Dinner chez T J - 12/28/11

Chez TJ restaurant is located in one of the most historic homes just off Castro Street in Downtown Mountain View.  The restaurant is a lovely Victorian house built in 1894 and converted into a restaurant since 1982.  The setting is a cozy, unpretentious, and as soon as you are walking in, it has a feeling that took you to a different place and time, almost like going back to a familiar place of your youth.  Chez TJ is a quaint little restaurant with a 1 Michelin star under it's belt, known for its superb farm-fresh food, extensive and hand picked wine, intimate setting, and meticulous attention to detail.  Chez TJ supports local farms and producers and it shows in the food they served.  The restaurant is fairly small, they have four elegant dinning rooms that may be closed off for private parties of 8 up to 30 people and the maximum capacity is up to 60 people.  They have a small focused staff and the executive chef is the 25 year old Joey Elenterio.  Born and raised in Cupertino, Joey was Nishiyama’s (Previous chef that left chez TJ in Feb. 2011) sous chef, and before that, he was the chef at the now-defunct Tanglewood in Santana Row restaurant which I had the chance to have lunch there once. Joey also worked three years at Spago in Palo Alto, right until it closed a few years back.

The front of the restaurant.

 Chez TJ is one of the few restaurants rated by the prestigious Michelin Guide in the Bay Area, is located a block from Castro Street on Villa Street.  Castro Street is lined with a high concentration of diverse restaurants, cafes, and shops but Mountain View is definitely not known for its fine dining with the exception of Chez T J.

I selected Chez T J to celebrate Hanh's birthday because the atmosphere is intimate, cozy, and also this is a good occasion to discover the restaurant.


We were seated at one of the four dinning rooms close by the kitchen.  Our table was very simply decorated with white linen, adorned with a red hand-blown glass, and a miniature vase simply decorated with a stem of fresh cut flower.   I liked the decor, very quaint with a touch of modernity.

Menu Gastronomique
$85 Per Person; $140 with Wine Pairings

Purée of Sunchoke and Kohlrabi
Lamb Sweetbread, Granny Smith Apple, Chestnut

Variations of Celery and Apple
Shisito Pepper, Sesame, Duck Liver, Espelette

Wild Local Dungeness Crab
Carrot, Radish, Apricot, Shimeji
($10 Supplemental)


Pan Seared New Zealand John Dory
Butternut Squash, Onion, Blackberry, Frisée

Slowly Cooked Monterey Bay Sablefish
Fingerling, Chorizo, Shellfish, Broccolini


Roasted Australian Rack of Lamb
Beet, Almond, Endive, Persimmon, Garlic

Rendered and Crisped Maple Leaf Farms Duck Breast
Turnip, Quince, Candy Cap Mushroom, Coriander


Trio of Fromage - Domestic & Imported
Seasonal Accoutrements
($20 supplemental)


Pistachio Opera Cake
Clementine, Espresso, Cardamom, Meyer Lemon

Sugar Pie Pumpkin Cheesecake
Cranberry, Honey, Sage, Pumpkin Seed

Once you sat down a menu is brought out and there are only two choices to select from!  A 4 course dinner from the “Menu Gastronomique” for $85 and a 8 course Chef's tasting menu for $120.  Both menus suggested wine pairing but since Tuan brought a bottle of red wine from Joseph Phelps, we decided to order a bottle of white wine to go with the 1st half of the menu, which is mostly sea food.  The corkage fee is $35/bottle but if you order a bottle than corkage is waive which is a pretty good deal.

We decided to go with the 8 course Chef's tasting menu....


 So without further ado, let begin the meal!

A basket of assorted warm bread is served with  butter and a bit of olive oil.

We started with a savory Panna cotta with butternut squash butter with toasted pine nuts and pomegranate.

The Panna cotta was creamy and the butternut squash butter was flavorful but it is just an okay amuse bouche it did not Wow me like the Asperge egg at Manresa.

Course 1: American sturgeon caviar with fat powder and a think it is diced ginger.

The fat powder seems a really interesting idea but it does not really have any flavor. 

Course 2: Wild Dungeness crab with shaved radish & carrot, Apricot and garden herb.

Wow, this dish is so beautifully decorated and artfully arranged.

I love this dish! The sweetness of the crab combined with the crunchiness of the carrot & radish and the sauce was also so delicious!

This is definitely a keeper.

