I went to 's Madera Restaurant at the Rosewood Sand Hill multiple times in 2012. Every time the food was superb. The views from the dining room are simply gorgeous. You must try to time things with the sunset if at all possible. You won't be disappointed by a meal in this restaurant. Only drawback, it's pricey, but if you live on the Peninsula, it won't shock you!
I went to Pampas in Palo Alto for two special occasion meals in 2012. I chose Pampas because I think the experience is really special. The meat is very delicious, and the delivery is so unique that people who haven't experienced a Brazilian steakhouse love it. Their side dish bar is yummy, so much so that I always have to remember to go slow on the sides to leave room for the star of the evening, the traveling entrees.
Another place I went repeatedly for different types of dining experiences, from drinks with friends to a group birthday dinner, was the Gravity Wine Bar in Palo Alto. The service is attentive, and the food is upscale yummy. The wine is the star of the show at this restaurant so choose this restaurant when you are dining with someone who appreciates vino.
For my birthday, I chose to dine at Station 1 Restaurant in Woodside. They made everything flow beautifully, and my guests were all delighted with the special touches they offered for my birthday. The food was haute rustic, and fit perfectly with the dining room atmosphere. It was a special night, and they do those just right!
Woodside kills me because they not only have Station 1 Restaurant but also Michelin-starred The Village Pub. I dined there on a week night with another couple, and they were absolutely packed. The food was the reason! The service is impeccable, and we were very impressed with the vegetarian options offered our vegetarian friends. Stars well deserved!
Two important celebratory meals were spent at Fuki Sushi in Palo Alto. The fish is scrumptious there, and the service is equally as wonderful. We had kids with us for both parties, and the restaurant was as nice as they could be to the kids and their constant requests. We stuffed ourselves to the gills!
A big favoriate of mine was an impromptu pop-in at the Bistro Elan on Birch Street in Palo Alto. The meal was modern and fresh. The choices on the menu were local and prepared expertly. They had an outstanding wine list, and everything tasted amazing. They are in a very small space, so call before going - we simply lucked out that night!
My favorite find was Vino Locale on Kipling Street in Palo Alto. I met a girlfriend for a sunny lunch on their back patio. Everything on the menu was local, seasonal and fresh as could be. Lots of gluten-free options, their wine list was ridiculous, and the back patio space was EMPTY. I think I might form a monthly girls-club meetup at this place. It was so fun and top secret!
I also enjoyed an anniversary meal at Evvia Estiatorio in Palo Alto. I hadn't been to this restaurant in 10 years, but it was just as good as I remember it. Lasting as long as Evvia has in Palo Alto is a testament to how good their food and service still is. Bravo!
I did want to call out some special meals that I had off of the Peninsula just in case you will be in these neck of the woods.
in the MIssion in San Francisco was the location I chose as the birthday destination for my husband's 45th. We had special tequila flights, margaritas by the pitcher in multiple flavors, and some of the most delicious Mexican food I've had in a long while! They have an gorgeous, but casual event space, and their team was so attentive to our group during the event and also in the planning stage. It is a successful three-restaurant operation, and I know why! They rock very hard!
Mozzeria was another special dining experience in San Francisco on 16t St in the Mission. We devoured home-made burrata, wood-fired pizzas, and so much more. The owners and servers are hearing impaired so ordering was really cool and different. It was really yummy and unique. Highly recommend.
Can't ever have a best dining experiences list and not include Cafe Ethiopia in the Mission. They have the best Ethiopian food in the Bay Area (and I have made it my personal mission to try them all!) and the couple who owns the restaurant are the nicest people EVER. Win-win-win. I always have the vegetarian sampler, the chicken and mushroom dish, and the spinach or the whole lentils. Go there as soon as possible. You'll thank me!
That's the list of my favorite dining pleasures in 2012. What did I leave off that you love?