Food Awards 2009
Check it out: the top-10 Diabloland restaurants of 2009.
(page 2 of 2)
california french ♦ Lafayette
food: 91 / ambience: 93 / service: 93 / value: 88
“With its welcoming atmosphere and warm staff, Artisan provides a lovely dining experience
both inside and out.” –Dorothy Calimeris, food judge
What they’re doing right: The chef walks a tightrope without falling. Plates are daring and exciting. The flavor we can’t forget: I loved the refreshing splash of sherry vinaigrette on the hot steamed mussels. A trick to remember. Best dish: The tomato gazpacho—good acid, sweet balance, nice lump of crab on the bottom. Who goes there? Lots of lovely people, beautifully dressed in the right clothes for sitting in a garden. The details we’re glad they attended to: Accent marks. A stroke of olive puree, wisps of celery root, batons of haricots verts: They add up to a class act. Defining moment: The playful energy between a husband and wife as they enjoyed french fries with aioli on the patio. Funniest moment: When I crossed out the $600 on a painting’s price tag, wrote in $19.99, told the waiter I’d like to buy it, and he fell for it (but the owner didn’t). Go here for: Food that’s edgy enough to titillate and honest enough to satisfy. Contact: 1005 Brown Ave., Lafayette, (925) 962-0882, artisanlafayette.com.
“The use of quality local grown organic ingredients and the way the food is prepared makes their dishes taste like heaven. The service is great as well.” –Veronica Hothem, Pittsburg
american ♦ livermore
food: 91 / ambience: 93 / service: 93 / value: 88
“Wente provides a spirit of hospitality that should put a bull rider at ease, and a level of detail
that just might impress a computer scientist.” –Nicholas Boer, food judge
What they’re doing right: Changing the menu with the seasons. Who goes there? Families, couples, people wanting to relax in the country. Best dish: A plate of Iberian acorn prosciutto was dazzling—like a Spanish flag waving at sunset—and too delicious to describe (in any language). Secret tip: There’s a Sunday sunset supper from 4:30 to 5:30 p.m. with two courses for $29. Flavor we can’t forget: An expertly conceived and prepared pizzetta, with speck, arugula, and Hen of the Woods mushrooms, laced with the perfect amount of white truffle oil. Thanks for being green: Sourcing fruits and veggies from nearby. Overheard: “This is the best pork chop I’ve had in my life.” Showstopper: The best food and wine combination I’ve had in ages: The BoaVentura Sauvignon Blanc was the perfect foil for my Mary’s Organic half chicken. Go here for: A leisurely, rewarding meal after finishing a long and important project. Contact: 5050 Arroyo Rd., Livermore, (925) 465-2450, wentevineyards.com.
“I love this place. The country setting is just perfect for
a nice relaxing time.” – Moya Salem, Livermore
Italian ♦ San Ramon
food: 89 / ambience: 89 / service: 93 / value: 89
“Incontro combines old-world, down-home classics with seasonal
California ingredients.” –Michaela Jarvis, food judge
What they’re doing right: Showing that Italian food needn’t be predictable. Who goes there? People who enjoy distinctive Italian food and the welcoming atmosphere. Defining moment: When the person at the table next to us remarked how unusual it was to stuff chicken with ground beef, and then ordered it. The flavor we can’t forget: The lightest gnocchi that ever napped in Fontina cream. Quirks: Hearing the owner’s lovely Italian accent while staring across the street at a KFC. Best dish: The grilled corn salad—it’s so great for this area, given the fame of Brentwood corn—and those crisp mini kernels. Thanks for being green: I’m so glad the tomatoes they used were tiny, sweet ones from a local garden. The details we’re glad they attended to: A free glass of wine (a monthly special). Showstopper: Prosciutto with mozzarella and arugula—gorgeous presentation, gorgeous eating. Contact: 2065 San Ramon Valley Blvd., San Ramon, (925) 820-6969, incontrosanramon.com.
“Eating at Incontro makes you feel like you're in Italy. Dishes are freshly prepared and beautifully presented—and delicious!” –Jennifer Kaye Ditmer, San Ramon
American ♦ Danville
Food: 88 / ambience: 92 / service: 91 / value: 87
“The Peasant and the Pear offers the nurturing reassurance of the family table,
without the tired family recipes.” –Nicholas Boer, food judge
What they’re doing right: Portions that are big yet stylish. Showstopper: Dazzling heirloom tomato salad with house-made Burrata. Who goes there? Families and groups of thirtysomething gal pals. Thanks for being green: The menu states that they “proudly support sustainable agriculture and aquaculture practices, including Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch.” Best thing we drank: Dry Creek Old Vine Zin—it worked well with the seared ahi, lamb shank, and pork chop. Best dish: Italian lamb shank was cooked to perfection, falling off the bone and piping hot. Details we’re glad they attended to: Maintaining a clean, classy dining room, with an inviting full bar. Quirks: The owner himself. Rodney Worth is a big, gregarious, yet slightly shy character who pulls the community in with a mysterious force, like gravity. Defining moment: When I took a bite of the quinoa salad served with my ahi, I knew the chef appreciated good produce. Contact: 267 Hartz Ave., Danville, (925) 820-6611, thepeasantandthepear.com.
“This is a wonderful, relaxing place to sit back and eat a fine meal with good friends in a quiet and friendly atmosphere.” –Nancy Jokerst, Walnut Creek
Chinese ♦ Dublin
Food: 94 / ambience: 86 / service: 86 / value: 88
“Koi Garden displays masterful cooking skills on a large scale:
Every dish is exemplary.” –Linda Carucci, food judge
The detail we’re glad they attended to: They peeled the eggplant and used incredibly fresh and delicate silken tofu in a clay pot dish that I’m still daydreaming about. Even the leftovers two days later were superior to most restaurants’ renditions of this dish when it first comes out of the kitchen. What they’re doing right: Their vegetables practically glow in the dark, they’re so fresh. Who goes there? Large extended Chinese families and a few smart Caucasian folks. Secret tip: Don’t go on a Saturday night if you’re expecting it to be peaceful. The flavor we can’t forget: The Shanghai dumplings had such a beautiful, fragrant filling. Funny moment: A little boy beside us unwittingly rapped his chopsticks on a water glass so loud that it silenced the entire cacophonous room—until we all broke into laughter. Showstopper: Peking duck with great buns and minced with a neatly trimmed stack of lettuce cups. Be sure to try them. Contact: 4288 Dublin Blvd., Dublin, (925) 833-9090, koipalace.com/koigarden.
“Koi Garden has the best dim sum in the area! Decor is perfect
for special occasions.” –Michele Wong, Danville