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Cover Story

ROOM

FOR GROWTH

Courtesy of Steinberg Architects

Plans for a new Hilton Homewood Suites — on the site of the former Palo Alto Bowl — were approved in December 2009.

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Its design, now thought of as AS PALO ALTO’S charmingly old-fashioned, was visionary at the time. Ward Win- HOTEL MARKET slow, in his centennial history of Palo Alto, credited John Rickey HEATS UP, with creating a new breed of motel when he opened Rickey’s Studio BUILDERS AND Inn in 1952. Rickey “used lawns CITY OFFICIALS and shrubbery, pools and statues, even swans, to create a novel trend ARE LOOKING TO in 1952: the garden motel. Before long, it was being imitated wher- CASH IN ever the climate permitted.” “It was really a wonderful com- by Gennady Sheyner munity facility in many ways,” said (continued on next page)

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evelopers and Palo Alto land-use watchdogs rarely speak with the same voice, but when the venerable Rickey’s Hyatt hotel closed its doors in June 2005, just about everyone was singing the blues. The hotel had opened during Palo Alto’s post-World War II boom and evolved into a quaint but prominent community resource, with groups such as the Chamber of Commerce and the Rotary Club using its banquet hall as their meeting space. Its list of famous guests included President Bill Clinton, Willie Mays and Jesse Owens.

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Rendering courtesy of Architectural Dimensions

Proposed Hilton Homewood Suites (former Palo Alto Bowl)

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Illustration by Shannon Corey

Proposed Hilton Garden Inn (currently Hertz and Avis car rentals)

The map, above, shows locations of two proposed hotels in Palo Alto, including a Hilton Garden Inn, also shown in an architectural drawing, top right. On the site of Ming’s restaurant near the Baylands, a proposed hotel, right, has received City Council approval but hit financing difficulties. Rendering courtesy of Stoecker and Northway Architects

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A Hilton Garden Inn, the same brand that’s proposed for El Camino Real across from the former Rickey’s Hyatt property in south Palo Alto, already exists in Mountain View.

Room for growth (continued from previous page)

Councilwoman Karen Holman, who served on the Planning and Transportation Commission at the time of the hotel’s closure. “Many city events and public events happened there. The Clintons stayed there.� Hyatt, which had bought Rickey’s in 1962, proposed in the late 1990s to replace the hotel and add 300 homes. But after years of opposition from residents throughout the city, Hyatt in 2004 announced its plan to close the hotel and build only homes. Rickey’s closed in June 2005.

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The changes include creating an overlay district that allows hotels to be developed at double the density of what is normally allowed. Today, these efforts appear to be bearing fruit. Two major hotel proposals — a Hilton Homewood Suites and a Hilton Garden Inn — are now making their way through the city’s planning process. Another hotel proposal, at the site of Ming’s restaurant near the Palo Alto Baylands, received the City Council’s approval earlier this year, though the project could be delayed by financing difficulties, owner Vicky Ching has said. Though these hotels may not materialize for several more years,

through “record-breaking declines in revenues and profits,� according to PKF. In the Peninsula and South Bay area, the vacancy rate dropped from an already underwhelming 68.6 percent to 63.7 percent between 2008 and 2009, and the average daily room rate declined from $139 to $117. “After 9/11 there was a big recession. Then things were on fire in 2007. Then in 2008, when the financial crisis hit, things went back down into the dumps,� recalled Clement Chen, whose company, Pacific Hotel Management, owns the Westin and Sheraton hotels on El Camino Real near downtown Palo Alto. “I’d say 2009 was prob-

“There was a great lament when Hyatt Rickey’s closed that we’d never get another hotel. Now we have, what, four in the works? We did it through zoning, and we did it through marketing.� — PAT BURT, CITY COUNCILMAN

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The hotel’s departure dealt a financial blow to the city, which was already seeing tax revenues plummet during the dot-com bust. The hotel was bringing in close to $1 million in annual hotel-tax revenues — money that went directly into the city’s General Fund and helped pay for basic city services. The community outcry was loud. Developers and business leaders used the episode to rail against the “Palo Alto process� and blamed the city for chasing away a valuable asset. Land-use watchdogs, neighborhood groups and other critics who had castigated Hyatt’s residential proposal lamented the loss of a valuable community asset and to this day demonize the development that came to occupy the site — a 185-townhouse community called Arbor Real. But at least one good thing came out of the hotel’s departure: It prompted Palo Alto’s elected leaders to look for new ways to attract hotels and raise hotel-tax revenues. In 2006, the council changed the city’s zoning code to provide incentives for new hotel development.

the new applications are giving the City Council and staff reasons for optimism. At a recent meeting, Councilman Pat Burt called the hotel trend “one of the few economic elements that we were able to influence to a significant degree.� “On the heels of the Hyatt Rickey’s closing, the sentiment of the council and the community was, ‘Woe is us! We’ll never get another hotel,’� Burt said in March. “We moved to both a marketing program and zoning changes to address that.�

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he renewed interest in hotels is arriving just as rooms at existing hotels are seeing their fortunes turn for the better. Like other sectors of the economy, hotels suffered a heavy economic blow during and after the Great Recession. According to PKF Consulting, an analyst of hotel trends, hotel managers nationwide budgeted for a 6.8 percent increase in their revenues in 2008, only to see revenues decline by 1.8 percent as the economy tanked. Things got worse in 2009, a year in which the industry suffered

ably the low point for all kinds of businesses and for the hotel business in general.� But the outlook has improved. Chastened by recent experiences, hotel managers across the country budgeted for “a paltry 1.2 percent increase in revenue� for 2010, according to PKF. That year, however, rooms filled up faster than expected, and revenues climbed by 5 percent. Managers expected occupancy rates to increase by 0.7 percent in 2010. They ended up going up by 5.8 percent. Palo Alto, where the hotel market is historically strong, is cashing in on the improving climate. After seeing its hotel-tax revenues plummet by 10.8 percent between 2008 and 2009, the city is facing a rebound. In August of this year, the average occupancy rate at local hotels was a robust 84 percent, up from 71 percent in August 2010. Daily rates had climbed from $139 to $159. A recent report from the city’s Administrative Services Department acknowledges that the revenue source is economically sensitive but concludes that the

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Clement Chen, whose company, Pacific Hotel Management, owns the Westin and Sheraton hotels on El Camino Real near downtown Palo Alto, stands in front of the Westin. cityâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s projection of bringing in $8.2 million in transient-occupancy tax this year â&#x20AC;&#x153;will be realized and possibly exceeded.â&#x20AC;? â&#x20AC;&#x153;The strong results are primarily due to a strong local business environment,â&#x20AC;? the report stated. The fresh numbers, along with the crop of new hotel proposals, are giving city leaders a reason to smile. During last monthâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s council discussion of the cityâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s economic development, Burt attributed the resurgence of hotel projects to the councilâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s aggressive effort over the past five years. In 2006 and 2007, the council changed the zoning code to ease density restrictions for new hotels in commercial zones. The city had also partnered with the San Mateo County Business Bureau to promote local hotels through a program called â&#x20AC;&#x153;Destination Palo Altoâ&#x20AC;? <02014> which the city subsidized with $240,000 a year before privatizing it in February 2010. â&#x20AC;&#x153;We had a clear recognition of the way in which this city has many inherent attractions for hotel stays,â&#x20AC;? Burt said at a Nov. 29 meeting of the councilâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Policy and Services Committee. â&#x20AC;&#x153;We didnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t have a lot of hotels. â&#x20AC;&#x153;There was a great lament when Hyatt Rickeyâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s closed that weâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;d never get another hotel,â&#x20AC;? he added. â&#x20AC;&#x153;Now we have, what, four in the works? We did it through zoning, and we did it through marketing.â&#x20AC;?

