Most diners downtown can determine the gist of a restaurant’s menu by its name alone.
At Ristorante Bella Vita, Pompeii Ristorante and Ristorante Il Porcino, it’s a foregone conclusion that Italian fare will dominate the food choices. At Fiesta Vallarta and Casa Lupe, you’re in for a spicy tongue-tripping South of the Border. And if the names Akane, Mikado and Sumika don’t hint at Asian fare, then the Japanese lettering clues in purveyors that fish – raw or otherwise – dwells behind the signs.
But scanning Plates Bar & Grill’s lunch and dinner choices, there’s definitely a global thing going on – the menu is all over the map. And that’s exactly what Plates’ owner Christie West and head chef Brian Fernando planned to bring to the table when they officially opened Los Altos’ newest eatery last week at 233 State St.
With a Colombian and Sri Lankan heritage and French-cooking experience from San Jose’s Le Papillon restaurant, Fernando said he’s not hemmed in by any one culture’s food-preparation methods.
“I’m definitely rooted in French techniques,” he said, “but I use ingredients from all over the place. And there’s no one style.”
And West brings her Greek and European heritage with Italian, German, Greek and American recipes to the new restaurant she began conceptualizing several months ago.
“Brian is an incredible chef,” she said. “I was fortunate enough not only to find him, but that Brian was looking to make his mark.”
The collaboration resulted in a menu that has a little of everything. From burgers and buffalo wings to seared Scottish salmon, West said diners could enjoy familiar flavors with a special twist.
“We’re not going to serve anything exotic that people aren’t familiar with,” she said. “It’s casual, new-American cuisine. Lunch will be geared to salad and sandwiches and dinner dining a little more upscale and traditional – but you can still get a burger.”
Recipes include sustainably farmed meats and fresh and local organically grown produce.
“That extra dollar goes a long way with the philosophy ‘from farm to table food,’ Fernando said. “And we’ll do everything from scratch as much as possible.”
With homemade ketchup, tortilla chips, mayonnaise, dipping sauces and salad dressings, diners should be able to taste the difference.
“I’m just trying to cook food that I define as my style,” Fernando said.
West also plans to vary the menu seasonally to ensure that recipes use ingredients that don’t need to be transported from different climes.
And locally grown includes the wait staff and bartenders, too.
“They’re all people who grew up in Los Altos,” she said.
From the midnight-blue walls, the sea-green antiqued chairs, to the white-cloth-covered tables and freshly tiled floor, interior designer Gloria Bernard has made major changes to the property since an August 2007 fire damaged the building that then housed Satkar Authentic Indian Restaurant.
West said the building owners, Steve and Tsin-Tsin Cheng, were instrumental in helping her get Plates off the ground.
“They felt that Los Altos deserved some variety,” she said. “But they wanted to keep the space as a restaurant.”
In the future, West said outside seating would be available for diners at the back entrance in Plaza Central, as well as TVs on wheels for guests who don’t want to miss any sports action.
Plates will also provide catering services for private events and the State Street space will be available for wedding parties or other celebrations. West hope Plates gains the reputation that the now-defunct Jocco’s did once upon a time.
“It was a wonderful, wonderful restaurant,” she said. “We’ll hopefully give the community what Jocco’s did.”
But for now, she and Fernando are simply excited to be here.
“I always wanted to have a restaurant in Los Altos,” West said.
Plates is open 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. weekdays for lunch, 7:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. weekends for brunch and 5-9:30 p.m. nightly for dinner.
For more information, call 383-5521.