Silver House (no web site)
2224 S El Camino Real
(about 3 blocks south of Highway 92, on the west side of El Cam)
San Mateo, CA 94403
The Silver House is a completely orthodox Cantonese restaurant serving the propserous southern Chnese community in San Mateo. They attract only a sprinkling of non-Chinese patrons, but all the waiters speak a bit of English and are uniformly welcoming to round eyes. You need to know your way around Cantonese cuisine to order effectively, but you can't go wrong choosing randomly from the menu, as long as you remain in Canton (nothing very spicy, no hot and sour soup, no Peking duck,...). We like all noodle dishes, deep fried smelts, pea sprouts in garlic, roast Cantonese duck (sublime--be sure they understand that you want their duck, not duck from the foreign north), lettuce cup pork.
So what is an orthodox Cantonese restaurant? A little dingy, smelly, with a wretched little kitchen than you can walk through if you come in the back door, bustling, many large tables for four-generation families. Totally informal. Ignore all the reviews by people who don't like orthodox Cantonese restaurants. Silver House is not cheap, but all you pay for is the food.
296 Barber Court Milpitas, CA 95035
Now this is an adventure. Darda is a Chinese Muslim restaurant. The patrons are mostly Chinese, but also Pakistani and even Saudi, as the food is halal. So no pork, but everything else is amazing. We like the lamb in cumin, unlike any other dish in any Chinese restaurant, and clams in basil. One oddity--they will try to get you to order flat bread with scallions. Don't. Spend money and calories on real food. Darda serves Tsingtao (pronounced ching dao) beer, but warm. English is totally primitive--point to what you want on the menu and don't expect to get a coherent answer to any question. Surroundings are a bit more stylish than the Silver House, but go in jeans. Always crowded, but they seat you efficiently with a take-a-number system and we have never waited more than 10 minutes. When you are there, stroll around the mall, which serves another large prosperous southern Chinese community.
Middlefield Road, a block south of Woodside Road, across from Costco
El Grullense is a brand name rented by a dozen or so restaurants near us. Each has separate management and cuisine. We think this one by far the best. This is a taco joint with an almost entirely Mexican clientele. There is nothing even slightly gringified about the place. You see the hardworking Mexican community of Redwood City at its best here. The adults all speak Spanish to each other and to the kids, but the kids generally jabber away in standard American English to each other. We always get tacos, which bear little resemblance to the gringo concept of this sublime food. You ge two little corn tortillas with a glop of brown stuff, nothing else. No grated cheese. No sour cream. No iceberg lettuce. And that glop is amazingly tasty. Sooz eats two of these and Bob three. Also a serving of perfect beans. Tacos cost $1 each. Staff speaks good English. We hardly need to add that this is the most baby and kid friendly place in the world.
Our favorite tacos are al pastor and carnitas, both "con todos" (onions, cilantro, and sauce).
Be sure to park across the street in the Costco lot, not in El G's tiny lot, else you will be watching the big pickups that the customers favor delicately maneuvering around your car, in the unlikely event that you find a space in the lot. We've never seen any grief, but it is distracting...
Amber India http://www.amber-india.com/MtnView/home.htm
2290 El Camino Real, #9, Mountain View
Just north of Rengstorff on the Bay side of El Cam, at the back of a little strip mall. Look for the tiny sign at the street
We love Amber India even though it is not the Real Thing. Mountain View has lots of those--vegetarian places with formica tables and no beer. Amber India is the North American side of Monsoon Wedding, the prosperous, Americanized Indian software community. Most tables discussing software startups, and mostly in English. Rich food with way more protein than would ever be served on the subcontinent. Pretty elegant surroundings, though the dress is totally casual. Good wine list and many kinds of beer, served properly cold. We always get achari ghosht, lamb chunks in a rich sauce. Pricey.
Notes and photos from places around the world that have villages, ruins, and good food. And $35 hotels... Also, wilderness 4x4 camping and backpacking.