Mini Restaurant Reviews
Publication Date: Friday Jul 29, 1994

Mini Restaurant Reviews

Following are condensed versions, in alphabetical order, of longer restaurant reviews published in the Weekly over the past several years. This week's reviews begin where the list ended one week ago.

Acorn Restaurant, 1906 El Camino Real, Atherton, 853-1906

A touch of Italy, France and Greece rolled into one menu, with everything from moussaka and dolmas to linguini Napolitana. Even California cuisine fits into their concept of Mediterranean food. The Acorn opened 21 years ago on Crane Street in Menlo Park, originally owned and run by Sam and Maria Petrakis, the latter of which again runs the new version of an old favorite. Napkins and tablecloths are white linen. The chairs are commodious. Hours: 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Mon.-Fri.; dinner 5:30 to 10 p.m. Mon.-Sat. and 5:30 to 9 p.m. Sun. (Reviewed May 28, 1993)

Andale Taqueria, 209 University Ave., Palo Alto, 323-2939

Chili-pepper lights and a bull's head decorate this fast food newcomer to the downtown scene. But don't let the surreal art deco put you off--mesquite-grilled chicken, low-fat black beans and fresh tamales so pretty you won't want to eat them make the fare here impossible to resist. Diners can pig out on supremo burritos laden with smoky grilled chicken, guacamole, beans and cheese, and other authentic Mexican dishes, or opt for a mesquite chicken salad with goat cheese, romaine lettuce and avocado that is top-quality California fresh. Save room for an extraordinary cheese flan. This place is kid-friendly and inexpensive but draws quite a crowd. Open Mon. to Sat. 11 a.m.-10 p.m., Sun. 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. (Reviewed Dec. 4, 1991)

Armadillo Willy's, 1031 N. San Antonio Road, Los Altos, 941-2922

Recognizing that barbecue is not simply a method of cooking meat, but a culinary obsession--an art, even, in certain areas of Texas--the owners of Armadillo Willy's have created a dining experiene worthy of a hearty "Yahoo!" The huge menu features ribs, sausages, hamburgers, Tex-Mex specialties, sandwiches and salads. The service is friendly and the atmosphere is no-frills. Wine and beer as well as margaritas are available. Armadillo Willy's has won awards for its barbecue sauce, which comes in hot and mild versions. Unless you're a real spice wimp, go for the hot. It is quite manageable whereas the less complicated mild is a bit on the subtle side. Open Mon.-Fri 11 a.m.-10 p.m.; Sat. noon-10 p.m.; Sun. 4:30-9 p.m. (Reviewed April 16, 1993)

Baccarat at Hotel Sofitel, 233 Twin Dolphin Drive, Redwood City, 598-9000

Sophisticated French dining is a rarity these days, so when you feel like splurging it's important to go to the right place. Baccarat, the restaurant of the Hotel Sofitel, delivers classic, flawless meals from the first course--perhaps wild mushroom gnocchi in duck consomme--to the last-- maybe a chateaubriand carved at the table and accompanied by red-wine and bearnaise sauces. You'll find a triple veal chop, medallions of bison and other spectacular and creative dishes, all pricey but perfectly executed. The dessert special, a souffle, is worth the wait. Other classic French desserts are worth the calories. Hours are for dinner only. Mon.-Thurs. from 6-10 p.m., Fri. and Sat. until 10:30 p.m. Closed Sun. (Reviewed Aug. 26, 1992)

Bangkok Cuisine, 407 Lytton Ave., Palo Alto, 322-6533

Bangkok Cuisine, off the beaten path on Lytton Avenue, is intimate, friendly and inviting. The smells are the first wake-up call to the senses, a fragrant fusion of barbecue, garlic, sugar, chilis and peanuts. After a few minutes, the comfortable ambience, decorated in soft pinks and greens, seduces you into thinking you are gazing at fresh flowers while dining off linen. Such is the charm of the place, because the napkins and place mats, at lunch at least, are mere paper; the flowers ersatz. Intimacy is also fostered through proximity. The barbecue is a definite highlight. The honey pork ($5.95 at lunch) consists of thin strips of seared pork served with a sweet red dipping sauce, sticky rice and Thai salad. The restaurant also serves lunch specials. Hours: Monday-Saturday lunch 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.; Sunday-Thursday dinner 5 to 9:30 p.m.; Friday and Saturday dinner from 5 to 10 p.m. (Reviewed Dec. 10, 1993)

Beausejour, 170 State St., Los Altos, 948-1382

Beausejour is run by William and Ahn Yee, who came to the United States from Vietnam in 1975. The Vietnamese influence shows in the reduced reliance of fat in the food, and Californian influence can be seen in the use of shiitake mushrooms and cilantro in sauces where a roux or cream sauce might be more customary. The decor is unassuming and understated. The monied classes can easily spend $100 or more for dinner with wine. But more value-conscious types shouldn't rule out Beausejour. By sticking to glasses of Los Altos tap, dinner for two can be held to $25 or $30. The extensive wine list is primarily Californian and French. Hours: Lunch Mon.-Fri. from 11:30 a.m. to 2 pm.; dinner every day at 5:30 p.m.; cocktail lounge open Mon.-Fri. from 5 to 7 p.m. (Reviewed Sept. 17, 1993)

Betty's Soul Food Cafe, 2417 Pulgas Ave., East Palo Alto, 321-6369

Betty Robertson learned her peach cobbler recipe from her Texan mother, and honed her barbecue skills cooking for her family. Certainly a haven from high prices and haut cuisine, Betty's is the kind of place where you can be sure you will get your fill--of food and friendly conversation. Vegetarians beware: The rotating specials of the day come up meat, meat and meat. Smothered steak on Monday. Ox tails on Tuesday. Turkey wings on Wednesday. Smothered pork chops on Thursday. The standard selection of intriguing side orders includes greens, red beans and rice, black-eyed peas, string beans and yams. Two of these, along with the meat of the day and a basket of bread and corn muffins, will run you $6.50. A combination of meats is $8.50. Hours: Mon.-Thurs. 6 a.m.-8 p.m.; Fri. and Sat. 6 a.m.-9 p.m. (Reviewed April 1, 1994)

Blue Chalk Cafe, 630 Ramona St., Palo Alto, 326-1020

A rocking restaurant-cum-pool hall with blue felt pool tables, an upstairs bar and art on the walls, the Blue Chalk Cafe is the kind of place an advertising copywriter would call High Concept. The food is predominantly Southern with a California flair--Texas-style catfish, staples like grits and greens gussied up with garlic, embossed with jalapeno relish and slathered with chipotle sauce. Even the blue corn hush puppies are more uptown than down-home. The full bar serves the usual wines and beer, plus an array of mixed drinks, cognacs, cordials. Pool is $10 per hour for the table before 7 p.m. and $12 after 7. Hours: Open every day from 11:30 a.m. to 1 a.m. for pool and drinks. Lunch 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m.; dinner from 5 to 10 p.m. (Reviewed July 2, 1993)

Blue Sky Cafe and Flower Bar, 336 Bryant St., Mountain View, 961-2082

After a harried day at work, the Blue Sky Cafe feels a lot like being at home. Long before it began serving dinner, Blue Sky built a solid reputation on the virtues of its gargantuan, down-home breakfasts. With the same standards applied to its dinners, the result is white-linen food in a cotton-tablecloth environment. Three daily specials are featured, generally a fish, pasta and meat entree, and each entree comes with a generous serving of three vegetables: caramelized carrots, broccoli with cheese and potato souffle. The restaurant prides itself on its lamb dishes, for which owner Betty Peach Ewing credits New Zealand-trained chef Paul Smith. Hours are Tues.-Sat. 7:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m. and 5:30-10 p.m. (Reviewed May 8, 1991)

Buck's Restaurant, 3062 Woodside Road, Woodside, 851-8010

Everyone from the youngest hand to the trail boss is bound to have a good time at Buck's. This zany, down-home restaurant teams up wacky Western deco with comfort food. Buck's menu is fun, but it's not for sissies. You can get buttermilk onion rings with BBQ sauce morning, noon or night ($3.50). Big, honest burgers are up from 11 a.m. till closing ($6 plain, $6.50 fancy). For dinner, you get chicken fried steak with mashed potatoes and gravy ($10.50), chicken and dumplings ($10.50), and Yankee pot roast ($12). Hours: Breakfast Mon.-Fri. 7-11 a.m.; Sat., Sun. and holidays 8 a.m.-3 p.m. Lunch 11 a.m.-5:30 p.m. (limited menu 3:30-5:30 p.m.) Dinner Sun.-Thurs. 5-9 p.m., Fri.-Sat. 5-10 p.m. (Reviewed Aug. 6, 1993)

The Butler's Pantry, 305 Second Street, Los Altos, 941-9676

Tiny sandwiches and tempting sweets are served here from 10 in the morning until 8 at night. The same menu is available all day long, and there's a well-stocked pastry trolley at your beck and call. Chef Tracy McVeigh's golden raisin scones are dense as pound cake and soft as angel food. If you're up for heartier fare, there's traditional Welsh Rarebit. Aged cheddar spiked with Yorkshire Ale and spices is melted over whole wheat toast and served with a side of tangy chutney ($8.25). The restaurant has soup of the day served with herbed French bread ($3.75) and a quiche of the day ($6.75). Salmon lovers will appreciate the Scottish oak-smoked fish served on whole wheat bread ($8.75). Hours: 10 a.m.-8 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday; 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Sunday (Reviewed July 1, 1994)

Cafe Borrone, 1010 El Camino Real, Menlo Park, 327-0830

A cross between an elegant sidewalk cafe and a busy Berkeley coffee house, Borrone offers light entrees such as nutmeg-spiced chicken salad and artichoke quiche, along with some of the best coffee drinks around. You'll find state-of-the-art sandwiches and desserts, featuring Rose's vanilla custard. Decor is bookstore chic, and Kepler's Books & Magazines is just across the hall. On warm evenings you can dine outside in the courtyard. Prices are moderate. Open Mon.-Fri. 7 a.m.-11 p.m., Sat. 9 a.m.-11 p.m., Sun. 9 a.m.-5 p.m. No credit cards. (Reviewed May 23, 1990)

Cafe Fino, 544 Emerson St., Palo Alto, 326-6082

This classy piano bar is part of Freddie Maddalena's little culinary empire that includes his larger, namesake restaurant next door. Maddalena bills the larger restaurant as "traditionally romantic." What makes his smaller cafe fun is the untraditional romance of the place. Ladies who lunch feel comfortable here at night. They come to hear the Jazmin Trio's jazz or Nancy Gilliland's piano bar favorites. There's no live music at lunch. But then, there are no $5 specials at night. Just as you'd expect from an Italian eatery, Fino's has fried calamari and plenty of pasta. Penne with fresh vegetables. Penne pomadore. Linguini alio olio. Fettucini Alfredo. Canelloni marinara. (Reviewed March 25, 1994)

Cafe Pro Bono, 2437 Birch St., Palo Alto, 326-1626

Rising above its trendy decor, the casually elegant Cafe Pro Bono has a cozy, relaxed environment where diners can hang and talk for hours. The grilled duck sausage ($12.95) is a specialty of the house. Susan's Downfall cheese ravioli is a dish to savor, a mildly sweet, flavorful meltdown of gorgonzola cheese and toasted almonds over ravioli filled with Swiss chard. Entrees in the meat and fish categories include three types of chicken (rolled and stuffed with chard in red pimento tomato sauce, grilled with herbs and marinated fillets en brochette), rack of lamb, two types of scalloppini, sole, salmon and charbroiled marinated prawns. Hours: Lunch 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Mon.-Fri.; dinner 5 to 10 p.m. daily. (Reviewed Feb. 18, 1994)

