Occupation: PR Account Executive
Favorite Restaurant: Hillstone
Reviewed Hillstone: Thursday, March 9, 2012
Hillstone Restaurant is more than an average steakhouse. It is, interestingly enough, a part of a chain of restaurants around the country, however each location carries a unique image from city to city. Chain restaurants get a really bad rap in the Bay Area, but part of the mission of each Hillstone restaurant is to blend with each city's unique culture, lifestyle, and perspective, making each restaurant feel like its own entity.
Most steakhouses feel stale, dated, unchanged. But Hillstone puts great emphasis on architecture, art, and design, keeping the space fresh and alive. Oversized cherry red booths compliment the dark wood tables and dim yellow light, while the open kitchen keeps abuzz all evening long.
Hillstone's focus on quality is unparalleled, with sourcing only the best ingredients from local purveyors. Their traditional steakhouse menu is given a modern twist with all ingredients -- down to every aioli and dressing -- made in house, and with additions like a variety of entree salads, different cuts of meat, and daily rotating specials often with other proteins.
My personal favorite thing to eat at Hillstone is their fire-grilled artichoke, so naturally, that is what we started with. Crispy and salty on the edge, yet perfectly tender in the middle, the flavors from the grill are as delicious as the freshness of the artichoke itself. A crave inducing aioli is served on the side, with ingredients I can only guess include something along the lines of mayonnaise, Dijon mustard, scallions, lemon, and more, but the recipe is a highly guarded secret (believe me, I've tried!).
Next we had a cabbage and kale salad with cilantro and fresh mint in a spicy peanut dressing. The cabbage and kale were perfectly crisp, and the dressing was surprisingly light and had quite a kick on the aftertaste. A very pleasant surprise. The cilantro and mint were a perfectly cool balance against the heat of the dressing.
Having both brought a big appetite, I ordered the prime rib with a fully loaded baked potato, my friend ordered the classic French Dip with skinny french fries. The prime rib came medium rare, just the way I prefer. It was lusciously tender and juicy; albeit the slightest bit too fatty. The baked potato came with bacon, chives, sour cream, and butter -- all the classics to accompany an equally classic cut of meat.
The French Dip -- one of my favorite dishes -- was piled high with tender meat and served on a soft French roll. The au jus is rich and buttery, balanced by a light smoky flavor. The French fries -- offered in both steak cut and skinny -- were piping hot and crunchy, also fantastic to dip in the au jus.
For dessert, we couldn't help ourselves and ordered the warm five-nut brownie with vanilla bean ice cream. The brownie was rich and moist, warm enough to satisfy but not so hot as to immediately melt the vanilla ice cream on top. The five varieties of nuts were sprinkled around the plate, allowing any desired amount of crunch.
Other perks and surprises from Hillstone are complimentary corkage and live jazz. It's a delightful atmosphere that serves all occasions appropriately -- business dinners, date nights, family birthdays. It truly compliments the charm of this gorgeous "City by the Bay."
Favorite Restaurant: Sorella di Zza's
Reviewed Hillstone: Sunday, March 11, 2012
Arriving for a 6:00 PM reservation, I brought a friend to share in the experience. Having been accustomed to fine dining, I enjoyed having someone with me who could add to my insight and appreciation for the total event. We were seated within 5 minutes, and I noticed the establishment was pretty much full. I also recognized the staff persons were young, well trained, and attentive. We opened with beverages while waiting for our appetizers and shared the signature artichoke and spinach dip. It was delicious. My wine was a Pinot Noir (recommended by our server), which was full bodied and satisfying.
I loved the caramelized onion soup and I tasted the wrinkled spinach side dish. But it was the service that was great and, in my opinion, made the evening. At one point when my guest said, “Excuse me?” three servers turned to respond simultaneously! That could be described as a commercial response but still illustrates the attentiveness of all the staff.
My main entree, the “Hawaiian” Rib Eye, prepared medium rare, was melt-in-your-mouth delicious! It was accompanied by a loaded potato, an easy addition. The meal was very well portioned and good. And the Key lime pie dessert was so incredible so that, although I was full, I still had to continue tasting this dish until it was almost gone.
All in all a great dining experience!
Occupation: Auto Parts, Business Owner
Location: Redwood City
Favorite Restaurant: All Spice
Reviewed Hillstone: Sunday, March 4, 2012
This was a delightful experience, as everything worked on all counts. It was a spectacular day, sunny and in the 70s, so we spent a nice portion of the day riding our bikes on the Peninsula, working up an appetite. We arrived home after our day to shower and clean up and head off to the city. Traffic was light, and we arrived early, and the parking gods were with us and we found on street parking a block from the restaurant.
A good restaurant has to have three things: Great service, Ambiance (Not so loud you can’t hear your companions talk) and good food. The service was spectacular; the ambiance was nice, modern, and attractive, if just a touch loud. There was a 3-piece Jazz trio playing while we were there, and it added a nice touch. And the food was for the most part extremely good. It wasn’t an inexpensive evening, but we certainly didn’t feel ripped off. Tessa, our server, was fantastic! She always had her eyes on her section, and one just had to glance up and she’d be over in a heartbeat, inquiring if there was anything we needed. When we first sat down, I was looking at the wine menu trying to decide which wine to order, and when she came over she saw I was unsure of the choice I had made and offered to bring me a taste to make sure it was what I wanted. Little things like that go a long way to making the evening enjoyable. My wife also pointed out to me that she was spectacular looking, and that certainly didn’t diminish our enjoyment either.
We started out with two appetizers, the Smoked Salmon and the Chicago spinach dip. Both were amazing. The Salmon was house smoked, and it was a huge piece. It was served with thin toast points and a seasoned cream spread that made the whole piece melt in your mouth. We took the Salmon and could spread it on the toast, it was so soft and tender. This is the first time I can remember saying I didn’t want to finish the starters for fear of ruining my appetite and not being able to eat my entree, so we took some of the spinach dip to go rather than waste it. My wife ordered the Loup De Mer, which is a fancy name for Sea Bass, and she said it was spectacular. It was thin and flaky without a hint of fishiness. It came with your choice of seasonal veggie, and she chose the Brussels sprouts, which were done perfectly with a garlic butter flavor enhancing the dish. I had the Special of the Day, which was a Rib-eye that was done perfectly. The only complaint I had was that the meat tasted like it had been salted twice. I prefer that I put on my own salt if it needs it, and this was a gorgeous piece of meat that absolutely didn’t need the salt. The mashed potatoes that came with it were just OK; a little lumpy and not very special.
We finished with a piece of Key lime pie and two cups of a wonderful strong black coffee. The Key lime pie was done with a tasty graham cracker crust, a tart Key lime filling, and a mound of whipped cream that to their credit was not too sweet with graham sprinkles on top. It certainly worked for me, and I left with the knowledge that I just had a great dinner and did so at a restaurant I’ll look forward to coming back to.