Bienvenu, B'Zu | August 17, 2012 | Palo Alto Weekly | Palo Alto Online |

Palo Alto Weekly

Eating Out - August 17, 2012

Bienvenu, B'Zu

New Mediterranean cafe is a welcome addition to Castro Street

by Dale F. Bentson

It's a beautiful thing to sit in a pocket-park sidewalk cafe on Castro Street in Mountain View and gossip, people-watch or just enjoy the delicious summer weather under canopied trees. The diversity of restaurants is amazing, although we take it for granted: Irish, Spanish, Thai, Chinese, Italian, Japanese, Indian, Californian, seafood, burgers and everything in between.

The owners of the 12-year-old Zucca Ristorante decided to sell their Mediterranean-styled eatery late last year. Naturally, the staff was concerned about their jobs and beloved restaurant. Longtime waitress/bartender Sandrine Cornet is the new owner. She and manager Remzi Degerli want to concentrate on improving the overall dining experience.

"I have French ancestry, so food is in my blood," Cornet said. "We make almost everything from scratch at the restaurant. Including the table bread. It takes time, but it is worth it." She stressed that "B'Zu is not fine dining but casual dining with killer food."

My three recent experiences were all positive. The kitchen was meticulous with the food prep. The dishes were fresh, hot and succulent. The service was spot-on and the prices were easy on the wallet.

For starters, the tomato bread soup ($5) was lush and thick with both ingredients, and slightly spicy, perfectly seasoned, with hints of rosemary and basil. The aroma of fresh tomatoes wafted from the bowl. The herbs, by the way, came from Cornet's grandmother's garden.

The Aegean meze platter ($14) was oodles for two and a grand introduction to eastern-Mediterranean fare. The platter featured dolmas, sliced for easier eating; olives; roasted red bell peppers; chickpea hummus; tzatziki; and roasted eggplant spread. Appealing to the eye, appetizing on the palate.

Lunch was divided into four price-point categories ($7.95-$13.95) with many choices at each price level. For instance, at $7.95 was the tasty brie burger that featured ground beef with melted slices of brie sandwiched in a soft fresh bun with french fries.

Other lunch choices included salads, wraps, burgers and pasta. The Zucca's butternut squash-stuffed ravioli ($9.95) was a solid bet. Rich with lemon cream sauce and dotted with dried cranberries, the ravioli were plump and pleasing.

On the dinner menu were Italian-styled mussels ($15.95) with crostini in a tempting, slightly peppery marinara broth. The bivalves were jet-black, medium-sized, with plump, briny meat. There were plenty of grilled crostini to sop up the well-seasoned broth.

The satisfying braised lamb shank with mashed potatoes ($20.95) was smothered in a rich tomato-vegetable sauce. The fleshy fall-off-the-bone lamb couldn't have been more tender, and the meat wasn't overly fatty. The mashed potatoes were a worthy vehicle to capture the mouthwatering sauce.

The interior of B'Zu Cafe is somewhat dated: not the least bit shabby, but not quite contemporary. That does not diminish the quality of the food or service. The decor is just nondescript: dark carpeting, a long mirrored wall, linen-lined tables with padded wood chairs. The color scheme is grays and soft yellows. While it's not unpleasant inside, a little facelift would help showcase the excellent fare.

B'Zu boasts a full bar with attendant specialty drinks. The wine list was just okay: a little scattered, but the prices and selections paired well with the fare. We enjoyed an Acacia chardonnay ($42), which was one of the pricier selections on the menu.

One dessert in particular stole my heart: the limoncello flute ($8). Topped with sliced strawberry and a sprig of mint, the parfait was frozen limoncello sorbetto and thick whipped cream. A sorbetto has more fruit and less water than a sorbet, resulting in a softer, less icy texture. Delightfully refreshing on a warm summer evening.

The banana baklava ($8) was also excellent. Four thick slices of the heavenly-sticky tasty pastry flanked a scoop of vanilla gelato, whipped cream and sliced strawberries.

The delicious, feather-light, spongy, layered tiramisu ($7.50) was drizzled with chocolate, which added to the lush creaminess of the generous portion. If this traditional recipe wasn't to die for, it certainly was to sigh over.

With new ownership comes new opportunities, and, ideally, continued improvement in all phases of the business. If recent visits are an indicator, with the excellent kitchen, attentive and dedicated staff, B'Zu Cafe will have a long run.

B'Zu Cafe

186 Castro St., Mountain View


Lunch: 11 a.m.-3 p.m. daily. Dinner: 4-9:30 p.m. Mon.-Wed.; 4-10 p.m. Thurs.-Sat.; 4-9 p.m. Sun.

Reservations: yes

Credit cards: yes

Parking: city lots

Alcohol: full bar

Corkage: $15

Children: yes

Catering: yes

Takeout: yes

Outdoor dining: yes

Private parties: no

Noise level: low

Bathroom cleanliness: excellent


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