Comfort food offered late into the night at Block 34 

click to enlarge Block 34
  • Courtesy photo
  • Block 34 in downtown San Mateo focuses on comfort food with a rustic twist, including potato-crusted king salmon with a cauliflower purée and a mustard seed sauce.
Block 34 is one of the latest openings in downtown San Mateo, serving comfort food with distinct seasonal and rustic twists, accented by elements from all over the globe. Starters from founder and Culinary Institute of America alum Alex Anderman and his executive chef Rick Richardson include baked clams casino, steak tartare with saffron aioli, and several seafood raw bar offerings. Larger plates feature pan-roasted chicken over farro, an Angus burger topped with bacon jam, and potato-crusted king salmon with a cauliflower purée and a mustard seed sauce. The restaurant is in the former Pasta Primavera space, now outfitted with a rustic industrial interior full of reclaimed wood and a steel-topped bar. Plans are in the works for the restaurant to grow produce on its own farm, and there are two dozen wines available on tap. For dessert, channel your inner youth with that county fair favorite, funnel cake, transformed into an ice cream sundae. As a bonus for night owls, the restaurant serves until 2 a.m., a nod to Anderman’s days living in New York and a very uncommon closing hour for full service restaurants on the Peninsula.

34 E. Fourth Ave., San Mateo; (650) 434- 3403.

Half Moon Bay

As the name suggests, Monster Chef patrons are advised to come with a monster appetite to one of the newest dining additions in Half Moon Bay. For $45, diners select all they desire from an extensive Japanese-inspired menu by chef Toshi Watanabe. Drinks are not included in the price, and there are a few premium ingredients like sea urchin and oysters. Consider it a buffet with the table replaced by a sheet of paper. Selections are carefully presented and served on individual plates (this isn’t like a hotel breakfast buffet where everything is placed on one plate). Raw fish dishes play a big part, from ahi ceviche to various maki rolls and sashimi, complemented by cooked fish like the grilled saba. Pork sausage skewers, chicken curry and braised pork belly are among the meat plates. Fried agedashi tofu and the savory egg custard “chawan mushi” headline the vegetarian items, while many classic Japanese standards like tempura and donburi (rice bowls) can also be ordered. It’s certainly a new concept to see how Monster Chef is expanding the often seen all-you-can-eat sushi operation to include all of fine Japanese dining.

10151 Cabrillo Highway N., Half Moon Bay; (650) 713- 5140. No website.

Some Peninsula coffee fans who were disappointed to hear the news last month that Oakland-based coffee roaster Blue Bottle Coffee would not open its first Palo Alto café in Palo Alto’s upcoming Survey Monkey building can now wake up again. Blue Bottle announced it will be moving into Palo Alto’s historic old Varsity Theatre on University Avenue that the company SAP is currently renovating into a multi-use tech hub called “HanaHaus.” No opening date has been set yet, but the café will have a similar coffee menu to the other area outposts with pastries baked by the company’s kitchens in Oakland.

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