Mini Restaurant Reviews
Publication Date: Friday Dec 27, 1996

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)

Alice's Restaurant, 17288 Skyline Blvd., Woodside, 851-0303

By day, Alice's Restaurant is a breakfast-and-lunch spot of ordinary pancakes and hamburgers. In the evening, this Mecca for motorcyclists is transformed into whole different dining experience--and not one you'd expect from the rustic restaurant with cowhide booths. A simple coffee shop for many years under the ownership of Alice Taylor, Alice's has been owned by Art and Leonie Atherton for the past five years. Nighttime chef Fiona Cruywagen is a wild-card talent with a fine culinary imagination: risotto con funghi ($13.50), prawns in pineapple coconut curry served with basmati rice ($13.95); grilled double pork chop with apple raisin chutney over garlic buttermilk mashed potatoes ($12.95). Live country music on some nights completes the experience. (Note that on Tuesday nights there is a different menu.) Hours: Mon.-Fri. 7:30 a.m.-8:30 p.m.; Sat. and Sun. 8:30 a.m.-8:30 p.m. (Reviewed May 26, 1995)

All Seasons Chinese Restaurant, 423 University Ave., Palo Alto, 322-5900

The unobtrusive All Seasons manages to put its own spin on dishes that have become familiar. All Seasons has your sweet and sour pork, your Mongolian beef, your almond chicken, mu shu pork, egg rolls, fried won ton, hot and sour soup, etc. If, however, you are open to trying something a little different, the Chef's Specials offer an interesting list of dishes that play a variation on a Chinese theme. Tangerine beef or tangerine prawns would be a good bet. The honey-walnut chicken ($8.95) is also good. Hours: Lunch: Mon.-Sun. 11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m.; Dinner: Sun.-Thurs. 5-9 p.m.; Fri. and Sat. 5-9:30 p.m. (Reviewed June 23, 1995)

Allied Arts Guild Restaurant, 75 Arbor Road, Menlo Park, 324-2588

The Allied Arts Guild Restaurant opened in 1932, when the women of the Palo Alto Auxiliary were invited to provide lunch service at the Guild. Nestled in the Arts Guild's tranquil gardens, the restaurant is a beautiful Spanish Colonial structure surrounded by flowers, fountains and boutiques. The volunteers serve up to 280 guests a day and all proceeds benefit the Lucile Salter Packard Children's Hospital at Stanford. The price is $10.95 for a full lunch, including beverage and dessert. The menu is put together on a monthly basis, with only one selection served daily. A light lunch is available for $6.95. All food Monday through Friday is prepared in an enormous kitchen by the 200 active Auxiliary members who do all of the testing, menu planning, cooking and serving. On almost all Saturdays, however, it is important to note that the lunches are prepared and served by an outside catering service. Hours: Seatings every half hour from noon-2 p.m. Monday-Saturday. Closed Sunday. (Reviewed March 8, 1996)

Amandine Swiss Pastries and Candies Restaurant, 898 Santa Cruz Ave., Menlo Park, 325-4776

At this cute pastry shop and restaurant (formerly Andre's), Ernst and Annegret Wiedmer serve fabulous quiche Lorraine for lunch, authentic fondue for dinner and the most heavenly pastries for dessert. At lunch or dinner, you get your choice of six or more sweets on the prix fixe menu. You also get a tiny salad with creamy walnut dressing and your choice of several entrees. You can't do better than the quiche Lorraine, a sinfully rich melt of cheese and eggs on a shallow pastry crust. There's also spinach quiche and usually a salad plate in summer or a heavier dish like wiener schnitzel in winter. The "cook-it-yourself" style of fondue and raclette dishes makes Amandine a fun place for a first date. Hours: Monday-Wednesday 9 a.m.-5:30 p.m.; Thursday-Saturday 9 a.m.-9 p.m.; closed Sunday (Reviewed Aug. 5, 1994)

Amarin, 156 Castro Street, Mountain View, 988-9323

Primitive restrooms aside, Amarin has been planned with an eye for practicality and aesthetic detail. Glass tops keep the table linen snowy white, the forest green of the dinner napkins exactly matches the arches of a series of alcoves displaying vases and figurines. Amarin means "I shall live forever," and the menu will certainly appeal to health-conscious cholesterol-watchers. Vegetarians are especially well catered to. A dozen entrees are based on simulated meat made from wheat flour or soy bean. Portions are generous, and it's as well to bear in mind when studying the several menus (regular, vegetarian, and a separate bound sheet for lunch specials) that many dishes are meant to be shared. Hours: Lunch Monday-Saturday 11 a.m.-3 p.m., dinner daily 5-10 p.m. (Reviewed March 15, 1996)

Amber India Restaurant, 2290 El Camino Real No. 9, Mountain View, 968-7511

Tables are set with china pretty enough to make newlyweds jealous. Food arrives in picturesque hammered copper pots. And the restaurant sets a new standard for service in Indian restaurants. Even if you're more into meals than manners, you won't be disappointed by Amber India's regional cuisine. There's fiery hot chicken vindaloo as well as dishes mild enough to please your great aunt Tillie. The chicken pasanda is simply strips of boneless chicken breast in a cream sauce flecked with nutmeg and microscopic bits of ground cashew nuts ($13). The combination was so rich and mild, it might have been French. Tender tandoori chicken was just as innocent of fiery flavor. But this dish always gains pizzazz when eaten with the customary splash of lemon and crunchy sweet onion slivers (half very small chicken $8, whole $14). Hours: Lunch daily 11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m.; dinner nightly 5 p.m.-10 p.m. (Reviewed Nov. 3, 1995)

L'Amie Donia, 530 Bryant St., Palo Alto, 323-7614

Simple French bistro cuisine. Perfect chocolate mousse. Salads dressed so lightly you can taste the different greens. You'll get mild flavors, fresh ingredients and light, French country fare at this bustling bistro. The only caveat: L'Amie Donia can be unbearably noisy. Menus change seasonally here. Examples include coq au vin ($13.50), a mild melange of chicken stewed in cabernet with mushrooms, pearl onions and potatoes, and for vegetarians, yellow bell peppers stuffed with a buttery mixture of rice and vegetables ($12.75). The restaurant has a carefully selected list of French and local wines. Hours: Lunch Monday-Friday 11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m.; dinner Monday-Saturday 5:30-11 p.m. (Reviewed Aug. 26, 1994)

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

Chili-pepper lights and a bull's head decorate this fast food spot downtown. 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)

Applewood Inn, 1001 El Camino Real, Menlo Park, 324-3486

Applewood has made its deservedly excellent reputation by creating unusual variations of pizza for adult tastes. Creative minds have come up with sophisticated flavor combinations with an international edge, such as the Nice (spinach, ricotta, red onions and tomatoes), the Dallas (chili sauce, barbecue beef, chilies and red peppers), and the Athens (marinated eggplant, feta, sundried tomatoes and capers). None of this deters from the bottom line of an excellent pizza: a terrific, chewy crust, cheese thick enough to pull off in strings and a flavorful tomato sauce. Diners can also create their own concoctions from a long list of toppings that includes the traditional (anchovies, ground beef, fresh mushrooms) to the downright thought-provoking (clams, avocado, jalapeno peppers). Prices range from $3.25 for an individual cheese pizza to $24.50 for a family-size (18 inch) signature pizza. Hours: Monday-Saturday 5-10 p.m; Sunday 5-9 p.m. (Reviewed June 21, 1996)

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. Hours (dinner only): Mon.-Thurs. from 6-10 p.m., Fri. and Sat. until 10:30 p.m. Closed Sun. (Reviewed Aug. 26, 1992)

Bangkok Bay Thai Cuisine, 825 El Camino Real (at Broadway), Redwood City, 365-5369

Bangkok Bay does a pretty good job of walking that fine line between accessibility and authenticity, much in the way Thai food manages at once to be subtle and intense. The satay is especially good. Tom kah gai is a chicken lemon soup, mildly spiced, smoothed with coconut milk and brightened with lemon leaves. If you order lunch from the Combinations listing, you get any two items along with soup and rice. Tod man pla, an entree unfortunately found only on the luncheon menu, is an excellent version of fish cakes served in a sweet and spicy cucumber sauce. Hours: Lunch Monday-Friday 11 a.m.-3 p.m.; dinner Monday-Thursday 5 p.m.-9:30 p.m., Friday and Saturday 5 p.m.-10 p.m. and Sunday 5 p.m.-9 p.m.n (Reviewed April 7, 1995)

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, chilies 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. 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)

BenBo's, 460 Ramona St., Palo Alto, 323-2555

This tiny, family-run Mediterranean restaurant combines the convenience of ordering at the counter (at lunch) with the prettiness of tiled tabletops and the pleasures of a finely prepared healthy meal. The small but interesting menu is a veritable Middle Eastern melting pot, incorporating specialties from Lebanon, Iran, Turkey, Armenia and Greece--with the requisite creative California influences mixed in. They use no oils but olive oil, they fry nothing and make interesting soup combinations like yogurt-barley and yogurt-cabbage. The vegetarian lentil soup is routinely good. Hours: Lunch: Mon.-Fri. 11 a.m.-3 p.m.; Dinner: Mon.-Sat. 5:30-9:30 p.m. (Reviewed Nov. 18, 1994)

Beppo, 643 Emerson St., Palo Alto, 329-0665

The interior of this fun, funky restaurant looks like someone has been collecting Italian-motif kitsch for years and finally got a chance to show it off. Brightly painted walls are literally covered with photographs of all things Italy: Sophia Loren in her lingerie prime, street urchins making deals, Frank Sinatra at all ages, stills from gladiator movies. There's a day-glo Venus de Milo in an alcove and a shrine to the Pope. Servings at Beppo are huge--when they're not immense. "Small" plates of spaghetti will serve three to four; large plates will serve five to six. The menu is written out on well-placed blackboards and includes many staples of Italian cuisine. Typical offerings include thin-crust pizza with sausage, pepperoni and the like ($9.95-$13.95), spaghetti with meat balls (small $9.95, large $16.95), tortellini with cream sauce and vegetables ($18.95), eggplant Parmesan ($14.95) and veal piccata ($17.95). Hours: (Dinner only) 5-10 p.m. Sunday-Thursday; 5-11 p.m. Friday and Saturday (Reviewed Sept. 13, 1996)

Best Bite Restaurant, 1414 W. El Camino Real, Mountain View, 988-8895

This delightful Persian restaurant may not be much to look at from the outside, but the food is delicious. Most people in California may not be too familiar with Persian food. However, it doesn't take a connoisseur to recognize Best Bite's meticulous attention to detail in terms of freshness, quality and the expert blending of flavors. Dar and Soussan Nafar, the husband-and-wife team who own the restaurant, are clearly committed to putting a healthy twist on Persian cuisine. A disclaimer on the menu states that the food contain no preservatives. Besides the obvious falafels and hummus, the menu abounds with the exotic. There is Joojeh Barg Combo ($10.99), a combination of chicken breast and beef fillet skewers; yogurt and wild garlic, known as mosser ($3.99); Dolmeh ($3.50), which is fresh vegetables, herbs and rice wrapped in grape leaves. The restaurant offers a variety of vegetarian and meat dishes. Hours: Mon.-Sat, lunch, noon to 3 p.m.; dinner 6-9 p.m.; closed Sundays. (Reviewed Nov. 22, 1996.)

