Monday, May 28, 2007


We found out last week that the venerable Spago, Wolfgang Puck's restaurant in Mountain View, was going to be closing at the end of May. It was one of those places that we'd always meant to go, and so we snapped up a reservation for Saturday night the 26th.

We'd heard various things about Spago, but the consensus seemed to be that while the food was still good, the service had gone downhill and the décor was very passé. I don't know about any of that--we liked the décor and had excellent service all night. Maybe they're stepping it up now that it's closing, and maybe we're just passé too.

We started off with a scrumptious bread basket that included a walnut bread, an olive bread, and a crispy flatbread. All of them were very good--the only problem was that we didn't want to fill up on it.

For appetizers, we split the crab cake and the local spring greens salad. The salad had peas and asparagus, among other things, in a nice sharp balsamic dressing that worked very well with it. That was good, but the crab cake was superb. Soft, flavorful, with light breading and a light lemon aioli...mmmm.

We split the wild salmon with miso glaze, which was fabulous. The barbecue glaze didn't overwhelm the salmon flavor, and the accompanying veggies (something that was either lima beans or edamame, tender, but not mealy, more asparagus, and a mashed-potato-like base) were delicious with the light lemon creamy dressing. I used some of the bread to sop up the glaze, not wanting to leave any on the plate.

For dessert, we shared the ginger pound cake with vanilla ice cream, toffee syrup, and a Minneola tangelo garnish; and the creme brulee with fresh berries and shortbread. My only complaint about the ginger pound cake is that I wish they'd included a little more tangelo. It really went well with the ginger flavor and the toffee. That said, there wasn't much more to complain about with this dessert. It was wonderful, the outside a little sticky and hard as if honey-baked, the inside soft and cakey. The toffee syrup wasn't too overwhelming or sweet, but worked well with the ice cream and cake.

The crème brulée was good, but not outstanding, a little more like flan than custard. We prefer it a bit more custardy, generally. The berries were fresh and the shortbread quite good as well.

Lastly, we got a selection of the fresh-baked cookies to go, and have been nibbling on them ever since. They are quite good, but I think would have been better fresh.

On the way out, we talked to the hostess a bit. She was sad to see the place close, of course, but said they'd had a nice ten-year run. We're certainly going to check out some of Wolfgang Puck's other restaurants; there's a Spago remaining in Caesar's Las Vegas, as well as a Trattoria del Lupo in Mandalay Bay in Vegas and, well, see for yourself. Yes, it was pricey, but it was definitely worth it.

The Loft Bar and Bistro

We'd set out to lunch on Memorial Day and found our original destination closed, so we wandered around San Jose and happened upon The Loft, a very vertical restaurant with a small bar on the ground floor and a couple tables on the sidewalk, a larger loft space upstairs, and a rooftop patio. The loft space, where the seven of us ate, was beautiful, large and well lit, and that does a lot for a dining experience.

Mark and I shared the grilled chicken sandwich and the pear and blue cheese salad. Both were quite good, the grilled chicken thin and flavorful with onions and sun-dried tomatoes and a mayo that contributed a nice light flavor to the sandwich. The bread had a good consistency and the cheese even worked well, I think because the other flavors were so light, even the onion (many times I find cheese on a sandwich just adds fat while the flavor gets lost in a strongly-flavored sandwich). We had to try the fries, and here they were nice and thin, with good flavor, but not quite crisp enough for our tastes. The salad came with a little too much sherry vinaigrette, but the dressing's flavor was good, and the candied pecans and blue cheese went well with the crisp, sweet pear slices.

Service was good overall, the complimentary bread served with a balsamic dressing that we sopped up quickly and refreshed without our asking. Other dishes ordered were the French dip, the tri-tip steak, and the panko-crusted chicken, all of which were quite satisfactory.

We'd definitely come back. Though it was a little pricey, it wasn't any more so than Gordon Biersch, which is just down the street, and the ambience is definitely nicer even if the menu is a little more restricted.

Saturday, May 5, 2007

Passage To India buffet

We went to the buffet at Passage to India in Mountain View. Being fans of Indian buffet in general and Mountain View residents, it seemed a little silly that we hadn't tried it.

Overall, the food was very tasty. The chicken tikka masala, malai kofta, chicken roll, and rogan josh (lamb) were outstanding, as was the nan, kept piled on a warm grill. I love nan, and had to stop myself from going and getting more even when I was too full to move. Everything we had was pretty tasty and not too spicy (I stayed away from the chili chicken, which one of our friends said was "OMG hot"), though I had a little burn in my mouth at the end of the meal.

The gulab jamun was among the best I've had: soft, sweet, and warm dough ball in sugar water, which could've had a little more rose in it. They also had a small cake (rather, a large cake in small pieces), which was good, and mango frozen yogurt, which I didn't try.

Overall, you can tell that the buffet is only available Tuesday nights (vegetarian) and weekend nights (full). The access and variety aren't as good as Bombay Garden, though the steam trays are smaller and except for the chicken tikka masala, they did an excellent job of keeping the food fresh and warm. The slightly better quality is probably worth the extra dollar in price, and it is closer to where we live, but I can see us going back to Bombay Garden just for variety. Passage to India is a very good Indian buffet, but here in the Bay Area that just gets it into the rotation.