Sitting at the heart of Silicon Valley, Santa Clara is a bit of a yuppie wannabe heaven, catered to by restaurants that overcharge for bland, unremarkable food. A short drive from where we live, you’ll find the headquarters of Cisco, Facebook, Google, Apple and a ton of other technology heavy hitters. So you can imagine how many hotshots are walking around with thick wallets looking for somewhere to drop a few bucks. If they want to find a nice place in the middle of the sleepy suburbs of Santa Clara, though, they are pretty much SOL.
This is what makes Parcel 104 even more of a jewel. Don’t be fooled by the fact it’s tucked away inside a Marriott hotel just two blocks away from our residential condo complex. This is in no way your typical forgettable, run-of-the-mill hotel restaurant. Sure, it’s a place you can go for a beer and chicken wings or a nice happy hour, but even if you’re going for a seriously impressive fine dining experience, it will not disappoint.
The sports bar area has flat screens all around, a bunch of beers on tap and your typical sports bar menu – heavy on the fried foods in large portions. The sit down restaurant is not cheap, but you definitely get what you pay for in terms of incredibly tasty food, made with ultra fresh ingredients used in many different creative preparations. For a quick and fun meal that isn’t quite as high end, you can eat in the lounge, which serves $3 happy hour micro-brews and food that includes scaled down versions (in size and price, but definitely not in quality) of some of the restaurant’s dishes.
For a Monday night dinner, we weren’t about to go nuts and eat in the restaurant, so we hit the lounge. One thing I really like about their lounge (aside from being damned posh and classy) is that you can choose to sit in a cozy booth, plop down in one of the comfy sofas or sit at a bar table near the open kitchen and watch as food is prepared for the restaurant and lounge areas. It’s a neat experience for anyone with an appreciation of the workings of a restaurant.
The burger pictured above is a guaranteed winner, highlighted by a supremely juicy grass fed beef patty cooked to a perfect medium. The light seasoning really allows the beef flavor to shine. A warm (Hawaiian?) bun with a butter glazed crust, two types of pickles (dill and bread ‘n butter) and red onions are simple but perfect complements. Although we decided to split the burger and an appetizer, Wifey was looking at my plate like she was contemplating foregoing the appetizer to ask me for my half of the burger.
The flatbread appetizer was simple but superb. The mushrooms and caramelized onions were cooked perfectly to bring out their natural sweetness. This paired well with the mildly savory cheese and the avocado cream was an unusually different and wonderful way of tying the dish together. There is a Premier Pizza joint across the street from our place. If they made a pizza like this I’d go broke eating there three times a day.
Believe it or not, Wifey almost turned down dessert, as she was on Burger Overload, but once she started digging into the sweets she more than held her own. We ordered the “Classic” menu option, whose name doesn’t exactly do this dish justice. First off, the description was somewhat ordinary. Something like, “Brioche french toast, creme brulee, puff pastry and pot de creme.” Although it all sounded good, I didn’t know how they would combine all those into a working dessert. Boy did I feel like a dope when a plate came out with each dish served as an individual mini dessert. I started with the pot de creme and thought it was delicate and flavorful. That is, until I tasted the other dishes. The french toast was decadently sweet, with the combo of bananas and caramel. The creme brulee was as good as any I’ve ever had, except tiny. I actually found it even more perfect in miniature form because there was an even higher ratio of the brulee (burnt sugar) to creme than usual. We both had to agree, though, that the puff pastry was the “clouds parting, angels singing” belle of the ball. Just the vanilla bean ice cream alone was better than many desserts in recent memory. The puff pastry was light and filled with a brilliantly simple mix of golden raisins, cranberries and apricots. There was also some sort of light crumble sprinkled around the ice cream, which added a great crunchy element when eaten together with the other components.
If you are in the South Bay area, you surely will be doing yourself a favor by dropping by Parcel 104. Consulting Chef Bradley Ogden, Executive Chef Jonathan Hall and Executive Pastry Chef Carlos Sanchez really have created an oasis in the middle of a desert of duddy eats. Just get past the fact it’s in a Marriott and drop in. You will walk away very satisfied.