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. Hours: Mon.-Thurs. 6 a.m.-8 p.m.; Fri. and Sat. 6 a.m.-9 p.m. (Reviewed April 1, 1994)

Bistro Elan, 448 California Ave., Palo Alto, 327-0284

This delightful restaurant on California Avenue melds a French sensibility with a Californian emphasis on light foods. The French-California connection at Bistro Elan makes sense when viewed in the context of the culinary road map followed by chef Ambjorn Lindskog. In 1988, he opened Cafe Pro Bono on on Birch St. in Palo Alto. In 1992, he sold Cafe Pro Bono and went to France where he worked at a three-star restaurant in Burgundy. Smell is the first thing you notice when you walk into Bistro Elan, hearty blend of yeast, honey, olives, garlic and coffee. Bistro Elan bakes all its own breads and pastries in its open kitchen in the center of the restaurant. This makes for baskets of bread that are always warm, soft and fragrant and pastry that is so flaky it practically parts itself before the fork. Hours: 7:30-11 a.m. breakfast; 11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m. lunch 5:30-10 p.m. dinner. No lunch on Sat. Closed Sun. (Reviewed July 7, 1995)

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. 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)

Bravo Fono, 99 Stanford Shopping Center, Palo Alto, 322-4664

There is much that is charming at this fine establishment, starting with the sophisticated look of the place--sleek and cool overall, but with warm splashes of color on the walls from the paintings by Andrea Fono, daughter of owners Paulette and Lazlo, Hungarian-born food entrepreneurs who also started the chain of Magic Pan restaurants. The service is extremely attentive, and any seafood dish is a good bet. The menu also features a variety of pasta dishes and a section titled "Paulette's Cuisine Grand Mere," which offers entrees like coq au vin ($14.95), which stews chicken in red wine with bacon and potatoes; and veal fricassee ($13.95). Hours: Mon.-Sat. 11 a.m.-10 p.m.; Sun. 11 a.m.-6 p.m. (Reviewed March 31, 1995)

British Bankers' Club, 1090 El Camino Real, Menlo Park, 327-8769

Food and fantasy, the twin pillars of many an enjoyable dining experience meet agreeably at the British Bankers' Club, a meticulously reconstructed monument to England's Edwardian past. The flip side of all that cool British reserve is the glorious excess of a place like the BBC, with its gaming trophies on the walls, colored glass windows in the doors and on the ceiling and beaten copper table tops. By contrast, the pub food here (bangers and mash, shepherd's pie, fish and chips, garlic bread) is nothing fancy, but, for the most part, quite satisfying. Live music on Friday and Saturday nights. Hours: 11:30 a.m.-1 a.m. daily. (Reviewed Feb. 10, 1995)

Boudin Sourdough Bakery and Cafe, 68, Stanford Shopping Center, 853-1849

For the most part, the menu at this bakery/cafe builds on a splendid foundation of crunchy and chewy sourdough bread, offering a slew of sandwiches, soups and salads, along with a variety of coffees and desserts. The atmosphere is pleasant, aided by a generous display of breads, muffins, pastas, coffee beans and seasonings in boxes, jars, cans, cannisters, tins and baskets behind the main counter. Boudin does salads very well, especially their signature Caesar ($5.15), which comes as a standard portion or small and on-the-side with the purchase of an entree. Hours: Monday-Friday, 8:30 a.m.-9 p.m., Saturday, 8:30 a.m.-6:30 p.m., Sunday, 9:30 a.m.-6 p.m. (Reviewed Feb. 24, 1995)

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)

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

OK, so you sip your double decaf latte with a view onto El Camino Real, but the venerable Cafe Borrone is about as close as you're going to get to the bustling, see-and-be-seen atmosphere of a Euro cafe. They even still allow smoking at the outdoor tables. Don't be deceived by the casual, order-at-the-counter feel of the place. The fine fare here can add up fast when sandwiches and lone slices of quiche are in the $5-$7 range, salads are about the same and speciality coffee drinks are, of course, over $2 a pop. A refill for a mug of house coffee will set you back 50 cents. But the elegant edibles here makes just about any meal worth the money. And some items, like the garlicky veggie melt sandwich ($6.50), are really, really worth it. There's live Dixieland jazz on most Friday nights. Hours: Mon.-Thurs. 7 a.m.-11 p.m.; Fri. 7 a.m.-midnight; Sat. 8 a.m.-midnight; Sun. 8 a.m.-5 p.m. (Reviewed March 22, 1996)

Cafe Brioche, 445 California Ave., Palo Alto, 326-8640

This is a charming little place that will impress even those fortunate enough to clock up frequent flyer miles between here and Nice. Three sidewalk tables front the restaurant, but the interior's skylights, shade umbrellas, potted plants, pale green decor and flagstoned floor give the entire 40-seat cafe an outdoorsy feel. Local artist Nicolai Larsen has painted the walls with a series of old-fashioned advertisements of the type found throughout southern France, and a large mirror hanging between two of them helps to open out the room, making it seem cozy rather than cramped. The seasonally changing menus include one or two dishes from different parts of France and some minor borrowings from other European countries, but the cafe's sensibilities are truly Provencal. Hours: Lunch Monday-Friday 11 a.m.-3 p.m., brunch Saturday 10:30 a.m.-3 p.m., dinner Wednesday-Saturday 5:30 p.m.-9:30 p.m. (Reviewed May 24, 1996)

Cafe de Orleans, 1029 El Camino Real, Menlo Park, 322-1056

When you're in the mood for a taste of gumbo and fiery pepper blends, New Orleans is a long way to go to satisfy a craving. Enter Cafe de Orleans on El Camino Real in Menlo Park. Sleek and cavernous with two pool tables, seven television sets and an extensive bar, Cafe de Orleans combines New Orleans style with a West Coast sensibility. Everything takes its cues from New Orleans. The music is (mostly) jazz. The decor looks like a French Quarter jazz club: wrought iron grill work and plain grey walls. The menu is pure Paul Prudhomme. Like all good New Orleans food, expect oil. Try the gumbo ($14.95) or the blackened catfish ($13.95). All entrees come with a salad (an outsized serving of iceberg lettuce), fried spaghetti and sliced tomatoes. Hours: Lunch every day from 11:30 a.m. -2:30 p.m. Dinner every day from 4:30-10:30 p.m. (Reviewed Dec. 1, 1995)

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 Florence, 2053 B Broadway (off Broadway, between Jefferson and Main), Redwood City, 366-4939

Self-taught cook Florence Rabbi prepares everything from liver and onions, to crepes florentine to Greek salads. In 1994, Rabbi left her job with the marketing department of SamTrans to turn her kitchen hobby into a career. Try any of the meat dishes on her menu and you'll find her true calling. Rabbi's five-spice muscovy duck breast is succulent ($13 dinner only), with its barely sweet Oriental sauce. Cafe Florence is not easy place to find. It's in an alley in the center of Redwood City's shopping district. Find the alley by looking west as you're driving Broadway between Jefferson and Main. There's a city parking lot behind Cafe Florence. Inside and out, Cafe Florence has lots of exposed brick, which is off-set by white napery and pleasant, formal service. Hours: Lunch Monday-Friday 11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m., dinner Monday-Sunday 5:30-10 p.m. (Reviewed Dec. 8, 1995)

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 and toasted almonds over ravioli filled with Swiss chard. 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 items. 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)

California Pizza Kitchen, 513 Cowper St., Palo Alto, 323-7332

Like the Hard Rock Cafe, CPK is more than a just a restaurant and a T-shirt. It's a statement about being in the know. Certainly, CPK understands the California food mind-set: cheeseless pizza options, mixed grill vegetarian pizza, honey whole wheat crust. Pasta dishes include the intriguing chicken tequila pasta, made with tequila, ginger, black beans and chipolte chicken. The menu is complicated only within categories. Basically, CPK serves pizza, soup, salad, pasta, foccacia sandwiches and a few grilled meats. As expected, the wine list has a heavy California accent, with a bit of Italian throw in. Hours: Mon.-Fri. from 11;30 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Sat. from 11:30 to 11 p.m.; Sun. from noon to 9 p.m. (Reviewed Sept. 9, 1994)

Capriccio, 325 Sharon Park Drive, Menlo Park, 854-6822

The pale golden glow to the place is reminiscent of an Italian trattoria, but trattoria isn't quite what Capriccio is. Although the restaurant (whose name comes from the word "whim" in Italian) serves some typical trattoria fare, it does much more. The menu varies from classic Italian pastas to some rather elegant entrees. For example, you can order calamari siciliana ($11.25) or prawns saute ($11.25). On the other hand, you can order a pizza ($8.45-$11.45) or select lamb chops ($9.50) from the grill. The point is, the menu at Capriccio's is almost as big as the restaurant is. And that's not small. Hours: Lunch Mon.-Sat. 11 a.m.-4 p.m.; dinner 4-10 p.m.; Sun. dinner only, 4-10 p.m. (Reviewed Aug. 16, 1996)

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)