Course 3: 62° Jidori Hen Egg with Hedgehog Mushroom , Opal Basil, BBQ Sauce, and Tabasco

Why cooking eggs at 62 degrees? 62 degrees is known as the temperature at which the egg white is cooked.  The eggs are cooked in water at 62° for 45 minutes so that the egg white starts to coagulate and creates a different texture in the egg. The egg yolk does not start the cooking process until it reaches 68 degrees. So, by cooking the egg at 62 degrees, you will keep the egg yolk liquid, nice and warm, and the egg white will coagulate to be creamy, soft texture that melts in your mouth.. 


I asked the waiter what is Jidori and he said they are like the chicken "Wagyu".  Jidori bird is common in Japan but until recently almost unheard of in American restaurants outside the Los Angeles but it is slowly being introduce in high end restaurants. The birds are raised on a handful of farms in California, largely in the agriculturally rich Central Valley. The chickens are fed all-vegetarian diets, without antibiotics. Raised in large barns but are free to roam in their adjacent pastures but their major selling point is freshness.



Course 4:Pan Seared Maine Diver Scallop with blood orange, black garlic, broccoli, and pine nuts,

No the Scallops are not burned (which was my 1st thought when the dish was brought out).  The top of the scallops are cooked with black ash garlic.

This is undoubtedly the first time I've eaten garlic ash, which added a striking accent to the plate but I found that it didn't have any noticeable flavor.

To cleanse our palates, a mango/passion fruit sorbet on a bed of gelé was brought to the table. Wonderful tropic flavors!


Course 5: Hard pear cider braised Kurobuta pork belly with Yam, Pecan, Hosui pear, and Octopus.

Kurobuta Pork is the most highly prized pork in Japan and comes from the ancient breed of pig known as Black Berkshire.  Berkshire Pork, often referred to as Kurobuta has been prized for juiciness, flavor and tenderness, is pink-hued and heavily marbled. Its high fat content makes it suitable for long cooking (braising) and high-temperature cooking.


The Kurobuta pork belly was succulent, fork tender probably from a slow braising, followed by a short roasting because the top is caramelized. I am not sure if I can differentiate Kurobuta pork vs. a regular piece of pork!  This dish is leaning toward Asian dish as I could detect a bit of anise star flavor and the pork was braised almost like the Vietnamese "Thit Kho". 

I enjoyed the pork belly and all the other ingredients on the plate with the exception of the Pecan.  I thought the octopus was an interesting addition to the dish.

Course 6: Grilled Snake River Farm Skirt steak with red cabbage, carrot puree butter, and fennel

This is our last savory dish of the evening!  As the dish was brought out Tuan noticed right away that the skirt steak was unusually thick for a skirt steak!  The waiter inform us that the chef glued (food glue) two pieces of steak together to create height!


The meat is so flavorful perfectly cook to my liking.

I am not sure how they cooked it!  The top is perfectly seared and the inside is red and cooked to perfection!  This is a yummy dish.


Course 7: Brillat-savarin de Seine et Marne, France with Potato gougére, Tarragon, caper, and chorizo.

Brillat-savarin is Made with pasteurized cows' milk with triple-cream is velvety smooth and buttery with a moderate brininess and an earthy, tangy flavor.  Similar to Brie but saltier and much stronger.

Of course a cup of coffee is a must to go with our last course: Dessert!



Course 7: Parsnip spice cake with Seckel pear sake and star anise

The dessert is brought out without the sauce and once then waiter proceed to pour the sauce over on the table.

This cake is very similar to the a toffee cake pudding!  I enjoyed the cake with the ice cream, pear and the oven dry parsnip chip.


And just before we end our night, our server brought out a tray of Mignardises (tiny, bite-sized desserts served at the end of a meal), compliment of the chef.

The Mignardises consisting of tiny almond cake layers with jam an topped with a chocolate ganache, homemade salted caramel toffee, and yummy Pâtes de fruits (fruit jellies) served on a rectangle piece of black slate. It was the perfect end. All those little plates really added up, and we left contentedly full.

Expect to spend at least three hours here to complete the 8 course menu!  So make sure you are not in a rush, sit down and enjoy the chef's Menu!

The setting allowed for really intimate conversations and exceptional service!  The servers are well prepared and well versed in the dishes being presented. Service is polished but not intrusive, making this a fine special occasion! As each course arrives, servers described the food set before us and we when asked for specific, the servers can move off script and describe the intricacies of the food and the particulars of the ingredients. With so many dishes, some are naturally better than others, but taken as a whole, the meal at Chez TJ was top notch and we had truly a memorable dining experience! 

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