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San Francisco Peninsula

Peninsula

Dough Zone, San Mateo

The Pandemic has brought Soup Dumpling or Xiao Long Bao quality to new heights!

Dough Zone, San Mateo

Why did we dine here? – Dough Zone dumpling house is a regional small chain of restaurants that started in the Seattle area (2014) and has now expanded into Northern California, at Cupertino and San Mateo. They specialize in dumplings and have a menu that is very similar to that of popular Din Tai Fung.

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Hong Kong Flower Lounge, Millbrae Dim Sum Review

Hong Kong Flower Lounge – Mayflower Dim Sum Restaurant Review

Hong Kong Flower Lounge is synonymous with Chinese food on the SF Peninsula. They are part of the Mayflower restaurant group that has 2 Chinese Cantonese restaurants locations in the San Francisco Bay area; Millbrae  and Milpitas. Several others have closed. We have eaten at their location in Millbrae many times.

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Ettan, Palo Alto

Cutting Edge Cal-Indian in Palo Alto.

Ettan, Palo Alto

Why did we dine here? – Ettan, Palo Alto open one month before the Pandemic. Talk about bad timing. Open/close – Open close syndrome. Things were opening up again, so we decided to give them a try. This was one of our first high end sit down meals in quite a while. They are tucked away in a small alley in Downtown Palo Alto. Beautiful restaurant, inside and out.

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Godfather’s Burger Lounge Review, Belmont

Godfather’s Burger Lounge Review, Belmont

Godfather’s Burger Lounge opened in Belmont, December 2009 right on busy El Camino Real just south of the Ralston Ave. They focus on ½lb. fresh, all-natural “Certified Angus Beef” humanely raised burgers. No added hormones or antibiotics in their meat. Our last visit was in during the pandemic in July 2021, after indoor dining reopened. They still do take out and have some seats outside.

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Pho Hanoi, San Jose

Pho Hanoi, San Jose

Why did we dine here? – Pho Ha Noi is a Vietnamese restuarant located in an outdoor mall Vietnam Town Plaza in San Jose. The area is full of high quality Asian restaurants and shops. Their pho is some of the best in the SF Bay Area. This restaurant also has a location in Cupertino.

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Alexander’s Steakhouse, Cupertino

Alexander’s Steakhouse, Cupertino

Alexander’s Steakhouse is a high end steak restaurant located in an outdoor mall, situated in Cupertino, just off highway 280. They moved in 2016 to this new outdoor mall.  Parking is surprisingly difficult! It was recently featured on Check Please and feature 28-day aged prime steaks. They opened a San Francisco outpost in Bacar’s former digs, in mid September 2010. We hadn’t been there in many years, so it was time for a revisit.

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Asian Pearl Peninsula Restaurant, Millbrae – Dinner

Solid Chinese Food in Millbrae.

Asian Pearl Peninsula Restaurant, Millbrae – Dinner

Asian Pearl Peninsula in Millbrae was at one time, part of the same Culinary Wonderland group that owned the highly rated The Kitchen in Millbrae, hence the same menu. We’ve been to this location a couple times and have found it to offer very good Cantonese Chinese cuisine, in fact some of the better ones the San Francisco Bay Area.  In recent years, upstarts HL Peninsula, Grand Harbour, and Dragon Beaux have stole its thunder.

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Grand Harbor, Burlingame

Redefining top notch dim sum and Chinese food near San Francisco.

Grand Harbor, Burlingame

Why did we dine here? – Grand Harbor is a Chinese restaurant in Burlingame, California, located right by the San Francisco Bay. (Next door to Benihana) It has a grand view of the Bay and the San Francisco Airport to the north. Leisurely watch planes landing all meal long. Our Last visit was in the Summer of 2019.

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Izakaya Mai Restaurant Review, San Mateo

Izakaya Mai Restaurant Review, San Mateo

Izakaya Mai is a Japanese Izakaya or Japanese drinking establishment that also serves food. They are more small plate oriented restaurants. This restaurant has an extensive drink menu. They’ve been here for years. Several similar restaurants have opened over the years, but this still packs them in.. (Izakaya Ginji, Kokko)

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Protege, Palo Alto

Protege, Palo Alto

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.

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Rasa, Burlingame

Rasa Burlingame exterior png

Why did we dine here? – Rasa is a One Michelin Star Indian restaurant in Burlingame, California, just south of the San Francisco airport. We have dined here many years ago, so it was time to try it again.
The owner also runs Saffron Indian Bistro in San Carlos, serving traditional North Indian food.

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Santa Ramen Review, San Mateo

Santa Ramen has a new owner in 2020.

Santa Ramen Review, San Mateo

Santa Ramen is a very popular Japanese noodle Ramen restaurant in San Mateo. Mr. Kazunori Kobayashi sold this location in 2020 but continues to be the proprietor of nearby Ramen Dojo and Parlor. Located in a small shopping mall with a Diddams Ninja Japanese supermarket, Party Supply and JoAnn’s Fabric, the restaurant has achieved a legendary cult following and has long lines at both dinner and lunch times. We have eaten here many times with our last visit in 2020.

