite amount of either olive oil or butter to 'carry' the sauce and more thoroughly coat the pasta.
I ordered Veal Milanese ($21) which was a pounded piece of veal, breaded and topped with some capers, garlic and maybe a squeeze of lemon.  It was a nearly perfect rectangle!  This was a rather standard rendition of this dish...nothing particularly special.  On a small side plate there was some dry rice, a few small (fresh) green beans and carrot slices.

The place was a bit noisy and though we were seated close to each other, it was not a comfortable ambience for conversation.

We asked for the bill, declining the offer to look at a dessert menu.

The server, once again, visited neighboring tables and, after perhaps close to ten minutes, our bill arrived.

This may be a reasonable option for dining should you find yourself in the neighborhood, but it's not likely that we will make a return visit (which is probably fine with the disgruntled and charmless fellow who waited on us).

Reviewed by GW
April 2015



529 Alma Street
Palo Alto

Tel: 650-327-1323

Lunch:  Mon-Fri 11:30-2
Dinner Daily from 5pm

Fried Bananas and a sort of Cheese "Bread" are brought as "nibbles" to start your meal.

The Salad Buffet


The results of a pass through the Pampas Buffet...(if you dine here solely for the buffet and don't participate in the meat marathon, the price is $26).

Chicken, Pineapple and a slice of pork.

The Passador serving a slice of well-seasoned beef.


Following a Sunday afternoon movie, we drove to the Pampas restaurant, a block, or so, south of University Avenue.
Parking was easy...there's a lot across the street.
We were escorted to a table upstairs and the hostess provided the menu and wine list.  Wine glasses are part of the table setting.

The wine list offers three sparkling wines by the glass: a Rose from Santa Julia for $10, a Valdivieso for $12 or Moet Brut Imperial Champagne for $16.  White wines included a very commercial Pinot Grigio (that's listed as being from the Alto Adige but, in fact, the label as the much more broad appellation of "Delle Venezie) at $10 a glass.  They offer a "Reisling" (sic) from the Chilean brand called Lafken ($12), as well as three Chardonnays (including ZD from California at $16/glass).
Nine reds are offered by the glass.  Two Cabernets  (Conn Creek @$14), one Zinfandel (Brady from Paso Robles @$12), Qupe Syrah @ $11, two Malbecs, a Merlot and two Pinot Noirs.  I'd opt for Qupe Syrah out of that modest roster.
The wine list, though, offers plenty of good options if you're interested in a bottle.
A half bottle of Roederer Estate Brut is $26 and they do not have this in full bottles.  Duval Leroy's Grand Cru Vintage Brut is $295, while Cristal 2002 is $420.
Kistler's standard bottling of Chardonnay is $98, while the more mundane Frank Family is $68.  Twomey Sauvignon Blanc is $59, while Long Meadow Ranch is $42.  Some of the vintages of "Interesting Whites" are a bit old, so perhaps these are not so interesting to Pampas' customers?  A 2006 White Rioja (not one that's intended for aging) is offered, as is a 2011 Verdejo, a 2006 Pinot d'Alsace and a 2010 St. Joseph Blanc.
$820 will get you a bottle of Bryant Family Cabernet, but for $90 you can enjoy a bottle of Heitz 2009 Napa Cabernet.  Some of the Cabernets are fairly pedestrian:  BV Rutherford is $62 a bottle, while J. Lohr's is $64.  Josh Cabernet is $44, while Justin's is $54.  Clearly the liquor distributor's rep is hitting their quota goals.  There are nine Malbecs in full bottle format, Achaval Ferrer's costing $49.
They have a category called "BLENDS" and here we find Dominus 2008 for $280 or Pahlmeyer's "Jayson" red blend for $122.  Cain's "Concept" is $115 a bottle, while Col Solare from Washington State is $78.  
A half a dozen Merlots are available, Twomey costing $90, while Shafer's is $105.  Eight Zinfandels are offered...Ridge "Three Valleys" is $53 per bottle.
There are 22 Pinot Noirs.  Coho's Stanley Ranch is $105, while Sea Smoke's "Southing" is $122.  Morgan's "Double L" is $45.  They have 8 Syrah wines and you can buy a bottle of Araujo for $390 or a 2004 Colgin for $480.
And they have ten Spanish reds, three from Portugal, a bunch from Italy, France, etc.
A 2005 Chateau Latour is $2250, while a DRC Echezeaux from 2005 is $1525.  A Drouhin "Clos des Mouches" 2006 is listed as coming from Santenay, while it's actually from Beaune, several miles away.  You can acquire this for $600.

If you choose to have their "Rodizio" program, you'll pay $46 per person.  This is essentially an all-you-can-eat marathon of food, including their long "salad bar" as well as the unlimited meat service.

We ordered a glass of "Albaclara" Sauvignon Blanc from Chile.   It's $11 a glass (the wholesale price is $7.02 for a bottle)!  Luckily the wine was of good quality.  The brand name, though, is Haras de Pirque and it's affiliated or owned by Antinori of Italy.
The Old Bat asked for a Martini ($13) which she enjoyed.

The restaurant supplies a two-sided decal, the red side stays up while you're foraging at their buffet downstairs (or if you need a break from the meat marathon).  When you're ready for meat, leave the green side up and the Passadores stop by with large skewers of meats, chicken or grilled pineapple.  They slice off a piece and you transfer it to your plate using a small pair of tweezers.

The "salad bar" has all sorts of items...asparagus spears, braised mushrooms, arugula, raw spinach, ham, smoked fish, cured salmon, salame, tabouleh salad, garbanzo bean salad, grated carrots, radishes, tomatoes, anchovies, black bean stew, rice, hearts of palm and more.
You can help yourself as many times as you like.

We enjoyed a nice trip to the buffet, but then flipped over the red decal and soon the waiters carrying large skewers of meats began stopping by the table.
There's Picanha, a top sirloin seasoned with salt and olive oil.  They had a garlicky leg of lamb as well as some thin little loin lamb chops.  There was a filet of beef seasoned with Parmesan cheese.  Turkey wrapped in bacon was quite good (thanks to good quality bacon).  There's Skirt Steak, Chicken Hearts, small Chicken Legs marinated in garlic and chili...and the list goes on.