California Cafe, 700 Welch Road, Palo Alto, 325-2233

Set in the renovated Stanford Barn, the California Cafe is a perfect example of Silicon Valley chic with its noisy, fun-filled atmosphere. A large, frequently changing menu offers everything from sandwich platters to full-course meals, with selections ranging from fried calamari in a corn meal crust to Japanese eggplant and focaccia canapes. The Cafe's wine list offers several interesting choices in the $20-$25 price range. All menus always include several vegetarian and Palo Alto, 325-2233. Hours: Dinner 5-10:30 p.m.; lunch Monday-Saturday, 11:30 a.m.-5 p.m.; Sunday brunch 10:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m. (Reviewed May 20, 1994)

Capriccio, 546 El Camino Real, Los Altos, 941-1855

Capriccio is spacious and private; the tables are well separated in neat, curtained-off areas. It's quieter than is typical among our raucous, popular Italian eateries. The menu is enormous and service is quick and courteous. The menu contains no surprises. Anything with which you're familiar is there in every standard variation. No fewer than 16 pasta dishes ($9.70-$13.20), table d'hote dinners including soup or salad, vegetables, rice and tea or coffee; 12 seafood entrees at $13.95-$17.95; and veal six ways ($14.75-$16.25). Wine offerings are rather few and relentlessly conventional. Hours: Lunch Mon.-Sat. from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.; dinner Sun.-Thurs. from 4 to 10 p.m. and Fri. and Sat. from 4 to 11 p.m. (Reviewed July 23, 1993)

Carpaccio, 1120 Crane St., Menlo Park, 322-1211

Carpaccio is one of Menlo Park's toniest places to see and be seen. The people-watching is great. But food and service fell short of the restaurant's reputation for excellence on our visits. A mix of funky accent pieces with staid marble floors and mahogany-painted chairs keep things a little off kilter. The best dishes on the menu take their cue from the earthy exuberance of the decor. One of the best is an appetizer of protobello mushrooms roasted in the wood-burning oven ($5). Carpaccio pours fresh olive oil that's great with the super-fresh bread brought in daily from Le Boulanger. The "pansotti con crema di noci," with its elegant cream sauce and mild herbs, is another good bet. You will need a reservation. Ask for a seat by the front window. Hours: 11:30 a.m.-10 p.m. Mon.-Fri., 5-10 p.m. Sat., 5-9 p.m. Sun. (Reviewed May 7, 1993)

Cenzo's, 233 University Ave., Palo Alto, 322-1846

This is an unpretentious little restaurant with several outstanding dishes, and some that aren't up to par. Try Cenzo's special, prix fixe lunch. For $8, you get soup or salad, a full basket of freshly baked focaccia and your choice of several entrees. The calzones are enough to convert a die-hard pizza fan. The Early Bird specials (before 6:30 p.m.) at dinner don't quite live up to the lunch specials, but the new dinner menu has many interesting Northern Italian dishes. Hours: Monday-Saturday lunch 11 a.m.-2 p.m., dinner 4:30-11 p.m. Sunday dinner 4:30-10 p.m. (Reviewed Nov. 5, 1993)

Chevys Mexican Restaurant, 2907 El Camino Real, Redwood City, 367-6892

This giant warehouse of a restaurant lives up to its reputation for fresh Mex food with made-by-the-hour chips, salsa pungent with fresh cilantro and slushy margaritas by the pitcher. Whether you're starving and want a Plato Gordo--mesquite grilled chicken and prawns, warm tortillas, guacamole and rice and beans--or a just a quesadilla and a cold beer, Chevys comes through with the best Mexican food on the Midpeninsula. Fajitas won't resemble those fast food renditions but come piping hot on a metal plate piled with crisp lettuce, bright red tomatoes, slabs of smokey chicken or beef and creamy guacamole. Prices are reasonable, children made to feel welcome. Watch out for giant crowds on weekends. This place doesn't take reservations, but it's worth the wait. 11:30 a.m.-11 p.m. Fri. and Sat. 11: 30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sun.-Thurs. (Reviewed Sept. 25, 1991)

Chez Louis Bistro, 4170 El Camino Real, Palo Alto, 493-1660

This might be the only French restaurant on the planet where you can dine on escargots or enjoy a steaming bowl of onion soup just inches away from a wooden dance floor where patrons practice the tango or learn the newest country-western dance steps. Do note, however, that all this foot-stomping goes on far away from the cozy, plush main dining room in the far corner of the rambling, ranch-style building. The Bistro is a more casual alternative to the pricey dining room. The food is prepared in the same kitchen by the same chefs and is presented by tuxedoed servers. Bistro specialties include light French "snack food" such as the ubiquitous croque monsieur ($5.95) and more upscale cuisine such as coq au vin ($6.95) and a skinless, boneless breast of chicken with a sun-dried tomato relish ($8.95). Hours: 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Mon.-Sat. (Dancing until 1:30 p.m.) Closed Sun. (Reviewed June 18, 1993)

Chez TJ., 938 Villa St., Mountain View, 964-7466

Elegant and intimate, Chez TJ. offers some of the most delicious and beautifully presented food around. Nothing is spared in the preparation, and the kitchen just doesn't make technical errors. Set in a charming house on Villa Street, Chez TJ. offers leisurely dining surrounded by fresh flowers, spotless linen and classical music. A new menu is created every two weeks, offering three different prix fixe dinners. The menu gastronomique ($57) includes appetizer, first and main courses, salad, selection of cheeses, a petit dessert followed by a larger selection of desserts. The menu moderne ($50) and the menu petit ($45) are just slightly less filling. The wine list is varied, though not inexpensive. Dinner seatings only, Tues.-Sat. from 5:30-9 p.m. (Reviewed Aug. 20, 1993)

China Delight, 203 University Ave., Palo Alto, 326-6065

This tiny restaurant has only 10 tables. That explains the line out the door at lunchtime. But the real explanation for the line is the spirit of the place. Between the warm welcome, the attentive and familiar service and the occasional offer of seconds on soup or rice, China Delight feels like your basic neighborhood restaurant--but located on University Avenue near Emerson Street in Palo Alto, it's as downtown as a restaurant can get. The chefs hew to the tried and true. All the Chinese equivalents of bread and butter dishes are there: pot stickers, cashew chicken, chow mein, wonton soup--nearly 100 items in all of Mandarin, Szechwan and "gourmet" cooking. Happily for the regulars who pack the place at lunchtime, the food is consistently good. Hours: Sun.-Thurs. 5-9:30 p.m., Fri.-Sat. 5-10 p.m. (Reviewed Aug. 27, 1993)

Compadres Bar & Grill, 3877 El Camino Real, Palo Alto, 858-1141

If you crave a good, smooth pitcher of margaritas, a chile relleno or skewer of giant gulf prawns--and you don't mind crowds, noise and having to wait for a table at prime time--this is 10-year-old establishment is one of the funnest Mexican restaurants on the midpeninsula. The menu ranges from traditional Mexican fare such as enchiladas and tacos to more unusual offerings such as mahi mahi a la Vera Cruz. You won't find the true native Mexican cooking of some small family-run eateries, but the food is hearty, service is friendly and efficient and prices are reasonable. Hours: Sun.-Thurs. 11 a.m.-10 p.m. (bar open until 1:30 p.m. nightly); Fri. and Sat. 11 a.m.-11 p.m.; Sunday brunch 10 a.m.-2 p.m. (Reviewed June 3, 1994)

The Cook Book Restaurant, 127 Town & Country Village, Palo Alto, 321-7500

In the morning, the Cook Book is known for its omelets, blintzes and waffles. At dinner, the restaurant really shines, serving huge portions of Pacific Rim-California cuisine. The broiled, Hawaiian-style salmon ($13 with soup or salad and dessert) almost slid off a scoop of pesto-flavored mashed potatoes. It was saved from a fall by phalanx of grilled pineapple and vegetables, not to mention a dollop of fresh pineapple salsa. Diverse listings run from spicy Thai chicken salad ($7) to fettucini with smoked salmon ($10) to broiled herbed chicken breast with nonfat raspberry yogurt sauce ($9). There are special servings for children under 12: chicken nuggets ($3.75), spaghetti ($3.50) and burgers ($3.25-$3.25). Service is outstanding. Hours: Breakfast Tues.-Sat. 7 a.m.-2 p.m., Sun. and holidays 8 a.m.-2 p.m.; dinner Tues.-Sat. 7-9:30 p.m. (Reviewed June 24, 1994)

Country Fare, 2680 Middlefield Road, Palo Alto, 326-3802

This one-room, deli-style restaurant offers a quiet, homey respite from the rush of everyday life. The freshly baked muffins and hearty daily specials are worth a visit. Patchwork quilts on the walls and funky salt-and-pepper shakers add charm to the very casual setting. Everything on the menu is geared toward healthful eating. Lunch is quick and inexpensive, with salads, sandwiches, homemade soups and specials. A cup of soup and a muffin can be had for about $2. Dinnertime offers the regular lunch menu and two nightly specials, usually about $6, that can include lasagna verde or buckwheat noodles with cilantro pesto and grilled veggies. Breakfasts are good and downright cheap. Hours are Mon.-Fri., 7 a.m.-7 p.m., Sat. 7 a.m.-3 p.m. Closed Sun. No credit cards. (Reviewed Nov. 21, 1990)

Dal Baffo, 878 Santa Cruz Ave., Menlo Park, 325-1588

Dal Baffo offers fine northern Italian fare in the heart of downtown Menlo Park. The dinner and lunch menus are laden with Bolognese, Milanese and Florentine delights. Food is a la carte, so you can construct the meal you want. Entrees include seafood, pasta, fowl, veal and red meat, arranged in dishes originating from various Italian provinces. There also is an extensive wine list. Dal Baffo's is not for the cheap or fast-food crowd; a three-course dinner, wine and a tip will come out to about $125 for two, but for sophisticated dining, it's the place to go. Hours: Lunch Mon.-Fri. 11:30 a.m.-2p.m.; dinner Mon.-Sat. 5-10:30 p.m. Closed Sun. All major credit cards accepted, and reservations are recommended. (Reviewed June 25, 1993)

Dinah's Poolside Restaurant, 4261 El Camino Real, Palo Alto, 493-4542

Nestled close to the swimming pool of Dinah's Garden Hotel, is Dinah's Poolside Restaurant. The defining feature of the restaurant is spelled out in its name--if eating unpretentious California diner cuisine at umbrella-equipped tables by the pool strikes your fancy, then this place is worth checking out. Dinah's serves breakfast all day, but if pancakes and sausage at 8 p.m. isn't important to you, Dinah's also serves lunch and dinner starting at 11:30 a.m. A highlight at dinnertime is the Pollo Borracho ($9.95). This half-chicken, marinated in beer, wine and spices, then grilled over mesquite, is savory, subtle and wonderfully succulent. In general, the food here is middling to good, but as long as you order carefully, you'll do fine. Hours: 6:30 a.m.-9:30 p.m. daily; bar open until 11 p.m. (Reviewed Aug. 13, 1993)

El Calderon, 699 Calderon Ave., Mountain View, 940-9533

In this unpretentious restaurant, gourd cups are taken for granted along with plantains and yucca root. They're all part of owner Angela Lopez's Salvadoran roots. While similar to Mexican food, the fare is flavored with mild, Cuban-style flavorings. You can see the resemblance in pupusas--two homemade masa tortillas that seal in a mixture of cheese with meat or beans. A rich entree of fried plantains served on beans with soured cream makes the dessert version of fried plantains and cream seem shallow and unfinished by comparison. You'll know for sure you're getting a taste of El Salvador if you try the yucca root "salad"--piping hot chunks of white yucca and crispy crumbles of pork scattered over a bed of tart, lemony slaw. Prices are inexpensive to moderate. (Reviewed Sept. 26, 1990)