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Koi Palace Dim Sum Daly City Review

Koi Palace Daly City interior decor

Koi Palace has been the #1 Chinese Dim Sum restaurant in the San Francisco Bay Area. The Peninsula is ground zero for some of the best Chinese food in the San Francisco Bay Area.  Around 2018, new upcomers with opulent interiors and modern menu have challenged them.

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Tamarine Restaurant Review, Palo Alto

Elegant Vietnamese in Palo Alto.

Tamarine Restaurant Review, Palo Alto

Tamarine is a popular Vietnamese contemporary restaurant in downtown Palo Alto on busy University Avenue. They focus on small plates and serve food family style. Tamarine features light, but flavor-intensive culinary delicacies of Vietnam. This place is similar to Slanted Door or Xanh in Mountain View. We find the food pretty accessible with many items for mainstream palates. The owners family runs the more traditional Vietnamese restaurant Vung Tau in San Jose and a more casual spot Tam Tam in Palo Alto. Our last visit was in 2020.

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Best Pho in San Francisco

Last Update: November 2019

We are big fans of Vietnamese Pho Noodle Soup. Slowly but surely, we have eaten at many of the San Francisco Bay Area’s best Pho restaurants. Here’s our constantly evolving list of the top 10 in search of the Best Pho San Francisco and beyond. Please leave comments with suggestions for other places we should try.

  • Hit List: More San Jose Pho Places – Do you have favorites we should try?

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Napoletana Pizzeria, Mountain View

Napoletana pizzeria Mountain View exterior decor

Napoletana Pizzeria is a new Naples style pizzeria in Mountain View. This unlikely strip mall location (Next to Cost Plus World Market), houses a low key, authentic thin crust Neapolitan pizza place. We first learned about this place from a thread on Chowhound. As the waitress put it, these authentic pizzas cook for about 90 seconds in their 900° wood burning oven. Our last visit was Summer 2019.

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China Village, Belmont

China Village, Belmont

China Village Seafood Restaurant is a Chinese restaurant in Belmont, California just off the Highway 101 Ralston Exit. They have been around since 1996, serving dim sum during both lunch and dinner, as well as standard Cantonese Chinese cuisine.

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Taverna, Palo Alto

Taverna Palo Alto exterior decor

Why did we dine here? – Taverna is a recently opened Greek restaurant in Palo Alto by some alumni of nearby Evvia restaurant. They brought in a Chef from Village Pub to execute their dream. We had good experiences at Evvia so we decided to give this less formal place a try.

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Vesta, Redwood City

Vesta Redwood City exterior decor

Why did we dine here? – Top Italian on the Peninsula! Vesta is a California Italian restaurant in downtown Redwood City. They tried to support local and organic suppliers. It has an extremely high 4.5 stars on Yelp and was mentioned in San Francisco magazine as having great pizza. These two facts were enough to pique our interest. We finally got a chance to try them at the end of 2013 and returned in 2019.

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Evvia Estiatorio, Palo Alto

Evvia Palo Alto Exterior Decor

Why did we dine here? – Evvia is the sister restaurant of popular Kokkari in San Francisco. Our last visit here was over 10 years ago, so it was time for a refresher. Reservations are not easy to come by at this small restaurant, just off University Avenue.

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LV Mar, Redwood City

LV Mar, Redwood City
Photo Courtesy LV Mar

Why did we dine here? – LV Mar is a Latin focus restaurant in downtown Redwood City that serves Elevated Latin tapas, platters & cocktails in a modern, comfortably upscale dining room and sidewalk patio. They also run the nearby La Viga, which is a more casual. We had a good experience at La Viga, so it was natural for us to try this restaurant. Last visit was for dinner in 2018

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Rave Burger Restaurant Review, San Mateo

Better burgers!

Rave Burger San Mateo Exterior Decor

Rave Burger is a burger joint that opened October 2008 in downtown San Mateo. We were walking by and decided to give it a try to see how it rated. The provide sit down service in addition to to go food.  They serve hamburgers, vegan burgers, hot dogs, and salads and a lots more now.  We have been to Rave Burger several times over the years with our last visit in 2019.

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La Viga, Redwood City

La Viga Redwood City exterior decor

Why did we dine here? – Wonderful food at great prices. La Viga derives from the massive central seafood market in Mexico City where our chef Manuel Martinez (Left Bank, Reposado) comes from. They focus food with local sustainable ingredients and draw a huge crowd. This restaurant has a high 4.5 rating on Yelp from almost 1000 reviewers. A friend tipped us off.