We had our server open a nice bottle of red which we'd brought along and paid $20 for a corkage fee.

Since we'd gorged ourselves on the buffet and meat marathon, dessert was out of the question.

With tax, the bill tallied to $148 before the tip.

We will certainly come back to this place and may even visit it on a night when we're not seeing a movie.

Reviewed by GW
April 2015


Some Notes: (March 2015)

**It's becoming more prevalent for some restaurants to include a tip on their bill.  Some make customers aware of this on the menu and with their bill, but others keep a low profile.  
And, of course, the credit card receipt still has a place to add in a tip.  Keep your eyes open.

**We dined at a place this month that, on line, offers a $39 Price-Fixed menu.  No restrictions on days of the week or hours this is offered.  The hostess did not provide this menu when we sat down at the table. We asked three times for this before someone, apparently begrudgingly, provided us with this nicely-priced menu.
The bill at the end tallied to $127.  My dining companion had a $100 bill (I gave her change from that based upon the bill and the tip, divided by two.
The owner of the place took the hundred dollar bill and my credit card, asking what to do.  I instructed him to put the $100 towards the bill and put the rest on the credit card.  I would add the tip onto the credit card.
He returned a few moments later and I was ready to sign the credit card sales draft.  
Except that this fellow ran the credit card for the entire $127 amount!
When we pointed out this error we received a disingenuous "Oh, sorry..."

I suppose the bottom line is:  Watch your wallet.




8150 Cabrillo Highway
Montera Beach (near Pacifica)

Tel: 888-369-2431

Dinner Tues-Sun from 5pm

A generous pour of Alvarinho.



Cebiche Mixto


Seafood Paella for 1 Person.


We booked a 7pm table on a Sunday after a movie and drove out to the coast via Pacifica.

There's a parking lot adjacent to this coast-side restaurant as well as a lot for beach-goers just south of the place.

In early March at that hour, the place was active, but not hugely busy.  We were escorted to our table by a hostess, who presented a menu and a wine list.  Wine glasses here at part of the table setting.

We perused the list.  There are six sparkling wines, with the Spanish Cava "Cristalino" being the sole offering "by the glass" ($9).  Other choices included Clicquot at $98 or, better, Roederer Brut Premier at $102.  There's a small Prosecco producer's wine, Drusian, for $38 a bottle (It's a $16 retail typically).

They have about 30 white wine offerings, with perhaps ten of these available by-the-glass.  The list features some big-name brands which are probably pushed by the big liquor distributors, but you can find some off-the-beaten path selections, too.
Tangent Albarino is a good option at $10 for a pour or $35 for a bottle.  Trefethen's dry Napa Valley Riesling is $11 for a pour or $39 by the bottle.  It's a broad spectrum of origins, as they offer wines from Spain, Portugal, Chile, Argentina, Italy, France and California.
There were 33 red wines on their list.  Coho Pinot Noir from Carneros is $98 a bottle (it's usually seen for $35-$40 retail).  Alamos Malbec is $49...a wine retailing for well less than $15 typically...
Penfolds Bin 9 Cabernet from Australia, retailing for close to $20, is $51.  Jordan Cabernet from Sonoma is $92, while a Spanish blend called Carchelo, typically $10-$12 retail, is $39 on the list.
In my opinion the list could feature more carefully-curated selections.  For example, Gabbiano Pinot Grigio?  Surely they could find a better option for that grape variety.  Amongst the Chardonnays, they offer Franciscan and Chateau St. Jean, along with Force of Nature from Santa Barbara and Trefethen from Napa.  Not exactly ground-breaking, but more along the lines of "good enough" rather than "exceptionally selected."

The Old Bat asked for her usual Martini and I selected a Portuguese white, an Alvarinho  called Poucu Comum ($12 a glass and $44 by the bottle).  The server brought a fairly generous serving of the wine and it paired handsomely with the starters.  

The Old Bat ordered an Empanada of some sort (there are several choices, $11-$13) an d I ordered the Cebiche Mixto ($18) which is a nice plate with some white fish, octopus, calamari, clams, mussels, prawns and aji rocoto leche de tigre.  This also features some sort of corn (Cusco Corn?) and maybe some toasted corn.  It's nicely done and, for my palate, right at the edge for spiciness.  It did suppress the wine slightly.

We produced a bottle of an extravagant Sauvignon Blanc for our main plate.  Corkage costs $25, a bit high, but this bottle was better than we'd have found on their wine list.
Stemware was nice, too, so we felt less stung by the $25 fee.

We both ordered the Seafood Paella ($26) and this was quite good.  Unlike the place up the highway, this was made of Bomba rice, not some long grain variety.  The seafood was good and fresh and we found a nice touch of spice suggesting the use of saffron.  It's quite different from a Spanish paella...more soupy (as you can see in the photo to the left), for one thing.
Nice flavors, though and good seafood.

The service was good...water glasses refilled from time to time...they took away the used silverware with our appetizers and brought fresh silverware for the main plate.

At this stage, dessert was out of the question.  We had dined well and both of us would like to return.
It's not inexpensive, though...I think the bill tallied to $145-$150 before the tip.

Still, this is a nice place for a meal and it would be well worth the price of admission if you're dining there before the sun sets.

We look forward to a return visit.


Reviewed by GW
March 2015



4058-A 18th Street
San Francisco

Tel: 415-801-5392

Open Daily 5pm to 11pm

A glass of Fino Sherry...$7

Marcona Almonds and Assorted Olives.

Jamon Serrano

Shishito Peppers

Gambas and garlic.

Pinchos de Pollo



Churros and Chocolate Sauce


On a Monday evening on a warm San Francisco winter day we booked a table at this newish little place on 18th Street, close to Castro Street.
Parking in this neighborhood was a bit challenging, but several tours of the area finally netted a spot a couple of blocks away from Beso.

