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Oak City Bar & Grill, Menlo Park - Review, long

Autumn | Aug 25, 200409:29 AM

Yesterday was my one year wedding anniversary. My husband and I didn't have a whole lot of ready cash, so we decided to go out to a medium-priced restaraunt and a movie.

We decided on Oak City Bar & Grill in Menlo Park. I had never been there, but was curious about it since it replaced Wild Hare (on El Camino, across from Kepler's Books). I checked out their website and the menu it lists, and it sounded good and in our pricerange for the evening, so we went.

We arrived on a Tuesday night around 8:30, and were given our choice of tables, as the place was about a quarter full. The previous tenant of the space was Wild Hare, and I have to say their atmosphere was a lot lusher and more to my liking than the current Oak City decor. Still, it's very nice inside, just a little bland - too much beige, not enough textures or colors. The open kitchen is a great feature, as are the huge windows onto El Camino, and the high ceiling and bar shelves that nearly reach it.

We got a somewhat unpleasant surprise upon getting the menu: prices have been raised since the posting on their website. The soup is different as are some starters, there's a lot more variety in entrees, the desserts are totally different, and all the entrees in common with the posted menu are two or three dollars more. That said, we still got more than our money's worth.

The bread on the table was good, but the addition of unsalted butter with fresh basil was a really lovely touch.

I started with a somewhat lackluster Caesar salad. The greens were a little darker than I'm used to for Caesar, the salad could have been tossed better or perhaps used a little less dressing, there was more lemon than I am used to, and they had ground pepper around the rim of the plate to avoid the pepper grinder situation (but I really dislike pepper, so just smelling it was not so good). That said, the two fresh cured anchovies that topped the salad were worth going back for on their own, so I wasn't too disappointed. My husband started with the corn chowder, which was fabulous. It was creamy and rich, with crunchy(!) bits of bacon (? it could have been something else, but vegetarians should ask before ordering) and small chunks of potato.

For our entrees, I had the local wild salmon served with argula and fennel salad, creamed corn, and fried green tomatoes, and my husband had their macaroni and cheese. My entree was great! The arugula was tossed with a light vinigrette and little tiny diced bits of fresh fennel, very tasty. The salmon was crisp on the outside with just a little salt and pepper, juicy and perfectly cooked inside. The creamed corn was rich and creamy, so delicious I had a hard time leaving room for dessert. I had never had fried green tomatoes before (need more!), and these were a great first experience, breaded with what seemed like more cornmeal than regular flour. My husband's entree was flat out the best macaroni and cheese I've ever had (check the web menu, it's made with a number of different cheeses). It managed to be tangy and cheesy without being overly oily or feeling like you were just eating melted cheese, but with no floury pasty taste that I've had in a lot of home made dishes.

For dessert, we shared a warm chocolate cake with mint chip gelato and Godiva chocolate syrup. The cake was ok, but not particularly warm or exciting. On the other hand, the gelato was great (and very tasty with the syrup - if I were to go back, I'd order it on its own). My coffee was decent, and never reached empty.

The service was phenomenal. We may have gotten particularly good treatment as patrons on a dead Tuesday night, but I was impressed. We were both drinking water from their fairly small glasses, yet they never reached empty. Despite this, service was not at all intrusive, and the courses were timed perfectly. Dessert arrived and I was just turning around to ask where my coffee was as our server presented it to me and apologized for the thirty second wait. I was impressed.

All told, with tax and a hefty tip for the great service, we paid $63 for everything mentioned. I would definately go back.


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