Issue date: December 15, 1999

FOOD & DRINK: Three new restaurants open just in time for the holidays FOOD & DRINK: Three new restaurants open just in time for the holidays (December 15, 1999)


Diners can "eat, drink and be merry" in three new local restaurants that are open just in time for the holiday season.

Restaurateurs know if they don't open before Christmas, they might as well wait until March. Come January, most customers will be recovering from overeating and over-spending. Of course, Silicon Valley's baby billionaires may be the exception.

Speaking of valley boys, the group of venture capitalists, CEOs, bankers and investors, known as the Silicon Valley Angels, are happy to have their favorite restaurant, Chantilly, open at 3001 El Camino Real, Redwood City, after 25 years in Palo Alto. Co-owners are Judith Dolkas, Gus Talasaz and Bernardo Oropeza, who is also the chef.

Chantilly's new two-story building replaces the former Barbarossa restaurant. It includes a spacious entry, mahogany bar, elegant dining room, a private wine room, and adjoining "cellar" containing a $200,000 inventory of fine wines.

Upstairs there are six private dining areas. One series of three rooms contains state-of-the-art multimedia presentation equipment and access to the Internet. This is where 70 to 80 of the Silicon Valley Angels meet for dinner each month, according to co-owner Judith Dolkas. "They have everything here that they would have at the office," she says.

The "Angels" gather to hear three presentations from potential start-up companies once a month. Chantilly also is the setting for follow-up meetings with the would-be entrepreneurs.

Across the hall are two dining rooms that can seat up to 40 guests, with a balcony overlooking the dining room below. There is also a private bar.

Downstairs, Chantilly is subdued elegance. The two-story dining room has peach brocade-covered walls. A marble fireplace graces one corner. The chandelier and sconces are imported from Italy. Tables are spaced far enough apart so you aren't forced to listen to other diners'conversation; chairs are comfortable. No noisy din at Chantilly: Padded walls and thick burgundy carpeting see to that.

The menu remains the same, by popular demand, says Ms. Dolkas. This is the place to tuck into French onion soup ($5), Caesar salad ($6.50), a filet mignon with pinot noir sauce ($25), rack of lamb ($25), or lobster ravioli ($19.50). The service is professional, most of the staff have been with Chantilly for years.

In the dining room, a large painting, "Chantilly roses" by Gregory Dean, acknowledges the restaurant's custom of presenting each woman who dines there with a rose.

Chantilly is open for lunch Monday through Friday and every night for dinner. 321-4080.

Jesse's place

Over at 827 Santa Cruz Ave., Jesse Cool has opened a new casual restaurant, jZcool eatery and catering company, as a sister to her well-known Flea Street Cafe. The new eatery features casual organic and seasonal food served on the premises, as well as for take-out.

Jesse's specialty is comfort food. Many of the recipes are her mother's or from cookbooks from the 1950s. How about her mom's brisket served with mashed potatoes? Deli offerings include stuffed meatballs ($4), pork shanks with cherry sauce ($8), macaroni and cheese ($7.50 a pint), and roasted garlic mashed potatoes ($5.50 a pint).

"People are loving it. They're hungry for genuine comfort food," says Ms. Cool. "I got a call from John Bentley last week, who told me we had some of the best food he'd eaten for a while," she says. Mr. Bentley has his own fine restaurant in Woodside.

jZCool is a place where you can eat healthy. For lunch we tried the crisp green beans, roasted vegetables, orecchiette with cauliflower and a sesame noodle salad. There is a hearty soup every day, served with a slice of Bay Bread ($5).

One day last week the selection was onion soup made with dark beer. There is a three-salad sampler and a soup and salad special, each selling for $7.

Bay bread is also sold. I took home a loaf studded with cranberries and currents and another redolent with roasted garlic. It's great stuff.

Don't let organic put you off; the eatery isn't all tofu and alfalfa sprouts. There's a Niman Ranch beef burger on a grilled Bay Bread bun and a Niman Ranch hot dog, both served with carmelized onions, and a handful of root vegetable chips. The chips, made from parsnips, beets, turnips and carrots, are addictive.

Located at the site of the former La Romanina deli, jZCool has a stylish interior created by architect and designer Charles Kahn and Ms. Cool. "I chose everything. I wanted the chairs in three colors -- purple, mahogany and natural -- and the tables to be real butcher block," she says.

The company also does catering, with Fransisco Medrano as catering director. They prepare "to go" lunches for local businesses and party platters for a minimum of 10 people. A platter of seasonal fruit with minted yogurt sauce is $4 per person; vegetable platters with dipping sauces are $4.50 per person; roasted and rotisserie meats with horseradish sauce are $4 per person. Holiday trays will be prepared up to New Year's Eve.

Ms. Cool says her goal is to build an organic food company that will provide good benefits for her staff of 25 and "support a meaningful food philosophy. We will have a restaurant that is successful and has profit-sharing for my people," she says.

jZcool is open from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m., closed Monday; 325-3665,

3 Fish Restaurant & Raw Bar

Workmen were all over the place last week getting ready for the opening of Fred Duckett's 3 Fish Restaurant at 888 El Camino Real, site of the former Ken's family restaurant. 3 Fish opened Monday, December 13, just under the wire for holiday dining.

The building, which once sported orange plastic booths and similar 1960 decor, has been totally remodeled into an East Coast-style seafood restaurant with a gray exterior and nautical theme. Think Martha's Vineyard.

The menu includes broiled, grilled, pan-fried and baked fish, as well as a raw bar. Rack of lamb, veal chops, New York strip steak, pasta and chicken will also be on the menu. Appetizers are $6.95 to $10.95; entrees, $12 to $25.

Principal owner of 3 Fish is Fred Duckett of Palo Alto. This is his first restaurant, although he has more than 20 years of experience working with the Fish Market restaurants owned by his family.

3 Fish will be open for lunch and dinner daily from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Rick Davis is general manager and Louis Salha, who formerly worked at the Fish Market and is a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America, is chef. Steve Niethammer is one of Mr. Duckett's partners.

Having its own parking lot will be a real bonus for 3 Fish since the influx of so many new restaurants in downtown Menlo Park has resulted in parking problems for patrons. 326-2633.

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