We found the restaurant to be about 75% occupied at our 8pm reservation time and we were escorted to a table for two near the back, close to the kitchen.  Thanks to a mirror spanning the wall, I had a nice view of the kitchen crew preparing all sorts of dishes.

Wine glasses are on the table when you're seated, a subtle hint to order something.  The wine list is printed on the back of the menu.
Three Cavas are offered, two being poured by the glass.  We opted for the Pere Ventura Brut Rosat at $11 a glass, but the server informed us that wine was "sold out."
They featured a half-a-dozen, or so, Sherries by Emilio Lustau, so we ordered the "Puerto Fino" Fino Sherry at $7.  I was afraid this would come in a tiny glass, filled to the brim, but Beso has special, elegant Sherry copitas and the wine arrived, properly chilled and the stemware was filled to about 75% of capacity.  This was really good and well worth the $7 price tag.

Of the 13 white wine selections, six are available by-the-glass.  Four Albarinos ($38 to $79 per bottle) are on the list, two from Spain, one Portuguese and one Californian.  There's a Spanish Sauvignon Blanc at $48 per bottle, a white blend from Spain ($12 a glass, $46 by the bottle), a Godello for $48 or a Xarel-lo for $9 a glass or $36 for a bottle.
There are 19 red wines, 6 of which can be ordered by-the-glass.  They range from $42 per bottle up to $120 for a CUNE Imperial whose vintage date is not listed.
They offer a Moroccan Syrah for $48, along with a Napa Cabernet blend for $110, while Anima Negra from Mallorca is $69.  The list seems to be chosen with a measure of care and discrimination and it doesn't offer a bunch of big "branded" wines but some offerings which are a bit off-the-beaten path.

The corkage fee is $20, by the way.

We ordered a number of small plates to start...with the wonderfully chilled Fino Sherry, a small bowl of Marcona Almonds ($4) was delicious, as were the assorted Olives ($4).  A small wooden platter with some thin slices of Jamon Serrano ($9) was accompanied by some membrillo, fresh grapes and some little bits of bread.
After draining our glasses of Sherry, we ordered the Fillaboa Albarino at $10 a glass.
Now, kudos to the Beso crew:  the bottle was brought to the table and the server poured the wine in view of the customer!
The stemware was quite good, in fact and he poured a generous serving.

From there we ordered Pimientos de Padrón ($7) and these were fresh and a bit lemony...I'd have preferred a bit more salt on these...
Gambas al Ajillo ($13) came in a small ceramic dish with six prawns and some bits of garlic...but I suspect the shrimp had been in a freezer for too long as they seemed a bit dried out and not especially succulent.
Pinchos de Pollo ($7) featured two skewers with cubes of tender chicken, topped with a Salsa Verde that seemed comprised of parsley, olive oil, maybe some garlic and a bit of rosemary...these rested on a thick slice of bread and the olive oil and salsa made for a delicious bite!
At this point I brought out a bottle of (what turned out to be a nice) Rioja Gran Reserva.  The server asked if we wanted larger glasses and we took him up on this offer.
He opened our bottle, properly poured the "say" and we shared a taste with him.

The Paella de Pescado is $36 and serves two people nicely if you've ordered some starters.
It's made with Bomba rice, as it should be and they claim to use lobster broth in preparing this.  The seafood assortment includes Shrimp, Calamari, Monkfish, Clams and Mussels and there was a nicely crusty sofrito on the bottom of the pan.  I didn't detect a strong saffron influence, though the menu claims it's incorporated into this dish.

As we were a bit late in departing, by dessert time the sound system was playing the staff's choice of tunes...not especially soothing dining music, but we only stuck around to enjoy a serving of Churros accompanied by a chocolate dipping sauce.

There's no additional "health surcharge" on the bill, which tallied to about $133 with the tax and before the tip.

This is a nice little neighborhood place with difficult parking conditions (that's life in the big city these days).
We'd certainly dine here again.

Posted by GW
January 2015








2100 Taraval Street
San Francisco

Tel: 415-665-1430

Tues-Sat  5-10:30
Sun 5-10



Porcini Fritti









Lombatina di Vitello



Linguine con Vongole




A customer had mentioned this place to us and we were not far away on a Sunday night in November, so we booked a table (by phone...they're a bit old-fashioned at Marcello's and don't have Open Table or Urban Spoon reservations).

Fortuitously there was a parking space open right in front of the restaurant!  We parked and ambled in...there's a peep-hole on one of the doors as you enter the place!  Maybe the bar was a speak-easy decades ago?

You enter and there's a small waiting area, with a curved bar nearby.  To the left there's an elevated dining area with perhaps 70 to 80 seats.  It was about half full on this particular evening.

The average age of the people dining there was high enough that I probably brought down that number to 65 or 70!  We gather those dining there were Marcello's 'regulars.'

The place setting includes a clunky Libbey, 1980s-era wine glass.  The menu was presented along with a wine list.

Open the wine list book and you'll see 15 options are available "by the glass."  Only a few of them are identified by the winery or brand.  A few even give you a regional identity.
Riesling is $7 by the glass or $26 for a bottle, but we don't know whose this is.  Pinot Grigio is the same priced and only gives a small clue:  "Italia."  There's a Tuscan Vermentino for $7.50 or $30 a bottle.  Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay are $7 per glass.  There's Ferrari Carano Fume Blanc, though, for $7.50.
You'll have to make do with one bubbly, a Prosecco of some sort for $7.
Santa Cristina, a proprietary wine by Antinori, is listed as Sangiovese and it is a Sangiovese-based blend these days.  $7 and $26 respectively for a glass and bottle.
There's Chianti, along with Cabernet and Merlot.  Jacob's Creek Shiraz is the same price.  There's a wine called Nerello di Bastardo for $7, while a Beringer Zinfandel and an anonymous Pinot Noir are $7.50 by the glass and $30.
Beringer's White Zin is listed as coming from Napa, but its appellation is California on the bottle.
By the bottle we find Chateau Ste. Michelle Riesling under the heading of "California Wines," even though it's noted as coming from Washington State.
Sauvignon Blancs include Cameron Hughes ($24), Kenwood ($26), Sterling ($27), Smokepoint ($34) and Cakebread ($40).  Chardonnays include Clos du Bois ($24), Kendall Jackson ($25), Gundlach Bundschu ($33) and Cakebread ($56).
Red wines include Zinfandels from Kenwood and Kendall-Jackson at $26 and $25 respectively.  They have a St. Francis Merlot for $22, while Clos du Bois is $25.  BV Napa Cabernet is $29, as is Sebastiani's and Kenwood's.  Jordan Cabernet is $68.
Prices are very reasonable, but the selections are aimed at an audience that's not especially sophisticated.

