Another great San Mateo County Restaurant Review

From Gerald Weisl, Proprietor of Weimax Wines & Spirits at 1178  Broadway Ave, in Burlingame. Looks like a “must visit” to me!

MN

 

ALL SPICE
1602 South El Camino Real
San Mateo

Tel: 650-627-4303

Open Tues-Sat 5:30-9:30

 


The Amuse Bouche…

 


“Ode to My Wife, Part II”


Tandoori-Spiced Crispy Sweetbreads

 


The English Pea Soup is poured at the table into the ‘bowl’ with the mint, yogurt gelée and Aleppo peppers.

 


The Wild Boar “stew” with the Noble Element…silver.


Veal Shortrib


Venison Steak

 


House-made Ice Creams


Dark Chocolate Kulfi for the Birthday Boy…

 


Crème Brûlée

 

It was the birthday of a good friend and I extended the invitation to dine out, knowing they had been enthusiastic fans of this San Mateo dining spot.

It was a Thursday evening and the place was packed.  It’s in an old house set back from El Camino.  There’s a parking lot surrounding the restaurant.

We were escorted to our table in one of the small dining rooms (they have three rooms, I think, accommodating perhaps 40 people if my count is correct).  No wine glasses on the table, but the wine list was offered along with menus.The wine list is small and compact and offers perhaps 40 selections.  We find 7 fizzy to bubbly selections, though one is a Moscato d’Asti, a more appropriate choice for dessert.  There’s a Brut de Savoie from Pierre Boniface for $40, while $75 gets you a bottle of Henriot’s Brut.  For $120 you can have the vintage Brut of Thienot.  We opted for a half bottle of a Spanish Cava, a Llopart Rose for $25 (375ml).

Under the heading of “Crisp, Dry Whites” there’s a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc from Allan Scott for $32 as well as a Long Meadow Ranch from Napa for $36.  Under the “Aromatic Whites” category we find a nice German Riesling from Dr. Thanisch for $36, although it’s not clear what quality level this wine is…they don’t indicate whether it’s a Qba, Kabinett or Spatlese, for example.
Under the heading of Chardonnays, there’s a MacRostie from Sonoma for $36, a Bouchard Bourgogne Blanc for the same price or a second label Hanzell for $56.

The list has five Pinot Noirs, including two from David Bruce, $50 for the 2007 Santa Cruz Mountains and $60 for a Santa Maria bottling.  A Dashe Cellars Dry Creek Zinfandel is $40, while a Langmiel (sic) Shiraz from Australia is $45.  A Tres Picos Garnacha is $36.
Overall, it’s a list of “nice” wines at sensible prices and the selections actually pair well with the menu.

The corkage fee is $15, so if you’re dining here, make do with a bubbly or a white and bring a special bottle of red.

Our half bottle of bubbly arrived along with three “champagne coupes.”  I was a bit surprised that a place with a star in the Bay Area Michelin Guide would have this sort of stemware for bubbly!  I asked if we could have normal wine glasses, then, and the server immediately brought some large format stems which were more conducive to our appreciation of the Cava.

A little Amuse Bouche of a soup arrived…a nice little offering of a green vegetable (was it spinach, perhaps) with a little tomato gelée…very nice!

We perused the menu and my two dinner guests suggested sharing a couple of appetizers.  The chef and co-owner is Sachin Chopra, a fellow who’s background is in Indian cuisine, though he’s been involved in Indian-Fusion restaurants, apparently.  His wife and partner is Shoshana Wolff and she runs the front of the house and takes care of curating the wine list.

For starters, there’s Lavender and Cumin Scallops ($15) which comes with bacon and black cardamom potato sauce.  Tuna Tataki ($15) features Quick-charred ahi tuna with crispy capers, caviar, a flurry of radishes and persillade.  A Warm Mirchi Salad ($12) includes Shishito peppers sautéed with fresh corn, mushrooms and baby greens with a sauce of pickled cabbage.

Having finished the glass of bubbly, we brought out a bottle of a terrific New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc and we asked for another round of stemware.  The server brought three large glasses to the table and we opened the Greywacke “Wild” Sauvignon, an outstanding match for the upcoming starters.

My friends wanted the “Ode to My Wife, Part II,” ($9) which is described as “Savory ricotta-almond cheesecake layered with red and golden beets in a sun-dried tomato crust, with goat cheese mousse and crushed walnuts.”  We also had the Tandoori-Spiced Crispy Veal Sweetbreads ($17) with Lemon sabayon, Caesar dressing foam and miso-mushroom duxelles.
Both were excellent, though I’d easily order the Sweetbreads again and probably opt for one of the other starters.  The presentation of both was outstanding.  Wow…are we sure we’re in San Mateo?

As the crew had hosted my two dinner guests on previous occasions, the chef sent out three servings of their “English Pea Soup” (which would have cost $9) and this comes garnished with fresh mint, yogurt gelée and aleppo peppers.  Another culinary masterpiece!

Our friend Constance brought an Oregon Pinot Noir and the crew opened this bottle and provided three more large stems (of good quality).

The menu offers 8 main plates, two of which are vegetarian.  They had a Beet & Coconut Ravioli ($17) with truffled Fonduta and Crispy Kale.  Popeye’s Dream ($17) is Spinach-parmesan custard with grilled paneer, heirloom carrots, fresh baby corn and a roasted red pepper brodo.  There was a Fennel Oil-Poached Halibut for $30 with Lemongrass Shrimp Mousse, crispy potato coins, sausage breadcrumbs and  smoked Mt. Lassen trout cream.
With the red wine, though, we focused on meat dishes.  The Birthday Boy ordered the Harissa-Spiced Veal Short Rib ($27) with Bacon green pea rice grits, vanilla potato cream, harissa-braised fennel, salsify and a fennel relish.  The Mrs. ordered the Herb-Rubbed Venison Steak ($29) which comes with Farro risotto, braised ciopollini onion, wild mushrooms and grapes.  I was torn between the Braised Wagyu Beef Brisket ($26) or the Aab-e-gosht ($24) and the waiter guided me towards the latter which was “Wild boar cooked in the traditional fashion, in a sauce of ginger, fennel almonds served with saffron bread and noble elements.”  The Noble Element was a thin sheet of edible silver!

All three dishes were excellent, though I’d probably opt for the Short Ribs or Venison next time.  The Boar came with a flat bread which had saffron in it…quite good, though the saffron was too subtle for me.

The kids were dying for dessert.  I ordered the Selection of House-Made ice Creams ($7) and had a scoop each of a Rose Petal Ice Cream, one flavored with Blood Oranges and another of Vietnamese Coffee.  The kitchen sent out a Crème Brûlée ($7) which was delightful.

The service was quite good, professional and a bit informal.  The ambience is nice, though a fellow at the neighboring table may have had hearing issues as he was unusually loud.

This is a seriously good restaurant and a jewel here on the Peninsula.  Fussy wine aficionados, as noted earlier, should consider ordering a white or bubbly and bringing a special red…

We look forward to dining here again and would definitely find our way to this “destination” dining spot were we living farther away from All Spice.

Reviewed By GW