250 S California Ave
Palo Alto, CA 94306
Best Restaurant on the SF Peninsula!
Why did we dine here? – Protege Palo Alto is a New American restaurant from French Laundry Alum Chef Anthony Secviar and Alum Dennis Kelly, Wine Master. This anxiously awaited restaurant was sure to amp up the fairly mundane local dining scene on the Peninsula. They received one Michelin Star in 2019. Our last visit was in the summer of 2020 after they reopened the patio.
Before this the Palo Alto restaurant scene had Michelin starred Baume, which we find a place you go once and never return. Evvia, Tamarine, and The Sea by Alexander’s are the other high end places of note.
They have a more informal lounge area and a formal small 20 seat dining room. This arrangement is probably fitting for the Silicon Valley. We opted for the lounge so we could order a la carte. The dining room has a prix fixe menu that has steadily increased in price.
Insider Tip – The Lounge has a la carte flexibility
Cuisine – New American
Location – Downtown Palo Alto
Opened – 2018
Service – Service was very good with uniform clad professional server and helpers. They knew the menu and made great recommendations. No worries about refills and the like.
Verdict – Protege wow’d us with top notch food and service. This is easily the best restaurant on the SF Peninsula. The food is innovative and the cooking superb. No need to drive to the City for top notch meals. Now all our friends know about this spot! 5% Palo Alto Surcharge.
Is this restaurant worth a 5 minute drive? Yes. 30 minute? Yes. 1 Hour? Maybe.
Protege Signature Dishes – Fish n Chips, Caviar and Egg, Brick Chicken
Protege’s Menu is compact with just a couple options in each of the 3 sections. They can easily accomodate dietary restrictions
Website Protege Menu – The menu changes often. Some favorites we liked below were no longer available. Call ahead!
Protege Food Picks:
Mojito ($16) was not cheap, but it was strong and balanced.
Cool Cumba ($17) is a mojito like drink with cucumber.
California Cream ($8) is a great drink for the kids.
Shigoku Oyster ($4 each) – Lemon | Tarragon are foam filled shells that are not over sauced.
“Fish And Chips” ($11) – Hawaiian Kampachi | Fresno Chili | Yuzu comes on a crispy cracker with nice diced fresh fish. Yes, it does not look traditional.
Beef Tataki ($15) American Wagyu Rib Cap | Sesame Cracker | Hot Mustard was a superb snack in Summer 2019.
Brown Butter Parker House Rolls ($6) – Sea Salted Butter are a must get. Hot out of the oven with a fun ball of butter. We had to get another order to bring home. Eggless!
Rosemary Foccacia ($8) Fava Leaf Pesto, Whipped Goat Cheese was the bread in Summer 2019. Very good but, we still love those Parker House Rolls.
Baby Beets ($15) – Quince | Pistachio | Balsamic | Chèvre was a beautiful salad, too nice to eat. They must have tweezered the hell out of this plate!
Grilled Stone Fruit ($20) Burrata | Iberico Coppa | Caramelized Honey | Chili-Lime Gastrique was the Summer 2019, 2020 salad. Wow, very well done. The sweet savory – crispy, chewy action was superb.
Gazpacho ($18) was the summer soup.
Spanish Octopus ($19) – Artichoke | Panisse | Picholine Olive | Romesco had ample pieces of tender octopus. Really well done.
Brick Chicken ($34) – Cornish Game Hen | Saffron Rice | Piperade | Chorizo | Caper Jus. Yes we hesitate getting chicken when going out, but this is fantastic. Crisp skin with juicy meat underneath, bold long grain rice flavor. Deep flavor from hanging it to dry, similar to Chinese preserved meats. A must get. Signature dish
Black Angus Short Rib ($44) – Marble Potato Confit | Melted Cabbage | Crispy Shallot | Horseradish had nice tender cubes of sous vide short rib. It was ok, but frankly it tasted even better the next day as leftovers!
Striped Bass ($36) Cranberry Bean | Haricot Vert | Celtuce | Mussels | XO was a smaller dish but still cooked well.
Bone-in Berkshire Pork Chop ($36) Arrowhead Cabbage – Spaetzle – Whole Grain mustard – Tart Cherry was also cooked sous vide. Well done and huge, but still not eclipsing the Chicken! This has a pale look but is fully cooked.
Almond Crusted King Salmon ($37) Cauliflower – Sultana Raisin – Coconut – Swarnadwipa Curry was also sous vide with a nice crust. Not for everyone, this has very tender textures.
Cauliflower Amandine ($26) is the vegan or vegetarian dish. Nice presentation and curry flavor. Not amazing like the other dishes.
Rocky Road Ice Cream ($4) was house made and great. One large scoop of eggless, strong chocolate ice cream. Not present in Summer 2019 or 2020.
Cookies ($6) with brown butter were decadent.
Coconut Cream Pie ($8) with key lime and condensed milk is really heavy, but also done well.
Summer Fruit Sundae ($10) is recommended. 2 types of granita topping yogurt with some strawberry preserves. Meringue too!
OK: (Order if you like this dish)
Mission Fig Tart ($8) was ok, but not exciting. Crust was fair, flavors drab.
Pans: (We would not reorder these dishes)
Peach Gelato ($4) using buttermilk was okay.
Do you agree with our review? Have you found other similar restaurants that are better?