I

f built, the proposed hotels would add close to 500 rooms to the cityâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s hotel scene. Perhaps most importantly, officials say, these rooms would cater to the type of clientele that currently has a hard time finding accommodations in Palo Alto â&#x20AC;&#x201D; business executives, families of Stanford University students and the various dignitaries who routinely visit the university. The city now has about 25 hotels, but many of them are older and charge comparatively less â&#x20AC;&#x201D; not the type a group of executives visiting Hewlett-Packard or VMware

would likely patronize. â&#x20AC;&#x153;We have many smaller, older hotels on El Camino Real, but they donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t serve the type of demographic of folks who want to come in here for business purposes or to Stanford,â&#x20AC;? Curtis Williams, the cityâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s planning director, told the Weekly. Palo Alto Economic Development Manager Thomas Fehrenbach said he often hears from local hightech companies about the shortage of hotel space for their visitors. â&#x20AC;&#x153;Whatâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s interesting about Palo Alto right now, in terms of the economy, is that we seem to be white-hot,â&#x20AC;? Fehrenbach told the Weekly. â&#x20AC;&#x153;The demand for hotel rooms here Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;d say is multi-faceted. Weâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;ve got companies in the research park; we have the hospital going through the expansion; we have Stanford University with all of its events and with all the alumni and parents visiting. â&#x20AC;&#x153;In conversations with companies, large and small, one of the comments I often get is, â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;Weâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;d love to be staying in Palo Alto but we couldnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t find any availability, so weâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;re staying somewhere else.â&#x20AC;&#x2122;â&#x20AC;? A report the city commissioned in 2008 supports the anecdotal evidence. The study by Economic Resource Associates was prompted by a proposal by Stanford University to build a 120-room hotel at Stanford Shopping Center â&#x20AC;&#x201D; a project that Stanford had paired with the massive expansion of its hospital facilities. According to the report, Palo Alto had about 1,865 units in 2008, 300 more than Mountain View and about 650 more than Redwood City. But the firm also found that Palo Altoâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s hotel scene has plenty of room to grow and that an upscale hotel at Stanford Shopping Center would be economically viable. Economic Resource Associates cited the propertyâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s proximity to â&#x20AC;&#x153;major demand generators in the Silicon Valley and at Stanford Universityâ&#x20AC;?; convenient access to Stanford Shopping Center, the university and downtown Palo

Alto; and a location between two major international airports. The firm predicted that a 3.5-star hotel with 275 rooms would achieve an occupancy rate of 75 percent with an average daily rate of $225. Most importantly, from the cityâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s perspective, it would bring in about $2 million in annual revenues. Though Stanfordâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s hotel proposal is no longer on the table (Stanford dropped the idea so that it could focus on the hospital expansion), the idea of having a hotel in the mall remains on the cityâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s wish list. It is included â&#x20AC;&#x201D; along with an auto mall, expanded parking lots and a digital billboard â&#x20AC;&#x201D; on a list of revenue-boosting ventures city staff is keeping an eye on. Williams said that even though the planned hotel at Stanford Shopping Center never materialized, the process could have influenced subsequent applications. â&#x20AC;&#x153;(Stanford) didnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t do it, but it may be that the process at least brought the subject up to a point where others realized that the city is interested in it,â&#x20AC;? Williams said.

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or all the optimism, the past decade has been a barren time for hotel development in Palo Alto. When the 42-room Hotel Keen opened on High Street last year, it became the cityâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s first new hotel in a decade. Meanwhile, the 2000s have seen two hotels depart â&#x20AC;&#x201D; Rickeyâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s and the Mayflower Garden Hotel, which closed in October 2007. That trend, however, also appears to be headed down a new path. The cityâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Architectural Review Board got its first look this week at a proposed Hilton Garden Inn â&#x20AC;&#x201D; a four-story, 176-room hotel that would stand near the busy corner of El Camino Real and Arastradero Road. According to a staff report, the U-shaped hotel would include â&#x20AC;&#x153;amenities such as on-site bar and restaurant, high-speed Internet, a well-equipped business center, an indoor pool and Jacuzzi, and an (continued on next page)

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Cover Story

Veronica Weber

Room for growth (continued from previous page)

outdoor fire pit.â&#x20AC;? The ground floor would also include exercise room, a lounge and offices. The upscale hotel would, in short, serve the type of clientele that currently has to look outside the city for rooms â&#x20AC;&#x201D; business travelers, venture capitalists and Stanford alumni. The letter from the project architect, Architectural Dimensions, describes the Hilton Garden Inn as â&#x20AC;&#x153;a nationally recognized upscale lodging chain with a loyal following among business and leisure travelers.â&#x20AC;?

Just south of the Garden Inn, at the site of the former Palo Alto Bowl on El Camino, a four-story tall, 167-room Hilton Homewood Suites is planned. The application for the extended-stay facility was approved by a somewhat divided council in December 2009. Another new establishment that could potentially boost the cityâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s coffers by up to $670,000 a year is a 140-room hotel near the Baylands, at the site of Mingâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s. In April 2010, the council unanimously and enthusiastically approved the proposed hotel at 1700 Embarcadero Road. â&#x20AC;&#x153;This, frankly, is exactly the kind

of thing that we need to encourage,â&#x20AC;? then-Vice Mayor Sid Espinosa said just before the vote. â&#x20AC;&#x153;Itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s not only a great project, but it helps to generate revenue for our city.â&#x20AC;? But the Mingâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s project also highlights the ongoing uncertainties in the hotel industry and, more generally, in todayâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s economy. Ching told the Weekly that the hotel project is being â&#x20AC;&#x153;suspendedâ&#x20AC;? because of uncertainty over financing. The hotel will not be going up in the â&#x20AC;&#x153;very near future,â&#x20AC;? she said. â&#x20AC;&#x153;The economy has changed so much since we first started the process,â&#x20AC;? Ching said. â&#x20AC;&#x153;Itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s not easy for us now to get investors. The

Veronica Weber

Vicky Ching, right, owner of Mingâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s restaurant, above, says the economic climate has changed enormously since plans for a new hotel near the Baylands were conceived and approved by the City Council.

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Veronica Weber

Now occupied by car-rental agencies, the property in the 4200 block of El Camino Real could host a four-story, 176-room Hilton Garden Inn with an on-site bar and restaurant, as well as a business center. world is in such an uncertain place â&#x20AC;&#x201D; nobody knows whatâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s going to happen.â&#x20AC;? The hotel could still get built sometime down the line, but there will be no construction for at least two or three years, Ching said. She remains optimistic about the hotelâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s viability at the Mingâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s location, next to U.S. Highway 101. The cityâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s approval, she said, will allow development of the hotel if the economy improves.

