The Fab Five
Northern California’s restaurant mecca makes room for incredible new eateries.
CategoryEat & Drink
Written byAmalia McGibbon
You have to be pretty confident to open a restaurant down the street from French Laundry, but it turns out that Restoration Hardware (RH) had reason to be. Described as “an integration of food, wine, art and design,” the 9,000-square-foot compound is comprised of the Wine Vault, a two-story tasting room in the historic Ma(i)sonry building that serves rare wines from the valley’s top producers, a boutique design gallery featuring rotating artistic installations, and RH’s first standalone, full-service restaurant.
The restaurant’s menu features elegant, NorCal-inspired comfort food for all times of day. It opens for brunch at 10 AM on the weekends, and I’d highly recommend their RH Scrambled Eggs; made with farm fresh eggs, creme fraiche, and avocado, they are divinely creamy while also light as air. The Shaved Rib-eye Sandwich—an ideal midday nibble—wowed me with its charred garlic bread, gooey Swiss cheese, and sweet cherry peppers. Whatever you order for dinner (Atlantic Dover Sole? Roasted Half Chicken?), make sure to order a side of Fried Artichokes with rosemary aioli. They have just the right crackle on the outside, yet are meltingly tender within.
After dinner, you can amble back to the Wine Vault for a nightcap, choosing between different wine flights that range from $50 to $100. The most expensive—the Collector Tasting—is a celebration of Napa and Sonoma’s most coveted wines (think a 2012 Barrett & Barrett Cabernet Sauvignon, or a 2013 Corison Cabernet Sauvignon.) The tasting room is open until 10 PM, which is pretty late around these parts. Before you leave though, put in one last order for the kitchen: chocolate chip cookies, sprinkled with giant sea salt. They’re big, dense, and marvelously chewy.
RH Yountville sits guests under a soaring glass roof, with opulent crystal chandeliers, working stone fountains, and a collection of 100-year-old live olive trees. With the RH brand behind it, this restaurant was always going to be one of the most beautiful dining rooms in Wine Country. I’m happy to report it’s also one of its most exciting.
6725 Washington Street, Yountville | 707.339.4654 | restorationhardware.com
ONE65 is the brainchild of James Beard award-winning chef Claude Le Tohic. It’s actually four distinct French dining experiences, spread over six floors in the heart of San Francisco’s Union Square. There’s ONE65 Patisserie & Boutique on the first and second floors for classic French pastries and casual breakfast; ONE65 Bistro & Grill on the third floor for an elegant lunch; Elements Bar & Lounge for cocktails and fine wines; and fine dining at O’ by Claude Le Tohic on the fifth and sixth floors.
O’ is hushed and exclusive, a world away from the bustle of Union Square, but the pleasures of this rooftop sanctuary are very real. Le Tohic’s cooking is serious and refined, a catalog of California ingredients with a French flair. The dining experience here revolves around a 10-course tasting menu ($250 per person), with two categories of wine pairings from Wine Director Vincent Morrow, and—in a nod to traditional French fine dining—cheese and mignardises carts.
Our tasting menu kicked off with a Pomegranate gazpacho—smooth and fluffy—topped with a marmalade of charcoal-roasted beets and herb salad. Next up was a generous trio of caviar preparations (fast becoming a restaurant signature), and a flavorful roasted lobster with juniper, bone marrow, and a pepper-berry bearnaise. I haven’t been able to get the dessert course out of my mind—a delicious mélange of poached peach, black currant syrup, almond biscuit, and geranium ice cream.
The attention to detail at O’ is to be expected, given Le Tohic’s former role as Executive Chef at Joël Robuchon Restaurant in Las Vegas, but the dining experience here is still a revelation. ONE65 takes up a lot of real estate, but, having eaten my way up and down the six floors of food, I can promise that Bay Area residents will be grateful for every square foot.
165 O’Farrell Street, San Francisco | 415.814.8888 | one65sf.com
Mike’s Palo Alto
Perhaps one of the most anticipated restaurant openings of the last year would be the re-opening of long-time neighborhood eatery Mike’s Café (now named Mike’s Palo Alto). Owner Mike Wallau closed up shop for a year and a half for a major renovation and expansion, eager to introduce a new-and-improved dining experience to Midtown. The new space is a stunner: handsome paneled walls, bare wood tables, and filament lighting lend the restaurant a pleasingly rustic, convivial vibe.
Mike’s has always been known for its unpretentious comfort food, and the new menu maintains that down-to-earth feel, with the addition of some new Italian dishes. I loved an appetizer of prosciutto and melon—three wedges of ripe cantaloupe draped with lean, tasty ham—and an entrée of Grilled Salmon served over a decadent puree of carrot.