Casa Isabel, 2434 Park Blvd., Palo Alto, 328-3102

The unassuming little Casa Isabel has been serving up sauce-drenched enchiladas and good old refried beans since the early 1980s. Judging from the tattered, bright orange menus (emblazoned on the front with a disconnected phone number) and the selection of traditional, often heavy entrees, it would appear that not much has changed here since opening day. Divided by archways into three kitchy-cozy little rooms, this family-run eatery is a somewhat dim, but not gloomy, locale for lunch, what with all the deep red curtains keeping the midday sun at bay. Hours: Lunch Tues.-Fri. 11:30 a.m.-2 p.m.; dinner 5:30-9 p.m.; Dinner Sat. 5:30-9:30 p.m.; Closed Sun. and Mon. (Reviewed Aug. 12, 1994)

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

This is an unpretentious little restaurant with several outstanding dishes. The baskets of freshly baked focaccia, served with a divine herbed olive oil, makes any visit worth your while. The calzones are enough to convert a die-hard pizza fan. Atmosphere is appropriate for a bite with friends, a business lunch or a romantic rendezvous. Opera music in the background. 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)

Chantilly II, 530 Ramona Street, Palo Alto, 321-4080

In an era when trendy restaurants open and close within a few years, one takes comfort in knowing that some traditional establishments do last. As it approaches its third decade, Chantilly (for the last five years Chantilly II) draws a loyal following to its cozy courtyard location. Cognizant of dining trends away from the elaborate French preparations that marked Chantilly's culinary past, the restaurant's partners designed a more reasonably priced "continental" menu with a generous splash of Italian flavors. To keep attracting the customers who enjoyed the former style, traditional favorites such as the signature rack of lamb ($18.75) still grace the menu. With its numerous antiques, character-rich table settings and cozy, private dining rooms, the atmosphere at Chantilly II points to a restaurant not at all uncomfortable with its past. Hours: Mon.-Fri. 11:30 a.m.-2 p.m.; Mon -Sat. 5:30 p.m.-10 p.m. (Reviewed Dec. 2, 1994)

Charley's Restaurant, 244 State Street, Los Altos, 948-5700

This family-run Chinese restaurant is so friendly, it's as comfy as your best friend's kitchen. Picturesque as the decor may be, the true atmosphere comes from the whirling dervish personalities of owners Charley Cheng and his wife Fan Lin. Walk in the door and you'll get a lively greeting from across the room. Early on, Charley taught economics in Taiwan. After arriving in this country, he learned to cook in New York, dabbled in pecan farming in Alabama, bought an interest in the doughnut shop near his restaurant, and also shares in his brother-in-laws orchid business. Each of Cheng's entrepreneurial ventures adds to his restaurant's quirky personality. Hours: Lunch Monday-Friday 11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m., dinner Monday-Thursday until 8:30 p.m., Friday and Saturday 5-9 p.m., Sunday 5-8 p.m. (Reviewed Nov. 11, 1994)

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. Children are made to feel welcome. Watch out for giant crowds on weekends. Hours: 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 Sophie, 201 California Ave., Palo Alto, 322-8586

This cozy two-room bistro is run by Sophie Nicolas. It's a comfy neighborhood place, an almost funky hybrid of elegance and whimsy. The salt and pepper shakers come in the form of ceramic cows and rabbits. The seven-to-nine item menu, which changes daily, is written out in bright blue ink on a white plate and brought around to each table. The wine list is comprehensive, with a nice mix of Californian and French selections. Chances are, Sophie herself will either show you to your table or serve you--or both. Just as the restaurant occupies a world between French good taste and Californian good fun, the rotating menu pays homage to the culinary strengths of both. You can dine California-lite with poached salmon topped with mango-kiwi chutney. Or, go Old World all the way with Sophie's famous sweetbreads, cooked with port wine, cream and sauteed mushrooms, then served in a pastry shell ($14.50). Hours: Lunch 10 a.m.-2:30 p.m. Mon.-Fri.; dinner 5:30-9:30 p.m. Mon.-Sat.; Closed Sun. (Reviewed May 10, 1996)

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

Elegant and intimate, Chez TJ. offers some of the most delicious and beautifully presented cuisine around. Nothing is spared in the preparation, and the kitchen rarely makes technical errors. Set in a charming Victorian 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. Dinner seatings only, Tues.-Sat. from 5:30-9 p.m. (Reviewed Jan. 19, 1996)

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 establishment is a fun dining spot. 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. 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)

La Costena, 2078 Old Middlefield Way, Mountain View, 967-4969

This is one place all burrito-lovers find themselves pulled to with an almost magnetic force. Unlike any other local burrito place, La Costena has no ambience (unless you find grocery stores appealing) and has no place to sit. But they crank out incredible take-away Mexican fare: 12 different kinds of burritos (plus any you can invent), tacos, quesadillas, tamales, platters, tacquitacos, menudo, huevos rancheros, huevos divorciados and tortas. Prices are as sweet as the homemade horchata. Hours: Mon.-Sat. 8 a.m. to 10 p.m., Sun. 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. (Reviewed Oct. 28, 1994)

The Cultured Cappuccino, in the courtyard of the Palo Alto Cultural Center, 1313 Newell Road, 329-2366 (Cultural Center)

The Cultural Center's makeshift cafe, the Cultured Cappuccino, is so casual it's eccentric. More than a coffee cart, less than a restaurant, it's all things to artists and museum-goers who got by with a vending machine until Janice White began renting catering space here. Now you can pick up a steaming latte or bagel with cream cheese before a morning pottery class. Or you can order home-made soup and sandwiches for lunch. For an afternoon treat, you can buy big chocolate-dipped macaroons to munch with coffee. Sandwiches here are big and sloppy, just the thing to nourish starving artists. Hours: 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday. (Reviewed Sept. 16, 1994)

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)

Darbar Indian Cuisine, 129 Lytton Ave., Palo Alto, 321-6688

Generosity is Darbar's hallmark. Hot potato fritters arrive free of charge while you're reading the menu. Service is generous, too. And the lunch buffet ($7) is a real bargain with more than two dozen items to choose from. Main dishes change daily, but there are always four vegetarian and four meat entrees. The trimmings include buttery rice, creamy lentils, two soups, puffy white nan bread, wafer crisp dosas, three chutneys, salsa, orange wedges, green salad, raita and dessert. Depending on the chef's whim, you get either chicken pakoras or the vegetarian onion version. Hours: Lunch Monday-Friday 11 a.m.-2:30 p.m., dinner Sunday-Wednesday 5-9:30 p.m., Thursday-Saturday 5-10 p.m. (Reviewed Jan. 12, 1996)

Dario's Cafe Italian Ristorante, 2415 Broadway, Redwood City, 366-3616

The quiet, calming Dario's serves no-nonsense Italian comfort food: linguine al pesto, fettuccine Alfredo, ravioli with meat sauce. Whether you eat inside or out, you'll get excellent service. It's easy to fill up on extras here before you begin your meal. Hearty entrees like traditional veal medallions alla Romana and chicken breast Parmigiana, come with soup or salad. The soup is a big bowl of thin minestrone broth full of chunky fresh vegetables. The house salad is lightly dressed with a creamy Caesar-like dressing. Pastas come with old-fashioned cream or tomato-based sauces and range in price from simple cappellini Napoletana to linguine pescatore with clams, mussels, calamari, prawns and salmon. Hours: 11 a.m.-10 p.m. daily (Reviewed Oct. 21, 1994)

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. Hours: 6:30 a.m.-9:30 p.m. daily; bar open until 11 p.m. (Reviewed Aug. 13, 1993)

Draeger's Market Bistro, 1010 University Ave., Menlo Park, 688-0694

The Market Bistro at the tony supermarket offers a security guard's view of the downstairs hustle and bustle. Servers here follow the old coffee shop tradition of quick quips and quicker service. Sandwiches at Market Bistro are not cheap ($7.25-$8), but each is more than a meal in itself. For brunch, the Market Bistro splits its menu between lunch favorites and fancy breakfast dishes. You can get sandwiches, burgers and salads. Or, you can indulge in riches like Eggs Christine, a croissant topped with creamed spinach, leeks, poached eggs, hollandaise and dungeness crab ($9.50). Everything on the menu comes in child-size portions. Hours: Weekday breakfast 7:30 a.m.-11 a.m., lunch 11 a.m.-2:30 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday brunch 8 a.m.-2:30 p.m.; call for dinner hours. (Reviewed March 24, 1995)

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

Soft lighting, comfortable chairs and a quiet atmosphere invite you to relax and really dine instead of bolting down a meal in the trendy frenzy we get too often these days. You can get a delicious meal here, but service was very uneven when we visited. The lunch menu has crisp salads, big sandwiches on homemade sun-dried foccacia bread and pasta with a few interesting duck dishes such as a smoked duck sausage quesadilla ($7 starter, $10 entree). The dinner menu has some of the same entree salads and pasta but adds a larger choice of meats and seafood. Portions are huge. Hours: Dinner 6-10 p.m.; breakfast Mon.-Fri. 6:45-11 a.m.; lunch Mon.-Fri. 11:30 a.m.-2 p.m.; Saturday a la carte brunch 6:45 a.m.-2 p.m.; Sunday breakfast 6:45 a.m.-10 a.m., brunch buffet 10 a.m.-2 p.m.; Tea Thurs.-Sat. 2:30 p.m.-4:30 p.m. (Reviewed April 14, 1995)

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. (Reviewed Sept. 26, 1990)

Elbe German and European Cuisine, 117 University Ave., Palo Alto, 321-3319

The menu here has all the classics of Central European cooking, and although we may know some of the names (Wienerschnitzel, for example), this does not mean that all of this will be familiar. Care to start your meal with a nice plate of head cheese ($3.95), or perhaps some quail eggs stuffed in mushrooms ($5.95)? The hearty split pea soup is divine, as is the Wienerschnitzel, sauerbraten and potato pancakes. Hungarian goulash ($10.95) comes with spatzle. There's a good variety of German, French and California wines, as well as desserts as only the Germans can do: German chocolate cake and homemade apple strudel with vanilla sauce (available specially packaged for takeout). Live accordion music on some nights. Hours: Lunch 11:30-2 p.m. Mon-Sat.; dinner 5-10 p.m. daily. (Reviewed May 19, 1995)