The corkage fee is $15.

The menu has everything you might expect of a 1960s-1970s Italian dining establishment.  There's Shrimp Cocktail ($7.75), Carpaccio ($7.25) and Prosciutto e Melone ($8).  The Soup of the Day is $4.75.  Hearts of Palm Vinaigrette is $6.50  while a Caesar Salad is $6.25.
They have well more than a dozen pasta dishes and 11 Veal offerings.  They have 8 Chicken preparations and a similar number of seafood dishes.

The server told us Marcello had been foraging for funghi recently and they had Fried Porcini this evening.  I opted for that, as I'm a fan of these.
The Old Bat ordered Carpaccio and a Cup of Minestrone as starters.
The Carpaccio and Fried Porcini came out of the kitchen alarmingly quickly...the Carpaccio was good and nicely presented.
The Porcini were a bit soft and not especially flavorful.  Of course, fresh Porcini are far different from the dried version...but these were sliced maybe a quarter of an inch thick and were not very 'meaty,' but more soft.  Maybe they needed a bit longer in the fryer?  
A cup of Minestrone soup was "excellent," according to my dining companion.

We produced a bottle of red wine and our old-pro-of-a-server brought two wine glasses and opened the bottle.

For a main plate, The Old Bat ordered Linguine alle Vongole ($12.75), a nice plate of close-to-al-dente pasta and a pile of little clams (no shells, so probably from a jar or can).  My "Lombatina" of Veal ($21) was a nice sized 'steak,' smothered in a sauce of some sort and accompanied by some thin potato slices and a little mound of Swiss Chard (was it?).
There was a sharp fragrance to this dish...frankly, I wonder if was a vinegar smell or what...the meat was fine as were the accompaniments.

We skipped dessert and the bill, with the corkage fee and tax tallied to around $93.

This is a perfectly decent neighborhood place and we'll consider coming here again, but I'll order some other dishes and explore the menu further.

Reviewed by GW
December 2014




150 West Portal
San Francisco

TEL: 415-742-0300

Mon-Fri:  11am til 10pm
Sat  10am until 10pm
Sun 10am until 9pm



Pizza "Salsiccia"






Rigatoni con Salsiccia e Pepperoni




Three Hour Lamb Shank & Polenta

We were seeing a movie in the West Portal neighborhood on a Sunday in November and The Old Bat had been whining about "Spaghetti and Meatballs."  This relatively new place seemed like a good option, although, at this time, they do not accept reservations.

Just a few minutes before 6pm we ambled from the theater down the block and found a table by the front window.  Otherwise the bar was well-populated and the restaurant tables were all occupied.  A few outdoor tables were open.

Menus were presented as we sat down, along with a wine list.  I do not recall there being wine glasses as on the table as part of the table setting.

The list features but one sparkling wine by-the-glass, a Prosecco listed simply by its proprietary name "Gioss" ($9/glass).  Its brand or winery name is Riva dei Frati. A Rosato is listed by its proprietary name, but the winery name is not listed.  The grape variety is also omitted.
Other white wines by-the-glass include Cellar 8 Chardonnay ($8), Feudi di San Gregorio Falanghina ($10), Sella & Mosca Vermentino ($8) and a Ruffino Orvieto ($9).  
Red selections include a couple of Cameron Hughes wines, Layer Cake Cabernet ($10), a La Moto Chianti ($7), Quatro Mani Barbera ($10) and a Malaspina winery red from Calabria called "Palikos" ($11).
These are rather modest selections and with 15 reds available by-the-glass, one wonders how they keep these in good condition, once the bottles are opened.
Most of these offerings are of little interest, frankly, to someone searching for a good glass of wine. The selections are fairly average, at best, and wines one will find primarily in chain stores and grocery outlets.

The white wines offered by the bottle finds a Gavi listed as being from Tuscany (it's Piemonte, in fact) at $45.  A three year old Arneis from Giacosa Fratelli is $45.  An Erbaluce di Caluso ($42) is also listed as a Tuscan white, despite being from Piemonte.  Some wines are listed without regional designations (Ganzo Pinot Grigio $28) actually comes from Umbria, while a Kettmeir ($40) is listed as coming from the Alto Adige, but a neighboring producer, St. Michael Eppan has no regional identity on this list.

There are 8 Half Bottle Selections with Landmark's Chardonnay costing $30.  Ferrari Spumante in white or Rose are both $30 for a 375ml bottle.

The red wines by-the-bottle feature some better quality selections.  A Francesco Rinaldi Barbaresco from 2010 is $80, but it's too young at this stage to really shine.  There's a wine listed as "Polesio Sangiovese Italia 2013 $36" but omitted is the winery name "San Lazzaro" and its place of birth, the "Marche" region.
I wonder what wine they bring when you order "Baby Amarone" from the large Pasqua winery (being there is no official designation for a wine called "Baby Amarone")?    And there's a wine listed as "Amarone Valpolicella Piemonte 2009 $75" which is another curiosity, as Amarone wines come from the Veneto region, not Piemonte (and no producer for such a wine is named on the list).  There's a $45 bottle of Morellino di Scansano, but the producer is not listed.
This is a sloppily-constructed wine list from a variety of perspectives and clearly not the work of a wine-savvy individual.

