Here's for a somewhat erratic and probably incomplete collection of reviews of the places I happened to test during a week at Mountain View, California--or should I say Silicon Valley? That might ring more bells...!
Right after being dropped in the hotel by the company driver, I left my suitcase, brushed my teeth and washed my face, trying to get rid of the jet lag and the general sleepiness that comes with being awake at what was my two AM, but was more like early evening at that side of the globe. I am dead tired but my new colleague is waiting downstairs. It's her birthday and we HAVE to celebrate!
We disregarded the nearby Mexican restaurant as apparently they only have beers and cheap wine--my mate wanted proper wine, and it was her birthday, so who am I to disappoint her? So we walked all the way to Castro street, Mountain View's equivalent of the traditional UK High Street. It didn't actually took us much time to decide and settle on a Moroccan restaurant: the unimaginatively called Morocco's. Coming from Europe and more exactly London, where there's this huge amount of Moroccan, Lebanese and similarly sourced food and restaurants, I found the food a bit weird but tasty. I mean, it was good, but the spices and flavouring weren't what I was expecting from this sort of cuisine. Although it was hard to distinguish at the end--ah, the wine!
Next day, we visited Dana Street Roasting Company, in what would quickly become a daily habit--grabbing a cup before going to the office. I really like the place, even if it is slightly run down (or maybe exactly because of that) and there's not a hint of pretentiousness on the premises. It reminds me of dingy places in Central-East London, and there's always this business in it that I love. Plus, there's lots of coffee-related imagery which makes it even more funnier, such as magnets reading "I don't have a clue what my job is in here. I just drink lots of coffee" or "Free roaming children will be given a cup of espresso and a kitten". The only pity is they don't do flat whites. That would make them perfect. Still, I had to be content with a simple latte.
Food was provided at the office because it was monday. I chose some chicken and mushrooms. Very tasty. Best was the dessert: huge, HUGE sweeeeet strawberries, and there were some of those arab pistaccio and honey sweets. Sticky and yummy (thankfully I only had one).
Sometime around afternoon we went to Red Rock to grab a cup of coffee. I had been there before but I liked it too. Although this time I didn't sit and enjoy the decent wi-fi and laptop-abundant atmosphere, but it's a nice place to stay and do stuff while undisturbed.
And just before we left for dinner, someone visited our meeting room, all so excited, and showed us some movie widely recognised as being in the top 100 WORST movies in IMDB. The general agreement was that it had to be watched after dinner.
Dinner was at Amarin, a thai restaurant. I made sure that the curry I asked for wasn't "helluvah spicy", and the waiter promised me it wouldn't make me cry, and she was actually right. The food was tasty and there was plenty of it--though coming from London, again, I am sort of used to having thai food, and this one was missing a bit on the spicy and aroma side. I also had an iced tea, thai style. It was good too.
I chose an IPA ("Indian Pale Ale") for drinking while watching that so terrible movie. It was quite nice, reminding me of moderately strong ales I've tried before, but it forced me to stand up and walk around, because the mix of happy stomach + jet lag + alcohol was bringing me to sleep zone, and it wasn't even 21h yet...
The next day we repeated the morning ceremony. I think I had a larger latte this time. My mate ensured I closed properly the lid of the take-away cup. I'm such a disaster with those--I always end up spilling the coffee over myself. Ewww. We went to a place called Posh Bagels to grab --guess what?-- a bagel at lunch time. You can pick a lot of different fillings plus the type of bagel. So as I was in experimenting mood, I picked something with cashew nuts, chicken, salad... and chose the cinnamon roll. I expected it to be a tad more savoury but it was politely bland. Not bad but not overwhelmingly astonishing.
Around afternoon someone went towards the coffee/kitchen area and I joined him... as I was decidedly falling asleep. There was one of those nespresso-style machines, and a huge array of different flavours. I evidently chose one that promised me to go back to the old times. Who wouldn't want to go back to the old times? It was called something like happy doughnut, but I didn't care. It would at least provide a kick of caffeine to go on for a while. My exquisite colleague (the wine-a-holic) regarded that machine coffee as bland and disgusting, but that was my only hope to survive.
