Restaurant Reviews

Hey!

Here are some restaurant reviews that I put together. My rating scale is based on food quality (how tasty it is), service (is it quick + friendly), and restaurant ambiance. In my opinion, these are the three most important factors that determine whether a restaurant is good or not.

I try to review restaurants that are accessible for Palo Altans.

I hope that you find them useful!

Keep eating new food:)

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Bare Bowls

While walking down the street of downtown Palo Alto, you may run into a place with the name of  BARE. At first, you will likely mistake it for some fitness place, but once you open the door, you will find something quite different. Greeted by air conditioning and the smell of bananas, you will figure out that it’s not a fitness place, but a food place.

The origins of this restaurant come from the growing popularity in a certain type of berry; the Acai Berry. Full of tastiness and health benefits, you just couldn’t not make a restaurant to spread Acai love.

All of my friends and fellow Palo Altans have been raging about how good Bare is, and so I decided to go and see for myself(and also take those artsy photos that people have been posting all the time). So my first question was, what are Acai Bowls? Well the answer is: they are bowls with a smoothie-like-base covered with yummy toppings such as fruit and granola. Sounds tasty right?

When I walked into Bare, I immediately noticed the uniquely decorated walls of the restaurant. One wall had bowls glued onto it, and another had words that read “live generously” on it. I really liked these fun decorations, and the clean-modern ambiance.

The menu has many different options, some of which include their Cardinal Bowl(most popular bowl), their refreshing Rincon bowl, their protein packed Trailblazer bowl, and their energizing Power bowl. The bowls are said to have very good health benefits including high fiber, antioxidants, and healthy fats. The great news is, is that they’re tasty too! I ordered the Rincon bowl my first time at Bare, and if I had to use one word to describe it, I would say: refreshing. Whether you’re hungry after a workout, or you just need a snack on a hot afternoon, Bare bowls are the perfect snack to satisfy your food craving.

The smoothie-like Acai base topped with the fresh fruit provides the perfect texture and variety of fruity flavors. The actual Acai berry flavor is not very distinguishable though. If someone were to tell me that it was made with blueberries(when it was actually made with Acai berries), I probably wouldn’t notice. Even so, the combination of the Acai base and the fresh fruit makes a delicious spoonful.

Along with its refreshingness, I really appreciated the quality of the fruit and the granola. The fruit tasted like it came right out of the garden, and the granola tasted like real homemade granola; not like cereal from a box.

I think that the thing that really brings people back to Bare, other than it’s refreshingly good bowls, is how they look. The bowls themselves are an artwork. In some of their bowls, the fruit is arranged in a way where all of the different fruits encircle each other, and in the center is a tower of sweet granola topped with berries and honey. In other bowls, a trail of bananas line the outside of the bowl, and  granola and hemp seeds lay in the center. Also, the bold-vibrant color of the Acai base peeks through the blanket of toppings, which keeps you staring at the beautiful creation for forever. It would be impossible not to take a photo of your Bare Bowl.

The only two things that I would change about Bare were its service and its prices. Sadly in my experience, service was not as fast as it should’ve been. I waited for about fifteen minutes, and I think that making a Bare Bowl should take around five minutes. Also, the prices of the bowls seemed very pricey, especially considering it’s simplicity(regular bowl costs $12 and small costs $8). Having made an Acai bowl before, I know that they’re super super easy to make, and made with simple ingredients. Even so, I find that the experience of going to Bare is very good one.

Bare’s fun-earthy atmosphere, and it’s tasty-beautiful bowls attract people from all over the Bay Area for a healthy snack. I would strongly recommend trying these unique bowls while you’re walking down University Avenue.

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Check out their website for more photos: BARE


My favorite Ahhh-Sighhh-EEEE Recipe

Ingredients for the base:

  • frozen fruit(strawberries, banana)
  • 1 Frozen Acai pack(I recommend Samazon AÇAÍ Packs)
  • 1/4 cup Almond milk

Directions

1. Combine in blender and blend.

2. Top with granola(I like to use Nature Valley), banana, strawberries, shredded coconut, sliced almonds, and agave.

 

Nekter

After going to Bare Bowls, I was introduced to the world of Acai. After that, I wondered if there was anything else like Bare. Then I heard about a place called Nekter, that also sells Acai Bowls. Knowing that both of these restaurants run down the same alley, I thought that it would be a good idea to compare the two.