Eugene's Polish Restaurant, 420 San Antonio Road, Los Altos, 941-1222

This Old World Polish restaurant provides a taste of European culture and food right here on the Midpeninsula. The goulash is particularly good. Other offerings include a non-traditional borscht with potato, onion and garlic, stuffed cabbage, herring and, of course, Polish sausage. Dishes tend to be on the mild side, what some might consider bland. The ambience is festive, with servers dressed in Central European attire. The full bar has a big selection of beer and a moderately priced wine list. Lunches highlight ham on rye sandwiches, omelets and salads. Dinners are served Tues.-Sat. 5-10 p.m. and lunch Tues.-Fri. from 11 a.m.-2 p.m. (Reviewed Dec. 19, 1990)

Farmer's Market Restaurant, 448 California Ave., Palo Alto, 327-0284

A loose, friendly environment where you can enjoy good food at reasonable. Watch out for the extra chair at your table, as co-owner Jordan Azzadneen is more likely than not to make himself at home. Although the Market offers lunch, the main game here is breakfast, which is served during all operating hours. The mushroom omelet ($6.25) is over-filled with fresh mushrooms sauteed with wine, butter and herbs with jack, cheddar and cream cheese. The ham, Swiss and apple omelet ($6.25) pleases with diced ham and fresh apple chunks sauteed with wine and butter. The lunch menu features grilled sandwiches, cold sandwiches and veggie items, as well as a tasty falafel sandwich. Hours: Monday-Friday 7 a.m.-3 p.m., Saturday-Sunday, 8 a.m.-3 p.m. (Reviewed May 13, 1994)

Famiglia's Pizzeria and Pasta, 4115 El Camino Real, Palo Alto

All you have to know in order to enjoy yourself at this pizzeria/sports bar is how to say, "Can we please have some more garlic pizza bread?" Served with every entree, including the huge pizzas, these warm yeasty triangles are all the reason you need for coming to Famiglia's. There are a few video game machines, a television set mounted on the wall and all the appropriate sports and old movie paraphernalia decorating the walls. KFOG is usually on the radio. For a pizzeria, Famiglia's just isn't dark and cozy enough. Some dark wood paneling and a lower ceiling would contribute remarkably the the creation of some actual ambience. Hours: Monday and Tuesday 11 a.m.-10 p.m., Wedneseay-Saturday 11 a.m.-11 p.m., Sunday 10 a.m.-9 p.m. (Reviewed Nov. 26, 1993)

The Fish Market, 3150 El Camino Real, Palo Alto, 493-9188

Offering fresh fish served grilled, baked, smoked and broiled or any other way you like it, the bustling, rather noisy Fish Market has 20-30 choices of fish, depending on the season. For the most part, the food lives up to the fresh billing, although every time we strayed away from the menu's centerpiece--the broiled fish entrees--we were disappointed to some degree. But stick with the mesquite wood charcoal broiled fresh fish and you won't go wrong. Standard fare is a fish entree with rice or potatoes, along with appetizers ranging from white clam chowder or several different seafood cocktails. The menu is the same for lunch and dinner. Prices are moderate to high, and the service is fast and friendly, as is the ambience. Hours: Lunch 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Mon.-Fri., noon-5 p.m. Sun.; dinner 5-11 p.m. Market opens one hour earlier than the restaurant. (Reviewed April 8, 1994)

Flea St. Cafe, 3607 Alameda de las Pulgas, Menlo Park, 854-1226

This totally organic, gourmet kitchen turns out some of the best food on the Peninsula. From tender scallops with enoki and shiitake mushrooms dotted with tiny purple flowers to grilled salmon and mashed potatoes, everything is lovingly prepared and presented picture perfect. California-style fresh takes shape with hints of ethnic cuisines and specials change nightly. Vegetarians will find sumptuous offerings, as will those who love chicken or fish. Salads are made with the most delicate greens, sauces are light and bursting with flavor, fish is ocean-fresh and desserts too good to pass up. Open for lunch Tues.-Fri. from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. and dinner Tues. to Sun. 5:30-9:30 p.m. Brunch is served weekends from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. (Reviewed July 12, 1992)

Frankie, Johnnie, Luigi Too, 939 W. El Camino Real, Mountain View, 967-5384

From the garlic-infused Caesar salad to the authentic pizza pie, to the hearty pasta and meat entrees, this lively Italian restaurant is the place to go for generous servings of satisfyingly rich food. Although the size of the restaurant and its menu offerings have grown in recent years, the quality of the dining experience has remained constant. Highlights include the thick, yeasty-crusted pizza ($11-$16) and pasta dishes with succulent sauces. Full dinners ($10-$13) run the gamut from tiger prawns sauteed with garlic, shallots, tomatoes and white wine to New York-style Italian sausage with bell peppers. Vegetarian dishes are starred on the menu, and the restaurant delivers, too. Hours are 11 a.m.-1 a.m. Mon.-Thurs.; to 2 a.m. Fri.-Sat.; and 1 p.m. to midnight Sunday. (Reviewed March 27, 1991)

Fresco, 3398 El Camino Real, Palo Alto, 493-3470

A moderately priced cafe-style restaurant where the entrees are inventive, but straightforward and decidedly unpretentious. The menu is diverse, featuring mostly garlicky California cuisine, but also some old-fashioned stand-bys such as a hearty Reuben Sandwhich ($7.50). The restaurant is divided into two sections: a comfortable dining room with gigantic booths, linen tablecloths, a counter and a full wall of windows; and the smaller, darker, more romantic dining room that is still laid-back enough for a quick bite with a group of friends. Don't leave without trying the famous Roasted Red Pepper Soup ($2.25 cup, $3.25 bowl). A medium-sized wine list features some interesting, local selections. A small, but interesting breakfast menu. Hours: Mon.-Thurs. 6 a.m.-10 p.m., Fri. 6 a.m.-11 p.m., Sat. 7 a.m.-11 p.m., Sun. 7 a.m.-10 p.m.; brunch 9 a.m.-2 p.m. (Reviewed July 16, 1993)

Fresh Taste Mandarin Kitchen, 2111 El Camino Real, Palo Alto, 324-8749

Fresh Taste Mandarin Kitchen offers lower-fat versions of many traditional favorites such as mu shu pork and kung pao chicken. The restaurant has banned all canned produce. Instead of water-logged bamboo shoots and water chestnuts, you get fresh local ingredients. Don't get the idea that any of these dishes are incredible edibles. Fresh Taste doesn't aspire to innovation. The restaurant simply produces healthier versions of old standbys. Service is generally gracious and attentive. Communication is sometimes difficult, but servers go out of their way to accommodate. Hours: Monday-Friday 11:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday 5 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. (Reviewed Feb. 4, 1994)

Gambardella's Ristorante Italiano, 561 Oak Grove Ave., Menlo Park, 325-6989

The atmosphere in this dining room is one of festivity and great food, all made better with generous portions of garlic. White linen and fresh flowers set each table. Giant garlic braids dangle from the ceiling and classical music, often opera, sets the mood. First courses like polenta fritta con porcini e pepperoni--a masterful combination of crispy polenta wedges, mushrooms and peppers--whet the appetite. There is a never-ending supply of tomato and red pepper spread and warm house-made foccacia bread, sublime green salads and pastas and fish specials prepared to perfection. A full range of coffee drinks and a generous wine list featuring Italian selections round out a meal that can only be described as scrumptious. Lunch 11:30 a.m.-2 p.m. Tues. to Fri. Dinner starting at 5:30 p.m. Tues. through Sun. (Reviewed Feb. 24, 1993)

Garden Fresh Vegetarian Restaurant, 1245 El Camino Real, Mountain View, 961-7795

Run by Buddhist owner Jesse Ma, the restaurant serves no meat, no fish, no dairy and no eggs--the perfect fare for tender-hearted animal lovers, strict vegetarians, people concerned about over-fishing and "lite" eaters concerned about their arteries. Because not only does Ma limit the foods she is working with, she also skimps on fat. Although vegans will feel understood at Garden Fresh, the restaurant deserves a wider audience, including meat-and-potatoes types who can find substance aplenty in trick-of-the-palette dishes like sweet and sour vegetarian "pork" and orange vegetarian "beef." Napkins are paper, tables are Formica, the walls are wood veneer and the floors are lino. But the food is a wonder. Hours: Mon.-Sat. 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Sun. 2 to 10 p.m. (Reviewed Feb. 11, 1994)

Garden Grill, 1026 Alma St., Menlo Park, 325-8981

This daring, elegant restaurant makes hasty pudding of all the grousing about British food. Appetizers range from dainty griddled scallops on puffs of smoked salmon mousse to the incomparable "Devils on Horseback"--bacon wrapped prunes stuffed with chutney served on toast points spread with mustard cream sauce. Fresh game dishes are based on tender, ranch-raised elk and deer. Seafood includes the likes of grilled salmon in shellfish sauce or shellfish braised in saffron cream sauce. The only complaint here is the emphasis on meat; many entrees haven't a hint of green vegetables. Portions are ladylike and the menu is a bit pricey. Appetizers are $4-$6 and entrees range from about $8-$19. For a special tea-time treat, try the "cream tea" served with tiny scones, jam and sinful faux clotted cream. Hours for lunch are 11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m. Mon.-Fri.; dinner is from 5:30-10 p.m. Mon.-Sat. (Reviewed Feb. 27, 1991)

Gombei Japanese Restaurant, 1438 El Camino Real, Menlo Park, 329-1799

Simple and soul-satisfying Japanese cuisine with a special emphasis on noodle dishes make Gombei unique on the Peninsula. Featured are unusual combinations like large, deep fried balls of mashed potatoes flavored with curry and mushrooms, a croquette of faux crab, fried cutlet and broiled fish or Spanish mackerel steeped in soy and mirin. More traditional dishes include noodle, rice, chicken and egg combinations served in earthenware bowls. Avoid the eel noodle soup, which doesn't share the freshness of other dishes. Gombei resembles small diners in Japan, lists no desserts and offers quick, friendly service. Open for lunch from 11:30 to 2 p.m. and dinner 5-9:30 p.m. Mon. through Fri. (Reviewed Dec. 5, 1990)

Gordon Biersch, 640 Emerson St., Palo Alto, 323-7723

Gordon Biersch has come to represent everything the Silicon Valley singles set seems to want in a restaurant and drinking establishment: terrible acoustics, inventive California cuisine, friendly service, good beer and masses of "beautiful people" milling about. Overall, Dean Biersch, the half of the dynamite duo who honchos the kitchen, serves up interesting appetizers, entrees, salads and sandwiches: Roasted Leg of Lamb Sandwich ($7.50), served with rosemary aioli, olive focaccia and brie; and the Marzen Prawn Salad ($8.50), which comes on walnut bread with a side of leeks and red pepper puree, for example. Watched over by Dan Gordon, the brewing process at Gordon Biersch is proudly outlined in 11 not-so-simple steps on the back of cards propped on every table. Hours: 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Sunday-Wednesday; 11 a.m.-midnight Thursday; 11 a.m.-1 a.m. Friday and Saturday. (Reviewed Oct. 22, 1993) 

Following are condensed versions, in alphabetical order, of longer restaurant reviews published in the Weekly over the past several years. This week's reviews begin where the list ended one week ago.