â&#x20AC;&#x153;We are glad that we did get the rezoning,â&#x20AC;? Ching said. â&#x20AC;&#x153;Whenever we want to build a hotel, we can build a hotel.â&#x20AC;? The cityâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s famously difficult approval process presents another obstacle for potential hotel builders. Clement Chen, who earlier this year planned to build a fivestory â&#x20AC;&#x153;concierge wingâ&#x20AC;? on Wells Avenue across the street from the Westin and the Sheraton, had second thoughts after the first public

hearing on the project. He decided to withdraw the application. With its 44 rooms, the boutique hotel would have brought the city about $500,000 in annual hotel taxes. But the proposal would have required the rezoning of the site to â&#x20AC;&#x153;planned communityâ&#x20AC;? â&#x20AC;&#x201D; a designation that allows developers to exceed density requirements and other regulations in exchange for negotiated â&#x20AC;&#x153;public benefitsâ&#x20AC;? (negotiations over these vaguely defined

â&#x20AC;&#x153;public benefitsâ&#x20AC;? often take many months). At a May hearing, the cityâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Planning and Transportation Commission decided that Chen isnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t offering enough benefits and asked him to revise his proposal. He had offered new crosswalks, sidewalk improvements and wayfinding signs. Chen told the Weekly he felt he couldnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t provide any more benefits and still keep the project economically viable. â&#x20AC;&#x153;Itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s a difficult project, and I

worked for a period of time after that period trying to figure out what I could do to develop a package that would be acceptable to the planning commission,â&#x20AC;? Chen said. â&#x20AC;&#x153;I thought the economics of the project wouldnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t support any more.â&#x20AC;? Then thereâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s the question of public opposition. Not all hotels in Palo Alto are created equal, and few could aspire to match the type of goodwill that Rickeyâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s engendered. After the councilâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s approval of the Hilton Homewood Suites hotel and 26 adjacent townhomes, legions of bowlers and residents lamented the demise of another â&#x20AC;&#x153;community treasureâ&#x20AC;? â&#x20AC;&#x201D; the Palo Alto Bowl. Even as the council signed off on the project, two departing council members, Jack Morton and Yoriko Kishimoto (both of whom were participating in their final City Council meeting), criticized the plan and refused to vote for it. After hearing from dozens of disappointed bowlers, Morton called the bowling alleyâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s departure a â&#x20AC;&#x153;big loss to the communityâ&#x20AC;? and characterized the design of the new hotel as too massive and dense. â&#x20AC;&#x153;Itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s my last night on council,â&#x20AC;? Morton proclaimed at the Dec. 14, 2009, meeting. â&#x20AC;&#x153;I ainâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t going to vote for another damn wall on El Camino.â&#x20AC;? Even supporters hedged their enthusiasm for the new hotel, citing its blocky design and mourning (continued on next page)

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the departure of the Midpeninsula’s last bowling alley. Councilmembers Yiaway Yeh, who celebrated his 30th birthday at Palo Alto Bowl, Larry Klein and Burt all noted that the land is private and that the proposed hotel conformed to existing zoning, leaving the city with few options. “It’s a community treasure, but it’s something the city has no direct control over,” Yeh said — hardly a ringing endorsement for a facility that would bring $850,000 in annual hotel-tax revenues to the city. Potential traffic snarls have also blunted the community’s enthusiasm for the new hotels. The Hilton Garden Inn would be located near an intersection that is currently the subject of the controversial Charleston/Arastradero traffic-calming, lane-reduction experiment. A prominent school corridor, Arastradero already sees heavy traffic backups, particularly during the morning rush hour. But Williams said that hotels, for the most part, have a much smaller impact on traffic than other types of developments. This is particularly true during peak commuting hours, he said. Many hotel guests arrive later in the morning and depart during off-peak hours. And while some guests drive, many rely on taxicabs and public transit to get around. “You don’t have the same basic traffic issues that you may have with another type of use,” Williams said. Still, these impacts aren’t necessarily negligible. In 2008, the city rejected a proposal for a five-story luxury hotel on Page Mill Road, close to El Camino. Neighborhood residents blasted the proposed high-rise and claimed its traffic and noise impacts would lower their property values. The application fizzled. “That was a place where those impacts were critical,” Williams recalled. “Having all that massing right next to single-family homes — the impact on traffic and access was seen as real treacherous.”

W

hile Palo Alto’s future hotels still have plenty of obstacles to overcome, its existing ones are enjoying a period of relative prosperity. Chen, whose family has been running Palo Alto hotels since 1973, noted that Palo Alto’s hotel market continues to outperform those of other Peninsula cities. The last two years, Chen said, have been a period of “steady growth” for his two hotels. Visitors have been flocking to Stanford University in great numbers, spurred in part by the phenomenal success

of Cardinal quarterback Andrew Luck. Though the senior is set to depart at the end of the year (“We’ll be sorry to see Andrew Luck move on,” Chen said), he sees no reason for major concerns. Silicon Valley is strong and getting stronger, and the university seems to be doing just fine, he said. Chen expects his hotels to continue their relative prosperity largely because of their proximity to both the university and University Avenue. The bigger wildcard, from his perspective, is the regional economy, and that seems to be doing well — at least for the moment. Even if the new hotels are built, Chen said he expects the local market to accommodate them. “The addition of those hotels alone isn’t going to set the hotel business into any sort of crisis,” Chen said. “We’re really more affected by the economic health of the region.” Even if new hotels don’t materialize, recent trends in the city’s business climate suggest that the demand for lodging will not go away any time soon. Stanford University Medical Center and the cloud-computing giant VMware are both undergoing dramatic expansions, and HP continues to be a high-tech powerhouse and popular destination for executives. The recent arrival of influential companies such as Tesla and Skype to Palo Alto further suggests that guest rooms will remain a hot commodity in Palo Alto. For the moment, at least, city leaders have no reason to suspect that the slate of hotel applications in the city’s pipeline will create a “bubble” effect. “You can’t flood the market, but it appears that the market has some ability to be grown,” Burt said at a March meeting. Holman said it’s tough to predict how many new hotels will be too much, though it’s safe to say the city hasn’t reached that point yet. Holman recalled the period in the late 1990s when Chelsea Clinton was a student at Stanford University, and her parents, the former president and first lady, couldn’t find a place to stay in town “We weren’t able to house in Palo Alto hotels the number of people who wanted to stay here, so it was lost revenue,” Holman said. “Also, you don’t want businesses to not locate here because they can’t house people who come here for events. “You want businesses who employ people here and who also bring guests here. You want to complete that circle.” N Staff Writer Gennady Sheyner can be emailed at gsheyner@ paweekly.com.

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www.PaloAltoOnline.com What has been your experience with finding hotel lodging in Palo Alto for outof-town guests? Share your opinion on new hotel development on Town Square, the community discussion forum on Palo Alto Online.

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Design by Shannon Corey. Photo by Veronica Weber.

primary care with a personal touch 1300 Crane Street Menlo Park, CA 94025 650.498.6500

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Currently Accepting New Patients Make an appointment today: 650.498.6500 EXCEPTIONAL CARE FOR YOUR ENTIRE FAMILY

Delivering exceptional care is what we do at Menlo Medical Clinic. We’re a closely knit team of more than 50 physicians working together to meet all of your family’s medical needs, from pediatrics to geriatrics. We provide our patients with the highest degree of coordinated, quality care, including laboratory and radiology resources, all under one roof. t Allergy

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Arts & Entertainment A weekly guide to music, theater, art, movies and more, edited by Rebecca Wallace

MINIATURE METROPOLIS

Popular exhibit of LEGO world and model trains returns to Museum of American Heritage by Rebecca Wallace photos by Kelsey Kienitz

f a LEGO ostrich could look peaceful, this one does. It grazes placidly — plasticly? — in a field with its brethren, accompanied by horses, goats, cows and camels. A train passes through this interspecies utopia, sounding like rushing water, and the cows turn to watch. The quiet is broken by a giant. A young boy, towering over the model train cars, shouts, “The blue one is my favorite!” All around the LEGO landscape of miniature hills and valleys, houses and skyscrapers, other kids shriek and exclaim and ask questions in their flute-like voices. The cheerful hubbub builds, and this is a relatively quiet day for the annual LEGO and train exhibit at Palo Alto’s Museum of American Heritage. On weekends, the line to get in can stretch all the way down the driveway and onto Homer Avenue.