This time we went to Scratch, an American up-style restaurant. It was quite, quite good. And here's where I had my first margarita ever while waiting for a table--although it was quite a weird margarita. Apparently it had been infused with some sort of spicy pepper. My first thought after taking a sip was that they had been using a jalapeno to stir it! Even though, it was OK: it provided me for a excuse to have another margarita in the future! For eating, I had a pork loin that came wrapped with bacon and was incredibly tasty. The yummmmmm! It also came with vegetables and apple pancakes. It was all supreme. I couldn't have anything else so I didn't ask for dessert, but some mates had coffee and one even tried the creme brulee, which seemed a bit too yogurished for my taste, but I didn't try it. He was more than happy with it, anyway.
Didn't visit Dana on Wednesday, and really missed the coffee kick afterwards! So I went to the coffee machine and used my newly gained coffee machine knowledge to prepare another of those "go back to the old times" bland but predictable coffee. I must admit I also snacked on a couple of those huge strawberries that apparently are always there for people to snack on their way to and from the coffee area.
For lunch, it was funny, but we went back to Scratch again. I'm glad we didn't make any scene the night before, because the waiter immediately recognised the two of us that repeated, and greeted us profusely. I don't know if the americans fake it to get tips, but sometimes it's nice to be re-welcomed like that. This time I had a scratch burger with salad instead of fries, and a lemonade. All really tasty again, making it one of my favourite restaurants in Mountain View.
Right after lunch, I thought I would die if I ate something else, but mysteriously I was hungry again at dinner. This time we went to St. Stephen's Green, an Irish-style pub. I have been to uncountable pubs in London AND Dublin so I know how these things work, right? After impressing my mates with the fact that the pub was named after a famous park in Dublin, I proceed to order a pint of Guinness and some bangers and mash. The pint was great, not watered down as I have seen most of the times outside the United Kingdom or ex-United Kingdom territories. But the "gravvy" that came with the bangers was quite meh, most akin to tomato sauce than proper gravvy. Ah, you can't have everything, I guess! The atmosphere at the place was quite nice too.
Last visit at Dana in the morning. I decided to go creative and try out something new. There was an item in the menu called "Kick in the pants". I don't wear pants so I figured out that if I ordered that one, nobody would actually kick me but I'd have the chance to order something new, right? So I did. Turns out, it wasn't like a latte. It consisted in a shot of espresso brewed into my cup, which left it about 20% filled, and then I could filled with whatever blend I liked from their (filter?) coffee barrels waiting at the other end of the counter. I can't really remember which one I chose--all seemed the same to me. I also added some milk just in case I got too kicked. It was actually way more decent than it might seem, as there was less foamy milk and way more coffee. I guess it's like an americano (watered down espresso) but watered down with more coffee. A real kick!
We had lunch at Casa Lupe. We ordered the set menu but it wasn't specially outstanding. I've had better mexican food, but maybe it was because we chose the set menu. It didn't help that I asked for a Coke Zero and they didn't have that, so I settled on a Diet Coke, which in USA always feels like it's got bleach in it (I must remember not to ask for, or accept, Diet cokes while in the States).
Dinner was at a very nice small Japanese restaurant NOT in Castro Street, Sushi Tomi. There was a long queue when we arrived, and although I generally dislike queueing, I did so because they promised me the food was amazing--and they didn't lie! We again, ordered the set menu, not wanting to think, but this time it was incredible. Best sushi I've had in a long, long, time. The rice was deliciously tasty and sticky, and the fish felt fresh and was delicious too.
We didn't want to go to the hotel yet so we decided to celebrate by going to Steak Out. It was supposed to be a Burger and Beer garden, but we went for the beers. I had something that wasn't too strong, but I can't remember which name--it was from a local brewery if I remember correctly, and I hadn't heard of it before. We sat outside, in the "garden", where there were some heaters and it was actually warmer than inside.
I had lunch in the office, as it was served for a meeting. I went all vegetarian with roasted vegetables to make up for the excesses of the rest of the week, but it didn't quite work out because a bit later someone gave me a Coronita, and a bit later than that it was beer time and I had my goodbye IPA. Everyone else in my team had left so I was on my own devices for dinner... and I ended up grabbing a take away burger at Clarke's, that quintessential American burger joint, on my way to the hotel. And I ended up watching a documentary about Marilyn Monroe, while eating a Hawaiian Burger (!!!), but only after the Sat TV or however it is called managed to update the "channel selection" and restarted twice and I don't know what else (!!!). A very appropriate end to an American week!