The restaurant’s menu has lots and lots of tasty things, but its pasta is a direct path to happiness. Dishes include rigatoni in a bright and silky vodka sauce, and bent shells of pasta called lumache with fresh pesto. There’s also a very serious pizza operation that turns out a variety of thin-crust pizzas, including a take on my favorite “varietal,”—the Capricciosa pizza. That translates to “capricious”—an apt name considering the recipe calls for an ever-changing combination of ingredients. At Mike’s the toppings include mozzarella, mushrooms, baby artichokes, kalamata olives, Italian ham, and dried oregano.
The restaurant’s desserts are pure fun and charm, like the Spumone, a frozen Italian-American dessert made by layering pistachio, strawberry, and chocolate gelati, and the Tiramisu, with its creamy custard, espresso-soaked cake, and a dusting of cocoa powder. So, tip of the toque to Mike, for that delicious conclusion and an exciting new start.
2680 Middlefield Road, Palo Alto | 650.600.8737 | mikespaloalto.com
North might be sparkly and new, but this Los Gatos restaurant represents the culmination of decades of experience for its two owners, Hanna Pham (19 Market, Hanna’s Bistro) and John Le (Three Seasons in Palo Alto and San Francisco). The pair’s experience and talent is made immediately obvious by their fusion menu, which calls upon both contemporary and traditional cooking styles.
In a very strong lineup of appetizers, top honors go to the Vietnamese tacos, with BBQ pork slaw, cilantro, and sriracha aioli. A dish of Maple Leaf Farm Duck Breast is enlivened by the bright flavors of jackfruit salad and turnip puree. Another dish, of garlic noodles with crispy shallots and parmesan cheese, is rich and savory. My favorite course, though, is the delicious—and classically Vietnamese—Bo Luc Lac (shaking beef), which we ordered, and re-ordered, served with lime and pepper dipping sauce.
There are plenty of interesting beers, sake, and wine available, but it would be a shame to miss the cocktails. The Nón Lá, with house-infused matcha gin, yellow chartreuse, foaming bitters, and turmeric-ginger tincture, is fresh-tasting and herbal, while the Jungle Cat, made with aged rum, Bruto Americano, cinnamon syrup, and tepache (a Mexican beverage made from fermented pineapple), achieves the perfect balance of acidity and sweetness.
The restaurant industry has a soft spot for novelty and new faces, but one meal at North will make you so grateful that these industry veterans are stepping back into the spotlight.
133 N Santa Cruz Avenue | Los Gatos | 408.884.8309 | north-losgatos.com
It’s hard to believe that Selby’s is new in town, when it already looks and feels so quintessentially “Peninsula.” The 10,000-square-foot restaurant—from the team behind San Francisco’s Spruce and Woodside’s The Village Pub—hits that Bay Area sweet spot between simplicity and sophistication, decorated with dark green mohair walls, black-paneled wainscoting, and tan leather chairs.
In the kitchen is Michelin-starred Executive Chef Mark Sullivan, who’s put together a menu that pays homage to traditional American cuisine with modern techniques and exciting, rich flavors. Highlights include the House-made Chestnut Tagliatelle with shaved white truffle (a seasonal special, so make sure to visit the restaurant before February); an intensely flavored 14 oz. Rib-eye; and the Grilled Whole Lobster, served with heirloom tomatoes and sauce vierge (a favorite of mine—created and popularized by the great French chef Michel Guérard.)
But for all these amazing heavy hitters, Selby’s breakout star turns out to be a burger. Its patty is seared to crispy perfection, tucked under a sheet of melted Comte cheese and “special sauce,” and served in a seeded bun. This $21 burger (along with its sister, the $50 Black Label Burger with truffle) is plump, juicy, and quickly becoming one of the few absolutely mandatory burgers in the Bay Area.
Selby’s, which opened in July, boasts one of the most substantial wine lists in the U.S., with an impressive selection of nearly 20,000 bottles from first-class producers around the world. The cocktail and spirits program features a rare selection of bourbon and scotch, along with a Martini Cart that roams about the dining room serving two variations of “The Coldest Martini on the West Coast”—a classic martini and Vesper.
Inspired by the retro glamour of California in the 1930s and ’40s, Selby’s is easily one of the most elegant restaurants I’ve visited in some time. Apparently, we didn’t know how good we had it back then. Selby’s is here to remind us.
3001 El Camino Real, Atherton | 650.546.7700 | selbysrestaurant.com