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Very late report on Camper in downtown Menlo Park from a drop-in dinner a year ago. Hearing from local friends that things are pretty much the same, I'm posting to put it on the chow radar and elicit new comments.
The place was full that night so we camped at the communal table. Exciting to see house-cured corned beef tongue, $8, as a charcuterie selection, and our server recommended it highly as her favorite of the meats. However, when shaved paper-thin as a four-slice serving size, it needed to deliver more flavor punch or even more salt. Or else, don't bother. I sent back the rye toast, demonstrating on the board how hard it was to break it in half and that customers were in danger of breaking their teeth.
Tempura-fried delicata squash with bonita flakes and yuzu dip had a light and very crisp batter, melting to mashed potato-texture winter squash interior. However, this was quite unlike the laciness of tempura.
We were especially interested in the housemade pastas because the PR spin makes much of the chef's time as Cotogna and Quince "culinary coordinator". The bucatini with nduja ragu, $21, was way too spicy and bitter. My smoked squash filled agnolotti, $22, with browned butter, chestnuts and squash was tasty enough but nine pieces of teensy dumpling seemed pretty stingy. Pastas are primi sized servings and both were drowned in sauce. Having loved everything we have ever tasted at San Francisco's Cotogna, this was a letdown.
For dessert, milk jam pudding with creme chantilly and candied nuts, $8. The FOH manager checked on us frequently and actually took our order. The other staff interrupted repeatedly to ask if we wanted our plates cleared, to the point that it was disruptive and annoying.
898 Santa Cruz Ave.
Menlo Park, CA
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