I

Clockwise from top left: Miniature LEGO protesters on the march; a meticulously detailed model Caltrain; a quiet suburban LEGO street. Page 40ÊUÊ iVi“LiÀÊ£È]ÊÓ䣣ÊUÊ*>œÊÌœÊ7iiŽÞ

After all, this is no mere pile of plastic bricks. The exhibit, built by the Bay Area LEGO User Group and the Bay Area LEGO Train Club, stretches out 12 feet by 25 feet. Several trains run through and near amply populated worlds created nearly entirely from LEGO blocks. There’s a park scene with a chess board and intricate sidewalk mosaics; a railroad yard with a mini-Caltrain; a forest; a sidewalk scene; a busy office complex with small people working on computers many floors up. Here and there, touches of humor and humanity reward the patient eye. A tree houses tiny red LEGO macaws. Apples have fallen from a LEGO tree onto a LEGO lawn. By the vast LEGO cathedral, diminutive protesters march, carrying “??%” signs. (continued on next page)

Arts & Entertainment

Kids watch a train pass by in the exhibit at Palo Alto’s Museum of American Heritage. (continued from previous page)

In the middle of the exhibit, Dave Porter watches the trains go around and around him. A resident of Kings Mountain near Woodside, he’s a member of both the LEGO and train groups, and patiently answers questions from young and older. At just the right moment — in between trains — he flips up a section of the track and lets a reporter into the inner circle. Porter points out favorite landmarks: the park and the Caltrain, which were built by fellow club member Bill Ward. The train’s logo is printed on small decals. “I think this is spectacular,” Porter says of the train. “It’s right. It’s prototypical.” Porter says his own LEGO landscape at home is actually bigger,

but that the Palo Alto display reflects the work of more people. Club members made their own squares, be they city blocks or farm “acres,” then brought them to the museum to be connected to others. “You have umpteen different scales,” Porter says. “It’s OK. Each panel has its own world.” The finished display took about “eight hours with six to eight guys working together” to assemble, he adds. On tables nearby, individual LEGO projects are also on display, including a Japanese World War II destroyer and a Northern European Yule festival. The LEGO pieces have a diversity of shapes and colors that the casual builder would never suspect existed. Some are no longer being made, like the monorail and its tracks that Porter points out.

TOYS OF A TIME GONE BY After children explore the LEGO landscape at the Museum of American Heritage, they can also travel back a century with a separate exhibit of vintage toys. “A Child’s World: Antique Toys 1870-1930” showcases the unusual collection of the Tad and Marybelle Cody family. Besides establishing an architectural firm, the late Tad Cody, a Stanford University graduate, became a toy manufacturer. He was said to be inspired by the gift of an antique train when he was a young man. “He fell in love with them and decided to make his own,” said Jim Wall, president of the museum’s board of directors. The ex-

hibit highlights both the myriad of trains owned by Cody and the tools he used to build them. Also on display are pressedmetal antique toys, some dating back to the 19th century. They include a train station with small metal people milling about, a Paris cafe scene, and dolls on bicycles. Several of the toys are rare because many metal items didn’t make it past World War I, Wall said; they were melted down for the war effort. The exhibit is open through April 29, Friday through Sunday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Admission is free. N

“If you could find it, just one piece of this track would cost you eight to 10 dollars,” Porter marvels. “Just one piece!” N What: An annual LEGO and train exhibit at the Museum of American Heritage Where: 351 Homer Ave., Palo Alto When: Through Jan. 15, open Friday through Sunday from 11 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Cost: Admission is $2 per person (free to the other museum exhibits). Children must be accompanied by an adult. Info: Go to moah.org or call 650-3211004.

We invite you to experience our

beautiful residential community  Take a stroll down our walking paths and lovely landscaped gardens.  As you tour our spacious apartments enjoy the view from the balcony or patio.  Take advantage of our many amenities and concierge services.  We offer independent and assisted living options with six levels of care available.

Palo Alto Commons is a privately owned and managed senior residence in Palo Alto. Here you'll find a warm and vibrant environment with a loyal and committed long-term staff and management.

A&E DIGEST FILMMAKER ON THE GO ... After spending time in Nepal and becoming concerned about the plight of women there, Palo Alto filmmaker Wolf Price has been making a documentary, “Within The Four Walls: A Portrait of Nepali Women.” Many women are forced into arranged marriages, or receive only limited education, he said. Price has been working on the film since 2009 and is now seeking funding pledges through the Kickstarter website, through Dec. 26. “I will use the completed film to raise money to educate the two talented young women who bravely starred in the documentary,” Price said in a press release. To watch a trailer, go to kickstarter.com and search under the film’s title.

Please call for a personal tour and be our guest for lunch. We look forward to seeing you. Short term stays are available. 4075 El Camino Way, Palo Alto, CA 94306

650-494-0760 www.paloaltocommons.com License #435200706

Accommodations starting from $3,000 per month.

24 Hour On-site Licensed Nurse Services *>œÊÌœÊ7iiŽÞÊUÊ iVi“LiÀÊ£È]ÊÓ䣣ÊU Page 41

Support our Kids

CLICK AND GIVE

with a gift to the Holiday Fund. Last Year’s Grant Recipients Abilities United ...........................................$5,000 Adolescent Counseling Services ............$7,500 American Red Cross - Palo Alto Area ....$3,000 Art in Action ................................................$5,000 Baby Basics of the Peninsula, Inc. .........$2,000 Bread of Life................................................$5,000 Breast Cancer Connections .....................$7,500 California Family Foundation ....................$3,500 Cleo Eulau Center.......................................$3,500 Collective Roots..........................................$5,000 Downtown Streets Team ........................$15,000 East Palo Alto Children’s Day Committee ..................................................$5,000 East Palo Alto Kids Foundation ................$5,000 East Palo Alto Tennis and Tutoring .........$5,000 East Palo Alto Youth Court ........................$3,000 Environmental Volunteers ........................$3,000 Foothill-De Anza Foundation ....................$2,500 Foundation for a College Education ........$5,000 Friends of the Palo Alto Junior Museum & Zoo ...........................................$5,000 InnVision ......................................................$5,000 JLS Middle School PTA.............................$3,500 Jordan Middle School PTA.......................$3,500 Kara ..............................................................$5,000 Lytton Gardens Senior Communities ......$5,000 Music in the Schools Foundation ............$5,000 New Creation Home Ministries ...............$5,000 Northern California Urban Development ....$5,000 Nuestra Casa ..............................................$5,000 Palo Alto Art Center Foundation ..............$5,000 Palo Alto Community Child Care ..............$5,000 Palo Alto YMCA ..........................................$5,000 Palo Alto Housing Corporation ................$5,000 Palo Alto Library Foundation .................$17,500 Peninsula HealthCare Connection ..........$7,500 Quest Learning Center of the EPA Library ..................................................$5,000 Reading Partners .......................................$5,000 St. Elizabeth Seton School .......................$5,000 St. Francis of Assisi Youth Club ...............$3,000 St. Vincent de Paul Society ......................$6,000 The Friendship Circle.................................$5,000 TheatreWorks .............................................$2,500 Youth Community Service .........................$7,500 CHILD CARE CAPITAL GRANTS Children’s Center at Stanford ...................$4,000 Palo Alto Community Child Care ..............$5,000 The Children’s Pre-School Center ...........$5,000

Non-profits: Grant application and guidelines at www.PaloAltoOnline.com/ holidayfund

E

ach year the Palo Alto Weekly Holiday Fund raises money to support programs serving families and children in the Palo Alto area. Since the Weekly and the Silicon Valley Community Foundation cover all the administrative costs, every dollar raised goes directly to support community programs through grants to non-profit organizations ranging from $1,000 to $25,000. And with the generous support of matching grants from local foundations, including the Packard, Hewlett, Peery and Arrillaga foundations, your tax-deductible gift will be doubled in size. A donation of $100 turns into $200 with the foundation matching gifts. With your generosity, we can give a major boost to the programs in our community helping kids and families.