Hearts, 201 California Ave., Palo Alto, 322-1285

Whether it's breakfast, lunch or dinner, eating at Hearts is a heartwarming experience. From the homey atmosphere and friendly service to the exquisite fresh ingredients and creative menu, this gem of a cafe comes through. At breakfast omelets feature such outrageous and wonderful combinations as tiny bay shrimp, green onions, chutney and cream cheese or fresh pesto that renders a new version of green eggs. Dinner entrees include delicate flat crab cakes in the East Coast tradition or angel hair pasta with garlic, wine and giant tender prawns. Desserts are homemade, down-home American-style and sinfully rich. Hours: Lunch Tues.-Fri. 11:30 a.m.-2 p.m.; dinner Tues.-Sat. 5:30-9 p.m.; Brunch Sat. and Sun. 9 a.m.-1:30 p.m. (Reviewed Sept. 11, 1991)

Henry's Restaurant & Bar, 482 University Ave., Palo Alto 326-5680

In Henry's cozy, wood-paneled back room diners can feast on such New York-style pub food as grilled salmon, Jack Daniel's sirloin, mashed potatoes and flank steak. The no frills dining room presents simple, hearty and often delectable entrees. Desserts are listed on a chalkboard and include such favorites as berry pie and plum cobbler. A three-course dinner for two with a glass of wine runs about $50. The informal, convivial atmosphere means you'll sit between men in suits and ties and others in jogging suits, but chances are good they'll all be enjoying themselves. Lunch is served 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and dinner 5:30-10 p.m. Mon. through Sat. Henry's is closed Sun. (Reviewed Oct. 7, 1992)

Higashi West, 636 Emerson St., Palo Alto, 323-9378

Irreverent combinations of East-West cuisine are the trademark of this Palo Alto restaurant. The long, narrow dining room is elegantly sparse, yet artful. A traditional sushi bar offers ocean-fresh classics, but the menu really caters to the adventurous. An "ELT" roll features eel, lettuce and tomato. Spicy tuna roll is raw tuna, Vietnamese chili paste, Chinese chili oil and Japanese chili powder, plus a splash of sesame oil. Rice-crusted pizzas are topped with marinated tofu or vegetables. A club sandwich goes way out piling prawns, ahi tuna and bacon, lettuce and tomato accompanied by herbed golden brown fires dusted with Parmesan cheese. Lunch is served from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Mon. to Fri., dinner from 5:30-10 p.m. Mon. to Thurs., and until 11 p.m. Fri. and Sat. (Reviewed Nov. 4, 1992)

Hobee's Restaurant, 67 Town and Country Village, Palo Alto, 327-4111, and 4224 El Camino Real, Palo Alto, 856-6124

This homey chain restaurant is renowned for its breakfasts, and is probably the best family restaurant in town. The vast menu features a section of "light" foods and breakfast items that are served all day. Hobee's is known for its special hash brown potatoes, such as De Anza Browns, a huge portion of nicely browned potatoes smothered with cheese, salsa, guacamole and sour cream, and for its creative scrambles, omelets and homemade blueberry coffeecake. Lunch at Hobee's includes a wide selection of soups, salads and sandwiches, all in generous portions and hearty in style. Chicken and pasta specials are usually available at dinner. (Reviewed Jan. 2, 1991)

Iberia, 290 Ladera Country Shopping Center, Portola Valley, 854-1746

Iberia serves cuisine with all the macho flair you'd expect from a restaurant in Spain. Sauces come crunchy with almonds and dense with unusual combinations of spices. But there are elegant feminine touches in the pastry and dessert list. If you're used to California's "happy camper" style of service, you may find the brusque professionalism of Iberia's staff either antiseptic or intimidating. The garden is certainly one of the prettiest outdoor eating spots in our area. The food is expensive, but exquisite. Instead of starting with a basket of bread, you get a taste of Spanish tapas. Whether you order the vegetarian peasant stew ($8) or the fancy chicken and lobster with a sauce of chocolate, saffron and nuts ($18), you'll feast on flavors that are definitely continental. Hours: Lunch from 11 a.m.-2:30 p.m. Mon.-Sat.; for dinner from 5:30-10 p.m. Mon.-Sun.; and for brunch on Sun. from 11 a.m.-2:30 p.m. Reservations advised. (Reviewed Sept. 10, 1993)

Il Fornaio Cucina Italiana, 520 Cowper St., Palo Alto, 853-3888

Mirrored walls, a glamorous Italian bar and courtyard filled with flowers highlight this flashy and attractive Italian cafe and restaurant. An impromptu meal on a Friday or Saturday night? Forget it. With an over-full house to care for, dinner servers whisk by, intimidating diners into asking as little as possible. But the food lives up to the restaurant's tony reputation. Il Fornaio's big attraction any time of day is its breads. Each table gets a full basket of crisp bread sticks, salty rosemary rolls or whatever has just come out of the oven. An ever-changing menu keeps the kitchen staff from taking anything for granted. For those who want a taste treat, there are exciting appetizers like the new arborio rice cake that's sauteed crispy outside, yet creamy as risotto inside. Hours: Monday-Thursday 7 a.m.-11 p.m., Friday 7 a.m.-midnight, Saturday 8 a.m-12 p.m., Sunday 8 a.m.-11 p.m. (Reviewed March 11, 1994)

India Palace, 236 Castro Street, Mountain View, 961-2858

Most local Indian restaurants list the same dishes on their menus. But at India Palace, spices are mixed with more finesse. At the other places, supposedly different dishes often taste like they were made with the same sauce. At Indian Palace, each dish is distinctively different. India Palace's tandoori appetizer ($6) gives you a good sample of spicy India barbecue. You get bits of peppery lamb sausage, tender chicken chunks and cubes of lamb. It all comes screaming hot on a metal platter. If you'd like to taste as many different dishes as possible on your first visit, order the Chef's Special Thali and Pure Vegetarian Thali under the Maharajas Royal Feast section of the menu. Hours: Lunch Monday-Friday 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.; dinner daily 5:30 to 10:30 p.m. (Reviewed Feb. 25, 1994)

Janta Indian Cuisine, 369 Lytton Avenue, Palo Alto, 462-5903

Owner Baldev Mann and his brother Mukhtair have completely transformed the former Crabnet restaurant on Lytton Avenue. Janta calls the bluff of Indian restaurants that have gotten lazy. This tiny restaurant cooks everything from scratch. Even the lowly garbanzo bean is roasted before it's boiled. It's attention to detail that gives Janta's dishes their flavor highs. Janta's finesse with spices means dishes don't have to depend on chilis for flavor. One of the best mild offerings is shrimp biryani, an exotically-flavored rice pilaf studded with tender shrimp and cashew nuts ($12 dinner). Hours: Monday-Friday: lunch buffet from 11 a.m.-2:30 p.m., dinner from 5:30-10 p.m.; Saturday: noon-10 p.m.; Sunday: noon-9 p.m. (No buffets on weekends.) (Reviewed April 29, 1994)

Joanie's Cafe, 447 California Ave., Palo Alto, 326-6505

The neighborly atmosphere of Joanie's Cafe on California Avenue makes the restaurant an inviting place for a leisurely breakfast or slow-and-easy Saturday brunch (the restaurant is closed on Sundays). Open for breakfast and lunch, Joanie's has tasty egges Benedict, a good version of huevos rancheros, and several other good breakfast items, all served with fruit salad. Some of our lunch samplings didn't live up to the breakfast standards, and service was rather slow on several occasions. Hours: Mon.-Fri 7 a.m.-2:30 p.m.; Sat. 8 a.m.-2:30 p.m.; closed Sun. (Reviewed July 8, 1994)

Jose's Caribbean Restaurant and Club, 2275 El Camino Real, Palo Alto, 326-6522

Night life in Palo Alto is nothing to write home about as a rule, but Jose's makes things brighter. This Caribbean hot spot is right for families looking for a good meal at reasonable prices, as well as singles in search of bar life and great appetizers. Jose's pizza has made him popular for years--the thick, sour dough crust is filled with every variety of topping or folded over melted cheese, giant prawns and olives for one version of empanada. Cuban specials, smokey barbequed meats and chicken burritos are just a few of the stars. A full bar and pleasant service make the entire Jose's experience worth a repeat visit. Check out the live music and dancing most nights. Open from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Mon. to Wednes., until midnight Thurs. to Sat. Sun. 5 p.m. to midnight. (Reviewed Dec. 2, 1992)

Late for the Train, 150 Middlefield Road, Menlo Park, 321-6124

Practically an institution in these parts, this is the place to go for fresh, wholesome food that is extremely well-prepared and served in a comfortable, homey atmosphere that radiates food vibrations. A favorite for breakfast, it offers an imaginative array of omelets, including a simple steamed vegetable omelet with cheese that imparts a giant jolt of energy. If you don't like eggs, look for alternatives like blintzes, French toast, blueberry cornmeal pancakes or homemade granola. Breakfast is served from 7 a.m.-2:30 p.m. Mon.-Fri.; 8 a.m.-2:30 p.m. Sat. and Sun. Dinner is from 5:30-9 p.m. Tues.-Thurs.; 5:30-9:30 p.m. Fri. and Sat. (Reviewed April 23, 1993)

Little Copenhagen, 2826 El Camino Real, Redwood City, 365-6616

In scrupulously clean surroundings, this authentic Scandinavian kitchen prepares the best in fresh fish, game in season and three versions of schnitzel. Expect lots of butter, cream and dill in stand-out sauces that accompany fish and chicken dishes. Salmon is a particular star here, as are house specials like Frikadeller, veal dumplings with red cabbage, or Lindsbof, made of ground beef, capers, onions and beets. Fresh flowers, white linen and Danish posters set the scene. Lunches feature some of the same specialties at lower prices. Hours are 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. for lunch Mon. through Fri., dinner seven days from 5:30-9 p.m. (Reviewed March 13, 1991)

Los Altos Bar & Grill, 169 Main St., Los Altos, 948-4332

In a quiet and elegant setting, the Los Altos Bar & Grill presents a challenging and unique menu with style and agility. Dinner might feature steamed clams with ginger, garlic, fresh tomato and white wine, preceded by a curried carrot soup that is a stand out. This kitchen tackles complex dishes and carries them out with great success, from the catfish with jalapeno cream and corn relish to the medallions of venison with chanterelle mushrooms and a lingonberry demi-glace. Lunch includes a Black Angus burger and a range of sandwiches. The wine list offers some real stars, too. Hours: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. for lunch, dinner is served from 5 to 10 p.m. weekdays and until 11 p.m. weekends. (Reviewed Jan. 30, 1990)

Lutticken's at the Stanford Gold Course, 198 Junipero Serra Blvd., Stanford, 323-8359

Follow the arrow on the discreet brown sign at the corner of Junipero Serra and Campus Drive West. You'll find rolling green hills, a hawk's-nest view of Hoover Tower and hearty deli food at unpretentious prices. The best-kept secret in town may be that the Clubhouse Cafe at Stanford's golf course is open to the public. Look for comfort food at the Clubhouse Cafe, not fancy cuisine. There are great versions of all the old drugstore favorites, like a BLT with plenty of crunchy bacon and thick slices of tomato ($4.50). For vegetarians, there's a sandwich that engulfs chunky avocado slices under lettuce, tomato, and sprouts ($4.50). At breakfast, you can get an egg, toast and hash browns for $2.75. A couple of pancakes is only $2. Hours: Closed Mondays. Open Tuesday-Sunday 6 a.m.-6 p.m.; breakfast until 10:30 a.m., lunch until 2:30 p.m., snacks all day long. (Reviewed Jan. 28, 1994)