We ordered a couple of glasses of "Sauv Blanc Crickett C. Sonoma Toboni Vin 13" at $10 a pour.  I gather the actual brand name of this (we never saw the bottle) is Oakwild Ranch and it's owned by the Toboni family.  This is ironic in that the Toboni's web site says their wines are not available in retail stores, only in restaurants.  This marketing plan is constructed in hopes of a consumer liking a wine well enough to want to buy it for their own table...not finding it in a store, they must contact the winery and buy it directly, at full price.  Of course, when the wine is listed in such fashion on a wine list and the bottle is not brought to the table to show what wine is being poured, how would the consumer ever find the producer of this wine???
The wine is brought in large, heavy-duty stemware and the serving is quite generous.

As Vittorio's has a special pizza oven, we began with a Pizza Salsiccia ($16) which is topped with sausage, mushrooms, a bit of tomato sauce and mozzarella.  it's accompanied by some Calabrian peppers and some dried chili peppers.  The pizza was fairly thin and had good flavors, so we were off to a good start.

The Old Bat wanted the "Fried Calamari and Organic Artichoke with our Chef's Famous Sauce" ($11).  The calamari was very light yellow in color and this dish relied on the aioli and green dipping sauce for flavor.  On its own the calamari was quite bland.

The service was quite good and friendly.

We had a bottle of red wine in our cellar bag and the server promptly brought two large wine glasses and opened our bottle.  We offered him a taste and he brought his own glass a few moments later.

The Old Bat, having a hankering for Spaghetti & Meatballs ($18), naturally, then ordered Rigatoni con Italian Sausages, bell peppers, onion and homemade tomato sauce ($16).
They had a few daily specials and one was a Lamb Shank, braised for three hours in red wine ($28), so I opted for that to go with the 2008 Barolo I'd brought.

The Rigatoni was cooked al dente...maybe even a bit raw if the sample I tasted was representative of the dish.  It seemed a bit bland, too.
The Lamb Shank was nicely presented with a bit of polenta on the plate.  The lamb was as explained by the server:  Lamb cooked for three hours in red wine.
Had they incorporated a noticeable bit of seasoning (garlic, perhaps...maybe some rosemary or a mix of herbs), I'd have been more positive about the dining experience.  The polenta was not especially flavorful, either.
On the other hand, Calabria is known for its spicy peppers and the little plate with Calabrian peppers and chili flakes was on the table for our main course, so we could have added some flavor ourselves, I suppose.

The server kindly packed up The Old Bat's rigatoni "to go" and included a box with a little dessert inside.  Nice.

The bill tallied to $115 with the tax and before the tip.

If you're in the neighborhood, this is a perfectly nice place for a pizza, but if you're looking for other menu items, you might consider other options.

Reviewed by GW
November 2014



2427 Third Street
San Francisco

Tel: 415-913-7163

LUNCH Mon-Fri 11-3
DINNER Mon-Sat 5:30-10





Calamares y Almejas with Chorizo


Bavette 'Steak' with Baby Carrots and Potatoes.


Costillas de Cerdo with Fried Plantains and some rice & beans.


Kennebec Fries.

We were visiting San Francisco for a theatrical performance on a Thursday evening, so we searched for a restaurant not too far from the venue and found this new place in the Dogpatch area.

As they were just opening, only a couple of tables were occupied and we were escorted to a two-top along the wall away from the entrance and kitchen.  No wine glasses were on the table, though they do present a wine list with the menu.

The restaurant's theme is Latino, featuring Central & South American dishes, as well as those of Cuban and Puerto Rican influence.

We perused the wine list...two "burbujas" (bubbles) by the glass...a Sparkling Malbec from Argentina and a Bohigas winery cava from Spain.  $9 a glass for the former, $11 for the latter with bottle prices being $36 and $46 respectively.

They offer four white wines by the glass.  There's a modest Vinho Verdo called Anjos at $8 a glass or $32 by the bottle.  There's a Sonoma Sauvignon Blanc made by an unknown winery in Pasadena, California ($9/glass, $36 bottle).  Trefethen's Riesling is $14 and $52.
For reds by the glass there's Chocolan Cabernet from Chile at $8 or Trumpeter "Pinot Nior" (sic) at $9.  Mi Terruno Malbec Reserva is $11, while a Spanish red, Dehsa la Granja 2006 is $12.

There are two French Champagnes on the list, but both are offered only in half-bottle format.  Lanson is $30 for a 375ml, while Thienot is $42.

Benaza's Godello is a good choice in a white wine, costing $37 (we had this in the shop for $15.99).  Francois Chidaine's Sauvignon Blanc is listed as coming from Montlouis, while in fact, the appellation should be listed as Touraine.   That's $36 a bottle on the list and it retails for about $15.  They offer Hervé Azo Chablis for $40 which is a pretty good deal (and a nice wine).  Of the four rose wines on the list, only one is from the most recent vintage, while two are two years old and the other is three (and these are not improving with age!).
Bielsa Garnacha, a wine we'd had in stock for $11, is $41 on the list.  Saintsbury Pinot Noir is $36 for a half bottle and $72 for a full.
A few of the wines are listed only by appellation and varietal, leaving it to the customer to guess who made the wine.  For example, there's a Riesling Glintzberg from Alsace (I suspect it's Roland Schmitt's) at $47 a bottle.  There's a 2009 Santenay "Gravieres" with no domaine listed and that's $92 a bottle.  

To their credit, the list isn't filled with wines from one of the large liquor distributor's portfolios.  There's enough range to match the menu, though mark-ups are often a bit high.

We began with a glass of Paco & Lola Albariño, priced at $11 a pour.  The wine arrived at the table in really large, heavy-duty Libbey glasses and the pour was quite generous.