Empire Grill and Tap Room, 651 Emerson St., Palo Alto, 321-3030

A custom-made mahogany bar runs the length of the dining room/bar. Eight oversized booths line the other wall, creating a convivial setup. There are 16 beers on tap, including such rarities as Pilsner Urquell and Anderson Valley Oatmeal Stout. But the real treasure of the Empire is its outdoor patio, a gracious dining room that happens to lack a ceiling. Well-spaced tables are covered with white linens in an atmosphere that is subdued but made friendly by a trickling fountain and rustling greenery. The menu offers a nice cross-section of California homestyle cuisine: meats from an open grill, side dishes like sauteed spinach, mashed potatoes, fries with garlic mayonnaise and roasted new potatoes, fresh fish and such appetizer staples as steamed mussels, carpaccio, grilled polenta and fried calamari. Hours: 11:30 a.m.-10 p.m. Monday-Thursday; 11:30 a.m.-10:30 p.m. Friday; 11 a.m.-10:30 p.m. Saturday; 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Sunday. (Reviewed March 1, 1996)

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)

Evvia Estiatorio, 420 Emerson St., Palo Alto, 326-0983

Evvia advertises itself as Greek. But it's as adventuresome as any Silicon Valley start-up that pushes the envelope, breaks the rules and gives customers exactly what they want. Evvia serves up Greek-flavored dishes loosely inspired by California's fresh cuisine. Partners George and Judy Marcus and Kenny and Angie Frangadakis gathered their families' recipes from the islands of Samos, Crete and, of course, Evvia. They put them in the hands of their chef and told him to go creative. The result is feta and filo, grilled fish and lamb chops, pizza-like "pita," and even Greek-flavored pasta. Purists may be disappointed. But then, Evvia isn't for purists. It's for hedonists. Hours: Mon.-Sat. 11:30 a.m.-3 p.m. and 5:30-11 p.m. Closed Sun. (Reviewed Sept. 8, 1995)

Fabbro's, 2915 El Camino Real, Redwood City, 368-1491

The pickiest in-law and the finickiest great-aunt would like this Redwood City restaurant. It exudes peace and quiet; nobody is going to rush your dining experience. The mood is enhanced by the comfortable decor: wood paneling, lace curtains, white linen. Even before you get a chance to order appetizers, they bring out an ample plate of cold meat and vegetables to prime you for the task ahead. There is also a serving of bread made available, as well as a properly seasoned dish of garbonzo beans. Although those with light appetites could almost fill themselves up on the complimentary starters, do not hesitate to take advantage of the other choices. Dinner entrees come with the choice of soup, salad or ravioli. Hours: Mon.-Sat. 11:30 a.m.-3 p.m. and 5:30-10 p.m. (Reviewed Dec. 23, 1994)

Fambrini's Terrace Caffe & Catering Company, 2600 El Camimo Real, Palo Alto, 858-1268

Executives in suits, mothers with babies and lunchtime regulars find their way up to Fambrini's Terrace Cafe, tucked away above the Bank of America on El Camino near California Avenue. It's a small cafe with a dozen tables inside and at least that many more outside on a tree-shaded terrace. Through the leaves of the trees, you can see the towers of Palo Alto Square and rooftops of less imposing edifices. The expansive view is quite a contrast to the tiny kitchen where Patty Fambrini and her crew cook up everything from stuffed pork rolls to espresso brownies. Each day, you'll find half a dozen salads, a roster of regular sandwiches and a specials board listing one low-fat entree along with sandwich specials and hot dishes. At breakfast, eggs and toast with either bacon or ham go for $4.25. For morning or afternoon snacks, there are espresso drinks and big Italian sodas. Hours: 8 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Monday-Friday; closed Saturday and Sunday. (Reviewed Oct. 27, 1995)

Fanny and Alexander, 412 Emerson, Palo Alto, 326-7183

A framed poster of the movie that inspired the restaurant's name is the only reminder of Fanny and Alexander's origins as a Scandanavian restaurant. The appellation was suitably evocative when venison and cod cakes were on the menu. But now, it's potentially confusing. Part nightclub, part sports-bar, part happy hour hangout, Fanny and Alexander is more than just a restaurant. The kitchen offers tasty homestyle food cooked with creative flair: BLT on a toasted brioche, a mahi mahi fillet sandwich, warm spinach salad, meatloaf with mashed potatoes, beer-battered onion rings, filet mignon. The outdoor patio is a refuge from the hustle and bustle of downtown. Inside, plant baskets hang from the ceiling and each table is set with a small vase of carnations. The hard-surfaced surroundings--tiled flooring, old brick walls--are attractive, if acoustically unfriendly. Hours: Daily 11:30 a.m.-1:30 a.m. (lunch/brunch service to 1:30 p.m., dinner to 10 p.m.) (Reviewed April 19, 1996)

Fiesta del Mar Too, 735 Villa St., Mountain View, 967-3525

Fiesta del Mar Too is the latest addition to the roster of health-Mex joints. Despite its small menu and fast-food ambience, Fiesta del Mar Too is no run-of-the-mill, chain-store taqueria. The clean airy restaurant is the second venture of Alexandro Garcia, who also owns Fiesta del Mar on Shoreline Boulevard in Mountain View. Like its sister restaurant, Fiesta del Mar Too wants to be known for its shrimp and seafood dishes. Also, don't miss their $3 flan. Hours: Monday-Thursday 10:30 a.m.-11p.m.; Friday-Saturday 10:30 a.m.-midnight; Sunday 10:30 a.m.-10 p.m. (Reviewed Aug. 18, 1994)

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. 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 over the 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. 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 pork chops and mashed potatoes. The restaurant is divided into 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. Try the famous Roasted Red Pepper Soup ($2.25 cup, $3.25 bowl). 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: 11 a.m.-9:30 p.m. daily (open until 10 p.m. Fri. and Sat.) (Reviewed Feb. 11, 1994)

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

This 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. Portions are ladylike. For a special tea-time treat, try the "cream tea" served with tiny scones, jam and sinful faux clotted cream. The Red Terrier Public House, a cozy pub addition to the restaurant, offers tasty "snack food" such as fish and chips for reasonable prices. Hours for lunch are 11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m. Mon.-Fri.; dinner is from 5:30-10:30 p.m. Mon.-Sat. (Reviewed May 12, 1995)

Ginger Club, 2A Stanford Shopping Center, Palo Alto, 325-6588

Restaurateur and cookbook author Bruce Cost's latest endeavor gives you a taste of ginger in all its guises. In the appetizer department, there's a fat-free Vietnamese shrimp roll (4 pieces, $5.50). A clean, crisp flavor comes from this mix of shrimp with lettuce, slivered red pepper and green onion, chopped peanuts, ginger and a whiff of fresh cilantro, all wrapped snugly in edible rice paper. The priciest dishes on the menu are grilled honey-orange duck ($14.75), and grilled flank steak with tamarind marinade, fries and salad ($16). Desserts are just as creative as the appetizers and main dishes. The rush and noise prevent quiet conversation. Hours: Sunday-Thursday 11:30 a.m.-10 p.m.; Friday and Saturday 11:30 a.m. -11 p.m. (Reviewed Dec. 16, 1994)

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. Don't forget to look at the specials board. You will occasionally find California Rolls there. It's also been the source of such interesting treats as saki-flavored cod and hot or cold buckwheat noodles (soba) with fried tuna ($8.50). The restaurant doesn't take checks or credit cards. Hours: Lunch 11:30 a.m.-2:00 p.m. Mon.-Fri.; dinner 5:30-9:30 p.m. daily. (Reviewed June 7, 1996)

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. 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. Hours: 11 a.m.-11 p.m. weekdays; 11 a.m.-1 a.m. Sat. and Sun. (Reviewed Oct. 22, 1993)

Gourmet Franks, 199 Stanford Shopping Center, 327-7246

This tiny storefront at the Stanford Shopping Center offers the healthiest sausages available. There's a chicken apple sausage that dietitians would love. It weighs in with only 120 calories, no sodium and 4.5 percent fat ($3.95). Schwarz's Lemon Chicken comes with a tingle of cayenne pepper ($3.25). There's a vegetarian version ($2.95), and a Louisiana Hot. There's a toppings bar with so many choices you can bury your hot dog under an avalanche of extras: fresh tomatoes, onions, sauerkraut, cheddar cheese, relishes, mustards, ketchup, mayonnaise, etc. Hours: 10 a.m.-9 p.m. Monday-Friday, 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturday, 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Sunday. (Reviewed Nov. 25, 1994) 

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.

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. Hours: Mon.-Sat. 5:30 p.m.-10 p.m. (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)

Homma's Brown Rice Sushi, 2363 Birch St., Palo Alto, 327-6118

As the name suggests, Homma's doesn't drape its slices of fish and vegetables over white rice, which lacks the high amounts of vitamins B and D of brown rice. For food and ambience, few places are as spare and economical as Homma's. It has three tables inside, four tables outside, five pieces of decorative wall art and no sushi bar. The presentation, too, lacks the studied fussiness of many sushi bars. Service is practically nonexistent. It is the vegetarian fare that sets Homma's apart from other sushi bars. Besides the usual cucumber, mushroom and avocado rolls, Homma's makes burdock root, mountain yam, gourd, asparagus, radish, plum and plum leaf sushi. Hours: Lunch Monday-Friday 11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m.; dinner Monday-Saturday 5-9 p.m.; Fri.-Sat. 5-9:30 p.m. (Reviewed Sept. 30, 1994)

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. 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. 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. Always make a reservation. 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. 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

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 ($11.95 dinner). Hours: Monday-Friday lunch buffet from 11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m.; Tuesday-Saturday dinner from 5:30-10 p.m.; Sunday and Monday dinner 5:30-9:30 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday brunch buffet noon-3 p.m. Lunch buffet is $6.49. Brunch buffet is $7.49. (Reviewed April 29, 1994)

Java Centrale, 299 California Ave., Palo Alto, 327-8100

This cafe successfully plays up the modern neighborhood coffeehouse theme without breaking much new ground. It combines a mellow atmosphere with an interesting range of sandwiches, soups, salads and, of course, coffee done any way you want. The clientele is a combination of young professionals who stream in and out of the nearby CalTrain station to seniors who come to hang out and play chess. The management keeps backgammon and checkers sets around, along with a several newspapers. Try the Creole ham sandwich ($5.50), served with artichoke hearts and spicy mustard. The java freezes--icy milkshake versions of cappuccino ($1.95), latte ($2.25) and mocha ($2.75)--are refreshing without being too sweet. Hours: 6 a.m.-10 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 6 a.m.-midnight Friday, 8 a.m.-midnight Saturday, 8 a.m.-9 p.m. Sunday. (Reviewed April 26, 1996)