Give to the Palo Alto Weekly Holiday Fund and your donation is doubled. You give to non-profit groups that work right here in our community. It’s a great way to ensure that your charitable donations are working at home.

239 donors through Dec. 8 totalling $82,001; with match $164,002 has been raised for the Holiday Fund Donate online at siliconvalleycf.org/paw-holiday-fund 32 Anonymous ............................14,225

Jim Burch .........................................100

Newly Received Donations

Previously Published Donors

Shulman, Lee .....................................** David and Lynn Mitchell .................300 Andrews, Ron...................................500 Patricia Levin ...................................100 Robert and Joan Jack .........................** Mary Jackman ..................................100 Marianne and Tom Moutoux..............** Robert and Betsy Gamburd ................** Hugh O. McDevitt............................200 Michael L. Foster .............................500 Ann, Mike and Fiona O’Neill ............25 Jean Dawes.........................................50 Mrs. Eleanor Settle...........................500 Nancy and Joe Huber .......................100 Mimi Marden .....................................** Robert K. Aulgur ...............................** Bobbie and Jerry Wagger ...................** Morgan Family Fund ....................5,000 Jane Holland.......................................** Ray and Carol Bacchetti ....................** Helene Pier .........................................** Lawrence Naiman ............................100

Mrs. Stanley R. Evans ........................** John & Lee Pierce ............................200 Carol & Leighton Read ......................** Freddy & Jan Gabus...........................** Peggy & Chuck Daiss ........................** Adele & Donald Langendorf ...........200 Lynnie and Joe Melena ......................75 Karen and Steve Ross ........................** Chuck & Jean Thompson ...................** Jason and Lauren Garcia ....................**

In Honor Of Andrew Luchard and Caitlin Luchard ................................100 Ro and Jim Dinkey.............................50

M. D. Savoie ......................................** Werner Graf........................................** Kenneth E. Bencala ..........................100 Philip C. Hanawalt ...........................300 Richard A. Greene ...........................300 Chet Frankenfield ...............................** Dorothy Saxe......................................** Kathrine Schroeder ............................** Joyce Nelsen ....................................200 Memorial Fund, Inc. ........................300 Mark R. Shepherd ............................250 Bill Johnson & Terri Lobdell .............** Hal and Iris Korol ..............................**

Donate online at siliconvalleycf.org/paw-holiday-fund Enclosed is a donation of $___________________________

Michael Coghlin...............................100 Alan Herrick.....................................100 Nancy Ritchey ....................................** Helene F. Klein ..................................** Our Dad Albert Pellizzari ..................** Jim Burch ...........................................50

Silicon Valley Community Foundation and send to: PAW Holiday Fund c/o SVCF 2440 W. El Camino Real, Suite 300 Mountain View, CA 94040

Business Name ______________________________________________________ Address _____________________________________________________________ City/State/Zip ________________________________________________________

E-Mail __________________________________________________ Phone _______________________________ Q Credit Card (MC or VISA) ________________________________________ Expires______________________ Signature ________________________________________________________

– OR –

Q In name of business above

Q In my name as shown above

Q In honor of:

Q In memory of:

Q As a gift for:

_________________________________________________________ (Name of person) Q I wish to contribute anonymously.

** Designates amount withheld at donor request

Page 42ÊUÊ iVi“LiÀÊ£È]ÊÓ䣣ÊUÊ*>œÊÌœÊ7iiŽÞ

Make checks payable to

Name _______________________________________________________________

I wish to designate my contribution as follows:

In Memory Of

Gwen Luce .........................................** Theresa Carey ..................................250 Ted & Ginny Chu ...............................** Harry Press .......................................100 Penny & Greg Gallo .........................500 Isabel & Tom Mulcahy ....................100 Nancy Lobdell ....................................** John & Olive Borgsteadt ....................** Ted & Jane Wassam .........................250 Barbara Riper .....................................** Daniel & Lynne Russell ...................250 Ellen & Tom Ehrlich ..........................** Donna & Jerry Silverberg ................100

Q Please withhold the amount of my contribution.

The Palo Alto Weekly Holiday Fund is a fund of Silicon Valley Community Foundation, a 501(c)(3) charitable organization. All donors will be published in the Palo Alto Weekly unless the coupon is marked “Anonymous.”

Arts & Entertainment Robyn H. Crumly ...............................** Lori and Hal Luft .............................100 Neva and Tom Cotter ....................2,000 Ralph R. Wheeler .............................350 Johnsson, Richard .........................1,000 Shirk, Martha ...................................500 Pam Mayerfeld .................................100 Ralph Cahn.........................................50 Kate Dreher ........................................18 Gloria Schulz ...................................200 Solon Finkelstein .............................250 J. Stephen Brugler ............................300 Marlene Prendergast ..........................** Rosalie Shepherd .............................100 Bob & Edie Kirkwood .......................** M. M. Dieckmann ............................300 Tom and Peg Hanks ...........................** Marcia & Michael Katz ...................200 Ms. Carolyn Frake .............................25 Betty Gerard .......................................** Peter S. Stern....................................250 Nancy & Stephen Levy ......................** Daniel Cox .......................................200 Christine M. Wotipka .......................100 Marc Igler and Jennifer Cray .............50 Richard A. Morris .........................2,000 Greg and Anne Avis ...........................** Cathy Kroymann ..............................250 Martha Mantel....................................25 Lolly T. Osborne ..............................150

In Honor Of Emma Claire Cripps a nd Elizabeth Marie Kurland .............300 Patricia Demetrios .........................1,000 Sandy Sloan .....................................100 Marilyn Sutorius ..............................150 Elizabeth McCroskey .........................** Lucy Berman’s Clients ..................1,500 Ruth & Marty Mazner......................100

In Memory Of John O. Black ...................................500 Yen-Chen Yen ..................................250 Charles Bennett Leib........................100 Mdm. Pao Lin Lee .............................** Al and Kay Nelson .............................** Pam Grady........................................200 Leo Breidenbach ................................** Thomas W. and Louise Phinney.........** Marie and Donald Anon...................100 Jacques Naar & Wanda Root .............** Bob Makjavich ...................................** Dr. John Plummer Steward ..............100 Bertha Kalson.....................................** Al Bernal ............................................** Helene F. Klein ..................................** Ernest J. Moore ..................................** Jack Sutorius ....................................150 Ruth & Chet Johnson .........................** Robert Lobdell ...................................** Jim Burch ...........................................** Fred Everly.........................................** Aaron O’Neill ....................................**

Businesses & Organizations Thoits Bros Inc.................................500 Harrell Remodeling............................** The Palo Alto Business Park ..............** The Palo Alto Business Park ..............** “No Limit” Drag Racing Team ..........25 Alta Mesa Improvement Company ..750 deLemos Properties..........................250

