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[whitespace] Marcelino Castillo
Photograph by George Sakkestad

A Man's Home Is His Castillo: Marcelino Castillo shows off his restaurant's brand-new addition.

Casa's Cantina

Downtown institution opens new doors

By Joe Mangelli

IF THERE IS AN ANATOMICALLY CORRECT HEART to downtown San Jose, it is probably located very near Paseo de San Antonio. With the San Jose Rep pulsating with creativity at one end and the stately Fairmont lending its ethereal charm at the other, the "alley" is alive with possibility. It's a place where new construction abounds and old ideas bow to neo-optimism. One tough restaurant that has thrived here for more than 17 years is Marcelino Castillo's Casa Castillo (200 S. First St., San Jose, 408.971.8130). This gutsy restaurant has recently bolstered its dominance by opening a small cantina two doors down on First Street. Over the years Casa Castillo has evolved stylistically to the clean Southwestern look it wears today. Always moderately priced, it adds daily specials like Monday's cocido de res ($8.25), a soup of potatoes, carrots, zucchini, cabbage and short ribs smacked with lemon and oregano, to the usual assortment of tacos and burritos. The most sought-after items here are enchiladas ($9.95) and chiles rellenos (two for $10.25). For a before-theater supper, even after 17 years Casa Castillo still fills the bill.

Yes Curry, Kabob

A relative newcomer to the Y2K restaurant ledger is Host India Cuisine (House of Garlic Kabobs and Curries). The "K" word (Kabobs) threw me at first--I thought it was some fusion of Indian and Persian cuisines--but I was assured it only meant all meats (lamb, beef, chicken) are marinated with gusto in garlic and herbs. I can vouch for the garlic. This Northern Indian restaurant is located at Union Avenue and Woodard Road in Cambrian Park. Host India resides in what was for a long time a branch of Race Street Fish and Poultry. The restaurant's size is optimistic--cavernous, in fact. The first third is set with tables bordered by dividers topped with all manner of plastic flora. The remainder is set for banquets and has an honest-to-goodness dance floor. Music and dance are planned for the future, I was told. A reasonable buffet is offered at lunchtime for $6.99; kids under 12 eat free. A dozen items were set back past the dance floor, from the unusual urb tharo (taro root) to the sublime chicken makhanwala (tandoori chicken in a spicy tomato base). Host India also offers a full dinner menu that is worth exploring. An ethnic restaurant in a neighborhood like Cambrian Park portends well for the millennium. Host India Cuisine is located 3695 Union Ave., San Jose; call 408.879.0919.

Pandamania

Fast food has come upon us so, well, fast that most of us haven't noticed it has taken over a huge segment of the restaurant industry. Fast-food Chinese, especially, is so prevalent that a sit-down Chinese meal might be looked upon as a quaint 20th-century phenomenon one day. Panda Express, part of an ever-growing Southern California chain, recently opened its first restaurant in San Jose, No. 280 nationwide. This efficient, well-stocked eatery is making vast inroads in the Golden State. Its new outpost here is located at 5180 Stevens Creek Blvd. (408.296.2718).

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From the January 6-12, 2000 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

Copyright © 1999 Metro Publishing Inc. Metroactive is affiliated with the Boulevards Network.

For more information about the San Jose/Silicon Valley area, visit sanjose.com.




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