We showed up to this crappy little Silicon Valley strip mall in Santa Clara on a Tuesday at 11:30 AM on a lunchtime mission. Sure enough there was already a congregation of hungry and anxiously waiting patrons lined up out the door frothing at the mouth. But, I pushed my way to the front of the waiting room and successfully added my name on the handwritten list for my group of four. Why would I endure this kind of brutality on my lunch break? For ramen, of course – reputedly the best the Bay Area has to offer at that. Orenchi Ramen's reputation clearly preceded itself, but I was ready to experience it for myself.
I drove 20 minutes across Silicon Valley to quench a Xiao Long Bao craving at Shanghai Dumpling and was sternly turned away at 8:35 by a strong "we're closed". The restaurant was still full and running at full speed, which led me to wonder if my blatant whiteness got me rejected from the nearly entirely Asian-filled restaurant. Um, hello, Yelp says you’re supposed to be open until 9:30 on Sunday nights! Way to be racist, Shanghai Dumpling. I acted quick on my feet and went elsewhere to get my Asian food fix that night. As it turned out, this particular shopping center was a sort of Cupertino Chinatown with a number of Asian dining options to choose from. Directly next door to Shanghai Dumpling there was a similar looking restaurant called QQ Noodle. Sure, why not. It was bright and clean looking and had pretty standard Asian restaurant decor. I figured I'd give it a shot and try to remedy my Asian dinner dilemma.
*Editor's Note 7/17/14: I have recently returned to Himalayan Kitchen and the entire restaurant and shopping center has been remodeled and is much nicer now. The food is just as good as ever, maybe even better. Way off the beaten path, in a seriously run-down shopping center in Mountain View, California you’ll find a sketchy looking restaurant called Himalayan Kitchen. Had I not read good things about this place online before driving over, I might have been turned off by the truthfully off-putting appearance, but I followed my instincts and continued on with my hungover Himalayan quest.
Located only one block from Stanford's the restaurant-lined Palo Alto main drag, University Avenue, you will find an unassuming Italian restaurant called Vero. With its tall, vaulted, wood beamed ceiling, candlelit dining room, and open kitchen, it’s quite an inviting restaurant to spot passing by. Though most guests were dining inside, we opted for one of their outdoor seats to take advantage of the miraculously warm early-March Californian weather.
OK, I’ll admit it, I’ve been having a tough time finding great restaurants over these weeks I’ve been spending in Silicon Valley. I’ve found a few gems that I’ll be sharing with you all soon, but it ain’t easy. However, there are a couple densely populated ‘downtowns' that help when hunting and downtown Palo Alto is one such example. Stanford University is located in Palo Alto, so there’s an actual restaurant row like you often find in college towns. After asking a local Palo Alto-based friend for dinner advise and receiving a glowing recommendation, we ended up at an upscale Greek restaurant called Evvia Estiatorio. It’s hard to pass on a claim that Evvia is the best restaurant in Palo Alto so our group of six headed there on a Monday evening to check it out for ourselves.
In northern California, neighboring Cupertino is a small town called Campbell. It seems like kind of a nothing town with chain restaurants and not much else. But, there's actually a cool little strip of town called Historic Campbell with a number of fun, upscale restaurants. For some reason they all have the same fiery torches illuminating their front walkways. The walkway torch empresario must have had a hey day selling these tall flickering lanterns to every upscale hotel and restaurant up and down the California coastline. Nestled in amongst the high-end restaurants is a tiny gastropub called Liquid Bread serving gourmet, modern American cuisine along with a ton of quality beers rotating on tap.