Michelle Le

Nan Prince........................................100 Andy & Liz Coe ...............................100 George & Betsy Young ......................** Walt & Kay Hays .............................100 Jeanne & Leonard Ware .....................** Lorrin & Stephanie Koran..................** David & Nancy Kalkbrenner .............** Jim & Ro Dinkey ...............................60 Attorney Susan Dondershine ...........200 David & Karen Backer .....................100 Drew McCalley & Marilyn Green ......100 Diane Doolittle ...................................** Richard Kilner..................................100 Tony & Carolyn Tucher .....................** Shirley & James Eaton .......................** Barbara Klein & Stan Schrier ............** Roy & Carol Blitzer ...........................** John & Mary Schaefer .....................100 Margot D. Goodman ..........................** Brigid Barton ...................................250 Sue Kemp .........................................250 Elisabeth Seaman ...............................** Dena Goldberg .................................100 Linda & Steven Boxer........................** Micki & Bob Cardelli ........................** Debbie Mytels ....................................** The Ely Family ................................250 Ian & Karen Latchford .....................100 Richard A. Baumgartner & Elizabeth M. Salzer ......................350 Carolyn & Richard Brennan ..............** Lynn & Joe Drake ..............................** Eugene & Mabel Dong ....................200 Nancy & Richard Alexander ............500 Diane E. Moore ................................350 Sally & Craig Nordlund ...................500 Arthur D. Stauffer ............................500 Michael Hall Kieschnick...............1,000 Mark Kreutzer ....................................75 Nehama Treves.................................200 Les Morris ........................................250 Christina S. Kenrick ......................1,000 Susan H. Richardson ........................250 Leif and Sharon Erickson.................250 The Havern Family .......................3,500 The Wihtol Family Fund ..................500 John N. Thomas ...............................100 Anthony F. Brown ..............................50 Diane Simoni ...................................200 John J. McLaughlin..........................100 Braff Family Fund ............................250 Richard Rosenbaum ...........................** Zelda Jury...........................................** Eric & Elaine Hahn .......................1,000 Nancy Huber ......................................** Susan Woodman.................................** Arthur R. Kraemer .............................** William E. Reller ...............................** John and Florine Galen ......................** David and Virginia Pollard...............150 Tony and Judy Kramer .......................** Eve and John Melton........................500 Andrea Boehmer ................................50 Patti Yanklowitz and Mark Krasnow .** Harriet and Gerry Berner ...................** Roy Levin and Jan Thomson .............** Sylvia J. Smitham ............................100 Kenyon Scott ....................................200 Gil and Gail Woolley .......................200 Henry and Nancy Heubach ..............100 Marc and Margaret Cohen ...............100 Jeremy Platt and Sondra Murphy .......** Don and Ann Rothblat .......................** Jon and Julie Jerome ..........................** Richard Cabrera .................................** Richard and Bonnie Sibley ................** Barbara Zimmer and Kevin Mayer ....** John and Ruth DeVries ......................** Rita Vrhel .........................................150

Inna Bayer instructs her students at the Bayer Ballet Academy.

allet B

Better living through by Nick Veronin The tiny dancers begin their exercises with movements so slight they might pass as nervous shifting if the girls weren’t performing them in unison. They move their feet from flat on the floor to tip-toe — all the while doing their best to keep the rest of their bodies still. A curly-haired woman plays a Russian waltz on the upright piano in the corner, and Inna Bayer traipses about the room, correcting the girls’ posture — gently nudging up a chin here and readjusting a foot over there. The little girls, all elementary-school students from up and down the Peninsula, are straining to hold the stances Bayer puts them in. “Relax,” she urges them in her thick Ukrainian accent. Bayer, a former professional ballerina and founder of the Mountain View-headquartered Bayer Ballet Academy and dance company, is readying her students for this month’s big show: “A Winter Fairy Tale,” which will be held Dec. 17 and 18 at the Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts. The ballet, which was written and choreographed specifically for students at Bayer’s academy, is “an opportunity to show the result of their learning and working hard,” Bayer says. “It is a motivating force.” Bayer founded the academy in 2005. She started the performance company in 2010 in order to provide serious, pre-professional performance opportunities for the young dancers and to showcase the acad-

emy, according to her website. “A Winter Fairy Tale” follows several bunny rabbits on an adventure through an enchanted forest, filled with anthropomorphic animals from common Russian folk tales, a magician, Santa Claus and the evil Queen of the Bats, to name a few. The performance features some traditional Russian folk dances, known as “character dances.” But mostly Bayer’s students will be showcasing what they have learned of the Vaganova method of ballet -a fusion of French and Italian styles that works the whole body, according to Bayer. The Vaganova method is Bayer’s specialty. She continues to teach the style in order to preserve the tradition and because she believes it is the most beneficial for the body. She says that Vaganova, if taught correctly, is the least likely to cause injury to the dancer. Preserving the bodies of her young dancers is paramount to Bayer. In her mind, ballet — whether it is pursued as an enjoyable hobby, a career or something in between — is ultimately about turning the human body into a work of art. The body must be maintained, Bayer says, or the art itself will suffer. “Ballet is a way you can express yourself: your mind, your feelings. It’s a unique opportunity to express yourself with your body, and you can become the work of art in a way.” One of Bayer’s recent students has taken a big step toward becoming a professional ballerina. Jor-

Peninsula academy teaches students to turn their bodies into art

dan Lian, 16, is currently in Russia, studying at the Bolshoi Ballet Academy, a world-renowned dance school in Moscow. “I’m very happy for her,” Bayer says. “I’m proud.” In addition to Lian’s success, other students from Bayer’s academy have gone on to dance for the New York City Ballet and the San Francisco Ballet. Even if her students don’t attempt to make a career in dance, Bayer says, ballet can be just as much of a transformative force — on or off the stage. “You’re not just working hard for nothing,” she tells her students. In the process of learning ballet, her students also learn about music, art, history and culture, all while building friendships. “Even if you don’t pursue it as a profession, you better yourself. Ballet is something that makes our life, our culture and our civilization beautiful.” N What: “A Winter Fairy Tale,” a holiday youth ballet in the Russian style, presented by the Bayer Ballet Academy Where: Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts, 500 Castro St. When: 5 p.m. Dec. 17 and 2 p.m. Dec. 18 Cost: $30 general and $25 for seniors and children (ages 12 and under) Info: Call the box office at 650-903-6000 or go to mvcpa.com.

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MEXICAN Celia’s Mexican Restaurants Palo Alto: 3740 El Camino Real 650-843-0643 Menlo Park: 1850 El Camino Real 650-321-8227 www.celiasrestaurants.com Palo Alto Sol 328-8840 408 California Ave, Palo Alto Õ}iʓi˜ÕÊUÊœ“iÃÌޏiÊ,iVˆ«iÃ

AMERICAN

CHINESE

Armadillo Willy’s 941-2922 1031 N. San Antonio Rd., Los Altos Range: $5.00-13.00

Su Hong – Menlo Park Dining Phone: 323–6852 To Go: 322–4631 Winner, Menlo Almanac “Best Of” 8 years in a row!

