Monday, February 7, 2011

Bay Area Favorite Restaurants

California Girl

I am welcoming 2011 with a reunion with the Bay Area, especially the beautiful city of Fremont, California that seems to be embedded in my DNA. While our east coast friends are enjoying the snow and below freezing temperatures, we in San Jose and the Bay Area basked in sunshine and record high temperatures this weekend! Around the city, people's smiles seemed bigger today, especially those in shorts and February!

Only after moving out of California did I realize how much I loved it here. I missed the beautiful scenery and weather of course, but I also missed my favorite Bay Area restaurants. Almost all of my favorites are small, casual places with great food that I can never get tired of eating. Maybe one or two places are more formal and hold special memories for me, making them worth the splurge. Here's a short list of the ones I craved most while I was away, and promise never to take for granted now that I'm back in California!

1. Sala Thai
This is my favorite spot for lunch to catch up with friends or grab a quick bite during a busy week. The State Street location is "downtown Fremont" and the Grimmer Street location is great for south Fremont (although parking may be a problem here). I can never tire of their Panang Curry with its smooth coconut and basil flavors. The Pad Ma Kuer (mine with tofu) is the most freshest, tastiest stir fry with the combination of chillies and basil that I could eat it every day for lunch! The Thai iced tea is just the right amount of sweet and cream and goes perfectly with the spicy entrees. Sala Thai makes one of the best Sweet Sticky Rice with mango desserts which I craved desperately when I was in North Carolina. Sooo glad to be back in town to enjoy this favorite spot for quick lunches and relaxing dinners.

2. Chaat Bhavan
The location in Fremont is relatively new but has become one of the popular places to visit. The atmosphere is bright and clean and the food is delicious. I am addicted to the Maki de Roti and Sag combo and order it every time. The parathas are one of the best I've tasted in the Bay Area, with Gobi paratha and Muli parathas being my two favorite. The food is fresh, very well made, and just the right amount of spice for my palate. Did I mention their chaat dishes? Chaat Bhavan offers a wide array of mouth watering, spicy, and tangy dishes that are easy to fill up on while waiting for the main dish! Sometimes the place can get quite busy, making the service a bit slow, but relax and enjoy the lassi or chai, and consider yourself lucky to be able to enjoy this tasty food spot in the Bay Area!

3. Dishdash
Dishdash is a popular and favorite spot for Middle Eastern cuisine on historic Murphy Street in Sunnyvale. With each entree having complex, delicious combinations of flavors and being served in elegant surroundings, the restaurant is almost always fully booked for reservations. However, if you go for an early dinner, you can get a table quickly and be out before the peak dinner rush starts. Dishdash has a large selection of vegetarian entrees, and a great selection of wraps for lunch. Their hearty and mouth watering Tabsi Falafel satisfied even a finicky teen in our group! The M'Tabaq, a salmon dish with a multitude of flavors, and the Shakshuka were a hit with fish eaters. The array of kababs and lamb dishes will have any carnivore coming back for multiple visits. The business crowd keeps this restaurant very busy during the week and families enjoy the ambiance of the area during the weekends. A great gem in the Bay Area worth visiting multiple times as their food is what we all crave, even in our dreams!

4. My Thai
This favorite restaurant in north Fremont is known for its "Hall of Flame" featuring pictures of people who finished any dish classified as "Fire" hot in spice level. This is not for the faint of heart when it comes to chillies as My Thai's "mild" version is too spicy for some. The Drunken Noodle, Green Curry, and Pad Thai are our favorite items here. Food and service here never disappoint, making this restaurant one we frequent often with friends and family.

5. Turmeric
This beautiful restaurant on Murphy Street in Sunnyvale is a perfect spot to take family and friends. They offer a scrumptious dinner buffet on the weekends and Friday evenings. The tawa dishes were absolutely delicious along with their traditional north Indian fare including tandoori chicken, fish curry, and malai koftas. With multiple trips to the buffet table, it was difficult not to over indulge in the offerings. Warm gulab jamuns were the perfect ending to our meal.The ambiance and quality of food make this little gem a place we love to visit often.

6. Banana Leaf
This is a very popular Malaysian restaurant in Milpitas and offers some of the best tasting dishes that draw crowds every day it is open! Sometimes the small restaurant can get too crowded, affecting their service, which is often rushed. Don't expect to unwind in a quiet place when you dine here, but the food is the main attraction. Almost everyone orders the Roti Prata appetizer and it disappears from the table as soon as it arrives! The Penang Sizzling Chicken is always a hit with our group, and Singaporean Chilli Prawns were spicy but hit the spot for the night. The Pahd Thai noodles satisfied our finicky teens and everyone enjoyed the tangy Mango Chicken. Every time we visit this spot we run into someone we know also enjoying this popular restaurant. Weather permitting, they also offer outdoor dining set on a small patio. A perfect place to dine with friends and family!

7. Garam Masala
A good "hole in the wall" restaurant is priceless for foodies seeking authentic ethnic food. This place offers clean tables with friendly service, and serves some of the best south Indian food in the Bay Area. Their mini-Tiffin combination offers generous sized portions of idly, masala dosa, and pongal. Verrry satisfying for a quick lunch in the Evergreen area of San Jose. They make one of the best cups of Indian Chai. Who needs to drive far for a good Indian meal when you have this restaurant in the neighborhood?

8. Shalimar
This restaurant is a favorite even among strict vegetarians! The smell of tandoori cooking permeates the medium-sized restaurant and has your mouth watering in anticipation while you are ordering! Regular customers understand the "method" to follow here. You grab a table first, take a paper menu from the cashier to your table or pick your selections right there, then wait for your food. Grab a water jug, utensils, onion and chillies, then wait for the most delicious tandoori food ever! Their Palak Aloo Methi and Okra dishes are two of my favorites that I can eat every day without tiring. The garlic naan, and regular naan arrives fresh and hot and we can easily forget how many we've eaten as the food just melts in your mouth! The kids love their Chicken Boti Tandoori as well as their creamy Chicken Tikka Masala. Free Masala Chai while you wait, or after a meal keeps this loyal customer very happy. This Bay Area restaurant is one place you really crave when you move away.

9. Navio at Ritz-Carlton Half Moon Bay
The Ritz at Half Moon Bay offers some of most scenic views for walking, golfing, or dining. The sunset over the Pacific ocean serves as our backdrop during dinner at Navio. A very beautiful, elegant restaurant, where the staff really care about your every comfort, and take care to address you by name. Using fresh ingredients from local farms, the chef created a fabulous dish of vegetables for me as an entree, as there were no vegetarian main dishes listed on the menu. Each dish brought to our table was a work of art. The kids in our group enjoyed the food as much as the adults, ate all their scallops, pork chops, and no vegetables were left on their plates! The Navio is known for its famous brunches and special occasion buffets, the description of which would fill pages and pages. This heavenly spot is worth the drive out to Half Moon Bay.

10. Spice Hut
This is one of our favorite spots for south Indian food. The masala dosa, idly sambar, and south Indian curry dishes are tasty and fresh. Some of the best bargains are their combos that you can select when in the restaurant. The quantity of food and quality of the dishes make it one of our favorite for take out as well. Their naan is mouth watering and worth the wait when dining in or taking out. Another favorite are their Nanini dishes consisting of mouth watering fillings inside Naan, pressed in a Panini style way. To die for!

Good food and good weather make me one happy California Girl!

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