May 20 neighborhood Mixer at Steins.

Per recent OMVNA Newsletter, Steins Beer Garden and Restaurant at 895 Villa– one of downtown’s newest, and largest, restaurants — invites Old Mountain View residents for an informal reception Monday, May 20, 6-8PM. This is the first 2013 event of our popular neighborhood Mixer series.

Meet neighbors, nibble hors d’oeuvres, and check out Steins. Consider staying for dinner, or sampling Steins’ many craft beers on tap.

The restaurant:

Steins opened late March after extensive remodeling of the Villa/Bryant site where Golden Wok operated some 20 years. I’ve been there many times since, sampling Steins’s menu — a moving target because it changed often, though they tell me it’s settling down. More below on food impressions.

Steins is a brainchild of beer-geek partners and an experienced Bay Area fine-dining chef (Colby Reade). I reported a few weeks ago on OMVNAtalk a kitchen tour by Chef Reade, displaying in-house bakery, huge simmering stockpot making broth for soups and sauces, and a 1907 Escoffier “Guide Culinaire” on the shelf. (1907 — the famous original — not the later, 1920s edition that I and most other food fanatics use. The “GC” is the book that organized and codified, for restaurant cooks, some 5000 recipes of what’s now considered classic French cuisine.)

Food at Steins complements the 32-tap draft beer selection, which itself slowly changes. I found real gems, like short-rib sliders on afternoon and dinner menus. The tender meat was wine-braised, made into little sandwiches with aioli and fresh green herbs on brioche buns — “was,” because pulled-pork sliders replaced them, at least temporarily. Lamb meatballs were another favorite. Steins hasn’t slighted vegetarian offerings either: among the most interesting courses I tried was a vegan salad of sweet peas in the pod and other savory elements on cold bulghur wheat pilaf. The popular French fries (offered with many courses) are made from fresh potatoes and twice-cooked, in the French tradition.

Main problems everyone has noticed at the new restaurant concerned staff training and main-room acoustics. Steins’s managing partners told me that last-minute requests by city inspectors cut into planned employee training time, translating into some confusion during initial weeks, though I saw visible improvements over time. A few key employees are hard-core beer geeks, like bartender Roger and owner Ted — seek them out if you have subtle questions about the beers. Beer knowledge level varies among the other staff.

The newly remodeled main room exhibited surprisingly loud acoustics (just as at the nearby Agave grill last Summer). Steins’s owners know about this and have plans to mitigate the noise, but it may take time. (This issue occurs in many new restaurants.) Our May-20 neighborhood mixer party is scheduled for Steins’s righthand private room and adjacent outdoor patio, which are quieter spaces.

About Max Hauser

Resident with acknowledged food obsession, active in Bay Area food and wine organizations 30 years. Dining in downtown MV regularly for 20 years and occasionally for 10 years before that.
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