Astaria

Atmosphere: 4/5   ♦   Service: 4/5   ♦   Food Quality: 4/5   ♦   Value: 3/5
Times Visited:  One   ♦   Will I Return?:  Heck yes
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AstariaIt’s rare that I would go to (what I would consider) a fancy restaurant because, a) I’m too cheap, and, b) I’m not a food snob (ex: Ono Hawaiian Barbecue makes me giddy). That said, I decided to hit up Astaria in San Mateo as a place to review on my Examiner.com page. Astaria isn’t uber fancy (some dudes were wearing t-shirts) but it is home to fancy menus, dishes designed by an actual “chef”, and $25 dinner plates.

Plus, I’ll be completely honest, I have a virtually unlimited supply of Restaurant.com coupons* that I try to use as often as possible. Therefore, with a $35 minimum purchase at Astaria, I received $25 off, not including tax and tip, and hence, for the price of a dinner at Applebee’s ($26 total), Boyfriend and I enjoyed a meal far nicer than frozen garlic bread and mozzarella sticks**.

That is how my love for Astaria was born. I won’t bother repeating the highlights for you here when I have dutifully written them up on Examiner already (click the link and I get a penny!). However, I will offer you, fair reader, a chance to also save $25 on a dinner at Astaria. If I know you (a key term in this equation) and you want to try out Astaria one fine night, call me up and I’ll email you a coupon for $25 off a $35 purchase. Virtually unlimited coupons, remember? That said, I don’t want to burn all my coupons on people who’ll never use them, so ask me if you’ve actually made a date to head over to SM. But seriously, it’s worth the trip.

Astarria Food Collage

Assorted yummies from Astaria!

*My stupid, horrible Chase credit card gives me bonus points that only work for useless things like flights on only United Airlines and coupons that require a minimum purchase rather than actual gift certificates. See my lighthearted rant about the pros and cons of Restaurant.com here.

**Though I would never look down on mozzarella sticks; they are heavenly, even from Applebee’s.

Astaria on Urbanspoon

Pancho Villa

Atmosphere: 3/5   ♦   Service: 4/5   ♦   Food Quality: 3/5   ♦   Value: 3/5
Times Visited:  One   ♦   Will I Return?:  Sure
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Pancho VillaPancho Villa is a Taqueria on B Street in San Mateo that I reviewed for my Examiner.com webpage. I’m not sure if any of my b&c readers have been following my Examiner page, but Pancho’s was so good that I think it should cross over.

Plus, then I can just point you to something I’ve already written instead of write something new.  Lazy?  Maybe.  It’s been a busy week, what do you want from me?

Anyway, PV is a magical place with an immense menu, extraordinary service, and yummy food.  If you’re in the area, check it out.  And, make me a few pennies by reading my two-part review with individual slide shows here:

Pancho Villa Taqueria review Part 1 of 2: The immense menu and juice bar

Pancho Villa Taqueria review Part 2 of 2: The food, the service and everything else

Pancho Villa Taqueria on Urbanspoon

Las Americas Peruvian Restaurant

Atmosphere: 3/5   ♦   Service: 3/5   ♦   Food Quality: 4/5   ♦   Value: 3/5
Times Visited:  Once   ♦   Will I Return?:  I’d love to
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Las Americas Peruvian RestaurantPeruvian food?  Well, ok.  Is it sort of like Mexican food?  No, not at all.

There’s apparently not one but two Peruvian restaurants on the same downtown block of B Street in San Mateo, and we chose Las Americas to try out the cuisine a few nights ago.  It was awesome!  The restaurant was cute, though nothing super fancy, the menu was extensive, and the food was great!

In related news, this restaurant is the subject of my very first post on Examiner.com!!  I signed up and was accepted to be this site’s San Mateo Restaurant Examiner.  They didn’t have one for Hayward, surprise.  Anyway, I’ll be writing up San Mateo restaurant reviews and news stories as much as possible, while still keeping up with B&C, whew!!  My review on Examiner.com is shown below (I own the rights to my own articles, w00t!!), or click to see for yourself.  Check out my bio and photo and subscribe to my page if you like it.  Thanks for reading!

Las Americas Peruvian Restaurant is one of two Peruvian restaurants on the same block of South B Street in San Mateo, and one of over a dozen in the area stretching from San Francisco to Redwood City. Overall, the menu is large and interesting, the facility is welcoming though not fancy, and the food is excellent.

Las Americas Peruvian Restaurant

The seating area at Las Americas Peruvian Restaurant in San Mateo.

The menu at Las Americas is extensive and surprisingly diverse. Grilled chicken and beef feature often, but much of the menu is dominated by seafood—halibut is very common, and appetizers include mussels, calamari, and garlic prawns—while boiled potatoes and fried rice find their way as the sides for many items. All of the mains—which include a couple vegetable dishes, a handful of steak or chicken meals, and about a dozen halibut and other non-specified seafood plates—are around $12 per plate (give or take $1.50), with the most expensive dish, Arroz con Marisco: Peruvian seafood paella, topping out at $17.

Papa a la Huancaina appetizer

Papa a la Huancaina appetizer: boiled potatoes in a spicy creamy cheese sauce. From Las Americas Peruvian Restaurant.

Perhaps more important than the menu selection; the food is delicious. The Papa a la Huancaina appetizer (boiled potatoes in a spicy creamy cheese sauce) is a small yet heavenly plate of plain boiled potatoes which are quartered and slathered generously in a light cheesy sauce that has everyone else at the table begging to dip their food in it. The fried rice with chicken is akin to an Asian dish presenting crispy rice interspersed with chicken pieces and green onions, all topped with egg. The Pescado al Ajo, fried boneless halibut filet in garlic sauce with white rice on side, is a garlicky delight of tender fish and plain but satisfying rice.

Arroz Chaufa de Carne o Pollo

Arroz Chaufa de Carne o Pollo: Peruvian fried rice with beef or chicken (this plate was with chicken). From Las Americas Peruvian Restaurant.

Pescado al Ajo

Pescado al Ajo: fried boneless halibut filet in garlic sauce with white rice on side. From Las Americas Peruvian Restaurant.

There are even some traditional beverages offered that make any dining experience a fun one for those not accustomed to Peruvian cuisine—the Chicha Morada is made by boiling purple corn with cinnamon and fruit and is a unique addition to any meal.  The Maracuya, or passion fruit juice, is sweet and tasty. Each meal also comes with a tiny ramekin of Peruvian corn which is crunchy and salty, and spicy green dipping sauce that can really light a good fire on the taste buds.

Beverages from Las Americas Restaurant

Maracuya, Chicha Morada, and Peruvian beer, with Peruvian corn kernels and spicy sauce in front from Las Americas Peruvian Restaurant.

Las Americas is definitely a great place to start exploring Peruvian cuisine, and appears to also be a favorite of seasoned eaters—you’ll certainly hear snippets of fast Spanish being spoken at dinnertime. So while it’s not the most elegant place in town, the food is great, the atmosphere is plain but endearing, the service is adequate, and the price is right. This reviewer recommends it to anyone interested in sampling some excellent South American cuisine in San Mateo.