Nekter is located in Mountain view at the relatively new shopping center(San Antonio Center). It’s easy to identify where Nekter is because the name is boldly shown as you drive down El Camino.

Right outside of the restaurant, is a nice shaded patio that you can enjoy your meal at(there are also tables inside). The actual Nektar restaurant is a small, fruity smelling, air-conditioned little place. I felt like I could stay in there forever, and relax in its cool environment. The vibrant colors of the fruits immediately jump to the eye. It’s refreshing to see the actual fruits that are used to make the food because it makes the place seem more natural.

Looking at the menu, I noticed that it was much more crowded than Bare’s. Not only were there a selection of Acai Bowls, but there were also Juices and Smoothies available as well. I also saw something called the Nekter cleanse. I asked one of the servers exactly what this was, and she described it to me as, “Basically each day [for five days] you get six juices, and each juice is different, so you start off with greens and then you end up with vanilla cashew milk, which is kind of like a dessert once you finish… you would drink one every two to three hours. It’s supposed to clear out all of the toxins from your body.” Unfortunately, these healthy sounding cleanses cannot be delivered to you, so you would have to pick them up at the restaurant. I found it cool to see how many different available options there were at Nekter.

Now the real test was to see if the quality of the food was just as good as the variety. I ordered the Acai Banana Berry Bowl and the Acai Tropical Bowl(which costed $7.95 each).

At Bare, the general wait time is usually around ten to fifteen minutes, but I was pleasantly surprised to hear my name being called to pick up my bowls only five minutes after I ordered.

I was excited to get my order so quickly, but when I took a first glance at the bowls, they visually disappointed me. They looked like plain bowls of cereal with fruit and coconut on top. If the fruit were laid out in more of a design rather than just plopping them on top, that would make them much more photo-worthy. Also, I find that seeing the vibrant popping color of the purplish-blue Acai base is what makes the bowls look really attractive, and covering the top with granola kind of takes away from its potential. Visually, Bare’s bowls look much more artsy than Nekter’s, so if you’re just going for the photo, I would recommend Bare.

I also noticed that the size of the bowls at Nekter were actually much bigger than Bare’s(and for a lower price too.

The Acai Banana Berry Bowl was just as refreshing as I hoped for it to be. The cool Acai base makes you want to sit and savor it forever. I was happy to taste the fresh fruit on top that screamed spring flavors. I noticed that the base was not actually all that flavorful though. I was expecting to taste more berry, but it tasted more like a smoothie that lacked a real punch to it. The granola on top of the bowl added a lot of sweetness, even a little too much for my liking. Comparing it to Bare’s granola, there is undoubtedly a quality difference. Bare’s tasted like real homemade granola whereas Nekter’s tasted more like cereal.

The Acai Tropical Bowl was similar to the Acai Berry Bowl, but the tropical bowl had a much sweeter and tangier taste to it, and there were coconut chips on top too. I personally enjoyed the Acai Berry Bowl more just because it tasted more refreshing overall.

From my experience, I concluded that Nekter is a good place to go for Acai Bowls if you are looking for a cheaper, more quickly made Acai Bowl. On the other hand, Bare is the place to go if you wanted more of a quality Acai bowl. Both restaurants make you feel ten times more refreshed than when you came in, and the environments are very vibrant and fun.

 

 

Interview: The New Tava

 

My Exclusive Interview with the VP of Operations

I was very fortunate to be able to talk to Tava’s VP of Operations, as he was there when I was there. He kindly allowed me to ask him a few questions about the new menu, and its dishes. Here’s my short interview with Jim Smith:

ME: So first of all, why did you guys change your menu?

JIM: So what we like about Indian food is it’s got great flavors, but our old menu was kind of limited on how far we could take it. So what we decided to do is go more South Asian, and kind of cheat a little bit East and West from India to bring in some new flavors, and then kind of also bring in the local produce of California…so kind of that California infused flavor.

