Arts

Rustic chic

Two-in-one Village Bakery is a self-assured addition to the Woodside scene

The Village Bakery is the latest addition to the Bacchus Management Group's growing family of up-market restaurants. The six-month old restaurant and adjacent bakery occupies the central Woodside location long inhabited by the Woodside Bakery, which decamped to Menlo Park in 2016 after losing its lease.

The bakery makes exceptional bread, pastries, cookies and other baked goods. An almond croissant ($3.75) was flaked perfectly with buttery decadence and rivaled anything I've enjoyed in France. A crusty loaf of sourdough bread ($6.75) held its own against Tartine Bakery's storied loaves.

The little bakery is chic and sunny with white subway tiles and black wood. Unfortunately there is very little seating, just a few awkward stools in front of the windows. Next door, through a separate entrance, is the restaurant with a large, dog-friendly patio in the back.

The Village Bakery takes some of its cues from The Village Pub, its Michelin-starred big sister down the road, but it more closely resembles its Palo Alto sibling, Mayfield Bakery and Cafe. This newest member of the Bacchus brood has the self-confidence of an enterprise run by a practiced corporate hand: the lighting is lovely, the noise level is balanced, service is knowledgeable and attentive. The seasonal, oft-changing menu draws on the bounty of SMIP Ranch, a private farm in the hills above Woodside that provides ingredients to Bacchus' restaurant empire, which includes Spruce (also Michelin-starred) and The Saratoga in San Francisco, as well as four Pizza Antica locations.

Corporate efficiencies have a downside, though. The cocktails ($13 for signature drinks) appear to be poured with annoying attention to profit per serving. Giant blocks of cocktail-displacing ice could sink the Titanic. The martini glasses are doll-sized. The Restoration Hardware-inspired decor feels a little pre-packaged, as if designed by a focus group, but this brand of understated elegance works well enough in the town that arguably invented the concept of rustic-chic.

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Over two dinners, we found that the most expensive entrees delivered exceptional experiences. If you're not inclined toward entrees in the $35 to $39 dollar range, though, things can be little uneven. While we are on the subject of price, some may wish to have it called to their attention that The Village Bakery adds to each bill a 3 percent surcharge "to support living wages and health insurance." Why not simply build the surcharge into the menu prices?

In such a case, the striped sea bass might be $37.50 instead of $36, but at least it was excellent. A flaky, generous piece of fish came with its skin crispy and caramelized, prepared with tangerines and fennel and served on a thin bed of creamy garlic lentils. A special on another night was duck breast ($39) from San Jose-based Bassian Farms' humane-certified 38 North brand. This fantastic dish showcased tender, earthy pieces of thickly sliced duck breast plated with caramelized white escarole and topped with roasted chestnuts and huckleberries. Both of these upper-end entrees evidenced executive chef Mark Sullivan's confident hand with disparate flavors.

The more down-market crispy fried chicken with waffles and spiced honey ($26) was less impressive. The boneless, succulent breast and thigh were exotically spiced with cinnamon and star anise, but the buttermilk waffles were very soggy. Surprisingly, given Bacchus's Pizza Antica bona fides, we found our Village Bakery pizza unremarkable. One would expect a classic, three-ingredient Margherita ($17) to be simple, but ours was completely tasteless and slightly under-baked.

The simple spaghettoni ($22) was a small serving of al dente homemade pasta shimmering with just the right amount of olive oil, garlic and fresh tomato. My restaurateur friend's roasted chicken breast ($27) was reported to be excellent. A nice-sized, tender breast was bathed in a rich wine-and-mushroom sauce and served with a bit of spinach.

A paltry bowl of butternut squash soup ($14) arrived lukewarm. I ate two or three spoonfuls before sending it back. I was immediately delivered a more reasonably-sized, piping-hot serving sprinkled with pumpkin seeds and decorated with creme fraiche.

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We tried all of the side dishes ($8) on offer during our visits. The shoestring fries with Dijon aioli were addicting, crispy and disappeared in about one minute. The roasted heirloom carrots were nicely caramelized and tasted like they had been picked that morning. The baked cauliflower was bland, but the caramelized Brussels sprouts with pearl onions and roasted pumpkin both evidenced ultra-fresh, farm-to-table flavor.

The avocado toast ($14), served with toasted quinoa and topped with pickled red onions, was built on a sturdy base of The Village Bakery's divine whole grain toast.

