With a Michelin star, a thriving tech industry happy-hour scene and magnificent views of the Coastal Range, what's left for the Rosewood Sand Hill hotel's restaurant Madera to conquer? Dessert — specifically an exciting new menu and chocolate program recently unveiled by pastry chef Melissa Root, formerly of Thomas Keller's Per Se in New York. The dining room has a revamped menu of seasonally changing sweet creations, such as a blond chocolate and coffee mousse tart accompanied by apricot-cardamom sorbet and an apricot dulce de leche coulis. Root's chocolate bonbons and truffles, in intriguing flavors such as smoked tobacco, elderflower and cayenne pepper, can finish your meal or are available boxed to go, even if you're not dining in the restaurant.
2825 Sand Hill Road, Menlo Park; (650) 561-1540, MaderaSandhill.com
Speaking of ambitious premiers, last week Ambience opened its doors in Downtown Los Altos. Celebrated chef Morgan Song closed his well-reviewed Sacramento area restaurant earlier this year to come to the Peninsula and exclusively serve a $135 tasting menu ranging from nine to 12 courses, with an optional $85 wine pairing. Expect dishes like braised veal shank in a bone marrow broth, or sea urchin mousse with hamachi, tuna, and octopus sashimi.
132 State St., Los Altos; (650) 917-9030. AmbienceFineDiningLosAltos.com
• Whether you're craving steak or seafood, you're covered at Bashamichi Steak & Seafood, the new Japanese-inspired restaurant attached to Millbrae's La Quinta Inn. The menu features a wide range of steaks, from giant ribeyes to beef tongue. Sushi and sashimi offerings are plentiful and rounded out by traditional bento meals, tempura and udon. The quiet dining room is replete with flower bouquets and a tatami room, or there's a bar up front with plenty of Asahi and Sapporo bottles waiting.
1390 El Camino Real, Millbrae; (650) 742-1003
• It's hard to find a restaurant on the Peninsula serving food after 10 p.m. It's extra hard to find a restaurant serving a special fine dining menu until midnight. Chef Erik Romme continues to put his touch on the revamped Menlo Grill inside the Stanford Park Hotel with late-night specials that are far more than greasy munchies. Cap off a late night in the office with chilled strawberry gazpacho followed by a shrimp Louie and Hass avocado roll with housemade potato chips, or wild Pacific king salmon with fresh shelling beans, chorizo, braised fennel and saffron broth. Wash it down with a Menlo Mule nightcap, a take on the Moscow mule made with green chartreuse.
100 El Camino Real, Menlo Park; (650) 330-2790, MenloGrill.com