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

Jose's is something of an institution and one of the few places on the Peninsula where you can dance to live reggae or rhythm and blues, sip fancy rum drinks and sample South American and Caribbean cuisine, from Cuban ropa vieja, to grilled alligator from New Orleans and jerk chicken from Jamaica. It's comfortable, friendly and a bit worn around the edges. It also attracts one of the most diverse clienteles on the Peninsula: preppies in khaki shorts, young men with dreadlocks, middle-aged suburban couples, neo-hippies in tie-dye. Servings are large. Lovers of fiery foods can try the chicken creole sausage ($8.95), grilled catfish with jerk seasoning ($13.50), Peruvian chicken ($10) and smoked barbecue baby back ribs ($13.50 for a half rack). Hours: Lunch served 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Monday-Friday. Dinner served 5-11 p.m. Monday-Friday and 5-10 p.m. Sunday. Live music starts at 9:30 p.m. Thursday-Saturday. Cover charge on some nights. (Reviewed April 5, 1996)

Kamei Japanese House, 240 Castro St. Mountain View, 964-6990

Kamei has a large menu that goes beyond the usual teriyaki, tempura and sushi, and is one of the few Japanese restaurants in the Bay Area that features "robata" cuisine, or Japan's version of barbecue. The combination dinners encourage trying some of this unfamiliar, but delicious cuisine. Besides the usual miso soup and small green salad, our meal consisted of a series of small plates put on the table individually. The first batch consisted of a small portion of nicely cooked salmon, a plate of tiny ribs and flat, black mushrooms in a slightly sweet, slightly sticky sauce. The robata style ("by the fireside") serves this kind of food well. The small portions cook quickly, preserving maximum freshness and taste. Hours: Lunch 11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m. Mon.-Fri., noon-2:30 p.m. Sat., no lunch on Sun.; Dinner 5-10 p.m. Mon.-Thurs. and Sun.; 5-11 p.m. Sat. (Reviewed April 28, 1995)

Lakeside Cafe, 3160 N. Shoreline Blvd. (by the lake at Shoreline Park), Mountain View, 965-1745

The cafe is bright and cheery, but the best place to sit is outside on the patio, next to the lake. Head chef Koetsu Akasaka, a classically trained chef, worked under Alice Waters and had a stint at Palo Alto's Empire Grill & Tap Room. The challenge at Lakeside is to have a menu that appeals to both the Silicon Valley workers who frequent the cafe for lunch and the families who visit Shoreline Park on weekends. Thus, you can order a cheeseburger or grilled eggplant on focaccia, peanut butter and jelly or pasta with rock shrimp and asparagus. It's eclectic, but it works. The lunch menu offers hot and cold sandwiches, salads, several pasta dishes and a daily pizza special. Weekday breakfast at the cafe is limited to bagels, muffins and other pastries, but on weekends your choices expand to include egg dishes, pancakes, waffles and granola. Hours: 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Monday-Friday (pastries 9-11 a.m., lunch 11 a.m.-4 p.m.); 9 a.m. - 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday (breakfast 9-11:30 a.m., lunch 11:30 a.m.-4 p.m., snacks 4-5 p.m.) (Reviewed Feb. 9, 1996)

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)

Left at Albuquerque, 445 Emerson Ave., Palo Alto, 326-1011

Left at Albuquerque's concept can only be described as some kind of blend of West, Mex, Tex, Mex-Tex, West-Mex, Des-West (is desert food a genre yet?) and Cal. The result something akin to nouveau Southwest. They've got a great, bright decor that unabashedly mixes hubcabs with horse stuff, and a menu that doesn't see the irony in dishes like Tierra del Fuego Caesar salad and chili relleno tempura. Thanks to clever use of spinach, radish powder and corn powder, the tortillas come in vivid shades of green, yellow and orange--exactly the same colors as the walls and upholstery. Rice is green. Beans are black. And the chips, a mix of blue and orange, look as though they were arranged in the basket by a decorator. Great drinks; 88 kinds of tequila. Hours: 11 a.m.-2:30 p.m.; 5-10 p.m. (Reviewed June 2, 1995)

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. Hours: 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)

Little India Restaurant, 2606 Broadway, Redwood City, 361-8737

Here, diners don't have to waste time perusing a menu. There isn't one--just a good, mixed-bag buffet that consists of whatever owner and chef Manoj Chopra feels like making that day. Staples you'll always find include basmati rice pillau, salad with cucumber and tomato, raita (spiced yogurt dressing), vegetable pakora (vegetable fritters), bapadum (pepper cracker) and an array of chutneys. All meals come with a generous basket of nan. Neither do people have to spend time calculating cost and tax. Only three numbers matter: $5.95, $5.99 and $7.95. At lunchtime, $5.99 buys everything. At dinnertime, $5.95 buys everything vegetarian while $7.95 buys everything. Hours: Lunch from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Mon.-Sat.; dinner from 5 to 9 p.m. Mon.-Sat.; closed Sun. (Reviewed March 10, 1995)

Lisa's Tea Treasures, 1145 Merrill Street, Menlo Park, 326-8327

Lisa's is set in a Victorian building across from the Menlo Park train station, but it's a world away from the rush of daily commutes. This haven of civilized domesticity pulls you back to the days when ladies had entire afternoons to fill with leisurely chats. You won't be disappointed if you come here to play a role in an antique ritual, or simply visit quietly with a friend. But if you're really interested in food, you should know that many of the tiny sandwiches, scones and the like are not prepared in-house. The menu at Lisa's lists 18 combinations of tea and edibles ($5.50-$14): an Irish-style spread called "Her Majesty's Trust," a Indian combination called "The Rajah's Prize" and so forth. Hours: 10 a.m.-5:30 p.m. daily (Reviewed Feb. 3, 1995)

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. 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). At breakfast, you can get an egg, toast and hash browns for $2.75. 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)

Mac's American Grill, 326 Main St., Los Altos, 941-0234

After more than 50 years of operation, Mac's American Grill (formerly 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)

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

This classic American restaurant features a core menu that hasn't changed for years--and there's no reason to do it now. Baby back ribs remain a staple, served with a pile of cole slaw and crisp fries. The restaurant also features tasty regional fare, an extensive wine list, good desserts, and attractive outdoor seating. MacArthur Park is located in a landmark structure designed by architect Julia Morgan. Open Mon.-Fri. 5:30 -10:30 p.m.; Sat. and Sun., 5-10 p.m.; Sun brunch, 10 a.m.-2p.m.; Lunch Mon.-Fri. 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. (Reviewed Oct. 18, 1996.

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. 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 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and dinner 5-10 p.m. seven days a week. (Reviewed Oct. 11, 1996)

Mango Cafe, 435 Hamilton Ave., Palo Alto, 325-3229

Whatever you do, make sure you order one of Mango Cafe's giant smoothies. You're going to need it. Because a town in which the diners' credo seems to be "mo pasta, mo betta" the Mango Cafe is countering, as expressed on one waiter's T-shirt, with "mo hotta, mo betta." Even if you don't like hot food, it's still good stuff. There are plenty of mild dishes on the menu. The cuisine at the Mango Cafe is Caribbean, more specifically that of Trinidad and Tobago. This is a polyglot culture, with strong African, East Indian and Spanish influences. These influences show up on the menu in the form of curries, sweet potato dishes and coconut milk sauces. For atmosphere, the Mango Cafe moves to a reggae beat: not fast, just kind of an easy groove. Hours: Mon.-Sat. 11 a.m.-3 p.m.; 6-9 p.m. (Reviewed May 5, 1995)

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. 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 creamed spinach or oven-cooked potatoes. 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. Hours: 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Sun. to Thurs., until 11 p.m. Fri. and Sat. nights. (Reviewed Jan. 1, 1992)

Mediterranean Bistro, 1077 El Camino Real, Menlo Park, 321-3300

Owner-chef Spyro Zissos is a mature talent who has cooked his way around the Mediterranean, to say nothing of San Francisco and the Peninsula. Zissos is Greek by birth. That accounts for the crisp spanakopita and tiropita on his appetizer menu, as well as pastitsio and moussaka on his entree list. He got his formal education at a French culinary academy in Egypt. But his knowledge of classic cuisine didn't spoil his appetite for local specialties such as kofta, or broiled marinated ground lamb. Two apprenticeships in Italy defined Zyssos's taste in the classic dishes of that country. Don't be surprised to find pollo marsala and fettuccini primavera on his menu alongside humus or cucumber and yogurt served with fresh mint. Hours: 5:30-10 p.m. Tuesday-Sunday. Closed Monday. (Reviewed June 9, 1995)

Menlo Java & Juice Bar, 1083 El Camino Real, Menlo Park, 328-2407

Menlo Java & Juice shares a tiny space with a Mexican restaurant. There's not much room for relaxed dining, but the eatery has a small menu full of bargains. The entrees are all under $4.25. There's a thick vegetarian torta flavored with goat cheese, and full of eggplant, spinach, egg, and red peppers. Pasta is another specialty of the house. Sandwiches are all under $3. The juice drinks and smoothies are divine. Big, gooey homemade desserts make the list of good, fresh food. Since Menlo Java and Juice is open until 11 every night except Sunday, it's a great place to go after the movies for ice-cream-topped treats. Hours: 8 a.m.- 11 p.m. Monday-Saturday, 10 a.m.-10 p.m. Sunday (Reviewed March 3, 1995)

Mikado, 161 Main St., Los Altos, 917-8388

Mikado is a serene and comfortable Japanese restaurant with a row of roomy booths, two tatami rooms and stalks of bamboo climbing up walls painted a deep watermelon red. Some waitresses wear kimonos. In addition to a full sushi bar, the causually elegant Mikado also serves a tantalizing array of Japanese cusine, from the tried-and-true teriyaki dishes to some more exotic delights: ika natto (squid with fermented soybeans) ($6.30), shishamo (broiled Japanese lake smelt) ($3.80) and maguro mugitoro yamakake (tuna with grated mountain potato) ($6.50). Although there are plenty of items on the menu to sway your attention away from the large and very fresh sushi selection, sushi is the specialty here. Hours: Lunch 11:30 a.m.-2 p.m. Tuesday-Friday; Dinner 5-9:30 p.m. Tuesday-Sunday. Closed Monday. (Reviewed Jan. 26, 1996)

