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zagat2008Well, the 2008 edition of the Zagat San Francisco Bay Area Restaurants guide is out, and there’s not a single Pleasanton restaurant included. Even Dublin made the grade (albeit only with chain locations of Amici’s Pizza and Casper’s Hot Dogs), and Livermore’s Wente Vineyards was justifiably featured, and San Ramon checked in with Cafe Esin (which I mean to try). But despite my write-in efforts (Delatorre’s Trattoria, Claude & Jacqueline’s Bistro, Casa Madrid, and Mahalo Grille) we’ll have to wait until next year. Even though I didn’t write it in since I haven’t been in several years, I expected Blue Agave Club to be included — it gets a fair amount of buzz, it’s in a historic building, and as a comment pointed out, many people consider it a destination restaurant on its own.

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Musings on what Pleasanton lacks in the food department, in no particular order:

  1. A destination restaurant. Sure, there’s plenty of good food in town, but given the demographics it would be nice to have something truly excellent and innovative, the sort of place that might get a Michelin star. (Were any places in the 680 corridor awarded stars in the new edition?) I see why a high-end ownership group and established chef might worry if suburbanites have sufficiently refined palates (or whether city dwellers would brave the long drive), but right now it does not seem like anyone is even trying.
  2. A good market. Pleasanton is a food retailing wasteland. We have the chains, of which Raley’s/Nob Hill is clearly the best, and then there’s Gene’s Fine Foods, which has a good meat and fish department, a decent selection of non-perishables, but not much in the way of prepared foods. And Main Street no longer has a single food market (although the weekly farmer’s market on Angela St. is lovely). While something like Draeger’s might be too much to ask for, it seems like the nearest quality market is Lunardi’s (née Andronico’s) in Danville. While I get to San Francisco weekly (and shop at Bryan’s, Cal-Mart, or Mollie Stone’s) and to the Peninsula from time to time, why isn’t there good shopping right here in town?  How about a Dean & Deluca or even an A.G. Ferrari?
  3. A real Vietnamese restaurant. Most ethnic cuisines are well represented in Pleasanton, but for anything beyond Pho Hoa’s limited menu of pho and bun, you have to hear for Livermore or Fremont. (There was a short-lived place called Saigon on Santa Rita Rd. in the pace formerly occupied by Blessings, but it’s now a Korean restaurant that I haven’t tried yet.)
  4. A Greek restaurant. It seems that there’s an Italian restaurant on every corner in the Bay Area, but precious few Greek places. After Bert’s Hofbrau on Main St. closed, the papered-over windows had a liquor license application notice for something with a Greek name (Agora Bistro?)

I was sitting in Tully’s on Main St. as usual late on Friday afternoons and went to look something up on Yelp. (I’m not a huge Yelp fan, since (1) it’s clear that many of the reviews are contributed by people without a good understanding of the cuisine they’re criticizing, and (2) some of the reviews are patently bogus, contributed by sock puppets of business owners, but it’s not completely useless.) I don’t remember what I was looking for or if I found it, but what I did learn was that there’s a Cantonese/Hong Kong-style seafood restaurant in Pleasanton that I didn’t know about.

It’s Tri Valley Seafood, at 5588 Springdale Ave., adjacent to Stoneridge Mall and in the same shopping center as JC Penney Home Store and Office Max. So I wandered over and got some takeout — wor won ton soup and an oyster omelette. (They seem to specialize in live fish and shellfish, but I was on my own and didn’t want anything that elaborate.) The place looked like a pretty typical restaurant catering to an almost exclusively Chinese-speaking clientele, with a lot of untranslated specials on the walls and other Chinese signage.

The take-out stuff was just fine — nothing special, but both the ambience and the food were quite different from the more Americanized cuisine at places like Gold Chopsticks or First Hunan Chef Wong. Their specialty is dim sum, so I’ll be back for that on a weekend.

Eating in Pleasanton is a new blog focused on eating and drinking in Pleasanton (California) and nearby cities, as well as notes and comments on local businesses, services, issues, and other developments. Your host is Michael C. Berch, a Pleasanton resident since 1987. I also write about food and travel at Berch on Food.