MacArthur Park, 27 University Ave., Palo Alto, 321-9990

Here is a popular Palo Alto restaurant, located in a beautiful Julia Morgan building, with food that is sometimes more mediocre than its reputation. The whole operation reflects a tremendous amount of savvy on the corporate level of operation, but things seem to fall apart when it comes to the kitchen executing the diners' orders. The menu is well-planned with a broad range of appealing-sounding dishes. The wine list is well-chosen and fairly priced, with a good selection of American wines. Most of the raw ingredients used seem to be good quality. What seems to be missing is a firm-handed chef with a keen vision of how the food should taste and the ability to impart that vision to the line cooks. Hours: Mon.-Thurs. 11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m. and 5:30-10:30 p.m.; Fri. 11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m. and 5:30-11 p.m.; Sat. 5-11 p.m.; Sun. 10 a.m.-2 p.m. and 5-10:30 p.m. (Reviewed June 4, 1993)

Mac's Tea Room, 326 Main St., Los Altos, 941-0234

After 53 years of operation, Mac's Tea Room has certainly developed its own niche. This old-style, old boy dining room takes patrons back to the days of meat and potatoes. Standard fare at the well-loved steakhouse includes great slabs of perfectly cooked prime rib, porterhouse steaks and steak sandwiches, along with generous hamburgers. House pastas are mundane and sometimes overcooked. Lunch specials will remind you of mom's cooking with meatloaf and beef burgundy to rival home. Sit in comfortable booths or enjoy one of the oldest and best bars in the area. Open Mon.-Fri. 11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m., Mon.-Sat., 5:30-10:30 p.m. Closed Sun. (Reviewed Oct. 9 1991)

Mae's Latin Cafe, 498 University Ave., Palo Alto, 322-4242

This little neighborhood cafe serves an unusual combination of Honduran, Cuban and Spanish dishes that are lovingly handmade and authentic. Empanadas, small meat pies, are offered as a main course or an appetizer, handmade of a silky egg dough, then filled with a tamale-like mixture of meat, peas and carrots. Tapas, the tiny savories that are ideal for a "happy hour," are traditional Spanish fare featured at Mae's. A Spanish omelet here is a wedge of slivered potatoes filled with egg custard and vegetables. Vegetarians and fish lovers will find plenty to choose from, including a house paella. Hours are Mon. and Tues. 7 a.m. to 3 p.m.; Wed. to Fri. 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Sat. 8 a.m. to 9:30 p.m.; and Sun. 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. (Reviewed April 22, 1992)

Mandarin Classic, 397 Main Street, Los Altos, 948-8996

For just slightly more than the average Chinese take out joint, visitors get to enjoy an elegant setting and dine on some of the best Chinese food the Peninsula has to offer. Lunch is an ideal time to try this large downtown Los Altos restaurant, as their luncheon specials are among the best bargains of the Bay Area. For $5.25 to $5.95, choose from 19 main courses, each served with the soup of the day, chicken salad, fried or steamed rice, tea and fresh fruit. Service is attentive, and the huge menu offers everything from gourmet concoctions to tasty, traditional Chinese restaurant fare. Hours: Mon.-Thurs. 11:30 a.m.-3 p.m. and 5-9:30 p.m.; Fri. 11:30 a.m.- 3 p.m. and 5-10 p.m.; Sat. noon-3 p.m. and 5-10 p.m.; Sun. 5-9:30 p.m. (Reviewed July 22, 1994)

The Mandarin Gourmet, 420 Ramona St., Palo Alto, 328-8898

Distinctive Chinese cuisine is the focus of this sophisticated dining room. While dishes are on the expensive side, the quality and presentation justify the price. Prawns with fresh asparagus, crispy eggplant and a fresh chicken salad are all stand out choices. Lunch specials include egg roll, hot and sour soup and crunchy fried won ton skins along with rice and an entree--a good deal for $6-8. The atmosphere is elegant, with business crowd at lunch, a little more dressy in the evening. Lunch is served from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and dinner 5-10 p.m. seven days a week. (Reviewed June 19, 1991)

Marco Pollo (To Go), 3536 Alameda de las Pulgas, No. 4, Menlo Park, 854-8244

Tucked into a strip mall on the Alameda in west Menlo Park, Marco Pollo has the streamlined feel of a franchise. But it's not. Owner Bob Dulik has targeted a narrow niche in top-quality take-out. There are a few Formica-topped tables at Marco Pollo. But you're better off eating this finger-licking food at home. When you order a whole chicken, it comes in a domed container that's microwave-safe. Your order is packed in a sturdy white shopping bag with a designer label. The menu is limited. Along with quarter, half and whole chickens ($3.25, $4.75, $9), there are half and full slabs of ribs ($6.50, $13). Two dollars extra gets you an eight-ounce side dish, such as garlicky creamed spinach or oven-cooked potatoes. The bread is from Watsonville's Golden Sheaf bakery. Hours: 4-8 p.m. daily, with lunch hours coming in early 1994 (Reviewed Dec. 17, 1993)

Max's Opera Cafe, 711 Stanford Shopping Center, Palo Alto, 323-6364

This wildly popular cafe and bar serves up enormous portions at modest prices. A three-inch high chicken liver on rye and homemade chicken soup top the list of comfort food straight from a New York deli. Huge salads laden with slivers of tender chicken breast, bacon, mushrooms and every vegetable imaginable crowd one side of the lengthy menu. Entrees include pasta, roasted chicken and burgers of every description. Desserts are calorie-heavy but worth it--a fudge brownie served warm with vanilla ice cream and hot fudge sauce is among the best. Opera-singing waiters and waitresses and a boisterous crowd can make for noisy evenings. Open 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sun. to Thurs., until 11 p.m. Fri. and Sat. nights. (Reviewed Jan. 1, 1992)

Minokichi Japanese Buffet, 150 University Ave., Palo Alto, 324-9536

In addition to row upon pretty row of ebi, tekka, kappa, uni, saba and so forth, Minokichi offers a few other items that just might divert your attention from the help-yourself, all-you-can-eat sushi bar: steamed crab legs, lobster (weekend dinners only), four kinds of soup, salad, oysters on the half shell, mussels, chicken teriyaki, baked fish, stir-fry, shrimp cocktail, prime rib (dinner only). Plate after plate for $7.95 at lunch ($8.95 on Saturday and Sunday) and $12.95 at dinner ($15.95 Friday through Sunday). Not exactly the cheapest meal in town, but for all-you-can-eat sushi and the variety of seafood trimmings offered here, the prices are more than competitive. Hours: Lunch 11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m. daily; dinner 5:30-9:30 p.m. Sunday-Thursday, 5:30-10 p.m. Friday and Saturday (Reviewed March 4, 1994)

Miyake, 261 University Ave., Palo Alto, 323-9449

Bargain sushi and moderately priced Japanese specials like tempura and teriyaki are the highlights of this popular downtown restaurant. The noise level is high and meals aren't gourmet, but the price is right and the chaos can be fun. Order lunch or dinner from your own table or sit at the sushi bar and choose from the little boats that float by with plates of sushi. The chefs will make up rolls of any combination you request, or produce their own creations for your enjoyment. Daily specials range from fresh oysters to hand rolls to prawn balls. Service is erratic but there's plenty of action to keep you entertained while you wait. Hours are 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. every day. (Reviewed July 29, 1992)

La Morenita, 800 Emerson St., Palo Alto, 329-1727

With a menu based on the regional cooking of Michoacan, La Morenita ("the little brown girl") brings a new culinary element to a city that has become top-heavy with Italian, bottom-heavy with burrito joints and brimming with Thai. Here you find good, plain food, simply served. Owner Lupe Cordoba spends at least two days a week cooking in the Palo Alto restaurant. Anything with green sauce is worth ordering. The carne asada is a good choice. The thin strip of steak filet is grilled, then smothered with green sauce. Most dinners come with rice, beans, tortillas, slices of lime and guacamole. The menu also has items not indigenous to Michoacan, like hamburgers, BLT's, sandwiches and fries. Hours: Tues.-Fri. 10 a.m.-9 p.m.; Fri. 10 a.m.-10 p.m.; Sat. and Sun. 8 a.m.-10 p.m. (Reviewed July 29, 1994)

Mumtaj Indian Restaurant & Bar, 3740 El Camino Real, Palo Alto, 494-3225

Owned by the same people who run Mumtaj Indian Cuisine on Castro Street in Mountain View, the Palo Alto version has a hushed aura about the place due to the softly carpeted floors in the clutch of small rooms that make up the space. Service can be superb, but when we visited, it seemed as if the kitchen could have been paying more attention the subtleties required of good Indian cuisine. Prices are reasonable. Hours: Lunch (all you can eat) 11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m. daily; dinner 5-10 p.m. daily. (Reviewed May 27, 1994)

Nataraja, 117 University Ave., Palo Alto, 321-6161

Authentic Indian mesquite grilling and floury Indian breads are the specialties of this Palo Alto institution. Meats are clay-baked in hot, dry heat, leaving them seared on the outside, tender and moist on the inside. Stir-fried vegetables receive a "dry cooking" approach combining crunchy greens with mild spices. Everything is made to order, and there is none of that mushy, mass-produced and overcooked curry common in so many Indian restaurants. There is a generous lunch buffet. Nataraja serves lunch Tues.-Sat. from 11:30 a.m.-2 p.m. Dinner hours are Tues.-Sun. 6-10 p.m. Sunday brunch 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Closed Mondays. (Reviewed Oct. 24, 1990)

Noah's Bagels, 278 University Ave., Palo Alto, 473-0751

Noah Alper knows there's a lot of showbiz in the food biz. That's why he sells a hefty dose of nostalgia along with his wonderful steamed bagels. A Noah's shop is a slick combination of schmaltz and kitsch dear to the heart of any former New Yorker. When it comes to flavors, Noah's is pretty strait-laced. Everything is kosher. There are no bagels of the month in gimmicky flavors like pesto-pine nut or pumpkin. Chocolate chips show up only in mini-bagels that are rationed out on weekends (35 cents). Noah's mandelbrot is crunchy on top and dense as doughy cake in the middle (70 cents). The challah is feathery light, and the hand-shaped bialys, made of unsteamed bagel dough, are also some of the airiest I've ever tasted. Hours: Monday-Thursday 7 a.m.-7 p.m., Friday 7 a.m.-9 p.m., Saturday 7:30 a.m.-9 p.m., Sunday 7:30 a.m.-5 p.m. (Reviewed Oct. 15, 1993)

Nouveau Trattoria, 541 Bryant St., Palo Alto, 327-0132

Owner and chef Annie Nunan prepares French dishes alongside Nick Ortega, the Trattoria's longtime chef at this reincarnation of the old Trattoria Romana. The mood is classy, but definitely casual, with live jazz music nightly. Servers don't know whether you'll be dining French or Italian style, so they bring out butter and olive oil to go with your bread. The wine list is bicultural, too. Rich sauces are the hallmark of the French specialties; the onion soup topped with nutty Gruyere is a good bet. Hours: Tue-Fri. 11:30 a.m.-2 p.m., Tue.-Sun. 5:30-10 p.m. (Reviewed April 2, 1993)

N.Y. Pizza, 325 Hamilton Ave., Palo Alto, 328-0351

N.Y. Pizza serves up a fresh, intense pie concocted from your choices of 26 toppings. Or choose from the house combos like taco, Hawaiian or broccoli and garlic. The crust and style are basic--a good showcase for those who decide to go traditional or be adventurous. Two standouts are eggplant, feta cheese and black olive and a rich, generously topped vegetarian. Prices range from $1.99 for a mini-pizza through $6.40 for a small, 12 inch, to $23 for party size at 20 inches. Salad bar and a few sidewalk tables are the only additions to this 12-table shop. Free delivery within five miles. Hours: Mon.-Thurs. 10 a.m.-10 p.m., Fri. and Sat. 10 a.m.-11p.m., Sun. noon to 10 p.m. (Reviewed July 31, 1991)