Mike's Cafe Etc., 2680 Middlefield, Palo Alto, 473-6453

Mike's Cafe Etc. is as comfy as an old-fashioned coffee shop, as trendy as any nuova trattoria. When Mike Wallau moved into the little cafe that was Country Fare, he may have fauxed the walls. But he kept the genuine neighborly feeling of the place. Mothers and toddlers stroll in for juice and scones on the weekends. Amateur authors dawdle over cappuccino while scribbling journal entries. Midtown's shirt-sleeved politicos huddle over late breakfasts. The restaurant turns out Italian classics like linguini with prawns ($11), veal scaloppini ($12), and lasagna smothered in rich bechamel sauce ($10), as well as American favorites like Cobb salad ($8) and shrimp Louie ($9). Service is fast and friendly. For breakfast, you can get omelets or scrambles ($6.25-$7), French toast and pancakes ($4.25-$6) or a bowl of granola ($2.75). Hours: 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Mon.-Fri.; 8 a.m.-9 p.m. Sat. and Sun. (Reviewed July 28, 1995)

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). 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)

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 and bottom-heavy with burrito joints. Here you find good, plain food, simply served. 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. They also have hamburgers, BLT's, sandwiches and fries. Hours: Mon.-Fri. 10 a.m.-9 p.m.; Fri. 10 a.m.-10 p.m.; Sat. 9 a.m.-10 p.m.; Sun. 9 a.m.-9 p.m. (Reviewed July 29, 1994)

Miyake, 140 University Ave., Palo Alto, 323-9449

Now located two blocks down the street from its tiny original location, the new Miyake is tony and huge. Brass light fixtures throw a soft light around the room, white walls add a touch of class. But leave it to Miyake to impart a carnival atmosphere anyway: rainbow-colored rotating lights, wavy glass with aqua lighting under the sushi bar, and the same yelling chefs, yelling waiters, blaring music, loud uniforms, circulating sushi boats and hoards of college students. Miyake has a dizzying array of options, including traditional cooked Japanese dishes. You'll probably never be able to try all the different rolls the restaurant makes. Ultra-fussy sushi buffs might sniff at certain aspects of Miyake. The chicken teriyaki and unagi can get cool after a few trips around the boats and purists will probably never accept imitation crab. Hours: 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily. (Reviewed March 29, 1996)

NM Cafe, 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 NM Cafe, formerly called "The Restaurant," 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. 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)

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 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. 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)

Nola, 535 Ramona St., Palo Alto, 328-2722

Nola is made up of a warren of little rooms full of pleasant visual surprises. The eye-popping mustard, purple and turquoise walls are decorated with masks and artifacts that just smack of Voodoo Country, including several terrific folk paintings that the owners snapped up on a shopping trek to New Orleans. The heart of the restaurant is the rustic, open-to-the-sky patio, which is framed by second-story balconies. To add to the entertaining din, live bands perform from one of the balconies on some nights. Nola (it stands for New Orleans, LA) dishes out an interesting mix of Cajun, Creole, Caribbean and Southwestern fare. Instead of presenting the spicy standards that are traditionally associated with New Orleans menus, such as etouffee, jambalaya and gumbo, Nola serves an eclectic and creative cross-section of dishes that certainly qualify as "fusion" cuisine. Hours: Lunch Monday-Friday 11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m.; Dinner Monday-Thursday 5:30-10 p.m., Friday-Saturday 5:30-11 p.m. and Sunday 5:30-9 p.m. (Reviewed Aug. 30, 1996)

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 still casual, with live jazz music on some nights. 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. There are also a number of fine pasta dishes, as well as pizza. Family-style Basque dinners ($15.50) on Wednesday and Thursday evenings. Hours: Tues.-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. 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)

Ocean Garden Dim Sum & Seafood Restaurant, 701 El Camino Real, Redwood City, 368-8288

If you've never eaten dim sum, Ocean Garden is an excellent place to start your adventure. Come on a weekday, when fewer tables order dim sum and servers bring trays straight from the kitchen to your table. Servers are eager to show what's hidden under the lids of their miniature steamer baskets and metal containers. While novices will enjoy the patient attention they get from servers on weekdays, dim sum veterans will want to wait for weekends. Ocean Garden's total repertoire includes 42 different treasures. You'll find a wider variety and more culinary flair on weekends. Hours: Dim sum 11:30 a.m.-3 p.m. Monday-Friday, 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, dinner all week 3-9:30 p.m. (Reviewed Feb. 17, 1995)

Ocean Seafood, 3295 El Camino Real, Palo Alto, 493-8233

Frozen fish is banned from the kitchen at this nautically-themed restaurant with formal napery and mismatched furnishings. Yet owner Sam Tachavirat (who also own's Siam Garden in Menlo Park) knows that freshness is not all, especially when your restaurant is within casting distance of Palo Alto's ever-thriving Fish Market. What sets Ocean Seafood apart is a reliance on classical techniques and its vaguely upscale ambience. The misspelled menu needs some revision, and the kitchen's attempts at multicultural "fusion" cuisine should be labeled as such. Only the most stubborn carnivores will be sidetracked by the limited selection of steaks, chicken and lunchtime burgers. Hours: Lunch Monday-Friday 11 a.m.-2:30 p.m.; dinner Monday-Saturday 5-10 p.m., Sunday 5-9:30 p.m. (Reviewed Feb. 2, 1996)

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. 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, though. Every main course includes unlimited soup or salad, and 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)

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

You could go someplace fancier, or fussier, or more chichi, but most of the time you wouldn't want to. There is nothing trendy about Palermo: no pumpkin-ricotta cannoli, no linguini with Thai chicken, no morel-stuffed ravioli. One deep breath in says it all: garlic, basil, red wine, parmesan, yeast, tomatoes, olive oil. The tiny restaurant, with 24 tables set inches apart, has a casual, cluttered feeling. There are brightly-colored posters Italy on the walls and cheerful, hand-painted crockery overhead. At night, the wood-fire oven filled with roasting chickens blazes at the back of the restaurant, casting a warm glow over the room. There's a great all-you-can-eat lunch buffet for $8.95. Hours: Lunch: 11:30 a.m.-2 p.m.; dinner 5-10 p.m. (Reviewed Feb. 23, 1996)

Palo Alto Joe's, 3750 Fabian Way, Palo Alto, 493-3101

The name conjures up images of big bowls of minestrone and piles of spaghetti crowned with meatballs. While such favorites still have a place on this restaurant's menu, chef Rick Vargas is striving to grow beyond the other "basic North Beach Italian" dishes that have been the tradition at Joe's: oven-roasted king salmon with sun-dried tomato pesto, Sicilian olives and basil ($13.95), baked polenta lasagne ($4.95) and more. The restaurant even has its own garden behind the restaurant, producing everything from tomatoes to haricots verts. Hours: Mon. 11:30 a.m.-2 p.m.; Tues-Thurs. 11:30 a.m.-9 p.m.; Fri. 11:30 a.m.-10 p.m.; Sat. 5-10 p.m.; Sun. 5-9 p.m. (Sept. 2, 1994)

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)

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). 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)

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

This intimate, 16-table restaurant emphasizes impeccably prepared food rather than fantasy decor or froufrou flavors. There are fresh flowers on tables covered by peach cloths. Staff members take care of every need without presuming to introduce themselves, much less interrupt conversation. Chef Jean Michel's specialty is light but classic French cuisine. After all the rowdy experimentation done in the name of California cuisine, his quiet marvels are a palate-soothing revelation. The menu is small but carefully chosen. For starters there are salads ($3.50-$5), Prince Edward Island mussels steamed with garlic ($7), and duck mousse with crunchy crudites ($5). You may find a special such as escargot ($7). And there is always a soup du jour. Entrees range in price from $11 for pasta to $19 for medallions of beef with peppercorn sauce. Tues.-Fri. 11:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m.; Tues.-Sat. 5:30-10 p.m.; closed Sunday and Monday. (Reviewed Oct. 6, 1995)

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 Rotisserie, No. 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. Pho To Chau means Vietnamese beef noodle soup, which is a bit like calling a hamburger joint Beef Patty With Bun. 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). Hours: 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily. (Reviewed Jan. 14, 1994)

Piccolo Mondo, 4926 El Camino Real, Los Altos, 968-5450

What appeals about this restaurant is not just the food, which authentically reproduces the flavors of (mainly Northern) Italian regional cooking, but the unerringly gracious service. The waiters are courteous, practical and unobtrusive in an intimate, old-style setting. The food is traditional Italian, no trendy stuff, and the pastas are delicious. Most of the entrees hover in the $8 to $15 range and appetizers and salads from $4 to $7. The most expensive entree on the dinner menu is the excellent roasted rack of lamb ($21). The wine selection is extensive and the desserts are excellent. Hours: 11:30 a.m.-2 p.m. Mon.-Fri.; 5:30 p.m.-10 p.m. Mon.-Sat. (Reviewed Nov. 8, 1996)

Pizz'a Chicago, 4115 El Camino Real, Palo Alto, 424-9400

Stepping into this pizzeria is like entering a wacky fantasy of Chicago. There are street signs from famous corners of the city, a mural of the "El," and a rooftop perch complete with a line of laundry that features Chicago Bulls T-shirts. Red-and-white checked vinyl tablecloths and paper napkins make this a kid-friendly restaurant. Part of the fun here is reading the menu. Sassy jibes at Chicago's rich and famous are just as jazzy as the pizzas they describe. The Jane Byrne, for instance, is a tart and tangy combination of spicy tomato sauce topped with bits of dried apricot, bacon, and sauteed red onion rings. Why name this daring combination for the first female mayor of the city? "She was very much into pork-barrel politics," according to the menu. Great salads and friendly service. Hours: Sun.-Thur. 11 a.m.-10 p.m.; Fri and Sat. 11 a.m.-11 p.m. (Reviewed July 14., 1995)