There are 11 "small plates" on the menu and a couple of salads.  These range from $6 to $13.  There are Empanadillas of wild boar for $10.  Bocadillos de Venado (Venison 'sliders') also cost a ten-spot.  There's a Ceviche of Tuna for $13.  The Old Bat was not adventuresome and she selected the Alcachofa Asada, a grilled articoke ($9).  I opted for Calamares y Almejas, calamari, clams and chorizo for $12.
The artichoke had been steamed, cut in half, cleaned and then grilled briefly...Aioli was the 'sauce' for that.  Nice.
My little seafood plate was also quite good, if a bit small.  It had some cherry tomatoes and some Jalapeños, but wasn't especially spicy.

We brought out a bottle of red wine and the server placed a couple of large stems on the table and opened our bottle.  We offered him a taste and he graciously accepted.

For main plates, The Old Bat ordered "Carne a la Parilla," a bavette steak with some chimichurri sauce and plated with carrots and potatoes ($25).  My selection, with advice of our server, was Costillas de Cerdo, Guava-Glazed Baby-Back ribs ($18).  There were maybe four or five ribs on the plate with some fried plantains and some rice.
Both plates were very good.  We also took a side of Kennebec Fries ($5) and these were large cut fried potatoes...perfectly okay with a ketchup and some other dipping sauce.

Not wanting to miss our show, we high-tailed it out, skipping dessert.

The bill, with a $15 corkage fee and a small charge for the SF Health fee, tallied to $129.

We enjoyed the meal and look forward to a return visit.  Parking in the neighborhood is difficult, so plan a bit of extra time to drive around searching for a place.

It's located, by the way, about a mile south of AT&T Park.

Reviewed by GW
November 2014



2102 Shattuck Avenue

Tel: 510-549-9950

Dinner:  5-10 Tues-Sat
5-9:30 Sundays




Duck Liver Mousse


Local Lettuces with shaved carrot and radish






Coho Salmon, Endive, etc.


Mixed Grill of Lamb


Apple Fritters...really good!



After a nice bit of cinema on a Sunday afternoon, we arrived a bit early at our dinner destination, just a few adventuresome blocks north of the theater.

It's a spacious place with a nice bar along one wall and perhaps seating for 70 to 80+ people in  the restaurant.

We were escorted to a two-top, but The Old Bat asked if we could sit at a larger table, so the host took us to a 4 seater by the window on Shattuck.

No wine glasses are on the table as part of the place setting, but a wine list is presented with the menu.  It's a three page document, offered to diners on a clipboard.
I perused this, looking for wines-by-the-glass, but came up empty.  Those, you see, are posted on the back of the menu page, along with numerous cocktails and a beer list.

They have three sparkling wines by the glass, a Trevisol Prosecco ($10), a Moretto Lambrusco at $11 and Allimant Laugner's Cremant d'Alsace Rose at $13 (We love this wine and it retails for $20 a bottle).
They have three wines dispensed from kegs and offered by-the-glass, half-carafe or carafe:
Laird Sauvignon Blanc is $10, $24 and $34.
Stomping Girl Pinot Noir is $12, $28 and $40, while a Rhone blend from Donkey & Goat is $11, $26 and $38.
Six white wines are offered from the bottle and by-the-glass, including a Bonnet Muscadet for $11, a Monterey Viognier called Le P'tit Paysan for $13 and Talley's Arroyo Grande Chardonnay for $14.  Six reds by the glass are offered, including a Marcel Lapierre Gamay for $10, Pavi 2008 Dolcetto (seems a bit old to me) from Napa at $8, Bueyes Malbec from Argentina at $13 and a Napa Cabernet at $13 called Resolution.  

The clipboard wine list of three pages is broken down by category...Bubbles has 6 offerings, including Allimant Laugner's Cremant at $48 and Barnaut's Brut Champagne at $98.
There are "Light Whites and Roses," including Chotard's Sancerre at $52 a bottle.  Ojai Sauvignon Blanc is $50, so about twice retail.
"Full Bodied Whites" has a Patz & Hall "Dutton Ranch" Chardonnay at $62 a bottle and Castelfeder's Kerner from the Alto Adige is $52 (I'm not sure I'd consider that as a full-bodied white, though).

"Light Bodied Reds' we find two Beaujolais wines and 8 Pinot Noirs, including Paul Mathew at $80 and Red Car at $86.
"Medium Bodied Reds" features Bruno Rocca 2011 Dolcetto d'Alba at $44 and Corralillo Syrah from Chile at $32.
"Full Bodied Reds" has DuMol Syrah at $102 a bottle or Travaglini's Gattinara at $58.  I don't think I'd consider the Gattinara to be "full-bodied," any more than Mastrojanni's Brunello is "full."  It's $98 a bottle, though.

At least the list offers wines in a wide range of prices and there's a sufficiently broad spectrum of selections to match the moderately eclectic menu.

The restaurant makes its own Charcuterie, including Duck Liver Mousse, Saumagen, Smoked Ham, Dry Cured Coppa and Ciccioli.  Those are $8 each or $21 for a small plate assortment or $28 for a large plate.
Under "Starters" there are three "Flatbreads" (at $14), a fancy name for pizza.  A Turnip & Apple Soup is $8 or you can have a plate of Lamb Meatballs.

Salads features a trio of offerings, all at $13...a Frisée + Lardon or Chopped Curly Kale (with maple, chile, cumin, radish, cilantro-pumpkin seed pistou, pickled mushrooms and a golden balsamic vinaigrette) which seemed like a whole bunch of flavors which cannot co-exist with wine.
There's a salad of Autumn flame grapes + Persimmon with "endive, watercress, gorgonzola dolce latte, pink peppercorns, walnuts and a grape-ginger vinaigrette."  Again, good luck with the wine here.

There are 5 main plates and, on Sunday after 7pm, Fried Chicken.  Mains include a New York Strip Steak ($31, when available as noted on the menu), a Lamb Mixed Grill for $29, or a Duck Breast and Confit Leg at $25.  There's a vegetarian offering of Winter Squash + Golden Quinoa at $23 or Pan Roasted Coho Salmon at $26.
These are all rather balanced dishes, it seemed to me, and capable of pairing with the wines on their wine list.