Olive Garden, 2515 El Camino Real, Palo Alto, 326-5673

This branch of a well-run nationwide chain, is not the place for your next romantic, candle-lit rendezvous. Large portions, reasonable prices and a casual atmosphere attract the family crowd. Seating is comfortable and the decoration tasteful. Servers are quick, courteous and smiling. Children get their own menu, platters piled high with their choice of spaghetti or lasagna ($3.95-$4.95). It will take some time to read the menu, even though it's divided into easily distinguishable categories. Think twice about ordering a starter in addition to a main course, though. Every main course includes not only unlimited soup or salad, but also a side dish of steamed vegetables or a pasta dish. Hours: 10 a.m.-10 p.m. Sun.-Thur., 10 a.m.-11 p.m. Fri.-Sat. (Reviewed May 21, 1993)

Osteria, 247 Hamilton Ave., Palo Alto, 328-5700

There always seems to be a crowd of people waiting to get into Osteria, and reservations at dinner are a must. The bustling dining room captures the feel of a small neighborhood trattoria in Florence. Don't come to Osteria for Tuscan cooking--even though that's what their sign says. Rather than the simple and elegant fare associated with the Tuscan kitchen, the menu features the fare found in thousands of American "Italian" restaurants: veal scaloppine, carpaccio, prosciutto with melon and fettuccine Alfredo. Generally, everything is well-prepared, tasty, generous in portion and reasonably priced. A short wine list. Hours: 11:30 a.m.-2 p.m. Mon.-Fri., 5-10 p.m. Mon.-Sat. Closed Sun. (Reviewed May 14, 1993)

Palm Cafe, 100 El Camino Real, Menlo Park, 322-1234

Dennis Clews, a native of Australia, has brought to the airy, casual Palm Cafe a flair for innovative Pacific Rim delicacies. The seasonal menu changes three to four times a year. Most of the inventive, but rather pricey entrees feature interesting, assertive combinations of flavors and textures. Even the mundane-sounding Grilled Salmon ($14.95) becomes decidedly nouveau-Pacific-California in Clews' kitchen. He serves salmon in a merlot and lemon grass glaze, with scallop relish and a wehani rice cake. Governor Stanford's Favorite Duck ($15.95), the Rack of Lamb ($17.95 double-cut, $20.50, triple-cut) and the New Zealand Green Lip Mussels and Grilled Ahi ($14) are highlights. Large wine list and a decadent dessert menu. Hours: Lunch: Monday-Friday 11:30 a.m.-2 p.m.; Brunch: Sunday 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Dinner: 5:30-10 p.m. daily. On Saturdays, the Palm Cafe serves breakfast and lunch from 6:45 a.m.-2 p.m.

(Reviewed Oct. 8, 1993)

Palermo Rotisserie, 452 University Ave., Palo Alto, 321-9908

The devoted fans who return weekly to Palermo are just one indication that this Sicilian seafood and pasta house is worth visiting again and again. Garlic, olive oil, seafood so fresh it should still be wriggling and a delicate hand with sauces in the kitchen combine to put out some of the best, if not the best food on the Peninsula. The spit roasted chicken is heavenly. Pasta with chunks of tender swordfish or giant Gulf prawns in fragrant spicy tomato or olive oil-based sauces, and an unbeatable pasta puttanesca will bring sighs of satisfaction. The atmosphere is funky, lively and can be noisy on busy nights. Hours are Tues. to Sun. from 5-10 p.m. (Reviewed Jan. 29, 1992)

Palo Alto Sol, 408 California Ave., Palo Alto, 328-8840

This funky, yet charming restaurant features a hand-written, two-sided monster of a menu, and is owned by Hector and Helena Sol, who branched off from another family enterprise, La Fiesta on Villa Street in Mountain View. With brightly painted wooden fish hanging from the ceiling and works by local artists decorating the walls, Palo Alto Sol, which specializes in cuisine from around the city of Pueblo in south-central Mexico, comes off as part goofy, part funky, part whimsical. There's a rough edge to the decor--mismatched chairs, a couple of wobbly tables--but the overall effect somehow works. The hard-to-find entrees include Camarones Diabla ($8.95), jumbo shrimp sauteed in a butter-garlic-wine sauce, and seasoned with chopped tomatoes and dried chilies. Try the mole! Hours: Lunch 11 a.m.-2 p.m.; dinner 5-9 p.m.; closed Sundays. (Reviewed Jan. 7, 1994)

La Pastaia Ristorante Italiano, 420 Emerson St., Palo Alto, 323-2464

La Pastaia's napery is crisp and white. The olive oil in the cruets is robust. And each table gets its own ramekin of grated Parmesan to sprinkle on the oil-soaked bread or the pasta or whatever you wish. Without fussing, the servers usually know how to be available when needed, and not, when not. Try the spinach ravioli stuffed with a ground duck and ricotta mixture. The plate was colored with a golden butter sauce that hinted of orange and lemon. Crisp, fried leaves of basil came crumbled over the little green pillows of pasta ($11). The surprise at La Pastaia is the perfection of the non-pasta dishes. The test of any kitchen is what it can do with vegetables and roasted chicken. La Pastaia gets a "cordon bleu" in both categories. Hours: Dinner Sunday-Thursday 5:30-9:30 p.m., Friday and Saturday 5:30-10:30 p.m. (Reviewed Oct. 29, 1993)

Pazzo, 2616 Broadway, Redwood City, 367-1607

Pazzo is full of unexpected fun and flourish. Take the signature dish, spaghettini Pazzo, an explosion of improbable flavors. Rock shrimp and understated saffron cream sauce are teamed with raucous garlic and pancetta bacon bits. Everything is tossed into a combination of green and white spaghetti, so that the dish looks as unusual as it tastes ($9.75). Pizza also comes in mouth-startling versions. The gamberi e arugula combines big prawns with aged goat cheese, fresh sliced tomatoes and tart arugula greens ($9). Pazzo is a place where creative flavors meet traditional Tuscan cooking methods. The restaurant's conical wood burning oven is the focal point of the huge, open room. Hours: Lunch Mon.-Fri. 11:30 a.m.-3 p.m., dinner Mon.-Sat. 5:30-10 p.m.; closed Sunday. (Reviewed July 15, 1994)

Pearl's Oyster Bar, 535 Ramona St., Palo Alto, 328-2722

Pearl's can be a lot of fun if you don't mind the crowds and loud live music on weekend nights. Five varieties of fresh oysters, gumbo, prawns in garlic and numerous choices of fresh fish are written on the blackboard every night. Smoked tuna is a great first course. House crab cakes are crisp and tender and the bread from Le Boulanger can't be beaten. Lunch dishes include fresh seafood salads and daily specials. Expect crowds and occasional slow service, but if you're into people watching you won't mind the wait. Lunch is served Mon.-Fri. 11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m. and dinner Mon.-Sat. 5:30-10 p.m., Sun. 5-9:30 p.m. (Reviewed Oct. 10, 1990)

Le Petit Bistro, 1405 El Camino Real, Mountain View, 964-3321

This genuinely French bistro offers a range of a la carte entrees including garlic-cream mussels, classic escargots and mustardy sweetbreads--all good choices. Diners will also find the old-style steaks and chops but they'll be accompanied by masterful sauces, sauteed shallots and rich wine-simmered flavors. A charming, informal wood interior and cordial service make Le Petit Bistro a popular spot for quiet dinners. Lunches include meal-size salads and some of the same exquisite desserts Tuesday through Friday. Open Tues. to Sun. 6-10 p.m. for dinner and 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. for lunch. (Reviewed April 24, 1991)

Peking Duck, 2310 El Camino Real, Palo Alto, 856-3338

Inside this tiny and quiet Chinese restaurant, diners will find linen-set tables and attentive service along with great duck dishes, the house specialty. Grease-free egg rolls, crispy-skinned Peking duck and spicy eggplant all shine. An 11-page menu offers something for almost everyone, including soups and noodle dishes that can all be served vegetarian. Open every day from 11:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m., Peking Duck is worth a visit. (Reviewed May 20, 1992)

Petaluma's, #73 Town & Country Village, Palo Alto, 326-9484

The brightly painted family-friendly Petaluma's serves quick homey take-out, along with a simple menu of chicken and side dishes. Marinated overnight, the free-range chickens are roasted on a spit, then offered in quarters, halves or wholes. Sides include creamy mashed potatoes, a buttery maple syrup-infused butternut squash, salads, vegies and more. Patrons order at the counter, then take their own place settings to well-spaced tables. Service is quick, prices moderate and the food reminiscent of a visit to mom's house. Hours are 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily. (Reviewed Jan. 27, 1992)

Pho To Chau, 853 Villa St., Mountain View, 961-8069

At Pho To Chau in Mountain View, diners can choose from among 17 entrees and still only get one thing: soup. This is a place for the food-minded, more specifically for the soup-minded. Because apart from soup, not much else goes on here. The scruffy little hole-in-the-wall has no atmosphere to speak of, no fastidious service to recommend and no weighty tome of a menu to read. The decor is a study in plastic. The chairs are vinyl, the tables are Formica, the floors are lino, the waiters wear polyester. Pho To Chau means Vietnamese beef noodle soup, which is a bit like calling a hamburger joint Beef Patty With Bun, or naming a bakery Cake and Pie. But no one goes to Pho To Chau for romance or a catchy name. They go for the delicious, huge servings of pho. Pronounced furr, pho is a highly aromatic beef noodle soup whose stock is made from steak, bones and seven unnamed spices. Hours: 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily. (Reviewed Jan. 14, 1994)

Piatti, 2 Stanford Shopping Center, Palo Alto, 324-9733

This ristorante is the seventh in the highly successful chain that began in Yountville six years ago. Piatti has succumbed to the tired trend of fauxed Italian plaster walls. And they've made theirs worse by daubing them with naive murals of pale fruits and vegetables. So what's the draw at Piatti? The food. There are many standard dishes throughout the chain, but local chefs get to play with the daily specials. Piatti has five or six tasty meatless dishes. For meat and potato fans, there's chicken and potatoes with gravy. (Yes, gravy.) Hours: Sunday-Thursday 11 a.m.-10 p.m., Friday and Saturday 11 a.m.-11 p.m. (Reviewed Dec. 3, 1993)

Pollo's, 543 Emerson St., Palo Alto, 969-8244

Sun-colored walls and splashy tiles are a nice accent to the traditional Mexican music blaring into the big, open room and spilling onto the patio. The only two drawbacks are the rather limited menu and the paper lining in the plastic baskets that serve as plates. A steamy burrito can waterlog one of these sheets in minutes. And once it's soggy, the paper either tears or sticks to your food. Pollo's El Grande burrito ($3.80) (sans paper) gets rave reviews. The spit-roasted birds are mellow and delicious. One warning: Patrons line up in droves during lunch, so hearing your number being called and picking up the right order can be an exercise in frustration. Hours: 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Sun.-Thur., 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Fri.-Sat. (Reviewed June 11, 1993)

Portola Valley Kitchen, 884 Portola Valley Road, Portola Valley, 851-3287

Portola Valley Kitchen is a good seafood restaurant which also serves Thai food. Like the decor, the menu is comfortably old-fashioned. No radicchio here, just very fresh fish prepared to please a multigenerational clientele. The house specialties range from sole Bretonne topped with crab meat, shrimp, and capers ($12) to seafood kabobs, or teriyaki-flavored prawns, scallops, and fish broiled on a skewer ($12). All adult seafood dinner entrees come with thick clam chowder or green salad for starters, plus vegetables and rice or fries. Children's plates come with soup or salad and fries. They get a choice of fried sole, fried prawns, chicken teriyaki, or ground sirloin steak for $8. Hours: Monday-Friday lunch 11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m., dinner 5-9 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday dinner 5-10 p.m., Sunday brunch 10 a.m.-2:30 p.m. (Reviewed June 10, 1994)

