Former Champagne Buffet returns with reimagined menu, atmosphere 

click to enlarge Palo Alto Grill
  • Courtesy Palo Alto Grill
  • For a limited time, diners at Palo Alto Grill can specify that proceeds from their orders, such as the Wilderness plate, above, go to aid victims of Croatian floods.
Fans of San Mateo’s Champagne Buffet didn’t have to wait long for the venerable dim sum and Cantonese seafood specialist to reopen. After closing temporarily in April, the restaurant has reopened with the new name of Champagne Seafood and with a few new dishes adding to the interior remodel that was done. Of course, the biggest change is that there is now no buffet involved. Other changes include a dining room revamp to look more upscale, complete with new wallpaper, plasma-screen televisions, lush drapery and even chandeliers worthy of Champagne. Private rooms have been removed to provide space for additional tables. At lunch, dim sum will now be ordered from checklist menus instead of the usual roving carts. During the daytime, buns and dumplings are among the dim sum standards served, while dinner includes specialties such an elegant roasted duck, smoked honey sea bass, chicken feet and even chicken feet in an abalone sauce. As a bonus, the menu has pictures so you’ll fully know what you’re getting … not always a sure thing when ordering dim sum.

88 E. Fourth Ave., San Mateo; (650) 343-6988, no website

San Bruno

Its street address might be 851, but Nueve has quickly become a popular new Mexican restaurant for San Bruno. Interestingly, Nueve, which means “nine” in Spanish, replaces an old Taco Bell in the Bayhill Shopping Center. But that’s where the comparisons with the fast-food predecessor end. The likes of mole poblano, smoked trout with avocado salad, a spruced-up “hamburguesa” and arroz a la tumbada (very similar to paella) grace Nueve’s menu. Tacos with assorted fillings are offered as a trio for $11, but there are no burritos served here, so don’t ask. One unique brunch item to note are the horchata-flavored pancakes. Margaritas and sangria are the drink specialties. And don’t forget churros or arroz con leche for dessert.

851 Cherry Ave., San Bruno; (650) 588-2200, no website

Palo Alto

Over the past week, extensive rains in Croatia and surrounding areas have resulted in tragic floods. Dozens of people have lost their lives and upward of half a million others have been forced to leave their homes. Luka Dvornik, the owner of Palo Alto Grill, is from the region, where several family members and friends were affected. Peninsula diners can help through a donation program. Tonight and tomorrow, 25 percent of the dinner service bills for food and beverages for all customers who cite this program will be donated to Croatian flood relief efforts.

140 University Ave., Palo Alto; (650) 321-3514,

Also of note in Palo Alto, the city has a new farmers market to welcome the summer produce season. It’s at the Oshman Family Jewish Community Center, featuring 20 fresh food and produce stands each Friday from 1 to 6 p.m., complemented by a lunchtime roster of food trucks, and it will run year-round. This increases the city’s farmers market count to an impressive three.

3921 Fabian Way, Palo Alto; (650) 223-8700,

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