The Old Bat ordered a Charcuterie plate of Duck Liver Mousse which came on a wooden platter with whole grain mustard, pickled onions  and pickled cucumber slices.  There was a lovely slab of the mousse and some thinly sliced, toasted pieces of bread.  The mousse was beautifully silky and flavorful.
I didn't have much interest in those car-wrecks of a salad, but under the heading of "Sides" there was "Local Lettuces with shaved carrot and radish" at $8.
There was some Frisée and more like 'wild greens' than normal types of leafy lettuce.  It was a nice little dish, though and the vinaigrette didn't overpower my glass of Loimer Gruner Veltliner ($13).  The Old Bat opted for a Tanqueray Martini and was "wowed" by the pickled "Cippolini" onion, which I presume was made on the premises.

I produced a bottle of a Cloudy Bay Pinot Noir and we paid $16 as a corkage fee.  Nice stemware was used for the glass of Gruner and the server brought larger stems for the Pinot.
Too bad the wine did not come up to the same level as the cuisine.

The Coho Salmon was as delicious as it was beautiful.  $26.  Caramelized endive, some chanterelles and a carrot top puree were on the plate with a lemon-saffron and tarragon 'sauce'.

I had the Lamb Mixed Grill which featured a slice of leg o'lamb, a lamb-olive sausage and a lamb "porterhouse" slice with fresh beans and red peppers.  $29.  As I mentioned, it was a pity the wine we brought did not come close to the level of quality of this plate.

We didn't have much room for dessert, but I splurged in ordering a plate of their Apple Fritters (with a lot of Cinnamon) at $8.  This was a fantastically good end to our meal.  Seriously good.

The bill tallied to $130 before the tip.

We thoroughly enjoyed the meal here and will probably return soon after another bit of cinema a few blocks away!


Reviewed by GW
November 2014



525 Crespi Drive


TEL: 650-733-7343


Mon-Thurs 11-9
Fri 11-10
Sat 10-10
Sun 10-9



Causa 27



Causa Masaki






Soiled Silverware was removed from the starter plates and set on the table for us to use with the main course.





Paella with long grain rice.

We'd driven by this place along the main road in Pacifica, so we booked a table after a Sunday cinema and found a spacious bar and dining room with a terrace or balcony to view the sunset.
In late October, that sunset is much earlier than we were, but we were escorted to a nice table for 4 (even though we were just two).  The World Series was on the various flat-screens scattered around the room.

No wine glasses are on the table, but they presented the menu, which has a wine list included, along with lots of cocktails, Pisco drinks and beers.

The wine list features three bubblies by the glass or bottle.  There are twelve white wines, with seven of them available by the glass.  There are three Roses available, one by the glass.  Twenty one red wines on the list, with eight of them being available in glass pours.

You'll be hard-pressed to recognize very many of the wines on the list.  They've done a pretty good job of selecting wines which will be virtually unknown to most wine drinkers, so recognizing the pricing (and mark-ups) is a challenge.

This can be a good thing, but it seems a number of the white wines are a year, two or three behind the "current" vintages of some brands.
Is it the restaurant focuses more on spirits, beer and cocktails?  Are customers uncomfortable ordering such off-beat labels?

They have two Sauvignon Blanc wines, for example.  Eight Arms North Coast 2011 for $11 a glass or $42 a bottle.  There's a 2009 Pont de Chevalier from Sonoma for $65.  A 2007 Albarino is offered for $65 of the Pedralonga label.  Ever heard of Zacherle Riesling from Carneros?  It's $40 a bottle for the 2010 vintage.  There's a Lodi Grenache Blanc of the Cochon label for $42 for the 2011.
If there's not someone who can sell these wines working the floor, it's not surprising to see such wines languishing on the list.
The three pink wines are all young, a 2013 Sandhi Pinot Noir Rose going for $68, while Martian Rose of Syrah is $42.
As for the red wines, we find offerings such as "Slang Pinot Noir" for $65, "The Tentacle" Syrah/Zin blend for $12 a glass or $46 a bottle and Hocus Pocus Santa Barbara Syrah for $50 (it's about $20-$21 retail).  If you'd like a Napa Cabernet, there's Convexity at $95, a brand launched by former asset management fellows. 

If you want to bring your own, the corkage fee is $18.

Being a Peruvian place, the menu features a number of Ceviche preparations ($13 to $15).  Then there are a few "Causa Makis," a sort of Peruvian version of Sushi with mashed potatoes instead of sushi rice.  These are $14 to $15.

We ordered a couple of pours of the Avinyo Cava ($11 a pour or $42 by the bottle), a wine I've tasted but a handful of times and I remember it as being drier and more austere than on this occasion.  

The Old Bat ordered the Causa 27 ($14) which is Shrimp and Calamari chicharron, lettuce, white fish and Ceviche Aioli.
I had the Causa Masaki ($14) which features crispy shrimp, Dungeness Crab, Avocado and Nikkei Aioli.  (Nikkei is a term for the fusion of Peruvian and Japanese cuisines, by the way.)

These starters were beautifully presented and both delicious!

At this stage I put a bottle of a nice dry white wine on the table and our server immediately brought an ice bucket (not really necessary, but we appreciate the thought) and two good wine glasses.
He opened the bottle and poured 'the say.'  Luckily, the bottle was good.

We had just finished the starters and the plates were on the table, having yet to be cleared.  Suddenly the two paellas arrived and we had to move the plates to allow the fellow to set down the little paella pans.
Soiled, used utensils from our first course were then taken off the appetizer plates and put back down on the table, as the staff here has not been trained to remove the entire 'service' and immediately replace the silverware.

The Paella is described on the menu as "Mixed Fish and Shellfish, Chicken and Chorizo, Saffron Rice, Peppers, green peas and Pimentón Sofrito."  
I did find some nice mussels (as you can see in the photos), a few prawns, some Bay Scallops, Calamari, but I missed the Chicken, Chorizo and Saffron.
And the rice was a unlike a good Spanish-styled Paella, made with Bomba rice or some other short grain rice.
Here at Puerto 27, the waiter told us they use "long grain rice."
Well, it was still a nice dish.