I find it irksome to be charged for pre-dinner bread, especially at a restaurant with its own bakery, but at least at The Village Bakery, you're getting excellent bread. The mini whole-grain porridge loaf ($8) was so good, I fear my table companions might not have gotten a crumb. The warm Parker House rolls ($5 for two) were dusted with grey sea salt and tasted a little like up-market King's Hawaiian rolls.

At the end of each of our two dinners, I ordered a decaf coffee ($3.50) with dessert. Both times I was delivered a cup of black, sour brew that clearly had been on the burner for some time. I sent it back both times and received fresh cups in fairly short order.

The Village Bakery's signature dessert is the double-chocolate wonder cookie ($10), a toothsome, brownie-cookie hybrid studded with hazelnuts and other rich and crunchy delights. It is topped with vanilla ice cream and a salted caramel sauce. It is over the top but wonderful.

That a "wonder cookie" can be served with a straight face at an upscale restaurant supplied by its own farm speaks to how self-assured The Village Bakery already feels, buzzing as a centerpiece of Woodside's dining scene.

Freelancer writer Monica Schreiber can be emailed at [email protected]

The Village Bakery

3052 Woodside Road, Woodside

650-851-5555

Village Bakery

Hours: Restaurant: Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 9:30 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday, 9 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Bakery: Daily, 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Credit cards: Yes

Reservations: Yes

Catering: No

Outdoor seating: Yes

Parking: Yes

Alcohol: Yes

Bathroom: Excellent

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Rustic chic

Two-in-one Village Bakery is a self-assured addition to the Woodside scene

by Monica Schreiber / Palo Alto Weekly

Uploaded: Thu, Feb 1, 2018, 10:00 am

The Village Bakery is the latest addition to the Bacchus Management Group's growing family of up-market restaurants. The six-month old restaurant and adjacent bakery occupies the central Woodside location long inhabited by the Woodside Bakery, which decamped to Menlo Park in 2016 after losing its lease.

The bakery makes exceptional bread, pastries, cookies and other baked goods. An almond croissant ($3.75) was flaked perfectly with buttery decadence and rivaled anything I've enjoyed in France. A crusty loaf of sourdough bread ($6.75) held its own against Tartine Bakery's storied loaves.

The little bakery is chic and sunny with white subway tiles and black wood. Unfortunately there is very little seating, just a few awkward stools in front of the windows. Next door, through a separate entrance, is the restaurant with a large, dog-friendly patio in the back.

The Village Bakery takes some of its cues from The Village Pub, its Michelin-starred big sister down the road, but it more closely resembles its Palo Alto sibling, Mayfield Bakery and Cafe. This newest member of the Bacchus brood has the self-confidence of an enterprise run by a practiced corporate hand: the lighting is lovely, the noise level is balanced, service is knowledgeable and attentive. The seasonal, oft-changing menu draws on the bounty of SMIP Ranch, a private farm in the hills above Woodside that provides ingredients to Bacchus' restaurant empire, which includes Spruce (also Michelin-starred) and The Saratoga in San Francisco, as well as four Pizza Antica locations.

Corporate efficiencies have a downside, though. The cocktails ($13 for signature drinks) appear to be poured with annoying attention to profit per serving. Giant blocks of cocktail-displacing ice could sink the Titanic. The martini glasses are doll-sized. The Restoration Hardware-inspired decor feels a little pre-packaged, as if designed by a focus group, but this brand of understated elegance works well enough in the town that arguably invented the concept of rustic-chic.

Over two dinners, we found that the most expensive entrees delivered exceptional experiences. If you're not inclined toward entrees in the $35 to $39 dollar range, though, things can be little uneven. While we are on the subject of price, some may wish to have it called to their attention that The Village Bakery adds to each bill a 3 percent surcharge "to support living wages and health insurance." Why not simply build the surcharge into the menu prices?

In such a case, the striped sea bass might be $37.50 instead of $36, but at least it was excellent. A flaky, generous piece of fish came with its skin crispy and caramelized, prepared with tangerines and fennel and served on a thin bed of creamy garlic lentils. A special on another night was duck breast ($39) from San Jose-based Bassian Farms' humane-certified 38 North brand. This fantastic dish showcased tender, earthy pieces of thickly sliced duck breast plated with caramelized white escarole and topped with roasted chestnuts and huckleberries. Both of these upper-end entrees evidenced executive chef Mark Sullivan's confident hand with disparate flavors.