Hobee’s 856-6124 4224 El Camino Real, Palo Alto Also at Town & Country Village, Palo Alto 327-4111

Burmese

Darbar Indian Cuisine 321-6688 129 Lytton, Downtown Palo Alto Lunch Buffet M-F; Open 7 days

CHINESE

Jing Jing 328-6885 443 Emerson St., Palo Alto Authentic Szechwan, Hunan Food To Go, Delivery www.jingjinggourmet.com Ming’s 856-7700 1700 Embarcadero East, Palo Alto www.mings.com

PIZZA Pizza Chicago 424-9400 4115 El Camino Real, Palo Alto This IS the best pizza in town Spot A Pizza 324-3131 115 Hamilton Ave, Palo Alto Voted Best Pizza in Palo Alto www.spotpizza.com

ITALIAN La Cucina di Pizzeria Venti 254-1120 1390 Pear Ave, Mountain View www.pizzeriaventi.com Fresh, Chef Inspired Italian Food Spalti Ristorante 327-9390 417 California Ave, Palo Alto ݵՈÈÌiÊœœ`ÊUÊ"ÕÌ`œœÀÊ ˆ˜ˆ˜}Ê www.spalti.com

JAPANESE & SUSHI

POLYNESIAN Trader Vic’s 849-9800 4269 El Camino Real, Palo Alto Dinner Mon-Thurs 5-10pm; Fri-Sat 5-11pm; Sun 4:30 - 9:30pm Available for private luncheons Lounge open nightly Happy Hour Mon-Fri 4-6 pm

SEAFOOD Cook’s Seafood 325-0604 751 El Camino Real, Menlo Park Seafood Dinners from $6.95 to $10.95

Spalti Ristorante serves delicious, authentic Northern Italian cuisine, in a casually elegant, comfortable and spacious setting. Enjoy the freshest pasta, salads, seafood, veal, chicken and lamb attractively presented with the experience of dining in Italy.

417 California Ave. Palo Alto 327-9390 www.Spalti.com

THAI Siam Orchid 325-1994 496 Hamilton Ave., Palo Alto Organic Thai Free Delivery to Palo Alto/Stanford/Menlo Park Order online at www.siamorchidpa.com

STEAKHOUSE

Sundance the Steakhouse Fuki Sushi 494-9383 321-6798 4119 El Camino Real, Palo Alto New Tung Kee Noodle House 1921 El Camino Real, Palo Alto Online Ordering-Catereing-Chef Rental 947-8888 Lunch: Mon-Fri 11:30 am-2:00pm 520 Showers Dr., MV in San Antonio Ctr. Sushi Workshops-Private Tatami Rooms Dinner: Mon-Thu 5:00-10:00pm Online Gift Card Purchase Voted MV Voice Best ‘01, ‘02, ‘03 & ‘04 Fri-Sat 5:00-10:30pm, Sun 5:00-9:00pm Prices start at $4.75 fukisushi.com & facebook.com/fukisushi www.sundancethesteakhouse.com Page 44ÊUÊ iVi“LiÀÊ£È]ÊÓ䣣ÊUÊ*>œÊÌœÊ7iiŽÞ

R ISTOR A NT E

INDIAN

Green Elephant Gourmet 494-7391 Burmese & Chinese Cuisine Janta Indian Restaurant 3950 Middlefield Rd., Palo Alto (650) 462-5903 Fax (650) 462-1433 (Charleston Shopping Center) Dine-In, Take-Out, Local Delivery-Catering 369 Lytton Ave., Downtown Palo Alto www.greenelephantgourmet.com Lunch Buffet M-F; www.jantaindianrestaurant.com

Chef Chu’s 948-2696 1067 N. San Antonio Road on the corner of El Camino, Los Altos 2010 Best Chinese MV Voice & PA Weekly

of the week

Search a complete listing of local restaurant reviews by location or type of food on PaloAltoOnline.com

Eating Out RESTAURANT REVIEW

Thai fare defies reviews Thai Basil a good choice for shoppers, quick lunches by Sheila Himmel

Michelle Le

Y

-Red curry with sliced bamboo shoots, red and green bell peppers and shrimp â&#x20AC;&#x201D; all served with rice and

salad.

DINNER BY THE MOVIES AT SHORELINEâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;S

Pizzeria Venti

DAYS I L O H HAPPY

elp used to be a sound made by dogs or people in pain. Now Yelp is more commonly known as a company promoting â&#x20AC;&#x153;the fun and easy way to talk about great (and not so great) local businesses.â&#x20AC;? The fun and easy part is that Yelpersâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; opinions range all over the map. For every worst, thereâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s a best. With restaurants, for every angry â&#x20AC;&#x153;not authenticâ&#x20AC;? thereâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s heartfelt gratitude that this place â&#x20AC;&#x153;makes it just like Mom made it.â&#x20AC;? So you have to worry when the yelping is consistently censorious, as it has been for Thai Basil in East Palo Altoâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s popular Ravenswood Shopping Center. How could a restaurant this bad still

be in business? Maybe I visited Thai Basil on the only good night it ever had. The food was fine, the service pleasant and the prices reasonable. If you need sustenance before braving a big-box store (IKEA, Nordstrom Rack, Home Depot, Sports Authority, Best Buy, Office Max) you could do a lot worse than Thai Basil. Except for Mi Puebloâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s taqueria and a sports bar, the other choices are fast-food giants. Early on a Monday evening, we sat alone. People came in for takeout orders, but we were lonely sailors in a sea of white-clothed tables. It looked like the Yelpers (continued on next page)

Acqua Pazza

Acqua Pazza, (meaning crazy water) is an old recipe of the ďŹ shermen of the Neapolitan area. The term itself most likely originated from Tuscany where the peasants would make wine, but had to give most to the landlord, leaving little left FORTHEMTODRINK4HEPEASANTSWERERESOURCEFULANDMIXEDTHESTEMS SEEDS AND pomace leftover from the wine production with large quantities of water, bringing it to a boil, then sealing in a terracotta vase allowing it for several days. Called lâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;acquarello or lâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;acqua pazza, the result was water barely colored with wine, which the ďŹ sherman may have been reminded of when seeing the broth of THEDISH COLOREDSLIGHTLYREDBYTHETOMATOESANDOIL)TBECAMEVERYPOPULARIN THEUPSCALETOURISTY#APRI)SLANDINTHES

From our kitchen to yours. Buon appetito!

Pesce allâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;Acqua Pazza Fish in Crazy Water

s4EXTRA VIRGINOLIVEOIL sGARLICCLOVESINLARGEDICE s4)TALIANPARSLEY lNELYCHOPPED sLBRIPECHERRYTOMATOES CHOPPED sLEMON SLICED s0INCHOFCRUSHEDREDPEPPER

s2IPEBLACKOLIVES sSALTANDPEPPER sLBWHITElSH CUTINTOPIECES (sea bass or red snapper)

To cook: Place the olive oil and garlic in a large skillet and sautĂŠ on medium heat. As soon as the garlic begins to brown remove the garlic, add the pepper ďŹ&#x201A;akes and let the oil cool.

1390 Pear Ave., Mountain View (650) 254-1120 www.mvpizzeriaventi.com

Hours: 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday through Saturday 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday

Pour water into the pan with the cooled oil, about ½â&#x20AC;? deep. Add half of the parsley, the tomatoes and the lemon slices. Add the ďŹ sh slices, skin side down, and season the ďŹ sh lightly with salt; top with the rest of the parsley. Place the skillet back on the stove on medium-high heat and bring the water to a boil cook for about 10-15 minutes, turning the ďŹ sh to cook on the both sides. Make sure the ďŹ sh is only half covered by the water. Adjust salt, and add pepper if necessary. Transfer the ďŹ sh to warm plates, pour a little of the crazy water over and around the ďŹ sh, making sure to include some tomatoes. Toss in some black olives and serve immediately.

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Eating Out

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(continued from previous page)

had a point. We started with Tom Kha soup with ($5.95), just right for two people, redolent with kaffir lime leaf and galangal, a light touch of coconut milk, straw and button mushrooms. Pieces of chicken were tough, likely having been frozen recently in their lives. Best ever? No way. Good enough? Yes, and the soup can be ordered vegetarian

or with seafood. Likewise, the vegetarian green papaya salad ($7.95), even without adding prawns ($2), is very good over a warm mound of sticky rice. Shredded napa cabbage supplements the cabbage-like green papaya, carrots, tomatoes and green beans. Lose the romaine lettuce. You do have to pay $1.50 for a good-sized mound of jasmine rice, and $2 for brown, but it is a lot better than the dried-out lukewarm

FREE Regular Size Fountain Drink or FREE Small Order of Fries

2035-B El Camino Real, Palo Alto (Between Cambridge and California Avenues)

(650) 326-1628

Scott’s invites you to celebrate New Year’s Eve

(650) 323-1555

A girl pulls out a noodle from a pad Thai dish while dining with her mother at Thai Basil.