Pot au Feu, 1149 El Camino Real, Menlo Park, 322-4343

Pot au Feu is exceptionally cozy and quiet, a rarity in these days of chic hustle-bustle. If you eat up quaint decor, you'll feel totally satiated after an evening here. For those who forget their bifocals, there's a spare pair of reading specs to borrow from the stuffed bear near the entrance. The service here suits the decor. It's in no hurry to impress. The relaxed pace leaves plenty of time for extra touches that are genuinely helpful. The light, creative flavor combinations of California cuisine hasn't penetrated the dark interior of this restaurant. Dishes starring red meat and rich sauces are still the stars Pot au Feu. Quail stuffed with shiitake mushrooms and apples in cognac truffle sauce is a highlight. Hours: Dinner only (5:30-9:30 p.m.); Closed Mondays. (Reviewed April 15, 1994)

Ramona's, 541 Ramona St., Palo Alto, 326-2220

The 17-year-old Ramona's is often full and the atmosphere loud with talk and laughter. The menu features a handful of appetizers, some of the most interesting pizza topping possibilities this side of the Mississippi, sandwiches and various pasta dishes. The Ranchero ($12.25 small, $15.75 medium, $19.25 large), is a combination of sweet corn, black olives, green onions, linguica, tomato slices, garlic and mozzarella. And they use ranch dressing instead of tomato sauce! If you aren't up for a full pizza, you can order a slice with any single topping; a trip to the well-stocked salad bar or a cup of soup; and a glass of wine, beer or a soft drink for $7.25. Ramona's has eight beers on tap, including a good selection of micro-brewery products. Hours: Lunch: Monday-Saturday 11:30 a.m.-2 p.m., Sunday 4-10 p.m.; dinner: Monday-Wednesday 5-10 p.m., Thursday-Saturday 5-11 p.m. (Reviewed Dec. 24, 1993)

Rangoon, 565 Bryant St., Palo Alto, 325-8146

Most of us have never sampled Burmese food, a gentle combination of Chinese and Thai flavors well represented at this charmingly informal downtown restaurant. Rangoon serves up a delightful chicken salad, chock full of tender breast slivers coated in crunchy peanuts, thin crispy noodles and a well balanced sesame-soy dressing. Vegetable and bean curd dishes are delicately seasoned, not overcooked. Soups range from the mundane but well executed won ton to an unusual black pepper and shrimp in clear broth. Garlic chicken and moo shu dishes are other good choices. This is an easy place to take children and a quick place to dine on unusually good fare before a movie. Lunch is served 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. and dinner Mon. to Thurs. 5-9:30 p.m. Fri. and Sat. hours are 5-10 p.m. (Reviewed June 3, 1992)

Red Lobster, 4090 El Camino Real, Los Altos, 949-4945

There's no getting around the fact that Red Lobster is a franchise. The maritime art on the walls has that "mass produced" look and the Shrimp Feast you order will taste exactly like the Shrimp Feast you had at the Red Lobster in Chicago, or Kansas City, or Milpitas. But there's a reason for all this conformity. The Red Lobster concept works. From the gigantic, family-oriented menu, to the friendly service, to all those choices you get with each entree: Caesar salad, tossed green or coleslaw? Baked potato, rice, french fries or broccoli? Plus, all you can eat of the delicious hot cheese-garlic rolls. The whole setup is definitely geared for the family crowd--don't pick Red Lobster for a first date. Great lunch deals. Hours: Mon.-Thur. and Sun. 11 a.m.-10 p.m., Fri. and Sat. 11 a.m.-11 p.m. (Reviewed July 30, 1993)

The Redwood Cafe & Spice Company, 1020 Main Street, Redwood City, 366-1498

Breakfast here is like starting your day at a cozy Bed and Breakfast. Housed in an old Victorian with creaking floors, the cafe has three charming dining rooms. The morning menu offers dishes that are as scrumptious as anything you'll find at a romantic inn and also serves delicious lunches. Weekday breakfasts bring in lots of business types in suits as well as deal-makers in jeans. This place can turn a fried egg sandwich ($3.75) into a gourmet treat. The chunky cinnamon applesauce is homemade. And the Swedish oatmeal pancakes are tender, yet sightly chewy, thanks to oats. There's also a weekend brunch ($8.50 adults, $6 children). Lunch is mostly sandwiches, salads, soups and quiche. Hours: Tuesday-Friday: breakfast 7 a.m.-11 a.m., lunch 11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m.; Saturday-Sunday: brunch 8 a.m.-2 p.m. (Reviewed June 17, 1994)

The Restaurant, Neiman-Marcus, 400 Stanford Shopping Center, 329-3300

This quietly elegant restaurant on the third floor welcomes anyone who is tired of noisy eateries and slapdash service. The Restaurant, as it's called, is only open for lunch, serving light food with fancy extras reminiscent of the 1950s. Before you can whisk your flamingo-pink napkin into your lap, a tiny cup of hot bouillon appears at your place. The refreshing freebie is part of Neiman-Marcus' time-honored formula for reviving shoppers. The menu in the Palo Alto Neiman-Marcus restaurant changes every other year. For special times like Valentine's Day and Mother's Day, there are menus made for the occasion. Hours: Mon.-Sat. 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. (Reviewed March 26, 1993)

Ridgeside Cafe, Ladera Shopping Center, Alpine Road, Portola Valley, 854-4166

Even the drive to Ridgeside Cafe in woodsy Portola Valley is relaxing. Once there, diners can enjoy a light meal on the outdoor patio or eat inside the brightly remodeled dining room. The menu is simple but creative, featuring specials like trout garnished with bacon, accompanied by garlic potatoes, or tortilla soup--a rich, spicy broth studded with chicken and vegetables. Seasoned crab cakes and chicken Caesar are other specials to watch for. Conventional desserts round out a moderately priced menu. Breakfast and lunch are traditional with a twist. Open Mon.-Fri. 11 a.m.-2:30 p.m. for lunch. Dinner Tues. to Sat. 5-9 p.m., Sat. and Sun. brunch 7:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.

Scott's Seafood Bar & Grill, 2300 East Bayshore Road, Palo Alto, 856-1046

At Scott's, most dishes hover around $16, with Australian lobster tails topping off the list at $25.50. Oh, sure, there are burgers for $7.50 and salads for $5.75, but why bother? What you buy at Scott's is fish. What you pay for is freshness. When Tim Lords took over as executive chef in 1991, he dictated a new regime of lighter sauces and condiments at the 10-year-old restaurant. Three years later, his crew seems equally adept at traditional favorites and trendier entrees. The light, golden crust on their grilled rainbow trout ($13) explains how the oft-ruined dish became such a menu staple. And their "blackened" rock cod ($13) is not so utterly innovative that you can't taste the moist, white fish under the fine dusting of tangy spices. Hours: Monday 11:30 a.m.-9 p.m., Tuesday-Friday 11:30 a.m.-9:30 p.m., Saturday 5-9:30 p.m., Sunday 5-9 p.m. (Reviewed Jan. 21, 1994)

Siam Garden, 1143 Crane St., Menlo Park, 853-1143

Those familiar with Thai food will find all their favorites on the extensive menu, which features more than 70 individual items prepared fresh daily. The wide variety of flavors creates a delightful eating experience with tasty offerings such as pad Thai noodles, green curry chicken, deep-fried fish cakes and green beans served with peanut cucumber sauce and chili, Thai barbecue chicken, and jumbo prawns with Thai basil. In addition, there are a number of vegetarian specialties, from vegetarian spring rolls to mixed vegetables with peanut curry sauce. Specials are offered every day for lunch and dinner, but when we last stopped in, the lunch menu was decidedly inferior and the quality less than what we've come to expect at dinner. (Reviewed Sept. 3, 1993)

Siam Royal, 338 University Ave., Palo Alto, 329-8129

Siam Royal offers an alternative perspective on Thai cuisine--milder than expected, but smooth, rich and distinctly sweet. The appetizer Combination Plate ($6.95) is a nice way to get a sampling of various specialties. The Fried Tofu, deep-fried to an amazingly delicate, fluffy consistency, is delicious--even if you aren't a tofu fan. The soups are pleasant but not outstanding. Tom Yum Goong (Lime Prawn Soup, $5.95) is a clear broth with prawns and mushrooms; Gai Tom Kah (Chicken Coconut Soup, $5.25) features chicken and mushrooms in a rich coconut milk base. Hours: Lunch Monday-Friday 11:30 a.m.-3 p.m.; dinner Sunday-Thursday 5-9:30 p.m. and Friday and Saturday 5-10 p.m. (Reviewed Nov. 12, 1993)

St. Michael's Art Cafe, 806 Emerson St., Palo Alto, 326-2530

Choosing between the French toast, buttermilk pancakes with sliced bananas or a frosted cinnamon roll at St. Michael's Art Cafe is hard. Although the small brasserie next to St. Michael's Alley restaurant has been a Palo Alto institution for 13 years, the business changed hands in August when Palo Alto landlord and Deadhead Rob Levitsky bought the restaurant from Vernon Gates. He added omelets, pancakes and veggie potatoes at breakfast and sandwiches and mini-pizzas at lunch. And he had the decency not to tamper with established delicacies like the bread and cinnamon rolls. The cafe also has live music, poetry readings and improvisational theater in the evening. Hours: 7 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. Mon.-Thurs.; 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. Fri. and Sat.; 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Sun. (unless there is a performance). (Reviewed Dec. 31, 1993)

Stanford Park Hotel, 100 El Camino Real, Menlo Park, 322-1234

For formal tea there is no place like the Stanford Park. Served in the elegant lobby of this first-rate hotel, the tea is as lavish to the palate as to the eyes. Crumpets are prepared to crumbly perfection, then served with a tiny pitcher of golden syrup. A petit eclair nestles beside buttery shortbread topped with lemon curd. Porcelain pots arrive steaming hot with your choice of tea. Finger sandwiches include smoked salmon, egg salad curry and peppery watercress. Service is divine as well. A generous brunch spread is also offered in the hotel lobby weekend mornings. Hours for tea are Wednesday through Saturday from 2:30-4:30 p.m.; Sunday brunch is served from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. (Reviewed Dec. 16, 1992)

Sue's Indian Cuisine, 216 Castro St., Mountain View, 969-1112

Moderately priced and generous with portions, Sue's caters to those with a craving for curry. Authentic Indian dishes range from the ordinary--rice combined with bite-sized vegetables in a mild red sauce, to a "stinging" vindaloo--a soupy, spicy mixture of prawns or chicken with hot chilis. Appetizers of nan--puffed-up Indian bread--and golden fried samosa--pockets of slivered green beans--come to life when dipped in lentil or tamarind sauces. Vegetarian dishes abound. Cold beer is a great accompaniment. Hours are 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Mon. to Fri. Dinner 5-9:30 p.m. Sun. to Weds., 5-10 p.m. Thurs., Fri. and Sat. (Reviewed March 11, 1992)

Su Hong Restaurant, 1039 El Camino Real, Menlo Park, 322-4631, and 4101 El Camino Way, Palo Alto, 323-6852

Tasty Chinese food served in the Szechuan and Mandarin styles has been keeping crowds coming back to Su Hong over the years. The menu also is full of American takeout favorites, including pot stickers and spring rolls. Su Hong chefs use garlic and peppers liberally, and keep their vegetables crisp. Most of the same selections available at the restaurant in Menlo Park are now offered at the newer Palo Alto location, which has restaurant seating but does a brisk takeout business. Prices are modest, with chicken and beef dishes running from $6-$8 and seafood dishes from $7-$12. Hours are from 11:30 a.m.-2 p.m. Mon.-Fri., 4:30-9:30 p.m. Sun.-Thurs., and 4:30-10 p.m. Fri. and Sat. Brunch is from 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Sat. and Sun. All major credit cards accepted. (Reviewed April 6, 1988)

