Occupation: Graduate Student & Entrepreneur
Location: Los Altos Hills
Favorite Restaurant: Café Borrone
Reviewed Café Borrone: Wednesday, April 25, 2012
Café Borrone is an institution in Menlo Park, that rare Parisian style café and restaurant that can function as anything you’d like at whatever time of day. In the morning, their pastries are outstanding, especially the mammoth sized and flavored banana nut muffins. At 7 am or 7 pm, the baristas know their way to a top-notch latte. Lunch is the standout time of day here, where I come nearly every week for any sandwich on their homemade focaccia bread or the pristine salmon carpaccio with arugula in a beautiful, balsamic vinaigrette that demands bread sopping afterwards. If only Borrone would be willing to sell that excellent focaccia by the loaf!
Though, I’m almost always at Borrone for lunch or an afternoon coffee, my recent visit showed that the new, more ambitious dinner service has promise.
A trio of compact perfect Dungeness crab cakes, shaped like the French pastries cannelés are everything you hope for in crab cakes: all crab, with next to no filler, even these would have won awards in Baltimore. I appreciated the six enormous homemade ravioli that covered the plate, stuffed with a vivid spinach and ricotta. The dough was perfectly al dente and had the fresh bite of pasta that is homemade with care put into it. The highlight was the fava bean puree on top of thick, toasted, buttered sourdough, tasting as much of spring as the smell of a just mowed lawn.
Don’t skimp on the house made desserts, especially the chocolate volcano or for more chocolate, the chocolate-chocolate chip cookie with lurking hints of espresso. Any time of day for any type of meal, Café Borrone’s bustling dining room or grand fountain and outdoor patio are the place to be and enjoy the day. For the Palo Alto-Stanford-Menlo Park community, it really is your best friend: Cafe Borrone is always there to satisfy whatever you’re in the mood for.
Occupation: Restaurant Captain
Location: San Francisco
Favorite Restaurant: Wexler’s
Reviewed Café Borrone: Sunday, May 6, 2012
This day we had business in Oakland and drove south from there to do a little afternoon shopping in Menlo Park. As we arrived, we quickly appreciated why we do most of our shopping in San Francisco and headed for an early dinner. Cafe Borrone was the obvious choice, as we needed to eat there. They were very busy in the early evening, and we had helpful, prompt service as we ordered at the counter, found a very clean table in the shade, and sat down to wait for our food.
I tried both the hot and cold versions of “The Borrone,” which is their version of a mocha with spices and toasted almonds. My partner had a wheat beer as we languished in the nice afternoon breeze, and watched many others do the same. Now normally I would like a town square, lake, or park as I sit at a cafe and have a relaxing time. This time it was McDonalds, and El Camino Real Blvd. We enjoyed the freshness of the salad that was a really good value for the price. The Pastrami Melt had good flavors, but was a bit on the small and soggy side. A wonderful charcuterie plate came out, and we felt it needed a little bread or cracker, and mustard, which we very easily got from the staff. The Crostata di Frutta was really nice and had the perfect amount of custard to fruit. Nice fresh berries were on the top, and everything in it really tasted like it was made that day, and not too sweet. We got a couple ginger cookies for the drive home and we were on our way.
Cafe Borrone had an extensive menu and did a good job of delivering great service, albeit limited by design as you order at the counter, but cordial, helpful and caring none the less. As a 26 year veteran of the restaurant industry, I shrieked inside a little while waiting for my drinks at the coffee bar as a server was loudly bragging about the money they made that day and counting it in front of me. This is a cardinal sin to do around customers or co-workers in any service situation.
The one test I decided to take on all three restaurants was the cleanliness of their sugar bowls. I completely emptied each sugar bowl at all three restaurants and examined what I saw. When sugar vessels have paper packets in them and are spilled into, this becomes not good in a variety of ways that we don’t need to talk about. Cafe Borrone had two dimes, a nickel and a good amount of dirt underneath the sugar packets. The other two restaurants were clean and nice.
I did enjoy myself and thought the food was a very good value for the price. Would I drive 75 miles round trip again for a mocha with cinnamon and a decent pastrami sandwich? Probably not. We both agreed that if in we were in the area, we’d be glad to have the experience and would come back again. I loved the friendly atmosphere, and I like the menu layout. Being a non-drinker myself and having challenges in finding plentiful non-alcoholic options, Borrone was the best and offered many wonderful options. The two drinks I had were so full that they did make a bit of a mess on the counter even before I picked them up.
The bathrooms were pretty dirty and did seem to be pretty high traffic for the area. They could have used a little more attention in that department. The patio outside was really nice to sit at with all the great umbrellas they had there. My partner thought it a little odd that so many nice people were inside helping us, but customers were bussing previous customers’ tables outside, and putting all the dishes onto other tables that people could have been using. One of these tables filled with dishes of many diners was next to us and never cleared in the 1.5 hours we were there.
I won’t say that I had a bad experience, but they have a couple things they could work on to make me want to come back. That’s my story and I am sticking to it.
Occupation: Hypnotherapist & Reiki Practitioner
Location: San Francisco
Favorite Restaurant: Big 4 Restaurant
Reviewed Café Borrone: Tuesday, May 8, 2012
We had no idea where we were going and it turned out to be quite something other than what we had in mind, considering the other two places we went. The café is huge, filled with activity and noise. It was interesting people watching.
We were greeted at the counter and ordered from a very pleasant young woman who had answers to questions. She seemed a bit young to be so knowledgeable.
The service took considerably longer than any place I’ve been for a good long while, but it was such a large place, slow service was understandable. It wasn’t off-putting. But when my food arrived (salmon), the sauce was loaded with red peppers (not on the menu description). Being allergic, I thought I might be in trouble, but the server was so gracious and accommodating. She took the dish back, gave me the same order but without the peppers. It was another long wait to get that, so my dinner companion was finished by the time I got my order, but my dish was definitely worth the trouble! The whole dish, beautifully presented and oh-so tasty, was lovely. The lamb chops were well presented but were tough. The liver pâté was nothing special, but the desserts were fresh and delicious (made on the premises).
There was no comfortable ambience. It was like a huge coffee shop with food at very high prices, also considering we weren’t in the City. There are better places in the City, though perhaps smaller. We were unimpressed and will not return.