Offer good per one sandwich purchase Just mention “Palo Alto Weekly”

3900 Middlefield Road, Palo Alto 650-424-1113

A Bay Area tradition in Palo Alto Open 7 days a week M-F Lunch & Dinner Sat & Sun Brunch & Dinner

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Happy Holidays!!

Steak & Lobster 3 course dinner for two – $110

Learn the Guitar this Winter

Carol McComb’s “Starting to Play” workshop includes the FREE use of a Loaner Guitar for the duration of the classes.* Regular cost is just $160 for nine weeks of group lessons, and all music is included. *“Starting to Play” meets for one hour each Monday night for nine weeks beginning January 9. Students are encouraged to bring their own guitar, but both nylon-string and steel-string loaner guitars are available. Other classes at more advanced levels are also offered. A full brochure is available at Gryphon.

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Page 46ÊUÊ iVi“LiÀÊ£È]ÊÓ䣣ÊUÊ*>œÊÌœÊ7iiŽÞ

Thai Basil 1765 E. Bayshore Road, Suite C, East Palo Alto 650-289-9222 thaibasil.com Hours: Lunch 11 a.m.-2:30 p.m. weekdays. Dinner 5-9 p.m. weekdays; noon-8 p.m. Sat. Closed Sun.

 Reservations  Credit cards Lot parking

Live music 8-midnight Complimentary midnight champagne toast

grains many Thai restaurants serve in tin bowls. The best, and most cost-efficient, dish we tried was yellow curry ($9.95). In the beef version, tender slivers of meat absorb a complex broth of herbs and spices, aromatic with lemongrass and galangal, creamy but not sweet with coconut milk. Chunks of potatoes and thin-sliced onions fill it out. All the curries can be made vegetarian. Thai Basil Spicy Pan Fried ($15.95) was tasty, but not what was advertised. If there were scallops, calamari and mussels, we missed them. There were seven plump prawns, and lots of green beans, nicely draped in wilted basil leaves. Thai Basil in East Palo Alto (the Web site says Palo Alto, but never mind) is the sister of the southern-style Thai Basil, owned by Jua and Taneerat Rattanaphun in Sunnyvale since 1995. Each restaurant offers a small but adaptable menu. In the elbow of the Ravenswood center, Thai Basil is neither the best in the area nor the most authentic, but for a quick lunch or to shore up for shopping, a practical choice. Anyway, that’s how I’d yelp it. N

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650 U493 U2131

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Banquet

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Outdoor seating

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Bathroom Cleanliness: Good

access

Noise level: Fine

Eating Out

ShopTalk

pastispaloalto.com or call 650-3241355.

by Angela Johnston

WAHOOâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;S GOES AWOL ... The Wahooâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Fish Taco location at El Camino Real and California Avenue in Palo Alto has been closed and cleared of its surfboards and Hawaiian paraphernalia. A sign on the door says the restaurant will be moving to another location in Sunnyvale in the spring of 2012, but that may be too far a drive for Palo Alto residents craving halibut with habanero sauce or a grilled-fish burrito. Restaurant representatives could not be reached for comment. A NEW STORY ... Downtown Palo Alto welcomed Story, a new womenâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s and childrenâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s boutique, to 444 University Ave. at the beginning of December. Owner Joy Yoo wants shoppers to know that Story isnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t your typical overpriced boutique. â&#x20AC;&#x153;Because we are on University Avenue, a lot of people think we are very expensive, but when people come in and check our prices they are usually quite surprised at how reasonable they are,â&#x20AC;? Yoo said. â&#x20AC;&#x153;Even in this economy, you should still be able to buy nice clothes.â&#x20AC;? Story targets the stylish professional woman, with such offerings as dress pants, blazers, sweatpants

and funky, colorful tops. Most of the clothing is under $100. The store also sells jewelry from local artists on consignment. Although the only childrenâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s items available now are bejeweled denim jackets made by a Hawaiian designer, Yoo said the store will get more kidsâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; clothes in the spring and summer. Go to shareastory.net or call 650-321-4440. PASTIS BISTRO ON ITS WAY ... The owners/general managers of Joanieâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Cafe on California Avenue in Palo Alto are opening a new French restaurant in the Joanieâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s old location at 447 California Ave. (Joanieâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s moved down the street to 405 California a few months ago.) Bernard Cartal and Max Roucoule plan to open Pastis Bistro before the new year. The French bistro was scheduled to open at the end of November, but as of Dec. 13 the restaurantâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s doors are still closed due to technical problems. Roucoule hopes to open for the holidays. Pastis will serve â&#x20AC;&#x153;home-cooked French cuisine,â&#x20AC;? concentrating on food from the southern region of the country. Roucoule says the menu will feature an excellent coq au vin, bouillabaisse and cassoulet. Go to

INSTANBUL STREET FOOD ON THE AVENUE ... Cafe Taxim, a new Turkish restaurant on University Avenue in Palo Alto, is named after a trendy area in Istanbul and is serving street food in the style of Turkeyâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s capital. The cafe aims to differentiate itself from other area Mediterranean restaurants by offering a casual and relaxed atmosphere where diners can enjoy a gyro without the usual rush of a fast-food restaurant, employee Volkan Guler said. The menu also includes falafel wraps and kebab plates. Chef Coskun Bektas has worked at 11 restaurants since moving to California from Turkey, including San Franciscoâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Tuba Restaurant. He particularly recommends the Iskender plate (a marinated lamb-and-beef gyro with bread cubes in tomato sauce and yogurt), one of Istanbulâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s most popular dishes, followed by a cup of Turkish coffee in a handmade cup. The restaurant is decorated with modern tables and chairs, and photographs of Istanbul. Go to cafetaxim.com or call 650-330-1440.

Inspirations a guide to the spiritual community

Inspirations is a resource for ongoing religious services and special events. To inquire about or to reserve space in Inspirations, please contact Blanca Yoc at 223-6596 or email byoc@paweekly.com

SUPPORT YOUR COMMUNITY

Heard a rumor about your favorite store or business moving out, or in, down the block or across town? Shop Talk will check it out. Email shoptalk@ paweekly.com.

donate to the Palo Alto Weekly Holiday Fund Donate online at siliconvalleycf.org/paw-holiday-fund

Good for Business. Good for You. Good for the Community.

When you shop locally, good things happen to make our community stronger: t:PVLFFQUBYEPMMBST JOUIFDPNNVOJUZ t4IPQQJOHEJTUSJDUTSFNBJO EJWFSTFBOEWJCSBOU

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For more information call 650.223.6587 or email info@ShopPaloAlto.com *>Â?Â&#x153;Ă&#x160;Â?Ă&#x152;Â&#x153;Ă&#x160;7iiÂ&#x17D;Â?Ă&#x17E;Ă&#x160;UĂ&#x160; iViÂ&#x201C;LiĂ&#x20AC;Ă&#x160;ÂŁĂ&#x2C6;]Ă&#x160;Ă&#x201C;䣣Ă&#x160;U Page 47

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Palo Alto Weekly 12.16.2011 - Section 2