It is no surprise that San Francisco Bay Area offers an extensive culinary scene, varying from small ethnic hole-in-the-wall places to Michelin starred restaurants. Many visitors want to stay in downtown San Francisco during their stay here to access the culinary scene. However, a foodie’s itinerary is not limited to just downtown San Francisco.
30 minutes south of San Francisco is the city of San Mateo. About a decade ago, San Mateo was the place for high schoolers to see movies, grab boba milk tea, or eat Japanese bentos. At the time, young professionals and families would go to Burlingame for sit down restaurants. It has evolved very much in the last five years due to the city of San Mateo’s renovations and efforts to attract higher end businesses and restaurants. The creative movement is a whole other story, but nowadays, San Mateo has become the place for meetings among the locals in neighboring cities.
Right off Highway 92, tucked away off the main street El Camino Real, situates the husband-and-wife team at All Spice. The Michelin starred restaurant was formerly a 1906 Victorian house. It’s hidden away from the noise of the highway and main road, yet easy to find with plenty of parking.
Upon entering All Spice, one could not help but take note of the elegantly decorated interior. Indeed, it was a house with three dining rooms, but boy, was it a beautiful house. Shoshana, the general manager, greeted all customers with a vibrant smile.
John and I were seated in the burgundy room. Shoshana graciously informed us to choose from either the menu or the “chef’s choice.” Renan, our server, introduced himself to us and offered to take our order. I went for the chef’s choice (and left John with no choice). When asked how many starters we would like, John and I looked at each other in confusion. Renan smiled, “Usually two to three is probably good. I’d say go for three and you’d still have room for the entree and a dessert.”
Shortly after, Renan brought us the amuse bouche – potato soup with a hint of cheddar and scallion foams. The soup had a perfect balance between the potatoes and scallions and kicked off the gastronomic experience that was our five-course meal that night.
Chef Sachin, with classical training, brought modern and creative twists to the dishes with Indian herbs and spices. Sure, we may have been to “fusion” restaurants before, but hands down Chef Sachin had perfected the balance between using traditional French techniques and exploring the best of tastes from other cuisines, harmonizing organic flavors with spices from his heritage.
Some of my personal favorites included (but were not limited to) the braised octopus, chaat, and pan-seared sea bass.
For starters, Renan explained to us that the octopus was braised for 9 hours before Chef Sachin roasted and cooled it a la plancha. The hours that went into this dish definitely showed through the intensity in flavors and the tenderness of the meat. As for the chaat, Chef Sachin used various beans and layered a creation of goat cheese and Sichuan peppercorn between the chaat and the finely sliced radishes in variety. The black radish contrasted nicely with the colors of the watermelon radish and castelfranco radicchio. Most of all, I loved the creative combination of the goat cheese and Sichuan pepper sauce. Never would I have thought to pair the two together because they seemed so… different from each other. Yet, the married flavors complemented each other’s distinctive, unique character very, very well. Impressive.
Chef Sachin prepared venison for John and pan-seared sea bass for me. He crisped the sea bass on the outer layer. Once cut in, the soft and flaky sea bass shimmered with the overflowing juice. While chewing the sea bass, I could feel the juice flowing out, intertwining with my palate. I was left longing for more after finishing my plate. I honestly wish I hadn’t shared some of the sea bass with John.
Both John and I agreed that all the courses presented the right combination of sweetness, acidity, spices, and texture. For example, the amuse bouche soup was mindfully paired with sliced scallions and the sea bass on top of crunchy kimchi (among other delicious pairings). I was grateful to have experienced the dishes with refined and differing texture in each through Chef Sachin’s techniques in foams, puffs, and crisps.
We were stuffed happily and ended the meal with desserts.
1602 S El Camino Real, San Mateo, CA 94402
Disclosure: All Spice has kindly hosted the meal. However, I’m not compensated in any way to feature the experience. All opinions are my very own.