PolanDeli, 2399 Broadway, Redwood City, 568-1809

This is a small, family-owned and operated place with a counter and a few tables. PolanDeli could easily be mistaken for a sandwich shop (there is a listing of terrific sandwiches), if it were not for the heavenly smells that identify serious cooking. Owners Richard and Margaret Marona have a masterful touch with the goulash ($4.50), the dish largely responsible for the wonderful aroma that fills the place. Look for smoked salmon sandwiches, stuffed cabbage, tripe soup and blood sausage, among more accessible Eastern European fare. Hours: 8 a.m.-6 p.m. Mon.-Fri.; 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Sat. (Reviewed April 21, 1995)

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. 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)

Pommard Deli and Cafe, 3163 Middlefield Road, Palo Alto, 857-9339

With its rustic exterior, sunken tree-shaded patio, large windows and blue trim, Pommard captures a certain "country French" charm. The deli's chef, whose roots are Italian, is encouraged to experiment with regional interpretations of foods, including Mexican, Asian and even Persian touches in traditional deli dishes. Examples of this include a Mexican cheddar meatloaf offered with a green salad for $5.25 and the Hunan chicken pasta salad at $2.50 per half-pint. Pommard's oversized display case showcases large platters and bowls of the numerous interesting dishes the deli produces fresh daily. Extensive catering services. Hours: Mon.-Fri. 7 a.m.-6 p.m.; Sat. and Sun. 9 a.m.-4 p.m. (Reviewed Oct. 14, 1994)

Portola Park Restaurant, 884 Portola Road, Portola Valley, 529-9007

You can ask for an outdoor table at Portola Park Restaurant and contemplate one of nature's giant wonders while sipping a fine wine, and waiting for your crab quesadilla to arrive. This cafe in the redwoods is a great place to go when you're in the mood for something simple, elegant and without the fuss. The clean lines of a stainless steel kitchen rise toward the open beam ceilings and contrast with the warm woody feel of the place. Dress is casual. The menu defies easy classification. With items like pizza Margheritta, penne rigate, angel hair pasta with wild mushrooms, fresh tomato, and pine nuts, Italian would seem to be the right label. Dishes like crab and shrimp Louise and grilled lemon rosemary salmon darns say California cuisine. But then there are items like Japanese soba noodles with rock shrimp and Dungeness crab quesadillas with salsa. Chef Brad Kellering, who was trained in classical French cooking but emphasizes the international, calls it New American Cuisine. Hours: Lunch 11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m. Tue.-Fri.; brunch 10:30-2:30 Sun.; dinner 5-9 p.m. Tues.-Thurs. and Sun., 5-10 p.m. Fri. and Sat. (Reviewed Aug. 2, 1996)

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

Pot au Feu is an exceptionally cozy and quiet French restaurant, 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 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. 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)

Q Cafe Billiards, 529 Alma St., Palo Alto, 322-3311

One might think of a "pool hall" as a place with cigarette smoke, televised sports, dirty mirrors and mediocre beer. It is doubtful, however, that such a venue would wash in Palo Alto. Enter Q Cafe Billiards. The 6,000-square-foot restaurant is a serious contributor to Palo Alto's nightlife. The TV is tuned to sports, but don't expect smoke, the smell of stale beer, dirty mirrors or scruffy-looking men at Q Cafe. Most of the men (and women) are clean cut collegiate types. The mirrors are spotless, the beer is upscale and smoking is out. The huge room is equipped with 12 tournament-sized, Olhausen tables. The food is good enough for what it is--fuel for pool: fried calamari with spicy tomato and garlic-lime dip, burgers, french fries, salads, sandwiches, firecracker shrimp, gourmet pizzas. Hours: 11:30 a.m.-2 a.m. daily. (Reviewed June 30, 1995)

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

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. 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. 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 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. 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 Red Pepper, 4125 El Camino Way, Palo Alto, 493-7093

Not many Palo Alto restaurants can boast of serving customers for 30 years, but The Red Pepper has been dishing up traditional enchiladas and refried beans since 1965. The stresses of the work week lose their urgency amidst the aroma of corn tortillas and the pools of dim light. he loud kitchen, complete with clanging dishes and roaring blenders, can either annoy or add to the sense of being guests in a Mexican home. Despite the name of the restaurant, The Red Pepper's offerings, especially the guacamole and salsa, will seem mild for those who crave tongue-searing tastes. As for vegetarians, cheese enchiladas and bean burritos are pretty much the only options. The portions are large enough to provide leftovers for the next day, and the cheese, beans, meat and guacamole served with each meal will leave you feeling more than full. Hours: 11:30 a.m.-2 p.m. Monday-Friday; 5-9:30 daily (Reviewed Dec. 15, 1995)

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). 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)

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. 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)

Senor Taco Taqueria, 3636 El Camino Real, Palo Alto, 493-8757

The old Senor Taco stand in Barron Park had all the ambiance of dining on the freeway. Outdoor tables were so close to El Camino you could feel the suction from cars whizzing by. Now, Senor Taco is downright spiffy. The clean, well-lighted place for tacos has plants, an attractive tile counter and murals. But it still has the same wonderful menu of burritos, tacos, snacks (nachos and taquitos) and platters (enchiladas, chile rellenos, tamales and grilled meats). If you never stray from the rice-and-bean, carne asada or chicken burrito format, you'll never understand why the place has such a following. A rice-and-bean burrito for $3.25 from Senor Taco doesn't taste all that different from a rice-and-bean burrito from a lesser restaurant for $1.89. To understand the Senor Taco fixation, you need to order the more unusual dishes: the Oaxacan chicken burrito, the Chiapas-style tamal, the calabaza burrito, the grilled meat platter. Hours: 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily. (Reviewed Oct. 13, 1995)

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)

Smart Alex, 4546 El Camino Real, Village Court, Inner Circle, Los Altos 949-4737

Smart Alex's kitchen spurns chemical additives and high-cholesterol items, but even die-hard meat-and-potatoes fans will find its poultry- and vegetable-based fare highly satisfying. This is a casual place, yet sparkling clean and notable for fast, efficient service. You make your food selections from the board-menu, then pay in advance at the cash register. Of the two-dozen entree choices, nine feature free-range poultry and the rest are vegetarian. The friendly, unfussy way in which the staff cater to individual needs--from bagging leftovers to substituting ingredients on request--must account in part for the loyalty of their customers, with many of whom they're on first-name terms. Hours: Mon.-Fri. 11 a.m.-8 p.m., Sat. 11 a.m.-4 p.m. (Reviewed July 19, 1996)

Some Kind of Place, 85 Town & Country Village, Palo Alto, 321-4730

Many will remember this family-owned restaurant from its original location inside Liddicoat's on University Avenue. The new location at Town & Country Village is small, but the menu spans the globe. Three items will only cost you $4.60. Try the Korean barbecue, enjoy a cheeseburger or have a cheese-topped baked potato. Owners Elizabeth and Edward Cho have given hungry lunch-goers a great way to eat in a hurry. Far from gourmet, but cheap. Hours: 10:30 a.m.-7:30 p.m. every day except Sunday, when the restaurant is closed. (Reviewed Aug. 4, 1995)

St. Michael's Alley, 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 is hard. The cozy cafe also serves omelets, pancakes and veggie potatoes at breakfast and sandwiches and mini-pizzas at lunch. There's always live music, poetry readings and improvisational theater in the evenings. 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 Ice Cream and Deli, 641 Santa Cruz Ave., Menlo Park, 326-8187

This deli and ice cream parlor serves more than 75 flavors of homemade ice cream and frozen yogurt. But sweets aren't the only treats dished up here. There are old-fashioned sandwiches, rich cream soups and salads that taste even better than homemade. Salads come as traditional as potato with egg and onion (small 95 cents, large $1.90). Or they may be as nouveau as thick pasta tubes dressed with a tart, tangy blend of rich gorgonzola and dried tomatoes (small $1.25, large $2.50). Soups here is as rich as you'd expect at a creamery. Sandwiches here range from simple peanut butter & jelly ($2) to smoked turkey and French dips ($4.35). Hours: 11 a.m.-11 p.m. daily. (Reviewed Dec. 30, 1994)

Staples, 820 Santa Cruz Ave., Menlo Park, 328-0930

Staples' Iranian owners offer a dinner menu of Persian delights in a pretty atmosphere of ocher walls, modern light fixtures and pretty murals. By day, Staples is still a no frills cafe. Early in the morning, the place is abuzz with breakfasters munching on home-made muffins and scones. You can get standard American breakfasts as well as imaginative combos such as biscotti, fruit salad and coffee ($4.20) or a pita stuffed with egg, tomato, cheese and avocado ($5.75). Lunch depends on Staples' staple: the sandwich. With almost two dozen different combinations on its list, Staples has made its reputation by being serious about sandwiches. There's run-of-the-mill turkey, salami, tuna and liverwurst ($3.50), plus deluxe versions that run from roast beef, cream cheese and cucumber ($4.75) to tarragon chicken salad ($5.25). The most imaginative is Staples' special: thinly sliced ham with spicy, mild salsa, sweet cranberry, and tart melted cheese ($5.75). Hours: 8 a.m.-10 p.m. daily. (Reviewed Dec. 22, 1995)

Stars Palo Alto, 265 Lytton Avenue, Palo Alto, 321-4466

Like the San Francisco original, Stars Palo Alto is not perfect. When it's good, it's very, very good. When it's less than stellar, you'll find yourself wondering why you paid $18-$24 for dinner entrees and $6-8 for desserts. You do know that you're in the restaurant of a celebrity chef-perfectionist. There's no salt or pepper on the table. The flatware is hallmarked. The champagne flutes are slender jewels. The menu reflects understated class, too. Choices change every two weeks or so, but always reflect a blend of classic French technique with the freshest California ingredients. The trademark open kitchen helped set the standard for the current overload of ultra-noisy, "happening" restaurants in our area. Hours: Lunch Monday-Saturday 11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m.; dinner daily 5:30-10 p.m. (bar open until midnight); Sunday brunch 10:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m. (Reviewed July 21, 1995)