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Little Shanghai Restaurant, San Mateo

Little Shanghai Restaurant Exterior decor

Best Shanghainese Chinese restaurant in San Francisco? Little Shanghai Restaurant is a family run Shanghainese Chinese Restaurant in San Mateo near the San Mateo Fairgrounds. They have the usual Americanized Chinese dishes along with a fair amount of Traditional Shanghai dishes not served in most restaurants. Our last visit was in Fall 2017.

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Sushi Maruyama, San Mateo

Sushi Maruyama San Mateo exterior decor

Why did we dine here? – Sushi Maruyama is the latest Japanese spot to give this corner a go. They are not related to the last place. The last 2 came and went over the years. This Japanese restaurant joins a ton of others on virtually every block of downtown San Mateo. The town is now home to some top spots including Wakuriya, Sushi Sam, and Sushi Yoshizumi.

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Andes Cafe, San Mateo

Andes Cafe San Mateo exterior decor

Why did we dine here? – One of those hidden local gems. Andes Cafe is a small Peruvian restaurant on a non descript stretch of El Camino Real in San Mateo. A friend tipped us off that their food was legit, so we had to give it a try. One of us recently returned from Peru, so it was a good time to compare this restaurant to the real deal.

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Cooking Papa Review, Foster City

Cooking Papa Foster City exterior decor

Why did we dine here? – Cooking Papa is a popular Hong Kong style casual Chinese restaurant with locations in Foster City and Santa Clara. We have dined at the Foster City location several times. There is a line much of the time, a testing to the popularity of this restaurant. People typically wait at least 30 minutes during peak times. Our last visit was in the winter of 2018.

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Koi Palace Dinner, Daly City

Koi Palace is a popular Cantonese Chinese restaurant in Daly City, California. (Just south of San Francisco) The Peninsula is ground zero for some of the best Chinese food in the SF Bay area. It has been around since 1997 and specializes in wide selection of Dim Sum for lunch and special dishes for dinner.

This restaurant also has locations in Dublin and at Thunder Valley Casino. We came for dinner and have previously reviewed Koi Palace dim sum lunch. Our return trips included the latest in 2018. Yelp reviews emphasize lunch and do not factor in where this place falls in the Chinese restaurant pecking order.

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Shanghai Dumpling Shop, Millbrae

Shanghai Dumpling Shop Millbrae Exterior

Shanghai Dumpling Shop is a popular Shanghainese Chinese restaurant in Millbrae’s Broadway shopping district. While they have all the ‘standard’ Chinese restaurant dishes, they are specifically known for dishes from Shanghai, including dumplings even though the staff can be heard belting out Cantonese Chinese. Our last visit was in the Spring 2017.

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Best Shanghai Steamed Soup Dumplings or Xiao Long Bao in San Francisco

Last Update: July 2017

We love Xiao Long Bao (XLB) aka Shanghai Steamed Soup Dumplings and have eaten all over the world seeking the best. Are you a Xiao Long Bao addict too? Read on.

One tip: If you are looking for good XLB, do not order them from a Cantonese Chinese restaurant. You are almost always guaranteed disappointing results even at the Best Chinese Restaurant in San Francisco: Koi Palace.  Order these little balls of wonder from a Shanghainese Chinese restaurant.

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Il Fornaio Review

Il Fornaio Interior 3

Il Fornaio (The Baker in Italian) is an Italian restaurant serving “creatively prepared, premium-quality Italian cuisine based on authentic regional Italian recipes.” They have 21 locations, many in California. They have been around since 1972, initially starting as a baking school. Now they are owned by a Private Equity group, no doubt trying to squeeze out profits.

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Bird Dog, Palo Alto

Why did we dine here? – Bird Dog is a popular new restaurant in downtown Palo Alto. This brings some sophisticated SF style innovative dining to the Peninsula. The interior is impressive, especially for a restaurant down here. Robbie Wilson was the chef of Matsuhisa in Aspen, Colo., and most recently headed up the kitchen at Mattei’s Tavern in Los Olivos (Santa Barbara County)

Insider Tip – On the fence? Especially about the prices. Eat at the bar.

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Stella Alpina Osteria, Burlingame

Stella Alpina Burlingame exterior decor

Gnocchi and Salmon to die for. Stella Alpina Osteria is a small Italian restaurant located a block from the main Burlingame Avenue shopping area. Located below ground level, most people would never know it was here. The restaurant opened in May 2005, and was featured on PBS’ Check Please TV show. This was our 3rd time dining here.

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Town Restaurant Review, San Carlos

Town San Carlos Exterior Decor

Steak on the Peninsula. Town Restaurant is a steakhouse serving American comfort food in downtown San Carlos. It opened in 2006 and has gotten positive press, so we figured we would see how it stacks up. Over the years, this restaurant has been consistently busy. Town is definitely a hit with the locals, many of which can just walk over for a meal. Our last visit was in December 2015. It is so busy, we had to make a reservation over a week in advance.

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