Presenting the bold and often very spicy flavors of Szechuan cuisine of China’s Chengdu Province, Happy Sichuan recently opened in Millbrae. The mid-sized restaurant seats roughly 50 people and boasts sparsely covered yellow-painted walls, stone flooring and a few wine bottles in cabinets as decoration that belies the vibrant dishes served. Happy Sichuan’s menu is lengthy but not overwhelmingly so. Meal selections commence with an array of cold dishes and appetizers such as spicy dumplings in hot oil or the palate refreshing “special cucumbers.” Dozens of larger meat, seafood and vegetable plates then follow including the iconic Szechuan dish of ma po tofu (available vegetarian or with pork), dry cooked string beans, spicy home-style sea cucumber, and a fiery kung pao lamb or beef. Keep in mind that for a family or big group, the whole eight treasure duck feast must be reserved in advance. Prices often are around $7-$12, except for the grand platters like the aforementioned sea cucumber and duck dishes. Diners should also take note of the restaurant’s very close proximity to San Francisco International Airport as a convenient pre- or post-flight meal destination.
1055 El Camino Real, Millbrae; (650) 692-8858. HappySichuan.com.
It’s time to add another cultural mash-up term into the culinary dictionary. Welcome the “currito,” courtesy of the new Curry Wrapper’s Delight in downtown Redwood City. Yes, the specialty of the fast-casual restaurant is the partnership of a burrito filled with a choice of meats cooked in a savory curry sauce. The menu is divided into a straightforward “4 step” process. Step 1 is the choice between a burrito or to have your curry follow tradition on a bed of rice. Next, diners choose between chicken, pork, beef, the vegan spinach with eggplant, and the vegetarian peas with paneer (a type of cheese). Step 3 offers a choice of toppings like creamy raita, warm tomato chutney, and black eyed peas. Finally, the concluding step is to wrap everything and eat. Averaging between $6-$8, curritos are a filling and creative new bargain meal for the Peninsula.
312 Arguello St., Redwood City; (650) 261-3987. No website.
Menlo Park, San Carlos
Having recently celebrated the Fourth of July, it’s almost time to celebrate France’s national day. Monday is Bastille Day and Peninsula French restaurants are offering special menus for the occasion. Left Bank in Menlo Park will continue its yearly tradition of serving festive à la carte specials like a tarte flambee with figs and Serrano ham, slow braised turmeric lamb shoulder, and that Marseille signature dish: bouillabaisse. The regular menu will also be offered and, of course, the restaurant will be decorated in plenty of red, white and blue. Diners can also celebrate with a glass of Rose and learn about regional French cuisines at Cuisinett in San Carlos, where every night the menu includes the original geographic home of several dishes. It’s easy to guess where Cuisinett’s salade Niçoise and sandwich Parisien hail from, but good luck with the mussels Marinières!
635 Santa Cruz Ave., Menlo Park; (650) 473-6543. LeftBank.com
1105 San Carlos Ave., San Carlos; (650) 453-3390. Cuisinett.com