Sundance Mine Company, 1921 El Camino Real, Palo Alto, 321-6798

Sundance has attracted a loyal following by serving a small but well-chosen array of entrees that are centered on, but not limited to, a passion for beef. While it is first and foremost a steakhouse, Sundance is not limited to the cuisine of the cow. The wine list includes several selections from nearby vineyards in Napa Valley, Sonoma, Russian River, San Luis Obispo and the Santa Cruz Mountains. The obvious choice for main course is one of Sundance's signature cuts of beef. The prime rib is slow-roasted and carved lean to order for differing appetites. Hours: Dinner Sunday-Thursday 5-10 p.m. Friday and Saturday 5-10:30 p.m. Open for lunch starting May 17, Monday-Friday 11:30 a.m.-4 p.m. (Reviewed April 22, 1994)

Szechwan Cafe, 406 California Ave., Palo Alto, 327-1688

Szechwan Cafe has a cozy, neighborhood feeling, a quiet environment, attentive service, ample portions of good food, fair prices, and no crowds of food trendies. Although the food won't inspire anyone to write sonnets, it is good. The tastiest dish is Szechwan Cafe wontons in chili oil. This unusual dish, which the owner claims "no other restaurant has," has a pile of wontons adrift in a savory pool of soy sauce, barbecued chili seeds, oyster sauce and other mystical elements the owner would not divulge. The garlic chicken in spicy garlic sauce ($5.95) wasn't particularly spicy or garlicky. And the chicken, which had been fried, was dry and tasteless. Hours: Lunch: 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Mon.-Fri. and noon to 2:30 on Sat.; dinner: 4:30 to 9 p.m. Mon-Sat. Closed Sundays. (Reviewed Nov. 19, 1993)

Talbott's Restaurant and Bar, 463 California Ave., Palo Alto, 326-7762

This unobtrusive little place is more of a neighborhood pub than a restaurant. Sepia-toned photographs of the old town of Mayfield decorate the walls of this 15-year-old establishement. Neither fancy nor frivolous, Talbott's quiet appeal is in its simplicity. Just dark enough to be cozy, this is the ideal spot for a romantic rendezvous, a business lunch or a nightcap. The menu here is pretty limited: burgers, salads, sandwiches. The dozen-or-so offerings are outlined on a simple wall board, with daily specials of grilled fish and a pasta dish or two usually available. Hours: Lunch 11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m.; dinner 4:30-10 p.m.; bar open most nights until 2 a.m. (Reviewed May 6, 1994)

Tenichi, 925 El Camino Real, Menlo Park, 325-0444

The era of neon lights and loud music hasn't made it to Tenichi, the little Japanese restaurant that time forgot in Menlo Park. Time may have forgotten, but its loyal clientele certainly hasn't. Tenichi has been at its El Camino Real location for 20 years. Plastic-backed chairs are simple and functional, and just a little worn. Lunch prices are moderate, but the food is so plentiful you can divide a lunch in two and save half for dinner. The lunch box ($6.95 for one item or $8.50 for two items), came with soup, rice and tea. That was in addition to the four stacked bowls filled to the rim with tempura, oranges, salad, fried tofu and a small sushi roll. Dinner specials are well-priced at $8.50 for mackerel simmered in sweet soy sauce to $14.95 for a chef's selection of assorted sashimi. Hours: Lunch Tues.-Fri. 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m.; dinner Tues.-Sat. 5:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. and Sun. 5 to 9 p.m. (Reviewed Oct. 1, 1993)

Terry's Wine and Food, 194 Castro Street, Mountain View, 967-9525

The dining room here has the look of a masculine jumble sale: football pennants hang next to wine posters or fish charts. The floors are lino, the chairs are vinyl, the placemats are paper. But from the moment you take your first sip of Cotes de Ventou, inhale the fragrance of the warm garlic bread and bite into the tender roasted chicken, you realize how pleasurable it is find a restaurant where the waiter's silk shirt doesn't cost more than yours. Here, you find the spirit and generosity of a mom-and-pop place blended with the food and wine of a tony uptown hot spot. You can linger and play cards or Scrabble, drink wine and talk for a lazy hour or eavesdrop unabashedly. Hours: Lunch Mon.-Sat. from 10 to 4; Dinner Tues.-Sat. from 5:30 to 9 p.m.; Mon. night football buffet from 6 p.m. on. (Reviewed March 18, 1994)

Thai City, 3691 El Camino Real, Palo Alto, 493-0643

Fresh chiles, coconut milk, sour lemon grass and pungent cilantro are flavors that intermingle beautifully in the dishes served at Thai City. An authentic smoker makes roast duck a treat, coconut milk comes from the real thing instead of a can. Flavors at this casual and simple restaurant are tropical and unique, but diners need not feel intimidated by unusual-sounding specials. You can request less hot versions of anything on the menu, and when the kitchen is at its best everything from beef curry to Thai spinach in mild duck broth or baked salmon comes out shining. Service is friendly and families are welcome. Hours for lunch are Mon. to Fri. 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Dinner is served from 5-10 p.m. nightly. (Reviewed Aug. 14, 1991)

Theo's, 546 University Ave., Palo Alto, 322-1272

At Theo's, everything is fresh, most things are local and nothing is overcooked. Although it's informal--no dress code, bright lights, no tablecloths--it has a surprising dignity absent in many more pretentious establishments. The menu ranges from light pastas to hearty steaks and hamburgers, but If Theo's has a specialty, it's fish. Always you'll find at least five varieties, none ever frozen, moist and full of flavor, each with a choice of four or five Asian-influenced sauces. Prices are moderate. One can get out for less than $10 at lunch. Dinner with a starter, main course, a glass of wine and dessert, can be under $50 for two. There is a full bar and a comfortably short, yet sophisticated wine list. Hours are Mon. through Thurs. 11:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m., Fri. to 10 p.m., Sat. 5:30 to 10 p.m., Sun. 5:30 to 9:30 p.m. (Reviewed Feb. 10, 1993)

Una Mas Taqueria, 244 Stanford Shopping Center, Palo Alto, 323-TACO

This colorful self-service restaurant on the south side of the Stanford Shopping Center features an interesting menu of hard-to-find items such as fish tacos, as well as tasty, more conventional Mexican dishes such as gigantic quesadillas, burritos and salads. Una Mas joins the growing ranks of "health-Mex" restaurants--using only olive or canola oils for frying, never animal fats, and putting an emphasis on "fresh." Outdoor seating, with brightly painted red, yellow and blue tables and chairs help convey a festive feeling--even if you do have to dine facing the mall's parking lot. Hours: Sun.-Thur. 10 a.m.-9:30 p.m., Fri.-Sat. 10 a.m.-10 p.m. (Reviewed April 30, 1993)

Velvet Turtle, 325 Sharon Park Drive, Menlo Park, 854-3813

There's a lot to be said for comfort, reliability, security and reasonable prices. The Velvet Turtle is for people who do not like surprises. It is not for those who seek innovation. The prices are sensible; the $9.99 menu a positive bargain. As a result, the spacious restaurant is usually crowded; reservations are much in order. Velvet Turtle classics in the $14 to $18 range are ample servings, generously augmented with vegetables, with soup or salad. These are prime rib, steaks, beef Wellington, lobster tail, chicken any of four ways, rack of lamb, salmon and swordfish. Hours: Lunch 11:30-2:30 p.m. Mon. to Fri.; dinner Mon. 5 to 9 p.m., Tues.-Thurs. 5 to 9:30 p.m., Fri.-Sat. 5 to 10 p.m. and Sun. 4 to 9 p.m. (Reviewed March 19, 1993)

Vicolo, 473 University Ave., Palo Alto, 324-4877

Vicolo pizzeria, with its heavenly cornmeal-crusted pizza, means the search for the perfect pie is over. The menu at Vicolo is pure pizza, one calzone daily, and a few focaccia sandwiches, plus five simple but delectable salads. Vicolo pizza is expensive; one slice costs $3.15 and a whole pizza is $18.50. But you can't compare these prices to the chains--there's no similarity in the product. Topping combinations are unique: a favorite is eggplant marinara teamed with smoked mozzarella, roasted garlic, provolone, parsley, Parmesan and oregano. Six different toppings are offered daily, and the crunchy crust is unparalleled. An absence of overwhelming tomato flavor makes each topping stand out. Hours are 11:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. Tues.-Sat.; 1-10 p.m. Sun.; and 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday. (Reviewed Feb. 13, 1990)

Vietnam Restaurant, 1010 Doyle St., Menlo Park, 326-2501

Operated by three generations of a Vietnamese family, this clean, well-lighted restaurant serves fresh ingredients prepared the Vietnamese way, which is to say, with French and Chinese influences. Cooked, sliced pork with shrimp is a favorite--pork and shrimp team with delicate rice noodles, cucumber, fresh mint and cilantro, bean sauce, wrapped in the thinnest possible rice paper pancakes. A versatile entree is earthen pot rice, a sort of Vietnamese casserole that includes rice cooked in chicken broth, shredded chicken, lily flowers and Oriental mushrooms. By adding a few dollars to the basic price, you can create your own combinations, for instance, by adding barbecue beef and lemon grass. (Reviewed May 9, 1990)

The Village Pub, 2967 Woodside Road, Woodside, 851-1294

Long the hangout of Woodside's horsey set, the Village Pub has lasted over the years by giving locals what they wanted. Today, the Pub has gone upscale California, leaving behind its years as a roast beef and dark wood dining room. You'll find the menu, which changes seasonally, to represent the cutting edge of West Coast cooking. Presentation is beautiful and ingredients the best. But be prepared--the cost can be high. Pasta dishes are outstanding, and the Village Pub really knows how to cook fish. The wine list at the Pub is a good match for the food. Lunch 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Mon. to Fri. Dinner 5:30 to 10 p.m. seven nights. Bar open all day. (Reviewed March 10, 1993)

Woodside Bakery & Cafe, 3052 Woodside Road, 851-7247

With a new wood-burning pizza oven and expanded menu and seating areas, the Woodside Bakery is taking on dishes far more complex and interesting than its previous all-pastry menu. A variety of focaccia sandwiches with toppings like prosciutto, provolone and roasted red peppers make for satisfying and delectable lunches or dinners. Other entrees include pizza--try the roast chicken with caramelized onion, aioli and tomato--as well as salads and pasta. Beware of crowds who come in to take out bakery items: the noise level can be dismaying during early dinners. But the back patio provides pleasant quiet. Open seven days, lunch 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., dinner 5-10 p.m. (Reviewed Oct. 23, 1991)

Woodside Thai Spot, 593 Woodside Road, Redwood City, 365-4079

If you like Thai restaurants, but not their prices, try the Woodside Thai Spot. Its decor is unpretentious, but the service is quietly professional. An appetizer portion of chicken sa-tay goes for $4.50. For 25 cents less, you can get "kai yawng," or sliced chicken marinated in mild, tandoori-like spices. You'll get a few quirky surprises here: Tomato slices pop to the surface of the "tom kha kai," chicken and coconut milk soup with galanga and lemon grass. If you're a purist, you may not like this variation. All of seafood at Woodside Thai Spot is scrupulously fresh. The Thai spot is not the place to go for a special occasion, but it is relaxing and peaceful. Lunch: Mon.-Fri. 11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m.; Dinner: nightly 5-10 p.m. (Reviewed April 9, 1993) 

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