This past weekend, Craig and I took a friend to celebrate a milestone birthday at Chez TJ in Mountain View. It was the first time we’d ever been to a Michelin-rated restaurant, so it was a pretty exciting experience.
Chez TJ is located in an old downtown Mountain View house, the kind that I’ve wanted to own for a long time. You know, one of those houses with the cute porch, the quaint rooms and the outrageous mortgage. One of those! Because the restaurant is in a house, it makes the atmosphere a lot more intimate than in other restaurants. Each room only has about 3-5 tables, making for a lovely atmosphere. The lighting is subdued and the decor very tasteful.
We started our dining adventure with a glass of champagne. Craig and I had a kir, our guest drank the champagne straight. I’m not a big champagne lover, but this glass was wonderful. Small bubbles so that your nose doesn’t feel like fireworks are going off inside. Delicious. This was followed by a plate with some lovely hors d’oeuvres, actually an “amuse-bouche“. I can’t actually recall what the amuses-bouche were, but they were yummy.
Now we turned our attention to the day’s menu. The Chez TJ menu has two “tracks” available: the Chef’s Menu, which covers the entire spectrum of the day’s fare (meaning you get to taste it all!) and the Menu Gastronomique, where you choose one item from each course. We each decided to go with the Menu Gastronomique, including the wine pairing with each course. What a great decision! We had a different wine (presented in the proper glass for the wine, a first for me!) and each one was so perfect with the course.
So here’s a rundown of the things I ordered for my dinner (I’m just copying from the menu online):
- Artichoke Veloute Palets de Cochon with 2004 Adam Tokay Pinot Gris, Alsace, France
- Mediterranean Seared Brazino Spring Garlic, Celery, Lemon Oil with 2007 Martin Fierro Chardonnay/Torrontes, San Juan, Argentina
- Angus Prime Sirloin Turnip Puree, Romanescos, Au Poivre de Szechwan with 2002 Monte Lomas Cabernet Sauvignon, Mendoza, Argentina
- Apple Melange Cinnamon Beignet, Caramel Panna Cotta
We followed up the meal with an after-dinner drink. I had a sauterne and Craig had some orange muscat, plus we ordered coffee.
The food was spectacular, definitely worth the 2 stars awarded by the Michelin folks. Of course, I really have no basis for comparison to other Michelin-starred restaurants, but Chez TJ was just terrific. The service was top-notch, from the hostess to the sommelier to the waiter and bus person. The owner was dining there the same night and he came by all the tables to see if the guests were enjoying themselves. I liked that the owner liked his own place enough to invite his own friends to dine there.
We all really enjoyed the wine selection as well. The chardonnay was very good, but not great. I’ve discovered that I’ve moved away (taste-wise) from chardonnay, so while it was perfect with the fish course, I didn’t finish it. The cabernet sauvignon with the sirloin was a taste bud event, though, and one I’m hoping we’ll find and try at home. Really delicious and it heightened the “butter melting in my mouth” feeling I had with the sirloin.
Wallet-wise: This is not an inexpensive outing, but I feel it was worth every penny. I think that dining at Chez TJ or any place of its caliber is best left to very special events. It was a unique experience and one I’d like to do again, but not for a long time. I want to savor the memory of an amazing dinner before trying it again.