ME: Ahhh, okay. And how does it work, the new menu?

JIM: So the new menu, well, I think it’s pretty simple. It’s entrees and sides. So you’ll come in, you’ll choose to have your entree over a bed of brown rice, and then you pick a side, or two sides, or three sides depending on how hungry you are and just kind of build it as you would a normal kind of dinner. We also have wraps available if you want something more portable…it’s a great little portable device.

ME: So what are the most popular dishes that you sell?

JIM: I think people tend to go to what they recognize, so the Chicken Tikka has been the most popular because it’s kind of a common item. For the side dishes, Asian Mac & Cheese. And then for the cold sides, I think that the Crunchy Kale and Quinoa has been one of the most popular items followed closely by the Edamame and Noodle Slaw. The Noodle Slaw just looks so bright, people just really want to try it.

Me: Yeah, I agree. Thank you.

 

 

Mayfield Bakery and Cafe

If you’re looking for a high rated, upscale, and vibrant restaurant, this is the place for you. Mayfield Bakery is a beautiful restaurant that serves breakfast, brunch, lunch, and dinner. This restaurant includes a wide variety of dishes ranging from Rosemary Flatbread to  to Braised Short Ribs. It’s great for any special occasion, and it’s family friendly too.

Walking into Mayfield, the ambiance made me feel like it was a summer afternoon. It was very modern, delicate, and clean.

Thankfully, I was able to walk right in without making a reservation, although that’s not always the case (making a reservation may be a smart thing to do).

I was seated quickly, and the service was very friendly. I could tell that each server cared about my experience.

Looking at the menu, there were mostly Italian and American dishes including burgers, pastas, and salads. In my opinion, the prices on the menu did seem a little pricey (ranging from eight dollars to thirty-six).

The sides on the menu that immediately popped out to me were the Beer Battered Onion Rings and Aleppo French Fries. In my past experiences at Mayfield, the Onion Rings have been made to a crispy perfection, but in my recent experience, there was more onion skin than actual onion in my onion ring. That was very disappointing, especially considering how upscale the restaurant is.

The french fries were a top hit though. Sprinkled with red pepper, I thought that the fries would be super spicy, but to my surprise, there was actually a perfect balance of spice. It also came with a side sauce that added a cool bite.

For an entree, I ordered the Semolina Gnocchi with Brussels Sprouts, Candied Walnuts, and Gorgonzola. The actual Gnocchi was well done. Cooked just the right amount of time, it just melted in my mouth. The Gnocchi sat in a soup-like sauce that had just the right amount of creaminess and spice, enhancing flavor to the pasta. It was topped with arugula salad, Brussels sprouts, and walnuts to add some texture as well. My suggestion would be to put all of the components of the dish in one bite, as they build off of each other well. I did find the Gnocchi filling, so I would recommend the appetizer size, as it was more than enough for me.

Although I have not actually tried it, people rave about the Mayfield Burger and Mayfield’s Savory Roasted Chicken dish. One of the waitresses noted, “ The most popular dishes here are actually the burger, probably because it’s an American classic, and everyone loves a good burger. Also our Mary’s Roasted Chicken because of the brining process that we have and it’s oven roasted in our rotisserie behind us, served over a bed of greens…as well as on top of a bed of creamy polenta.” No wonder these are the most popular dishes at Mayfield!

High end desserts are also served, if you still have enough room in your stomach. Some of the dishes include Warm Chocolate Chip Cookies, Apple Spice Cake, Chocolate Bread Pudding, and Spice-Poached Farmer’s Market Strawberries.

The beautiful ambiance, the delicious food, and the friendly service are what brings people back to Mayfield. I would definitely recommend it to anyone who is looking for a high end restaurant for a nice meal out.

Cool Bonus: If you come for dinner and they have extra bread from the bakery, they’ll give you a free loaf!

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More info

Hours: Monday − Friday, 8:00am − 9:30pm
Saturday and Sunday, 9:00am − 9:30pm

Location: Town & Country Village
855 El Camino Real
Palo Alto, CA 94301

Cafe phone number: 650-853-9200

Website: http://www.mayfieldbakery.com/

Parking: Yes