We skipped dessert, so the bill, with two pours of bubbles, two starters, two paellas and one corkage fee tallied to $131 with tax.

It's a nice venue, probably more scenic before sunset and without the distraction of the several large screen TVs scattered around the dining room.

Puerto 27 is a nice place to dine, but I'm not sure it's worth the trek if you're not close by given the numerous restaurant options in the nearby San Francisco.

Reviewed by
October 2014



65-A 29th Street
San Francisco

Tel: 415-695-7800

Open Daily for Dinner 5:30 Mon-Sat
Open 5-10 Sundays


Fried Okra

Homemade Hot Sauces


Corn Bread


Crawfish Hush-Puppies


Dr. Pepper Braised Short Ribs with some celery root puree and Broccoli Rabe.

Popcorn on the side, with our four piece serving of Fried Chicken, Collard Greens and Mashed Potatoes.









We'd been talking about dinner on a Thursday evening, but we didn't get around to selecting a place until a few hours before dining.
And we found The Front Porch.

We made an 8:15 reservation and, luckily, arrived maybe a half hour early (for a change).  A few passes around the block and we did not find a parking spot.  We ended up finding a space down a dead end across from the restaurant.

The host said the table was close to being ready and he could call us on the phone to ring the dinner triangle, so we ambled across the street to the Rock Bar.  I gather both establishments are under the same ownership.

I had a Affliglem Blond on tap and my friend ordered a cocktail as we watched the locals "hanging out".  Especially amusing were the two ladies near us who were babying a cute little pooch (a pug, perhaps?) who was quite comfortable sharing a drink at the bar.

Just about right to the minute the call came, saying our table was ready.  "Finish your drinks, though.  Please take your time." we were told.

We returned to the restaurant and were escorted to a 4 top at the back of the place near the kitchen.  I had a seat on a normal chair, but my friend was on an old car seat (and they had seatbelts, too!).  The decor is eclectic and being late in October, there was a Halloween theme throughout.

The menu and wine list were presented as we sat down.  No wine glasses on the tables, though.

The wine list features a a couple of sparkling wines by the glass, Mont Marcal's Spanish Cava at $7.50 a glass or Charles Sparr Cremant d'Alsace Brut Rose at $8.50.
A half bottle of Bruno Paillard is $45, while a bottle of Dom Perignon is nicely priced at $205.

There are nine whites offered by-the-bottle with a few offered by the deuce (half liter) or by the glass.
A Picpoul de Pinet of the J&D Selections label goes for $7, $14 or $26 for a bottle.  Trefethen's Napa Riesling is $9, $18 or $34.  There are 14 red wine selections, including a Beaujolais of Piron from the Chènas cru at $46 a bottle.
From the Rhone Valley there was a Chateau de Segries Lirac at $12 a glass, $24 for a 'deuce" and $46 for a bottle.
Other selections included a Baxter Pinot Noir from the Anderson Valley for $12 a glass,  $24 for a half liter and $46 for a bottle. Andis Barbera from Amador, a Conn Valley Merlot and Donati Claret were offered.
A few of the wines have an icon of a chicken next to them, the Barbera and a Grenache Blanc from Lodi called Onesta being cited as good matches for "glugging with fried chicken."
Curiously, none of the sparkling wines merits this designation!

We ordered a 'deuce' of Joseph Drouhin Chablis at $20.  Nice stemware was brought to the table and a small decanter with the wine was poured to an appropriate level.

We ordered some Fried Okra with a Jalapeno Aioli ($7.50) and some Crawfish Hush Puppies ($9).
Soon we had a small basket of beautifully-fried Okra...nice texture of a crispy exterior and toothsome okra!
The Hush Puppies were also quite good and you could really taste the crayfish in these soft, bready little 'golf-balls'.

We were intrigued by the Dr. Pepper Braised Short Ribs ($25), so we chose to open a rather upscale red Burgundy we'd been dying to taste.  It was a Chassagne-Montrachet from Michel Niellon, a premier cru from the Clos Saint Jean site.  This was a like dressing in a tuxedo to go to a rib joint!
I'd chilled the bottle to cellar temp and this worked nicely as it emphasized the acidity and mild tannins.  We shared a taste of this with our server and her knees buckled when she tasted it.  "Ohhhh myyy...!!!" she cried.

We also ordered the "Fried Chicken, 4 Piece" at $18.50.

Other options included "Blackened Wild Gulf Flounder" ($22.75), "Spicy Shrimp & Grits" ($24) and "Sweet Tea Brined Pork Chop" ($21).  Yes, it's a little 'taste of the south' right here in The City!

The Short Ribs were quite good and were adorned with some fresh horseradish.  You could get a hint of the Dr. Pepper in the sauce hugging the meat.

The pieces of Fried Chicken were marvelous, if a tad different from the version we'd enjoyed last month at the Firefly restaurant in San Francisco.
This seemed to have a bit of hot sauce in the seasoning mix and I thought I detected a note of rosemary, too.
The Burgundy was able to survive this onslaught of flavor, though I think next visit I'll bring Champagne to pair with this.
The chicken is accompanied by "garlic mashers" and "ham hock collards."  Truly soul food!

They brought us a couple of homemade corn muffins...delightful!

We had to try their Biscuits, too.  I think it's $4.50 for two really nice biscuits (but the biscuits at Firefly might be a bit better).


We were curious to try their version of Beignets and these were presented in a small sack, beautifully covered in powdered sugar.
Quite good!


Their music box featured old-timers such as Jimi Hendrix and Bob Dylan which seemed fitting given the ambience and the cuisine.

In searching for parking, I'd seen Mitchell's Ice Cream nearby and so after paying the bill, we ambled over there at 10::30 to find a "Please-take-a-number" system.  The Kahlua and Cream was quite good, though totally over-the-top after such a meal at The