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Beef kare-kare (beef curry stew with peanut sauce, eggplant, and string beans)Back in October, I complained about Pleasanton’s lack of high-quality food retailers. In the last couple of months there have been some positive developments on this front — first, a new Draeger’s (not in Pleasanton, but a short drive away in Blackhawk — more on this later), and then the appearance of an intriguing sign in the Bernal Plaza shopping center near Bernal Ave. and I-680: Pacific Gourmet & Market.

It took me a while to make it over there, but I managed it a few days before their grand opening last weekend. Pacific Gourmet is a family-owned Filipino market which also serves prepared food. There’s a good selection of canned and packaged food, including what I’m told are “essentials” from the islands, and also fresh and frozen meat and seafood.

Lechón (roast suckling pig) and lumpia (spring rolls)The kitchen turns out an impressive set of hot food for take-out or eating at one of the pleasant tables. There’s a rotating menu of main dishes including chicken or pork adobo, chicken or pork afritada, kare-kare and several other beef dishes, fried pompano and tilapia and fish sinigang, and at least half a dozen others. Appetizers and small dishes include lumpia Shanghai, palabok, BBQ pork skewers, and egg rolls. And for real pork lovers, there are chicharones (cracklings) and lechón kawali (suckling pig). Breakfast is served on weekends only, and offers garlic rice and eggs with a choice of longanisa or tocino sausages, or tapa (meat strips). (Longsilog, tosilog, and tapsilog for you aficionados.)

I bought enough for several meals — lumpia, lechón, pork adobo, and kare-kare, with a bag of chicharones for snacking. Everything was delicious. (It’s probably even better eaten right there on the spot.) Worth checking out, even if you’re not familiar with Filipino food — the owners are very friendly and will gladly explain what’s what and suggest good combinations.

Pacific Gourmet & Market, 6654 Koll Center Parkway, Suite 330 (facing Bernal Ave.), Pleasanton. Tel. 925 417 1120. M-F 11-7, Sat 9-7, Sun 9-6.

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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?)