The more down-market crispy fried chicken with waffles and spiced honey ($26) was less impressive. The boneless, succulent breast and thigh were exotically spiced with cinnamon and star anise, but the buttermilk waffles were very soggy. Surprisingly, given Bacchus's Pizza Antica bona fides, we found our Village Bakery pizza unremarkable. One would expect a classic, three-ingredient Margherita ($17) to be simple, but ours was completely tasteless and slightly under-baked.

The simple spaghettoni ($22) was a small serving of al dente homemade pasta shimmering with just the right amount of olive oil, garlic and fresh tomato. My restaurateur friend's roasted chicken breast ($27) was reported to be excellent. A nice-sized, tender breast was bathed in a rich wine-and-mushroom sauce and served with a bit of spinach.

A paltry bowl of butternut squash soup ($14) arrived lukewarm. I ate two or three spoonfuls before sending it back. I was immediately delivered a more reasonably-sized, piping-hot serving sprinkled with pumpkin seeds and decorated with creme fraiche.

We tried all of the side dishes ($8) on offer during our visits. The shoestring fries with Dijon aioli were addicting, crispy and disappeared in about one minute. The roasted heirloom carrots were nicely caramelized and tasted like they had been picked that morning. The baked cauliflower was bland, but the caramelized Brussels sprouts with pearl onions and roasted pumpkin both evidenced ultra-fresh, farm-to-table flavor.

The avocado toast ($14), served with toasted quinoa and topped with pickled red onions, was built on a sturdy base of The Village Bakery's divine whole grain toast.

I find it irksome to be charged for pre-dinner bread, especially at a restaurant with its own bakery, but at least at The Village Bakery, you're getting excellent bread. The mini whole-grain porridge loaf ($8) was so good, I fear my table companions might not have gotten a crumb. The warm Parker House rolls ($5 for two) were dusted with grey sea salt and tasted a little like up-market King's Hawaiian rolls.

At the end of each of our two dinners, I ordered a decaf coffee ($3.50) with dessert. Both times I was delivered a cup of black, sour brew that clearly had been on the burner for some time. I sent it back both times and received fresh cups in fairly short order.

The Village Bakery's signature dessert is the double-chocolate wonder cookie ($10), a toothsome, brownie-cookie hybrid studded with hazelnuts and other rich and crunchy delights. It is topped with vanilla ice cream and a salted caramel sauce. It is over the top but wonderful.

That a "wonder cookie" can be served with a straight face at an upscale restaurant supplied by its own farm speaks to how self-assured The Village Bakery already feels, buzzing as a centerpiece of Woodside's dining scene.

Freelancer writer Monica Schreiber can be emailed at [email protected]

The Village Bakery

3052 Woodside Road, Woodside

650-851-5555

Village Bakery

Hours: Restaurant: Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 9:30 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday, 9 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Bakery: Daily, 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Credit cards: Yes

Reservations: Yes

Catering: No

Outdoor seating: Yes

Parking: Yes

Alcohol: Yes

Bathroom: Excellent

Comments

Joe
Menlo Park
on Feb 1, 2018 at 12:13 pm
Joe, Menlo Park
on Feb 1, 2018 at 12:13 pm

Sounds unpleasant when compared to its predecessor, the Woodside Bakery. Paying for bread? When you ordered dinner at the Woodside Bakery, you got individual focaccia that were out of this world.

You could watch meals being prepared at the bar, really a wonderful experience that is way, way too uncommon for a restaurant.

The salads were excellent. So were the pizzas. And it was affordable.

What a shame, to have a Woodside institution -- where they know who you are, in the best sense of that phrase -- being replaced by an organization that seems dedicated to squeezing the customer's wallet, and for what? Skimpy drinks? Chicken seasoned with cinnamon and anise? You've got to be kidding! Bread that's ala carte??? Give me a break.

I'll trade innovation and exclusivity for comfort and familiarity and actual friendliness every time. I'm never going to this place, not to the bakery, not to the restaurant.


Srini
another community
on Feb 1, 2018 at 4:59 pm
Srini, another community
on Feb 1, 2018 at 4:59 pm

It's bad enough that the Roberts family bounced the successful local long time owners of the previous bakery, but then putting in a corporate overpriced operation, who couldn't care less about the local community. What a bunch of sellouts. I would have a tough time going to a place like that with those prices, small portions, and then nitpicking every crumb and morsel that lands on your plate with additional charges, but after displacing a perfectly good local proprietor with somebody who is willing to pay more rent? What's next, pay toilets? How about charging people for hanging up their coats? It's as bad as the airlines! Guess where you won't see me!


neighbor
Greenmeadow
on Feb 1, 2018 at 8:30 pm
neighbor, Greenmeadow
on Feb 1, 2018 at 8:30 pm

Loved the Woodside Bakery and it was a favorite of cyclists. I'm with Srini and Joe, this place isn't for me.