Stickney's, 1 Town & Country Village, Palo Alto, 324-0317

With its low-key attitude and whopping servings, Stickney's has been pleasing local restaurant-goers for more than 40 years. Stickney's may never make it onto the cover of Bon Appetit, but their pies will make it onto the love handles of many Peninsula residents. During the fall, Stickney's makes for a pleasant pre-game meal before a walk across the street to Stanford Stadium. You can sit at the small counter, in a bar complete with a television, in one of two dining rooms or a special sports themed room. The meals are your average Americana selections, and have been served at dinners like Stickney's across the country for years. Hours: Sunday-Thursday 6:30 a.m.-11 p.m., Friday and Saturday 6:30 a.m.-midnight (Reviewed Nov. 4, 1994)

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

Generous with portions, Sue's serves southern Indian cuisine that's rich and spicy in a casual atmosphere. Diners are surrounded by paintings by the restaurant's owner. Authentic Indian dishes include shrimp biriani ($8.95), made with cashews, almonds and raisins, which give the dish a pleasing flavor and texture, and a vindaloo that's sure to please those who like to sear their tastebuds. Vegetarians can choose from eight dishes in the vegetarian section of the menu, as well as a handful of dishes from other sections. 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. Cold beer is a great accompaniment. Hours: 11 a.m.-2:30 p.m. Monday to Friday, 5-9:30 p.m. Sunday to Thursday, 5-10 p.m. Friday and Saturday. (Reviewed Dec. 29, 1995)

Su Hong Restaurant, 1039 El Camino Real, Menlo Park, 322-4631, and 4101 El Camino Way, Palo Alto, 493-3836

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. Call for hours. (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. 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)

Swagat Indian Cuisine, 2700 W. El Camino Real, Mountain View, 948-7727

Swagat not only dares to be different by offering southern Indian specialties like lentil crepes and sambar soup. This restaurant also distinguishes itself by a serious commitment to quality. It's worth a trip to the border of Palo Alto and Mountain View to find Swagat between a motel and a carwash on El Camino. Dining chairs with white brocade seats are cautiously covered in plastic. And white table cloths come with a paper mat at each place, makeing the place both kid-friendly and "dress-up" special. Take anything on the menu that's offered with sambar, southern India's rice-lentil soup. Hours: Daily 11 a.m.-10 p.m., buffet lunch 11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m.; happy hour 4-6 p.m. (Reviewed Aug. 19, 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. 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. 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)

Taxi's, 403 University Ave., Palo Alto, 328-3299

This clean, well-lighted place for burgers and fries attracts a steady stream of teen-agers, families and nostalgia buffs who line up to the door to put away baskets of onion rings, chili dogs, tuna melts and other foods of times gone by. What to call it? Diner Moderne? Nouveau diner? Either way, Taxi's has thrown together all the classic kitschy elements of a diner: a counter with stools that go around in a circle, gleaming black and white tile, fluorescent lights, a jukebox. It's an especially good place for kids, who will find buckets of crayons and a menu sized just for them. The menu is basic Americana with a twist. Besides the hallowed trio of burgers-shakes-and-fries, Taxi's offers several lowfat, low-cholesterol alternatives: the garden burger, the grilled fish sandwich, chicken breasts and baked potatoes. The menu boasts that Taxi's fries all its food in canola oil. Hours: Sun.-Thurs. 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.; Fri. and Sat. until midnight. (Reviewed Jan. 5, 1996)

Tea Time, The Tea Lovers' Shop, 542 Ramona St., Palo Alto, 32T-CUPS

The menu of more than 60 tea flavors is more daunting than the choices at Baskin-Robbins. The owners encourage customers to sniff before ordering. They patiently open one tin after another, dip in ceramic cups, and hold the leafy contents up to your nose for savoring. Each pot is brewed to order according to precise specifications that bring out the best of each variety. Edibles here are plopped down on Styrofoam plates, with white paper packets of sugar and throwaway wooden stirrers. Even the tea comes in plastic-handled glass cups. But just because treats aren't served with flair doesn't mean they aren't selected with care. The cream scones are delectable. There are elaborate continental pastries such as chocolate mousse nougat cakelets ($4.25) and sticky American sweets. Hours: Mon.-Thurs. 10:30 a.m.-6 p.m.; Fri. 10:30 a.m.-10 p.m.; Sat. 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Closed Sun. (Reviewed Sept. 29, 1995)

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. 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. 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)

Tied House Cafe and Brewery, 954 Villa St., Mountain View, 965-2739

The generous selection of award-winning beers is reason enough to pay this bustling "beer hall" a visit. Diners should draw their own conclusions about which beers best suit particular dishes, since the menu and servers provide few guidelines. A combination appetizer platter ($9.95) offers portions of blackened catfish strips, buffalo tenderloins (chicken breast strips a la buffalo wings), and two pieces of grilled sausage, including good bratwurst and spicy andouille. The Tied House's open kitchen prepares good hamburgers ($5.75) and commendable baby back ribs ($9.95 a half-slab). Hours: Lunch daily from 1:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m.; dinner Sunday-Wednesday 4:30-9:30 p.m, Thursday-Saturday 4:30-10:30 p.m. (Reviewed Jan. 27, 1995)

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. 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)

Toshi's Sushiya Restaurant, 211 El Camino Real, Menlo Park, 326-8862

At Toshi's, where food presentation is a fine art, the soft shell crab roll and giant futomaki are the most unusual offerings on its sushi menu. Heartier udon noodle soups ($5.90-$6.85) come in three versions. The most expensive dunks two long fried shrimp in the broth like swizzle sticks. Toshi's decor is spare and bare with boxy hanging lights made of miniature shoji screens. For kitsch, there's a clock on the wall with 12 varieties of plastic sushi replacing the numerals. Service is prompt and conscientious. Hours: Lunch Tuesday-Friday 11:30 a.m.-2 p.m., dinner Tuesday-Sunday 5:30-9:45 p.m. Closed Monday. (Reviewed Jan. 13, 1995)

Trattoria Buon Gusto, 651-H Oak Grove Avenue, Menlo Park, 328-2778

This small Menlo Park restaurant stars two generations of Sicilian-Americans. Palma Costa, her daughter, and son-in-law have created an old-fashioned trattoria that blends cozy friendliness with first-class service and delicious Sicilian dishes. Try the caponata Siciliana appetizer ($6). This melange of vegetables in mildly spicy tomato sauce features giant capers, soft eggplant, black olives, onions and celery. You could make an entire meal of this spread and the homemade bread that arrives at your table. The lunch menu has some of the best sandwich deals in town. For $4.25, you get a vegetarian version on homemade foccacia that's two inches tall. The restaurant's address is Oak Grove Avenue, but it's actually hidden around the corner from the Menlo Park post office in the strip of shops on Maloney Lane. Hours: Lunch 11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m. Tues.-Thurs. and Fri.-Sat., dinner 5 p.m.-9 p.m. Tues.-Thurs and 5-10 p.m. Fri. and Sat., dinner 5-9 p.m. Sun. Closed Mon. (Reviewed Oct 20, 1995)

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)

University Coffee Cafe, 271 University Ave., Palo Alto, 322-5301

Cozy is not a word that comes to mind in describing this java, juice and sandwich spot. It's streamlined. Polished. Cavernous. Behind shiny espresso makers, high-tech juicers and sparkling glass display cases, earnest and helpful young counter servers dish up the likes of black bean chicken chili, line-caught ahi tuna or grilled free-range chicken sandwiches, smoothies, fresh-squeezed fruit and vegetable juices, hummus with baked garlic pita chips and, of course, all the requisite Italian coffees. Breakfast is served until 11 a.m. Hours: 7:30 a.m.-11 p.m. weekdays, 7:30 a.m.-midnight Fri. and Sat., 7:30 a.m.-10 p.m. Sun. (Reviewed Jan. 20, 1995)

The Valley Inn, 888 Portola Road, Portola Valley, 851-0242 This long-established restaurant combines a friendly neighborhood tavern atmosphere with large portions. The appetizers are main meals, the pastas are mountains, and the sandwiches can almost be intimidatingly large. The restaurant offers plenty of tasty alternatives on both its lunch and dinner menus. For noontime appetites, there are burgers of various varieties, meatball and sausage sandwiches, french dip and steak sandwiches. Prices range from $5.25 for a grilled cheese to $9.25 for the swordfish or salmon burger. On the dinner menu, main dishes range from spaghetti with marinara sauce for $8.25 to "Half a Benji" (two porterhouse steaks, salads, potatoes, vegetables, dessert and bottle of red wine) for $50. Most of the meals fall in the $10-$14 range. The Valley Inn has a full bar. Hours: 11:30 a.m.-9 p.m. Sun.-Thurs.; 11:30 a.m.-10 p.m. Fri. and Sat. (Sundays open at 10 a.m. for NFL games.) Bar hours 11:30 a.m. until "late," seven days a week. (Reviewed Sept. 27, 1996)

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. Hours: 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. Call for hours. (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. 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)

Whole Foods Deli, 774 Emerson St., Palo Alto, 326-8676

When you lunch at the Whole Foods deli counter, there is one thing you must do first thing when you walk in: take a number. Don't let yourself be distracted by the tempting trays of food in the deli case--you'll have plenty of time to browse while you wait for your number to be called, especially if it's the busy lunch hour. Feast your eyes on the salads, the vegan things with strange names and the hot food ensconced in steam trays. For those on a budget, Whole Foods' soups are the best deal going. Hours: 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily (bakery and coffee open at 8 a.m.) (Reviewed Dec. 9, 1994)

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. 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)

World Wrapps, 201 University Ave., Palo Alto, phone 327-9777, fax 327-8679 (fax in your order)

If there exists in Mexico the equivalent of the Jewish grandmother (the kind who had serious palpitations when younger Jewish cooks began adding lemon grass and red hot chili peppers to chicken soup), she is sure to be shaking her head over what World Wrapps puts inside a tortilla. Tofu. Teriyaki tofu. Peking duck. Thai chicken. Curried vegetables. (Oh, and by the way, make that a spinach, roma tomato, whole wheat or lowfat tortilla). The loud and lively World Wrapps serves only two things: smoothies and wrapps. Wrapps come in four categories: gourmet, vegetarian, 99 percent fat-free and traditional Mexican. Smoothies come in two types: gourmet and "health boost." Although hardly a diet joint, World Wrapps emphasizes fresh, healthy ingredients. Hours: 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. daily; no wrapps before 10:30 a.m. (Reviewed April 12, 1996) 

Back up to the Table of Contents Page