Marie
Los Altos
on Feb 1, 2018 at 9:01 pm
Marie, Los Altos
on Feb 1, 2018 at 9:01 pm

Even though we live in Mountain View, we ate at Woodside Bakery at least once a week. What a shame it's gone.
We visited this new restaurant in Palo Alto and found that everything the above people said is true. However, even the food was not good, but expensive.

We still go to Buck's and hope this owner doesn't force him to leave.

Never will we go to this new restaurant, where

Woodside Bakery used to be.

Sorry.


Joyce Hoving
Portola Valley
on Feb 2, 2018 at 12:01 am
Joyce Hoving, Portola Valley
on Feb 2, 2018 at 12:01 am

Ditto all the above comments. I have been to the Village Bakery restaurant twice and will never return. In my opinion, it is over priced and uninviting in all respects. Why would the Roberts family make such a change? Follow the money. I'm waiting it out for the tried and true Woodside Bakery to expand their Sharon Heights location. Meanwhile, there's always Buck's if they don't get kicked out, too.


Diner who loves fresh food
Downtown North
on Feb 2, 2018 at 8:54 am
Diner who loves fresh food, Downtown North
on Feb 2, 2018 at 8:54 am

I visited the Bakery Cafe with my family over the Christmas holiday and again with friends for breakfast. We ordered the bread for the table on both occasions. It was unique and clearly worth the price. Our meals on both occasions included fresh from the garden ingredients and were superior in every way. I found the service to be impeccable. Our waiter on both occasions went the extra mile for us. One of my friends ordered off the menu I was enchanted with the lovely decor. I was glad to pay the extra coverage to cover the wait staff and kitchen help. After all their wages are low and we live in an expensive area. And I can afford it!

I loved the Village Bakery and can't wait to return for their unique menu and wonderfully fresh food.


Phil
Woodside
on Feb 2, 2018 at 6:51 pm
Phil, Woodside
on Feb 2, 2018 at 6:51 pm

I have had the pizza no less than ten times,each time it has been better than the time before. Often when coming with another couple, we have it as an appetizer, and everyone loves it and it's reasonable price. I've sat at the bar enjoying the excellence and consistency of the mixed drinks often. Let's not forget the principal owner is a Woodside resident and is extremely receptive to the customer's feedback. It is often we remember the past as we wanted it to be and not as it actually was. This new place is the best plain and simple.


Leslie
Woodside
on Feb 2, 2018 at 7:58 pm
Leslie, Woodside
on Feb 2, 2018 at 7:58 pm

I love the Village Bakery. Wow, I am so happy the Village Bakery opened up in Woodside. It is so refreshing to go into a clean, well run and organized restaurant. The menu is amazing and I have tried almost everything. I love the roasted chicken and the fish specials. The fresh bread smells heavenly, and worth the price. I go at least twice a week week to dine or grab a quick bite at the bar. The atmosphere is welcoming, the service is outstanding and the food is fresh, organic, and most important consistent. I'm always greeted by my name, and the manager always stops by to check in when I'm alone or with friends. I always look forward to going there.


Tried it twice
Adobe-Meadow
on Feb 3, 2018 at 5:43 am
Tried it twice, Adobe-Meadow
on Feb 3, 2018 at 5:43 am

Agree with most here. Unfortunately for the new place, they are being measured against one of the best relaxed,casual/quality places with what seemed to be a a big favorite of many as shown above. The old Woodside Bakery put together a PERFECT recipe for many seeking such a place. I'm not sure what the new place is trying to be, but I'm in agreement with the "It's not for me" crowd. It's a darned shame, but I guess it frees us up to discover the next Woodside Bakery type place, but that's a tall order.

It's amazing to me, considering how difficult the restaurant scene is to flourish in, when someone comes up with a formula that is a hit and gets locked in by residents over decades, but then someone comes in, chucks that out and tries something new. It usually doesn't end well. The old place was a "Wow", the new one is a "Meh". Life's short, go for the Wow.


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